Some Soccer Team HRV Data

One observation I’ve made from monitoring my own HRV is that I will typically see major acute decreases in my trend following new training stimuli. However, after a few weeks of consistent training with the new program, I will see much smaller fluctuation in response to workouts despite high RPE. Essentially, with familiarity of the training stimulus, the body may experience less of an “alarm” stage. This enables higher training frequencies and volumes with less soreness and so forth.

Below is a small sample of some team data I’ve collected in a collegiate soccer team I worked with this past year. What your viewing is the first 3 days (Mon-Tues-Wed) of a new training cycle (Figure 1) and then the same training cycle performed a few weeks later with typical incremental progressions in resistance (for strength training) and distance (for conditioning) (Figure 2). On Monday’s we lifted in the morning and practiced and conditioned in the afternoon. Tuesday’s were off entirely. Therefore Monday’s HRV scores follow a weekend of rest representing “baseline”, Tuesday scores reflect Monday’s workload, and Wednesday marks 48 hours post workout (training resumed Wednesday afternoon).


Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 2.

In the first week of the new training program and structure (figure 1), 9 of 11 players showed a decrease in HRV following Monday’s workout (some more than others). A few weeks later, only 5 of 11 players showed an acute decrease.

Further discussion and analysis with much more data (complete weeks, periods of overload and deload, sRPE, psychometrics, etc.) and from measures obtained in supine and standing positions will be left for the manuscript.


About hrvtraining

I hold an MS in Exercise Science and am a CSCS with the NSCA. I"m currently working in the Human Performance Lab at Auburn University (Montgomery) completing several research projects on HRV and exercise. I will be pursuing a PhD in Human Performance this Fall (2014) at the University of Alabama. Formerly, I worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Cal U in PA. I have an extensive athletic background including hockey, rugby and collegiate football. I now compete in raw powerlifting and was the 2010 Canadian National Champion (amateur). I am interested in all aspects of strength and conditioning however my research interest pertains to heart rate variability and its application to monitoring the training of athletes.
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5 Responses to Some Soccer Team HRV Data

  1. Really cool stuff- thanks for sharing. Just continues to shed light on when to introduce new exercises (i.e. not in-season if possible, or at least knowing it will greatly affect HRV when you do). Cool to see that data, and that frequency and volume can be increased without hurting HRV much if exercises are the same.

    Also this brings up an interesting question of how different do the exercises have to be to induce a large initial HRV? E.g. what if you went from SL Split Squat to SL Back Foot Elevated Squat? Doubt we’d see as much of an HRV as if we went from a Squat to a Walking Lunge.

    • hrvtraining says:

      Thanks for your comment. My biggest concern with introducing new exercises would be the effect on DOMS. With load managed wisely, this can be done successfully as I’m sure you’d agree.

  2. David X Johnson says:

    The decline of LnRMSSD after introducing a heavy exercise session is not a surprise to me, nor is the adaptation in week 2 to the same stimulus. I’ve experienced this same phenomena in my own HRV tracking.

    Question: Is it your experience that the HRV numbers decline after a longer period of relative rest (a week or more of relatively light lifting, for example)? The question implies that for there to be a new stimulus, there was some relative calm or rest prior to introduction.

    I ask the question because in my own experience, A scheduled “deload” (as in the 5/3/1 lifting program) results in declining HRV numbers. I’m left wondering if the decline is due to the previous 3 weeks of progressively heavier lifting or because of the rest period.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts.


    • hrvtraining says:

      Thanks for the commend, David.

      I typically see an improvement in my HRV trend as a result of a deload. However, I usually train longer than 3 weeks before a deload so I tend to finish training cycles with some fatigue accumulation. Here’s an old post with some of my data on the topic

      If I do no training at all, I’ll typically see a decline in HRV, Here’s another old post covering some data on this topic

      Keep in mind that these are older posts that I have not re-read, so take them with a grain of salt.

      Are you doing any conditioning or aerobic work, and is it being reduced or changed during deloads?

      • David X Johnson says:

        Thank you for the links. These were helpful. I quote a few passages that stand out to me:

        From the first link (above):

        “At the present time, I believe that one can get away without doing week long deloads at fixed intervals (every 4th week or so) if training is managed on a daily basis. However, by design, this set-up really doesn’t allow for overreaching as you would back off as soon as your trend declined for too long.”

        The above suggests an adaptive training strategy wherein what you lift is determined (at least partly) by the daily or weekly HRV trend rather than a rigid program. You would – for example – have an overall strategy to lift heavier each week than the last, but push harder or back off on a given day/week if the HRV trend is declining.

        In my case, the 5/3/1 program I’m on is a 4 week cycle, with week 1-3 progressively heavier, but lower volume – i.e. Week 1 is 85% of training max at 5+ reps, Week 2 is 90% @ 3+ and week 3 is 95% at 1+. If I have a good HRV trend, I will do heavy singles that are 5 or 10 lbs heavier than the previous single, up tot he point I can’t lift the weight. If I have a marginal HRV trend, I just do the program minimums for that day/week. If the HRV trend is at the lower end of “normal” for me, I consider postponing the workout or do a light session only. Week 4 is a scheduled deload where all lifts are 60% of training max. That completes a 4-week cycle. I add weight to my training max and begin week 1 of the next cycle at 85% of that new training max. Rinse/repeat.

        This makes me wonder if my deload weeks are too light and that I’m suffering from de-conditioning while attempting to maintain strength (avoid de-training) while allowing the muscles/joints to recover.

        From the 2nd link (above):

        “My declining trend in HRV was reflecting my fitness levels, not my strength levels even though they also declined. My trend would’ve likely remained relatively unchanged had I maintained aerobic fitness.”

        This agrees with my own experience, although week 1 of each new cycle is usually a bitch until I adapt and recover the weekend before week 2 begins. This suggests that I lost at least some amount of strength during deload, but not much. The HRV trend drops during deload and continues to drop during week 1, but recovers (typically) in time for week 2 and begins to stabilize higher. By week 3 (heavy week) the trend is flat and may or may not decline before deload. I’m using an order=5 polynomial trend line to smooth daily HRV readings (trend-line option in Excel).

        To answer your question about cardio training during deload: I get more HIIT during weeks 1 thru 3, but the deload week (60%) doesn’t tax my heart that much (maybe one incident of reaching the HIIT zone during a deload session compared to between 8 and 10 incidents during weeks 1 thru 3).

        It may be as you theorized, that there is more cardio de-conditioning during deload week than there is de-training. I’m not sure if this is just the trade-off – i.e.the need for recovery results in declining HRV.

        Did you ever try adding cardio conditioning during deload to maintain HRV? I would be willing to try it as an experiment. What exercises would you suggest for a 50 year old lifter?

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