Athletes need to program their training year carefully so they can improve fitness, optimise performance and peak during competition, as well as reduce their risk of injury. Training for strength, speed and cardiovascular conditioning are essential components to preparing an athlete for their competitive part of the year. When programming these elements for an athlete, coaches need to consider how to build and reduce workload through training intensity and volume.
This is where the concept of periodisation comes in!
Periodisation can be defined as the organised, systematic, long-term planning of training to optimise performance at a given time point. This is achieved by the manipulation of program variables at specific times and the division of training into smaller phases, each with a different emphasis. The key to breaking up a long term program into smaller stages is to ensure the athlete’s body is being adequately challenged, but not to the point where overtraining or injury occurs.
Let’s take a look at the different phases of training…
The macrocycle is the longest of the three cycles and includes the preparation, competition and transition phases of your plan. It is typically one season or one year long, however can be longer or shorter depending on the sport. A macrocycle provides an overview of your training regimen and allows you to incorporate long-term planning in order to peak at competition time.
The mesocycle is a medium level of planning that generally interlinks between 3–6 microcycles or weeks of training into one block. These involve developing a particular component of fitness such as power, strength or endurance. The more important the component, the longer an athlete may spend on it. The mesocycles are broken down into microcycles.
The microcycle is potentially the most important level of planning when developing a periodisation plan for an athlete or team. This is because the microcycle contains very specific training objectives. It can vary from several days to 1–2 weeks in duration, although traditionally they have been developed as a single-week plan. The type of training objectives and activities within a microcycle will be dictated by the stage of planning it fits into within the mesocycle, macrocycle, annual training plan, and/or multi-year plan.
To put these three cycles in visual form, here’s a breakdown:
Periodisation & Athletes:
A training strategy that tracks and plans volume and load is vital for athletes to be able to perform at their peak on competition day. By managing recovery, strength and conditioning development and the increase in intensity and frequency, sports coaches are able to use periodisation to improve performance. When effectively programmed, periodisation will peak the athlete multiple times over a competitive season (Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, track and field) or optimise an athlete’s performance over an entire competitive season like with football or basketball.
Periodisation & The General Population:
Although originally developed for athletes, the basic concepts of periodisation can be applied to individuals of the general population who have no specific competitions but still wish to develop higher levels of fitness or performance.
The process is still to manipulate the program variables over a longer time period to lead to greater improvement. Other benefits include maintaining enjoyment by adding planned variety to the program and giving the client an advantage if they are a casual/recreational sport competitor. Indeed, the client may not have a specific ‘competition’ but may wish to peak for a goal that occurs at a specific time, such as the summer, a holiday, or even a wedding.
If you’d like to learn more about the concept of periodisation and how it can be applied in both a sporting and Personal Training environment, check out our Advanced Periodisation Techniques short course and obtain 4 CEC points!