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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Workout: A Means to an End

By Vern Gambetta

Developing an optimal training plan takes more than a desire to make an athlete work so hard that they throw up. It means knowing your athletes, understanding their goals, and taking the time to carefully evaluate how you can help get them where they want to be athletically.


I get at least one e-mail a week from someone sending me a link to a workout, usually with a comment like: "What do you think?" My answer is almost always the same--I'm not sure what to think.

The magic is not in the workout, the magic is in the plan. What is the context of the workout? Who are you doing the workout with? What are you doing? When are you doing it? Most importantly, why are you doing it? Context is the key! What effect will this workout have on the subsequent workouts, and what workouts preceded this one?

I have learned the hard way that one workout cannot make an athlete or a team but one workout can break an athlete or a team. We need to get away from the idea that because a workout is hard and you end up barfing, it is a good workout--a philosophy commonly promoted in the commercial fitness "industry."

Believe me, it is easy to bury someone, much harder to train someone. Each workout should have specific objectives that are measurable and observable--those objectives must be in support of the microcycle and block themes.

Anyone can work hard, but effective training is hard work with a specific propose. I read the other day that John Wooden used to spend up to two hours a day planning his practices. Roy Williams plans each of his practices to the minute. I know I spend up to 20 minutes a day planning volleyball training for that particular day, and when I was coaching track it was at least an hour. That does not count the time setting up the training session.

Training is a long term proposition. It is about continual adaptation leading to optimal performance in the competitive arena. Train athletes who thrive on training, not survivors.


Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning.

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