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Set Designer

Finding the Best Set

A lot of coaches and athletes prize killer sets, usually the tougher the better. But that’s unfortunate because this type of thinking can produce very poor results, and even physical harm. Ironically, this trend has very little to do with the true training value individual sets can offer you.

Every set represents some inherited stress level (by distance and intensity). Ideally, you want to apply a stressor that will cause optimum or maximum adaptation changes. But that is where the problem starts. Physiological reaction (or adaptation to physical exercise) is determined by a number of factors with your present preparedness level, ability to recover, and previous training patterns among the most important ones.  Add to this mix the different energy producing systems of your body, which are mutually dependent and must be loaded according to this interdependence on a daily, weekly and seasonal basis and you can readily see how difficult a process choosing sets can be. That’s why we can’t just take a set, even by an elite Olympic coach, randomly throw it into our training plan, and expect to get any benefit out of it. To be effective each training exercise has to be properly measured, pointed and executed according to your goals, abilities, and season phase in order to create maximum positive changes in your body.

Types of Sets


Sports scientists only recognize four basic types of training modalities when it comes to endurance or “functional” training. They are:

  • Distance or continuous effort
  • Interval (sometimes referred to as “fartlek”)
  • Repetitive (a variation of interval exercises, but aimed at different abilities)
  • Maximum effort


Any effort you can think of can be classified into one of these categories. There are of course sets which combine different effort types. However, if you want to be effective and not waste time on unnecessary work, these are the best exercise types to use to produce the changes you want in your body.

Different Modalities

We often use the term “functional training” when discussing endurance preparation because with training, we are trying to improve specific physiological functions of the body.  But to “teach” our body to produce the most energy and power, we must train each function with a different modality. This is precisely what we do. Follow our program and it will…


  • Help you to define your “functional targets” (aka Energy Zones)
  • Establish target parameters in each training zone for every day and week of your training
  • Assign proper training sets to address the developmental needs of different functions critical to achieving your goals

Provide clear targets by time, duration, rest time, Heart Rate and stroke rate (cadence) for each training effort in your training day

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