Structuring your Training Week as a Field Hockey Player
5 minutes
Henry Davies


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As the quote above suggests, without a plan we are far less likely to be able to achieve our goals. We wouldn’t go out in our car without a route, a destination in mind and a secondary route in case of issues along the way. Training shouldn’t be any different in principle, and yet in practice we can often get going without a plan for the route ahead.

One of the most important factors in creating a well-designed training programme is the overall structure that is in place. It gives us a framework around which we can co-ordinate our training and maximise the returns that we get from the hours of investment we put into ourselves.

This article aims to provide some guiding principles for how to structure your week including hockey training/practice.

Work + Rest = Success

Our bodies have a finite capacity for stress tolerance and adaptation. If only it were as simple as add more training, get more output. Unfortunately, there needs to be a balance between training and recovery in order to improve long term health and performance. As the team at EXOS say: ‘Work + Rest = Success’. This leads us to our first consideration –programming in rest days.

Rest days

Ideally we should have no more than 3 days in a row of training in order to allow our bodies to recover and adapt to the training that we have given it. It is during the period of rest that we become stronger, faster and fitter. We actually become less fit in the short term as our body goes into a state of fatigue.

This is based on the GAS principle, initially proposed by Hans Selye following research into the stress response of rats. He postulated that the response seen in the rats was a universal phenomenon which could be applied in humans too. He suggested that there are three stages to adaptation in response to stress: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

It is worth mentioning at this stage that stress is a homogenous factor in terms of how we respond physiologically. Whether we are stressed from work, relationships or training, our body still reacts in the same manner. But that is worth its own article!

In the alarm stage our body is in an acute phase of response, and can be most obviously linked to the ‘fight or flight’ response. In the resistance phase, our body begins to adapt to this stress and gets stronger, and finally in the exhaustion stage if we do not provide adequate rest we become fatigued, drained and potentially sick or injured.

So how should the week look based on this underpinning physiological principle? As eluded to already, aiming to have no more than 3 days in succession of training is a helpful guide to ensure we break up the stresses our body is placed under and allow for sufficient recovery opportunities. As a rule of thumb, aim for at least 2 rest and recovery days per week. This is based on research which found an increased injury risk in endurance athletes who had less than 2 days rest per week, but is a principle which can be broadly applied to most athletes and is a simple guide to follow.

Adaptation cycles

Some physical qualities require a longer time to develop, reduce slowly and can be maintained for longer. Aerobic fitness is one of these factors, which is typically why it is programmed with more of an emphasis earlier on in the off season (usually) as we can be confident of maintaining it for longer during the season. Research would suggest that (depending on training age) we can maintain this for a few weeks before any considerable degradation in performance. We don’t necessarily need to provide our bodies with this stimulus as regularly as other qualities with this in mind.

Qualities such as speed however require a much more regular stimulus to maintain it, as it is a more volatile physical quality and needs a more regular focus. Research would suggest that we will begin to lose speed after around 7 days, so we need to be training it on a weekly basis.

We can then consider how frequently we need to include certain training methods in order to keep our bodies in the best shape possible during the off season or in season period.

High and low days

We already know that our body needs work and rest, and this should be reflected in how we structure our training days. Ideally we would polarise our training days into ‘high’ and ‘low’ days to allow us to ‘push’ on some days and ‘pull’ on the others. This might look like ‘high’ days on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and some easy ‘low’ days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday with a total day off on Sunday. The exact days that we use will be dictated by the existing training schedule, so for example if you have a match day on a Saturday then that becomes a natural ‘high’ day for us, and we can work back from there.

By allocating days as easier or more difficult it allows us to approach each day accordingly from a psychological perspective too. If we know that we are on a ‘low’ day then we can remove any unnecessary stresses from our day (where possible/realistic!) and emphasise recovery. Equally, if we know that we are on a ‘high’ day then we can approach it differently.

What constitutes a high or a low day? Well again this does depend on several factors, but in essence if the day is going to challenge us physically then we can allocate it as a ‘high’ day and if it is an easy day then we can allocate it as a ‘low day’.

Training volume

Volume is the total amount of work that we complete in a programme. This usually has an inverse relationship with intensity, as we cannot keep increasing both over time. For example, we may complete a higher volume weight training programme at lower relative intensity to focus on morphological changes in the musculature early in the season, moving towards faster more explosive lifting at lower volumes when we want to be at our physical ‘peak’ around competition time. Given that we have a finite capacity for training, we must also consider how much training to include in the overall training week. This will be dictated by age, training history and physical capabilities on the whole.

Rules of thumb

The most important consideration is you, the individual. Not all players can handle the same volume, frequency, intensity or density of training and as such, each player will need something slightly different. When working with large groups of players it therefore becomes most applicable to use heuristics (rules of thumb) to help guide players’ training weeks. One of these simple rules is the ‘rule of 2’ whereby a range of training methods should aim to be achieved each week.

These types of training include: strength training, mobility/stretching, conditioning or speed work.

Based on your needs, you can then modify your week to account for these requirements.

Do you need a much bigger focus on conditioning than speed? In which case the previous rule around training speed each week may be less of a factor for you. Is it the in season? Strength training still needs to be completed to mitigate injury risk and maintain strength, but perhaps at lower volumes.

However, putting these other considerations to one side for a minute, we should aim to include 2 mobility, 2 strength and 2 speed or conditioning stimuli in our week.

This does not need to be six separate sessions on top of hockey, however. Not everyone is fortunate to be a full-time athlete without work and family commitments to consider. We can truncate these sessions together to ensure time efficiency and a realistic training week. For example, putting our mobility sessions in with our strength exercises (4 sessions now becomes 2 sessions). We can also include our speed or conditioning work into our hockey sessions for convenience.

Now in an ideal world, we would get our training all from hockey. However this can be a little unrealistic unless training is of a high enough intensity to stimulate the adaptations already outlined in this article. Another simple rule of thumb we can use is the RPE (rating of perceived exertion) scale to determine if we need to do any extra work. If a hockey training session is above a 7/10 (very hard) difficulty and lasts over 45 minutes, then we can include that as a conditioning session. If however it feels really easy (3/10) and is a short technical session then perhaps some extra conditioning work would make sense at the end of the session as a group.

Putting it all together

Now that we’ve understood the basic considerations, the training principles and the factors that contribute to success we can now create some training week guidelines based on different scenarios.

1) Saturday match day scenario

Monday (low day) – basic stretching and mobility with some low intensity strength exercises

Tuesday (high day) – club training with extra speed or conditioning work

Wednesday (low day) – total recovery day

Thursday (high day) – club training with extra speed or conditioning work

Friday (low day) – basic stretching and mobility with some low intensity strength exercises

Saturday (high day) – Match day!

Sunday (low day) – total recovery day

2) Off season

Monday (high day) – strength training or high intensity conditioning

Tuesday (low day) – basic stretching with some low intensity strength or conditioning exercises

Wednesday (low day) – total recovery day

Thursday (high day) – strength training or high intensity conditioning

Friday (low day) – basic stretching with some low intensity strength or conditioning exercises

Saturday (high day) – strength training or high intensity conditioning

Sunday (low day) – total recovery day

3) Mid-week match day scenario

Monday (high day) – club training with extra speed or conditioning work

Tuesday (low day) – basic stretching and mobility with some low intensity strength exercises

Wednesday (high day) – Match day!

Thursday (low day) – basic stretching and mobility with some low intensity strength exercises

Friday (low day) – basic stretching and mobility with some moderate intensity strength exercises

Saturday (high day) – club training with extra speed or conditioning work

Sunday (low day) – total recovery day


Hopefully this has provided some valuable insights into how you can structure your training week during different phases of the season, based on underpinning training principles. These are very general rules of thumb, and are by no means meant to be applicable to everyone. Please always ensure that any training you complete is appropriate for you, and that you’ve followed the guidance of your coach or medical professional if you are unsure if a programme meets your unique needs.

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Henry Davies
Henry is the founder of Integrate Sports. He is a UKSCA accredited practitioner with over 10 years’ experience working with high performing athletes. He has worked with Olympic medallists and prepared athletes for Tokyo 2020 in his role with the English Institute of Sport. Henry is a Lecturer in Strength and Conditioning at Hartpury University, and the Head of Strength and Conditioning at Hockey Wales.
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