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Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte

versão impressa ISSN 1517-8692

Rev Bras Med Esporte vol.19 no.2 São Paulo mar./abr. 2013 



Comparison of different methods of internal load control in volleyball players



Maurício Gattás Bara FilhoI; Francine Caetano de AndradeI; Ruan Alves NogueiraI; Fábio Yuzo NakamuraII

IFederal University of Juiz de Fora, Physical Education and Sports College, Juiz de Fora, MG, Brazil
IIState University of Londrina, Physical Education and Sports Center, Londrina, MG, Brazil

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INTRODUCTION: The ability to accurately monitor training loads is an important aspect of athletic effectiveness and prevention of negative effects, such as performance loss.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to compare and correlate different methods for internal training load control for volleyball players.
METHODS: Fifteen male volleyball athletes between 18 and 30 years old who compete at state and national levels, participated in this study. Training load for each session was calculated using three different methods: RPE/Foster, HR zones (TRIMP) Edwards and Stagno.
RESULTS: It was observed that there are positive and significant correlations between the method proposed by Foster and Edwards and Stagno. However, the values of individual correlations RPE x Edwards (0.451 to 0.670), in general, were higher than RPE x Stagno (0.206 to 0.597).
CONCLUSION: It can be concluded that the method proposed by Edwards, as well as the Foster's method, better reflect the training loads in volleyball, making it more reliable to control them than the method proposed by Stagno.

Keywords: heart rate, athletic performance, exercise, RPE.




Improvement in sports performance directly depends on the suitable distribution of the training loads and recovery provided to the athletes. The ability to accurately monitor the training load is an important aspect for the effectiveness of the periodization as well as prevention of negative effects, such as performance decrease1-7.

Some methods have been used for internal training loads control, such as the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) and the calculation of the training impulse (TRIMP) through the heart rate zones during training sessions1-4,7-12.

The Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) was proposed by Foster13 and Foster et al.9,10, using a scale adapted from the one originally proposed by Borg14, and is based on the idea that the physiological responses derived from physical stress are followed by proportional perception responses5. The RPE value obtained after the training session is multiplied by its total duration, integrating intensity and volume.

The TRIMP method, based on the heart rate measurement, was proposed by Banister16 and later adapted by Edwards17 and Stagno et al.11. All of them adopt a progressive weight factor for each HR zone. These methods have been used in studies which monitor the training loads in team sports1,11,18 and were adopted as reference for the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) validation.

Volleyball is a sports modality of intermittent characteristic which requires that the athletes perform efforts of short duration and high intensity, intervaled by periods of low intensity, especially for being a game with relatively long pauses after each point. The exertion necessary to play volleyball demands mainly neuromuscular fitness, since it presents short dislocations and fast and very fast jumps19,20. Such aspect contrasts with other team sports with demand equally important on the cardiovascular system21.

The training of team sports involves different elements as technical and tactic aspects which are collectively performed, making it difficult to control individual training load, which can lead the athletes to train below or above the intensity planned by the external load22. Many studies have been carried out with this purpose to validate methods of internal load, such as the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE), in different modalities1,2,7,15,18,23. However, as far as we know, there are no studies which have compared objective and subjective methods in volleyball, verifying which method would be more faithful for the training and games load control in volleyball. Thus, the present study has the aim to compare and correlate different methods of internal training load in volleyball players. Due to the sport's exertion and pause characteristics, our hypothesis is that the high correlations found between Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) and TRIMP in sports like soccer1,7 and basketball8 would not be equally high in volleyball.



Experimental protocol

The training load for each session was calculated using three different methods:

• Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) using the method proposed by Foster et al.9;

• Sum of the points of heart rate zones (TRIMP) according to Edwards17;

• Sum of the points of heart rate zones (TRIMP) according to Stagno et al.11.



Fifteen male professional volleyball athletes, aged between 18 and 30 years (weight: 84.6 ± 11.14 kg; height: 189.3 ± 9.7 cm; % fat: 8.8 ± 3.04), who competed at state and national levels, participated in this study.

The study's procedures respected the international guidelines of medical research involving human subjects, according to the Declaration of Helsinki (1975), having been approved by the Ethical Committee with Research in Human Subjects of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (133/2008). The athletes signed a consent form authorizing data collection and release.


The training load for each session was calculated using three different methods, being one of them based on the percentage response and two of them based on the heart rate.

The Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) method was measured for each athlete during the period of the study. The calculation consists in the multiplication of the training session duration in minutes by the training intensity, indicated by the RPE through the scale adapted by Foster et al.9,10. The scale's use requires some Anchorage procedures. The athletes were told to choose a describer and a number from 0 to 10. The maximum value (10) corresponds to the highest physical exertion experienced by the individual and the minimum value is the rest condition (0).

In order to guarantee that the RPE mean data obtained refers to the total training, the athlete was asked to answer this question: "How was your training today?", answered from 20 to 30 minutes after the end of the session. The RPE value, with precision of 0.5, was multiplied by the training session duration.

The heart rate (HR) zones calculation used the monitored maximum HR of the training. In all cases, it was within the values (±10 bpm) expected for the athletes' age (220 – age). The HR data were recorded at every five seconds by the Polar RS800 cardio frequency meter and transferred after the training to a computer through interface with infrared device and filtered (moderate power filter) by the Software Polar Precision Performance.

The load was quantified through the HR from the TRIMP method, which evaluates the session volume and intensity through specific scores in each training zone. The time in which the athlete remained in each zone during each session is multiplied by factors as proposed by Stagno et al.11 (Zone1 – 65 to 71% HRmax, factor 1.23/; Zone 2 – 72 to 78% HRmax, factor 1.71/; Zone 3 – 79 to 85% HRmax, factor 2.54/; Zone 4 – 86 to 92% HRmax, factor 3.61/; Zone 5 – 93 to 100% HRmax, factor 5.16).

Other factors proposed by Edwards17 (Zone 1 – 50 to 60% HRmax, factor 1/; Zone 2 – 60 to 70% HRmax, factor 2/; Zone 3 – 70 to 80% HRmax, factor 3/; Zone 4 – 80 to 90% HRmax, factor 4/; Zone 5 – 90 to 100% HRmax, factor 5) were used in this study.

The data were collected during 37 weeks of training. Every day two to three athletes were randomly chosen to go through the monitoring of the heart rate intensity, in a total of 266 individual training sessions during the season. The RPE was obtained from the same athletes.

The athletes' training occurred five to six times a week during the period of the study and the monitored sessions consisted of technical-tactical elements collectively performed. The basic training session consisted of three parts included in the total duration of the session:

• Warm-up, divided in general and specific (mean time of 20 minutes);

• Technical part, which consisted in the training of volleyball fundamental rules: serve, reception, defense, block and attack (mean time between 30 and 40 minutes) and;

• Tactical part, which consisted in training of the offensive and defensive systems (mean time between 40 and 60 minutes).

Statistical analysis

Descriptive analysis (mean, standard deviation) of the training loads and the Pearson correlation index to relate the training load control varaibles (heart rate and Subjective Perceived Exertion) were used. The data were analyzed using the SPSS statistical package, version 13.0 for Windows, with significance level adopted of p < 0.05 in all cases.



When the training load was calculated using the method proposed by Edwards17, the percentage of the time spent in the volleyball technical and tactical training in each zone was of: 25.6% in zone 1; 35.8% in zone 2; 26.8% in zone 3; 10.8% in zone 4 and 1% in zone 5, while in the method proposed by Stagno et al.11, the percentage of the time spent in each zone was: 41.8% in zone 1; 31.9% in zone 2; 18.7% in zone 3; 6.8% in zone 4 and 0.8% in zone 5. The correlation between these methods was of 0.95.

The Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) data correlation with the values of the HR zones of each methods obtained r = 0.301 values (p < 0.001) between TRIMP Stagno and RPE (figure 1) and r = 0.409 (p < 0.001) between TRIMP Edwards and RPE (figure 2).





Table 1 presents individual correlations of athletes who performed minimum of 15 monitored sessions. It is observed that there is positive and significant correlation between the method proposed by Foster et al.9 and the TRIMP methods proposed by Edwards17 and Stagno et al.11 in some individuals, but not in all of them. However, the values of the RPE x Edwards correlation, are usually higher than the ones in the RPE x Stagno.




The present study had the aim to compare the training load control in volleyball from different methods (Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) and TRIMP). When the control methods are analyzed from the heart rate zones, higher concentration of exertion in volleyball is observed in the exertion intensity zones between 50 and 80% of Maximum Heart Rate, information that would indicate low and medium intensity exertion in an analysis from the intensity zones calculated from the maximal HR percentage. The outcomes of the present study corroborate the findings by Gabbett19, Lidor and Ziv20 and Sheppard et al.24.

This first analysis suggests that, although volleyball involves short duration and high intensity efforts20, heart rate is relatively low compared with other team sports. In volleyball, a significant amount of the exertion is performed with short duration and high intensity, using the alactic system as predominant in the modality, contrary to soccer, basketball and swimming, which also use other energy sources, especially aerobic ones1,2,18. Thus, high-intensity and short-duration exertion may not directly correspond to the increase of the heart rate, minimizing the calculation of the internal training load.

From the correlations established between the RPE method of the session and the ones related with the heart rate Zones, higher values are observed between RPE x Edwards17 (r = 0.529/ interval 0.453-0.67) when compared with RPE x Stagno et al.11 (r = 0.411/ interval 0.251-0.597). Other studies compared objective and subjective methods to training load control. Impellizzeri et al.7 studied the correlation among three methods during training and competition in soccer. According to their results, the individual correlation between the RPE method and the one by Edwards17 ranged between 0.54 and 0.78. Alexiou and Coutts1 also evaluated these individual correlations in female soccer players and found values between 0.50 and 0.96. Wallace et al.2 studied the correlation between the method proposed by Edwards and the RPE in swimming athletes with individual correlations ranging from 0.56 to 0.91. Similar data were presented by Manzi et al.18 in basketball athletes.

The outcomes of the individual correlations found in the present study were lower than the ones found in the referred studies, a fat which may be explained by the difference between the exertion performed in volleyball when compared with the modalities studied in the remaining investigations (soccer, swimming and basketball), in which the exertion/transition between heart rate zones ratio seems to be stronger. Comparing the two objective methods evaluated in volleyball, the HR zones proposed by Edwards17 presented higher correlations than the ones proposed by Stagno et al.11 which underestimated real exertion performed by the athletes. An important piece of information to be highlighted is the fact this method disconsiders the exertion percentages between 50 and 64% of HRmax, which in the present study represents a mean of 37 minutes, which did not count for the calculation of the training impulse.

These confirmations indicate that the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE)9,10 seems to be an interesting possibility to control the internal training load in volleyball. High-intensity and short-duration exertion as performed in volleyball seems to be better reflected through the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) than the HR methods. Robson-Ansley et al.25 found out that the TRIMP method fails in reflecting the demands of intermittent sports, the same way the mean of the heart rate in these exercises of prolonged nature is impracticable and may not provide significant data, reinforcing the importance to use another method to training load control for these sports, such as the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE). However, future studies should use other references for measurement of internal load to validate the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) in volleyball. Many studies mention this method as an important instrument for training load control and periodization in different sports1-4,7,12,18.

The present study presents some limitations, as the fact the heart rate data collection has been performed only with two to three athletes per training session. Moreover, the data were not collected during competitions. Collection during the official matches could aid the technical staff to adequate individual recovery after the matches from the load measured through HR and RPE.



The methods for training load control from the exertion intensity zones11,17 present important limitations when used in volleyball. Therefore, the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion (Session RPE) is as important alternative method so that this monitoring is performed in a more reliable and trustful manner for control and periodization of the training loads in volleyball.



The authors thank the coach and the athletes of the Federal University of Juiz de Fora who supported this study. The authors also thank CNPq (XVII PIBIC/CNPq/UFJFF and XXII BIC/UFJF) for the financial grant.



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