The roots of periodization come from Hans Selye ’s model, known as the General adaptation syndrome (GAS), describing biological responses to stress. Selye's work has been used by the athletic community since the 1950s (Fleck, 1999).
The GAS describes three basic stages of response to stress: (a) the Alarm stage, involving the initial shock of the stimulus on the system, (b) the Resistance stage, involving the adaptation to the stimulus by the system, and (c) the Exhaustion stage, in that repairs are inadequate, and a decrease in system function results. The foundation of periodic training is keeping ones body in the resistance stage without ever going into the exhaustion stage. By adhering to cyclic training the body is given adequate time to recover from significant stress before additional training is undertaken. The response to a new stress is to first respond poorly and the response drops off. For example when the body is first exposed to sun a sunburn might develop. During the resistance stage adaptation improves the response to a higher level, called super compensation, than the previous equilibrium. The example would be that a suntan develops. The exhaustion stage is a continuation of the stimulus at too high a level and the increase gained from adaptation is now offset and all gains are lost. The example would be that wrinkles, spots, or even skin cancer develop. The goal in sports periodization is to reduce the stress at the point where the resistance stage ends so the body has time to recover. In this way the exhaustion stage does not reduce the gains achieved, the body can recover and remain above the original equilibrium point. The next cycle of increased stimulus now improves the response further and the equilibrium point continues to rise after each cycle.
Selye (1957) labeled beneficial stresses as "eustress " and detrimental stresses as "distress". In athletics, when physical stress is at a healthy level (eustress), an athlete experiences muscular strength and growth, while excessive physical stress (distress) can lead to tissue damage, disease, and death. Periodization is most widely used in resistance program design to avoid over-training and to systematically alternate high loads of training with decreased loading phases to improve components of muscular fitness (e.g. strength, strength-speed, and strength-endurance).
Russian physiologist Leo Metveyev and Romanian sport scientist Tudor Bompa expanded and further organized the periodization model. Bompa and Metveyev have been regarded as the fathers of modern periodization. Since the 1960s, other coaches and exercise physiologists have added to the original models, creating “modified” periodization models. However, despite the differing terminology amongst scientist and practitioners, the scientific basis for periodization remains a common ground.
Periodic training systems typically divide time up into three types of cycles: microcycle, mesocycle, and macrocycle. The microcycle is generally up to 7 days. The mesocycle may be anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months, but is typically a month. A macrocycle refers to the overall training period, usually representing a year or two. There are longer cycles as well for the Olympian, being 4 or 8 years, and the career plan which is usually only considered for Olympians and professional athletes.Theory of Planning
Training should be organized and planned in advance of a competition or performance. It should consider the athlete’s potential, his/her performance in tests or competition, and calendar of competition. It has to be simple, suggestive, and above all flexible as its content can be modified to meet the athletes rate of progressThe Macrocycle
A macrocycle refers to an annual plan that works towards peaking for the goal competition of the year. There are three phases in the macrocycle: preparation, competitive, and transition.
The entire preparation phase should be around 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the macrocycle. The preparation phase is further broken up into general and specific preparation of which general preparation takes over half. An example of general preparation would be building an aerobic base for an endurance athlete such as running on a treadmill and learning any rules or regulations that would be required such as proper swimming stroke as not to be disqualified. An example of specific preparation would be to work on the proper form to be more efficient and to work more on the final format of the sport, that is to move from the treadmill to the pavement.
The competitive phase can be several competitions, but they lead up to the main competition with specific tests. Testing might include any of the following: performance level, new shoes or gear, a new race tactic might be employed, pre-race meals, ways to reduce anxiety before a race, or the length needed for the taper. When the pre-competitions are of a higher priority there is a definite taper stage while lower priority might simply be integrated in as training. The competitive phase ends with the taper and the competition.
The transition phase is important for psychological reasons, a year of training means a vacation is in order. A typical weekend warrior might take three months while a professional athlete might take as little as two weeks.The Mesocycle
A mesocycle represents a phase of training with duration of between 2 – 6 weeks or microcycles. During the preparatory phase, a mesocycle commonly consists of 4 – 6 micro-cycles, while during the competitive phase it will usually consist of 2 – 4 micro-cycles depending on the competition’s calendar.
The goal of the planner is to fit the mesocyles into the overall plan timeline-wise to make each mesocycle end on one of the phases and then to determine the workload and type of work of each cycle based on where in the overall plan the given mesocycle falls. The goal in mind is to make sure the body peaks for the high priority competitions by improving each cycle along the way.The Microcycle
A microcycle is typically a week because of the difficulty in developing a training plan that does not align itself with the weekly calendar. Each microcycle is planned based on where it is in the overall macrocycle.The Annual Plan
The annual plan is important in that it directs and guides athletic training over a year. It is based on the concept of periodization and the principles of training. The objective of training is to reach a high level of performance (peak performance) and an athlete has to develop skills, biomotor abilities and psychological traits in a methodical manner.Preparatory Phase
This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases.Competitive Phase
This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.Transition Phase
This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between 3 – 4 weeks (maybe longer) but should not exceed 5 weeks under normal conditions.
The Definition of Periodisation
Anderson (1997) offers us a simple definition of periodisation he says
‘simply means the division of your overall training into periods which
accomplish different goals’
Wilmore and Costill (1994) interestingly define the term with
reference to overtraining, they define periodisation in their glossary
as ‘Varying the training stimulus over discrete periods of time to
Overtraining and Associated Definitions
Fry et al (1991) provides us with the following definitions:
The process of stressing an individual to provide a stimulus for
adaptation and supercompensation.
Is the normal fatigue experienced following several days of heavy
training associated with overload stimulus. Fatigue is reversed and
supercompensation achieved within the last few days of a reduced
Is the general term which indicates that the individual has been
stressed by training and extraneous stressors to the extent that he/
she can not perform at an optimum level following an appropriate
recovery period. A drop in performance is necessary for overtraining
Follows the intentional or unintentional induction of short term
overtraining. The symptoms of overreaching can be reversed with a
longer than usual recovery period.
Is the state of chronically depressed performance accompanied by one
or more of the more serious symptoms. The overtraining syndrome will
require a significantly longer recovery period than is required with
Are those resulting from the physical, physiological and psychological
stress induced by the training workload from overload training.
Those resulting from activities and psychological forces related to
A state of heightened work capacity, above that of which the athlete
has recently been capable.
Commonly as ‘simply a number of training sessions which form a
recurrent unit’ (Anderson 1998).
These microcycles typically last a number of days, a week is common
"The Definition of Periodisation." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Feb 2017
Workout Routines For Dummies!
Many people ask me what a basic workout routine should look like. Routines will change depending on your goals but there are basic ideas to keep in mind when your goal is to get big, get cut, or something in between.
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They manipulate the training variables to develop a program that will address all the needs of the given athlete or team. They know that the finished masterpiece better not only improve the athlete's skill, but also decrease their potential for injury.
This brings me to structure. Every coach brings something different to the table. Whether it is a new set of exercises, new twists on old lifts, or different philosophies on implementation, no two coaches sit down and create the same program. Yet almost all successful training programs have one thing in common-structure!
The old adage, failing to plan is planning to fail, comes to mind. Without knowing the intimates of the season and the athlete, you will not be able to properly address the athletes needs. Once you do know theses intimates, you must develop a plan of attack, or you will get lost in the processes.
Learning From The Past To Improve The Future
The first truly documented periodized programs came from the Eastern Bloc countries of the Soviet Union and East Germany in the late 1950s early 1960s.
These countries needed to develop an edge for the politically biased events such as the Olympics and other worldwide events (Siff 2000).
At the time when the United States found it more beneficial to focus its science on the aerobic aspects of training, these countries started to develop strong scientific roots in strength training. They decided to focus on strength and power, since this seemed to be the basis for many of the sports that were showcased at events like the Olympics.
Hundreds of scientists based their existence around the development of strength and power techniques that would be used to bring these countries to the top.
At this time, the U.S. was diving deeper into the philosophies of Kenneth Cooper's Aerobics. This resulted in the nation wide endorsement of the Cardiovascular Doctrine. At this point, the U.S. decided to adopt the notion that health and sport depended primarily on prolonged endurance or that which is developed during aerobic exercise.
At this point in time, the general U.S. consensus was that weight training did little for health, but rather made the muscles "pretty" and nothing more.
During the fall of the Iron Curtain and of the concurrent stronghold on their studies, the mass quantities of strength research that had been hidden away in the Eastern Bloc vaults started to be released. Along with this research came the truth behind the secrets to their success that had puzzled many for so long.
Even though the Eastern Bloc countries are given credit for the advent of periodized training, there is some evidence that the notion has been around for much longer. Strength training dates back to 3600BC where ancient Chinese emperors made their disciples exercise daily (Webster, 1976).
There is also abundant documentation of its use during the Chou dynasty (1122-249BC) and in ancient Egypt and India.
The 6th century BC, which was known as the Age of Strength, is represented by many Greek sculptures depicting the muscular male physique (Siff, 2000). In closing, we cannot forget about mythological character Milo of Croton who carried a baby calf around on his back. As the calf grew, so did Milo's strength.
Periodization, or a training paradigm that changes the training stimulus in a structured way, exists in many forms and mutated variations. Although there are many different types of periodization. I am going to outline the three most prevalent types "Western" style, Conjugated, Undulating, and one that I have developed which I call the Hybrid method. Before I dissect these four methods and discuss their differences, let's highlight what they all have in common.
No matter what form of periodization you subscribe to, the components are all the same.
All programs are going to address:
How these types of strength are addressed is going to be similar. Hypertrophy is typically going to be trained with 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps at 65-80 percent. Strength is going to be trained with 3-6 sets of 1-6 reps at 85-120 percent.
Endurance is going to be trained with 1-3 sets of 10-30+ reps at 15-60 percent. Recovery usually mimics the loading of endurance with the reps and sets of hypertrophy training.
There are also similarities in the location of certain loading patterns. For instance we know that athletes cannot handle large amounts of volume (from strength training) in-season. We also know that the off-season if the best time to improve strength, power, and increase size.
Western Style Periodization
Western Style periodization got its name because it was influenced by western training philosophies. This type of periodization has three cycle classifications.
I previously stated five types of Mesocycles. Each cycle is designed to develop a specific need.
Anatomical Adaptation Cycle:
Maximal Strength Cycle:
Since the intensity of the load ultimately dictates the physical adaptation, western style periodization is strictly based on each athlete's one repetition maximum (RM). The one RM is used as the basis to calculate all the loading used throughout the year. Typical practice has been to test absolute strength during the early off-season, at the end of the strength Mesocycle, and prior to the preseason. Many coaches only test absolute strength at the bookends of the off-season.
Even though this type of periodization if the staple of many strength coaches across the world, it is not perfect. First, as the athlete progresses through the program, their level of strength is going to change. What typically happens is a coach will create a six-week protocol using the latest maximal strength test. As the athlete adapts to the program their strength level will change.
I have found that it is not uncommon to have female athletes experience 50-pound increases in their squat max during a strength cycle. In some instances, this has been an increase of over 33% in their maximal strength.
By the end of this cycle, a percentage that was calculated using their previous max is completely wrong.
For instance, one athlete tested in with a 175-pound box squat. By the end of the six-week cycle, she was squatting 225 off the box. If I were to calculate 85 percent of her max (lets say for five-six reps) to focus on strength according to her previous max I would prescribe 150 pounds. However, she can now squat 225, so 150 is only 66 percent of her true instantaneous max. This would be a sub-maximal stimulus for the given training adaptation.
The next problem is that strength changes from day to day particularly due to psychological stimulation and environmental influence. Common things such as not sleeping enough, eating poorly, experiencing stress, or just coming into the weightroom with a negative mindset can change an athlete's instantaneous max. This can create situations where the body cannot adequately deal with a volume that typically would not be a problem.
We must also take into account minor injury. Minor injury can alter the course of a training program for seemingly small periods of time. Even though these injuries may only last for a few days to a week, detraining can occur while the injury heals. Once the athlete is placed back into the normal training program, they can no longer hand the prescribed intensity and the potential for an overtraining syndrome presents itself.
What You Don't Know About Overtraining!
The general definition of overtraining is this - a syndrome occurring in athletes who train too frequently/in excess OR who may not allow for adequate recovery from intensive exercise.
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In part two of this article I am going to discuss the three alternative methods that you can use to structure your training program.About The Author
Since Chad is not familiar with weight training, I have developed a simple training program for him. He wants to improve his game by starting a weight training program, but he has never trained in this way before. The program I have developed will gradually work his body into good shape with minimal risk of injury or over training. He is 55 with 20% bodyfat so the routine will not be too labor intensive as not to injure any muscle,joints, or tendons. Chad's body fat percentage is not too bad, but aerobics will be worked into the program as needed to increase his overall health and physique.
The 12 week macrocycle consists of 3 mesocycles that last for 4 weeks each Each mesocycle will be set to 3 days of weightlifting to allow for adequate rest. The "off" days will be supplemented with aerobics. The first mesocycle is a circuit training routine, which will allow Chad to familiarize himself with weight training. These 4 works are very important because this will allow his body to adapt to weight training and start to fill out any muscle imbalances Chad may have. The reps are set high to allow for smooth transition into the training. The "sets" for each exercise are set at 3, since it is a circuit routine, this means that the circuit will be completed 3 times with Chad moving on to the next exercise after 1 set of each. The aerobic activity will be somewhat minimal depending on Chad's comfort level with the program. If he is adapting to it quickly, the aerobics will be added and increased as needed.
The 2nd mesocycle is a total routine change into a basic weight lifting program. Monday being the chest or "push" day, Wednesday being the leg day, and Friday being the back or "pull" day. This routine will work on building the basic build blocks of the anatomy. Being strong throughout your body is imperative for any sport, including golf. The push and pull days are set at the first and last days of the weekdays to allow for maximal rest of the upper body muscles.
Mesocycle is a training phase in the annual training plan that contains usually of 3-6 microcycles. Usually mesocycle refers to the main training target for particular period (i.e. anaerobic power, muscular endurance, etc.) that should be developed.
Image creditThe classification of mesocycles
This kind of mesocycle is used also after the injury or after longer period without trainings.
2) Preparatory mesocycle
During the beginning of the preparatory period the used structure of the microcycle is usually 4 + 1 or 3 + 1 depending of the level of the athlete then at the end of the preparatory period the structure changes to 3 + 1 and 2 + 1, respectively.
This change is due to the increase training intensities towards the end of the training period and therefore proportionally more recovery is needed.
4) Precompetition mesocycle
Here’s how athletes’ training cycles look like in Sportlyzer. Click to see larger.
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5) Competition mesocycle
The number of those mesocycles is characterized by:
For example, in cyclic sports the competitive period can last from 1 to 4, even to 5 months and one or two competitive mesocycles can be planned accordingly. In ball games, competitive season may even last longer, fom 6-10 months and therefore 5-6 mesocycles can be planned, that usually alternate with preparatory mesocycle.
6) Recovery mesocycle
Figure 1. An examples of 4 + 1 preparatory mesocycle(upper panel) and 3 + 1 shock mesocycle (ower panel). Mcycle – microcycleWhere to fit a mesocycle?
Usually there are longer mesocycles (4-6 weeks) during the preparataory phase and shorter during the competitive phase. The main criteria for considering a length of the mesocycle depends on the time necessary to develop a certain ability or technical elment. Try to fit a mesocycles into annual plan in a way that there will be a competition or special testing at the end of the cycle, so the coach can immediatedly evaluate the impact of that particular mesocycle.
Reference: Bompa T. Periodization. Theory and methodology of training. Human Kinetics, Chicago, IL. 1999.
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