Designing Effective Training Programs:
What You Need to Know to Get Started

By Coach J. Hoy, CSCS, USAW, Performance Scientist

When designing an effective sports performance training program, there are several areas that need to be thoroughly understood before even writing the first workout. Most of these areas require a sound knowledge base of the exercise and performance sciences. Once you have a thorough understanding of these sciences, there are a few steps you can follow to get you on the right track.

Performance Sciences

Unlike the 'ask the biggest guy in the gym' mentality, performance training is an advanced scientific discipline that needs to be treated as such. All performance coaches should be well studied (theory AND application) in a variety of human and exercise sciences (such as athletic training, kinesiology, biochemistry, developmental psychology, physical therapy, athletic training, medicine, etc.). Unfortunately, practically everyone these days thinks they are a strength and performance coach with little or no qualifications or athletic or educational background. Inadequate performance programming increases the athlete's risk of injury and does nothing more than take the money from athletes who are trying to get it done! Please understand that I'm not talking about general fitness programming, I'm talking about advanced sports performance programming. In this article, I'm going to give you solid information based on years of research and thousands of effective performance enhancement programs. These areas are the bare minimum a strength and performance coach should know well in order to get the most out of his/her athletes and their training. While these areas can be very technical, I will try to keep it simple and short.

Exercise Sciences

Some of the areas you need to have a strong foundational understanding in order to design effective performance training programs are:

The physiological demands of exercise

  • *Motor Behavior and Control (neurological responses, development, information processing, feedback, visual skills, etc.)

  • *Biochemical (specifically bioenergetics, and neuroendocrine studies)

  • *Mechanical (specifically kinesiology)

Motor Behavior and Control

Motor behavior and control is the study of processes involved in learning and performing motor skills. This is important because this tells us how humans learn, process various forms of data/sensory input, how our motor skills are programmed (how we can program a muscle to contract more quickly or explosively).


Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes in living organisms ( This includes studying the processes of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids (fats) in the body. Studying biochemistry is extremely important because chemical processes involving these biomolecules represent the foundation of bioenergetics, or the how we create and use energy in our body. Knowing and understanding how our bodies create and use energy and the underlying processes involved is crucial to optimizing a program for athletic performance (will help with specific metabolic programming). It is also important to understand the neuroendocrine response and adaptations to exercise. This is how the body responds hormonally and neurologically and what specific types of training elicit these specific results. For example, programming can be designed to elicit a natural testosterone boost similar to that of illegal anabolic steroids, without the negative side effects. Don't you think this is good to know?


According to Wikipedia, "The practice of Kinesiology is the assessment of movement, performance, and function; and the rehabilitation, prevention, and management of disorders to maintain, rehabilitate, and enhance movement, performance, and function in the areas of sport, recreation, work, exercise, and activities of daily living." ( It is important to understand kinesiology due to the large scope of its study relative to movement, physiology, rehabilitation, and sports. Too many coaches do not have a thorough understanding of movement, and issues with movement, which makes it difficult them to recognize and remedy poor movement patterns.

Sport Analysis

Once you grasp these subjects, you need to analyze the sport. Take a closer look at the following areas to gather more essential information before writing the program:
  • *The injury statistics of the sport (gender, age specific)-knowing how to train to help prevent the most prevalent non-contact injuries is very helpful

  • *The baseline fitness and training level(s) of the athlete-an athlete with poor fitness levels will need a totally different program than a super-fit athlete

  • *The schedule for tactical/technical sessions, including competition(s)-workouts need to be designed to allow ample time for recovery from workouts, and workouts need to be designed to maximize performance components (speed, strength, etc.) for the most important events

  • *The mental preparation level and goals of the athlete-the athlete needs goals and sufficient motivation, along with the correct attitude to complete the workouts and stay focused on progress

  • *The nutritional habits of the athlete-besides the obvious health reasons for eating clean, if athletes do not get the proper foods/beverages for fuel, their energy levels may be insufficient; if they do not get the proper foods/beverages, then proper recovery from workouts may not be obtained-putting the athlete at greater risk of overtraining and/or not performing optimally

Planning and Organization

Once this information is gathered and understood, it is now time to begin planning and outlining/organizing the program. Developing and organizing a plan is known as periodization. There are many different methods used in periodization, each one specific to the needs of the sport and the athlete at a specific time. Periodized plans are usually divided into the following 'cycles' or training blocks:
  • *Training unit -Refers to the actual "daily" workout

  • *Microcycle- Usually refers to a week of training

  • *Mesocycle -Usually refers to a period lasting 2-4 months

  • *Macrocycle -Refers to a period lasting anywhere from 1 to 4 years (Olympic cycle)
Once the goals are established for each training block meant to progress the athlete towards his/her ultimate goal, specific exercises will need to be added to the training units. Exercise selection will be based on the information obtained earlier from analyzing the sport and from a thorough fitness and performance evaluation of the athlete.

Periodization, exercise selection, and fitness and performance evaluations will be covered in future newsletter issues. Remember, the focus of this article was to give you a basic glimpse into how to get started in the programming process. This is not a simple process and should not be treated as such. It takes time to learn all of the items necessary to create optimal and effective sports performance programs. Programming with missing ingredients won't produce the best results. If you want the best program for you, find a strength and performance coach with the proper background and experience, and results to back it up. For more information about any of the topics presented in this article, email me at or call me at 412-787-5070.

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COACH HOY'S READING CORNERCoaches reading corner

Kingdom Man: Every Man's Destiny, Every Woman's Dream

By Dr. Tony Evans

“A kingdom man is the kind of man that when his feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, ‘Oh crap, he’s up!’”

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"This books is an excellent guide for any man who wants to live by God's design for male leadership in a family!"--Jeremy Hoy

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