GCSE PE A Level PE Training methods

A training method is the form of exercise you select to improve your fitness. The training method selected has a significant impact on training outcomes. Training must be relevant to your goals, this refers to training principle of specificity.

Those interested in improving strength and power may use weight or plyometric training whereas someone wanting to improve their cardiovascular fitness may use continuous, fartlek or interval training.

Training methods to improve strength and power

Resistance training

This training method improves strength, power or muscular endurance. The area of fitness developed is determined by the resistance, repetitions and sets performed. Resistance training can be performed using dumbbells, barbells, resistance machines, pulleys, bodyweight or equipment such as kettlebells, resistance bands or sandbags. A performer completes a specific number of repetitions and sets depending on their goals. The intensity of weight training can be calculated through working out your one max rep and then working at a percentage of their one max rep.

  • To develop strength and power, an individual will perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at 85-95 % of their 1 rep max rep
  • To develop muscular hypertrophy (increased muscle size and strength) an individual will perform 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps at 70-80 % 1 rep max
  • To develop muscular endurance, an individual will perform 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps at approximately 60 % of their 1 rep max.

The idea of resistance training is to contract a muscle against a resistance. The exercises selected must relate to the muscle groups used in sport and your training goals. A sprint cyclist for example, would focus on strength training in their leg muscles. Often, 6-8 exercises are performed, starting with compound (large) exercises such as the squat, deadlift or bent over rows and finishing with isolation (small) exercises such as bicep curls or lateral raises.

Example of a whole body muscular hypertrophy training session. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions of the following exercises with 2 minutes rest in between sets.

  • Squat
  • Chest press
  • Lunge
  • Bent over row
  • Shoulder press
  • Bicep curl
  • Leg extension

Plyometric training

Plyometric training is used to increase power (strength x speed) and strength, this translates to higher jumps and faster sprint times. It typically involves bounding, hopping or jumping style exercises but can include medicine ball work or box work. Plyometric training involves an eccentric (lowering and landing) contraction where muscles lengthen under tension (downwards phase of a squat) followed by a concentric contraction, where muscles shorten under tension (upwards phase of a squat).

The eccentric phase, or landing phases, involves the pre-loading of the agonist muscle, the concentric phase, or take off phase, uses the stored energy to increase the force of movement, resulting in a more powerful contraction. This type of training is very demanding on the body, usually 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions are performed.

Training methods to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance

Continuous training

Involves low intensity exercise for long periods of time without a rest or break. A performer normally performs continuous training for a minimum of 20 minutes in their aerobic training zone (60-80 % of heart rate max). An example continuous training workout could be a 30 minute run at 60 % heart rate max. Adjusting the pace or effort of the activity can vary the exercise intensity, for example instead of running at 60 % heart rate max, increase to 70 %.

Fartlek training

Fartlek is a Swedish word for speed play and is a form of continuous training during which the speed or terrain of the activity is varied so that both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems are stressed.   This could involve periods of sprinting, jogging or walking or could include uphill, downhill and flat running.  Due to the nature of the different intensities, this type of training is useful for improving cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, speed, recovery times and lactate threshold (the amount of lactate acid you can tolerate). This is often a more demanding form of training compared to continuous training due to the higher intensities.
Example of a fartlek training sessions:

  • 5 minute jog to warm up
  • Sprint for 30 seconds
  • Jog for 90 seconds
  • Run approx. 75 % for 50 seconds
  • Jog for 90 seconds
  • Repeat 6 times

Interval training

Involves periods of exercise or work followed by periods of rest.  It is effective at improving cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, speed, recovery times and lactate threshold. Typically, interval training involves a work- rest ratio of 1-2, for example, exercising for 30 seconds, resting for one minute. The length of work periods and rest is dependent on your intended outcome.

An example interval training workout:

  • 30 seconds hard
  • 1 minute active res
  • Complete 10 rounds

Circuit training
This involves a series of exercises, known as stations, being performed one after the other.  Typically circuit training involves 8-10 stations performed for a certain number of repetitions or time. When planning a circuit it is important to vary the muscle group you work and think about the number of repetitions or time spent on each station. A circuit can be designed to develop any aspect of fitness but tends to be used for general body conditioning.

  • An example training session
  • Complete the following exercises for 40 seconds with 20 seconds rest. Complete 2-4 laps
  • Body weight squats
  • Press ups
  • Plank
  • Star jumps
  • Lunges
  • Plank press
  • Back extensions
  • Mountain climbers

Test yourself

Training Methods quiz

Exam style questions

1 - Outline the main principles of weight training (6 marks)

2 - Describe one method of training that may be used by a sprinter to improve their power (4 marks)

3 - Describe two training methods that may be used to improve cardiovascular fitness (4 marks)

4 - Provide two advantages of each of these methods (4 marks)

5 - Why would you use different training methods to train (2 marks)

6 - Explain how you could apply the principles of overload and specificity to a resistance training programme (8 marks)

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