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Purpose: To quantify and describe relationships between subjective and external measures of training load in professional youth soccer players. Methods: Data from differential ratings of perceived exertion (dRPE) and 7 measures of external training load were collected from 20 professional youth soccer players over a 46-week season. Relationships were described by repeated-measures correlation, principal component analysis, and factor analysis with oblimin rotation. Results: Significant positive (.44 ≤ r ≤ .99; P < .001) within-individual correlations were obtained across dRPE and all external training load measures. Correlation magnitudes were found to decrease when training load variables were expressed per minute. Principal component analysis provided 2 components, which described 83.3% of variance. The first component, which described 72.9% of variance, was heavily loaded by all measures of training load, while the second component, which described 10.4% of the variance, appeared to have a split between objective and subjective measures of volume and intensity. Exploratory factor analysis identified 4 theoretical factors, with correlations between factors ranging from .5 to .8. These factors could be theoretically described as objective volume, subjective volume, objective running, and objective high-intensity measures. Removing dRPE measures from the analysis altered the structure of the model, providing a 3-factor solution. Conclusions: The dRPE measures are significantly correlated with a range of external training load measures and with each other. More in-depth analysis showed that dRPE measures were highly related to each other, suggesting that, in this population, they would provide practitioners with similar information. Further analysis provided characteristic groupings of variables.
Maughan is with the Aberdeen Football Club, Aberdeen, Scotland. Maughan and MacFarlane are with the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland. Swinton is with the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland.