Periodisation part 1

HARARE - Traditional periodisation can be traced back to the mid to late 60s in Eastern Europe and is a widely accepted method of structuring training programmes to produce the best possible performance at the right time otherwise referred to as peak points.

It has to be simple, suggestive, and above all flexible as its content can be modified to meet the athlete’s  rate of progress or regress at whatever stage in the season they may be. Essentially it becomes a working document and a guideline as opposed to a strict process.

Essentially, periodisation can be defined as the method of organising the training year into phases, where each phase has its specific aims for the development of the athletes’ general conditioning, skills, biomotor abilities and psychological traits in a methodical manner. Let’s take a look at The Big Picture and deconstruct a typical season into 3 broad categories:

1. MACROCYCLE: This is the annual plan and takes into consideration the entire season from start to finish. There are 4 phases (mesocycles) within the macrocycle and they are the general preparation phase, the special preparation phase, The competition phase and the transition phase.

It is useful to know that some coaches will create a macrocycle that encompasses more than just a year, for example, Olympic athletes on a four-year plan will make use of the extended macrocycle.

2. MESOCYCLE: a mesocycle (see above four phases of the macrocycle) represents a phase of training with a duration of anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks, but this can depend on the sporting discipline.

A mesocycle can also be defined as a number of consecutive weeks where the programme emphasizes the same type of physical adaptations, for example, muscle hypertrophy or aerobic capacity.

The goal of the plan is to fit the mesocycles into the overall plan from a time based perspective 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. General guidelines break the macrocycle into more commonly referred sporting terms such as The Offseason, pre-season, in season and transition.

3. 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 mesocycle.

A microcycle is also defined as a number of training sessions, built around a given combination of training variables, which include durations and intensity levels to give a total Work Volume for each session.

Adaptation is key here to determining the length of the microcycle based on the number of sessions it takes the athlete to achieve the desired targets of performance or skill.

Once adaptation has been achieved then the respective training variables need to be manipulated or adjusted accordingly to facilitate the required progressions that remain in line with the mesocycle.

Useful information that will greatly assist the detail in which you place in each phase includes the athlete’s injury history and current injury status, their personal objectives and obviously their availability to fixtures, meets, events and matches.

A few of the more common benefits to periodisation include:

* A more manageable training programme due to planning    

* Reduced risk of injury of an athlete

* The Overtraining Syndrome has been eliminated and/or managed more efficiently

* An athlete or team that can peak for the targeted competition

Next week in Part 2 we will deconstruct the mesocycle phases and have a more in-depth look into how they can be structured and utilised for optimal results.

*Ex-Zimbabwe rugby international Grant Mitchell is High Performance Director at Innovate High Performance Centre in Harare and a top strength and conditioning coach.

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