Workout Design

Assigning workouts, for many, is considered an art more than a science.  Given the number of variables that need to be accounted for, coaches and sports scientists combine scientific research, home-grown tools, coaching systems, and software in deciding on what workout to prescribe for an athlete at a given point in their training.  Many times, they rely on years of experience and good instinct to gauge what the best workouts are for an individual, factoring all the variables.

Each coach operates on different principles and often will stress one aspect of training over another.  In many ways, coaches differentiate themselves with others based on their specific methods or approaches that they have developed over their careers.  What was once guesswork becomes more tried-and-true approaches that each good coach offers their clients.

MPA Analysis takes out much of the guesswork for determining what would be an appropriate workout for an athlete based on their fitness signature.  It provides coaches and athletes greater consistency and assurances that the workouts they have planned are appropriate and effective.

For comparison purposes, we’ll use Xert Online’s Workout Designer which provides MPA Analysis of workouts, to compare and contrast various workout designs.  As an example, we can design a standard, VO2max workout often used in training – 5×5 Vo2max intervals:

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The workout starts with a warmup and prep, then has 5 intervals with 5 minutes at 115% of Threshold Power (TP) and 5 minutes at 50% TP.  Applying this workout against a sample signature of TP = 320W, High Intensity Energy (HIE) = 20kJ and Peak Power (PP) = 1000W, we graph both power (red line) and the MPA (blue line).

By comparing power with MPA, the athlete would be able to perform the workout successfully, albeit the end of each 5 minute high-intensity interval would be quite difficult as their MPA approaches their power output.

Let’s now consider a different athlete, with fitness signature parameters of TP = 240W, HIE = 25kJ and PP = 1000W:

Screenshot VO2max 1000-25-240
We can see that for this athlete, the workout would be much easier to perform.  With more High Intensity Energy and a lower relative Threshold Power, the targets would be lower and would not be as difficult for the athlete to perform.  One might increase the power targets for this athlete, relative to TP.

Consider a third athlete with TP = 340W, HIE = 15kJ and PP = 1000W:

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This athlete would find the workout impossible to perform since but the end of each 5 minute interval, they would not have sufficient power left to hold the require power.  That is, MPA is less than the power target. This athlete may in fact, abandon the workout given its difficulty.

Using Target MPAs

Xert’s Workout Designer enables the ability to use a novel method for the assignment of duration to an interval.  Rather than setting the duration to be a fixed duration, a duration can be calculated that is relative to the athlete’s fitness signature.  To do this, the intervals are designed to have the athlete attain and recover to a particular point in fatigue.

Let’s look at VO2max-based workout, designed using MPA targets rather than fixed duration.  In the designer we use the same power intensity but define interval length to be an MPA value:

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The interval target MPA for the workout is defined as 225% of TP.  The recovery target MPA is defined at 99% of PP (nearly fully recovered).

For the first athlete, this workout would be quite similar to the standard 5×5 workout design.  For the second athlete, with TP = 240W, HIE = 25kJ and PP = 1000W, this workout becomes more difficult as it brings them to a deeper point of fatigue:

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For the last athlete, where the standard 5×5 VO2max workout wasn’t achievable, this new workout is:

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The workout was designed as moderate, meaning that the intent was not to bring the athlete too deep into fatigue in order to make it a workout that they can complete without requiring a great deal of motivation.  If on the other hand, a more strenuous workout was sought, the MPA targets can be deepened and thus made more difficult:

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Additionally, we can lighten the efforts if the athlete would still like to perform a VO2max workout but may not have the same motivation on a given day:

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By using MPA targets rather then fixed duration intervals, Xert’s Workout Designer provides a convenient and flexible way to select and optimize workouts based on the unique characteristics of each individual and the level of motivation they may have on a given day.