Periodization: Planned Peaks and Targeted Training

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 09:00

Periodization is a systematic approach to training that involves varying training variables, like volume and intensity, over time. The objective of this planning is for the athlete to reach his or her peak at a specific, pre-determined time, while optimizing recovery to avoid overtraining and injury.

A periodized training plan is divided into several subsets of cycles. Macrocycles generally last several months to a year, culminating with a competition phase. Mesocycles can be several weeks long, and are often associated with a stage of the athlete’s season, eg. pre-season, in-season, off-season. Within mesocycles, microcycles are usually several days to a couple weeks, with the majority being a week.

Periodization for Strength

Two of the most common types of periodization are linear periodization and undulating or non-linear periodization. A newer, third type is block periodization. These three types are often used in a weightlifting context, though may be manipulated for aerobic sports or team sports.

·         Linear Periodization:

o   Training load gradually increases while volume is reduced

o   Broken down into phases that focus on one parameter at a time, eg. strength; power; speed

o   Originally designed for Olympic weightlifters preparing for one peak competition per year

·         Undulating/Non-Linear Periodization:

o   Training load and volume are both modified daily or weekly

o   Can target multiple parameters in the same week

·         Block Periodization:

o   Training focuses only on adaptations the athlete needs, eg. will not target endurance if it is not required

o   Each modality is performed in large volume separately from other modalities, eg. no box jumps after squats because it trains two different modalities: strength and agility

o   Created to accommodate multiple peaks/events in a year

Periodization for Endurance Athletes

There are two types of periodization geared more towards endurance athletes.

·         Traditional Periodization:

o   Four phases/mesocycles:

1)      Preparatory – Moderate to high volume of low intensity: develop an aerobic base with overdistance and endurance training

2)      Precompetition – Moderate volume of moderate to high intensity: build intensity with tempo work and sessions at the lactate threshold and maximal effort

3)      Competition – Low to moderate volume of high intensity: the race; usually preceded by a taper

4)      Transition – Low volume of low intensity: the off-season

·         Inverse Periodization:

o   Order of training focus:

1)      Strength and technique

2)      Speed and strength

3)      Aerobic power and efficiency

4)      Aerobic capacity right before the competitive season

o   Athletes should be experienced and already have a solid cardiovascular fitness to be able to manage the greater strength and speed training at the start of the season

Either periodization type can then be implemented using the standard method or the reverse method.

·         Standard method: Repeatedly build intensity gradually over a few weeks, with regular recovery periods

o   Suitable for novice and intermediate endurance athletes

·         Reverse method: Start with a higher intensity and gradually decrease the load throughout the mesocycle

o   Best for athletes with seven or more years of experience

o   Athletes can attain a higher volume and load because the most intense week follows a recovery week, avoiding the accumulated fatigue of the standard method

Take-Home Message

To produce the greatest adaptations to training, it is important to include variation. While variation does not automatically mean periodization, a periodized training plan is a good way to organize your season: it forces long-term planning, provides more immediate structure, and considers injury prevention and overtraining. It can also help to ensure you allot an appropriate amount of time to training different aspects of your sport. The right periodization strategy will depend on an athlete’s experience, fitness, and individual characteristics. Additionally, a single approach may not be effective throughout the season, and it may be necessary to change your strategy throughout the year. Like with all exercise training programs, people will range from non-responders to high-responders, and what works for one person, may not be optimal for another.

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