Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
How we use Subjective Stress Scores at DSC for Large Group Training
Team environments can pose a difficult task for strength and conditioning professionals to gauge appropriate dose response in prescribing effective stress and adequate restoration. We have used HRV (ANS), vertical jump (CNS) and subjective stress score measures in our small group/individual settings. In addition, we are in the process of attaining a hand held dynamometer as yet another biomarker in our attempt to measure daily training readiness. We have found these tools to be useful for a more accurate, individualized program based on the client’s current adaptability reserve (stress takes money out, recovery puts money back in, courtesy of Joel Jamieson). Bottom line, we want our athletes to train as hard as they are READY to train. In addition, we use subjective stress scores for our large groups. Here is how we use these scores at DSC for our Athletic Development Programs.
Pre-Workout Stress: Prior to the workout commencing, the athlete will choose a number 1-5 based on their current stress levels (mechanical, psychological, emotional, and metabolic). We chose to keep it simple with our numbering system as the majority of our summer athletes’ are high school aged. Here is how it breaks down:
- 1 = Fresh. Rested. Ready to Rock!
- 2 = Not 100% but ready to go!
- 3 = Fatigued.
- 4 = Very fatigued.
- 5 = Exhausted
Rating of Perceived Exertion: In addition at the conclusion of the workout, the athletes will again score 1-5 based on the difficulty of the workout. We call this RPE. Here is how we use it:
- 1 = Easy
- 2 = Moderate
- 3 = Moderate/Hard
- 4 = Very Hard
- 5 = Maximal Exertion
If an athlete comes in with a 4 or a 5 for their pre-workout stress level, we will have them refer to their workout (their journal as we call it) and identify a previous workout when their respective RPE was a 1 or a 2. We have found this system to be simple, easy and a benefit in prescribing individual stress in large groups settings. In addition we may:
- Continue to reduce intensity: We reduce total load 10-15%, sometimes more, for advanced lifters we reduce % of 1RM. Many of our athletes are hockey players and may fall into the “Basedowic overtraining” bucket. This can cause resting heart rate to rise and may be the result of too much high intensity training (too much lactate).
- Reduce the total volume of the workout (ex. 2x5 instead of 4x5 or 1x5 instead of 2x5).
Although these subjective scores are far from perfect, we trust our athletes to keep simple, honest and accurate records in an attempt for us as Coaches to individualize an appropriate balance between stress and recovery. Our final goal is two-part: 1.) Make sure our athletes are ready to train at the highest load, 2.) To avoid accumulation of fatigue across multiple training weeks.