When planning a training year for your athlete, sporting team or yourself, it is important to use periodisation. Although this is a very large topic to cover, the basics are discussed here.

Periodisation assists in planning the long-term order and structure of the training year. The aim is to ensure the athlete achieves peak physical condition during their competition phase and monitor the risk of overtraining and injury. This also allows for optimal recovery and training adaptations. There are several progressions and ways to structure your training so you can be at your best when it matters the most. Coaches may manipulate variables such as intensity, volume, frequency, rest and mode of individualisation to reinforce systematic improvements in training.

Periodisation cycles

Periodisation is the process of breaking down the year into smaller specific time periods. This helps to structure the program effectively. The main three cycles are;

1. Macrocycle – usually the whole training year but could also be a period of months up to four years.

2. Mesocycles – usually lasts multiple weeks to multiple months. The number depends on the desired goals of the athlete and the number of competitions within that period. There are usually two or more mesocycles within a macrocycle.

3. Microcycle – these are typically one week long. However, they could last up to four weeks depending on the type of program. This short training cycle focuses on daily and weekly training variations. Two or more microcycles usually lie within a mesocycle.

Phases of Training

The major phases of training are the preparatory, competition and transition periods.

1. Preparatory phase – occurs when there are no competitions, and is usually the longest period. The main emphasis of this phase is to establish a base level of strength and conditioning to improve the athlete’s tolerances for more intense training. This has a large focus on low intensity and high volume activities. For example, long and slow distance running, swimming, high repetitions resistance training, etc.

2. Competition phase – the aim of this phase is for athletes to be at their peak strength and power through a gradual increase in training intensities and decrease in training volume. This is also known as tapering. There is an emphasis on skill technique and game strategy as time given to physical conditioning decreases. For example, a sprinter would focus on speed, reaction time, and sprint-specific plyometric drills during this phase. The competition period usually lasts between one to three weeks, but for most organised sports it may last for the entire competition season.

3. Transition period – This is commonly known as the active rest or restoration period. It usually lasts for one to four weeks with no set structure and involves non-sport specific activities at low intensities and volumes. This is an important period as it assists in avoiding excessive training, and allows time for the athlete to rehabilitate any injuries and focus on rest (both physical and mental).

You ask why it is important?

Implementing periodisation has proven to have many benefits;

  • Management of fatigue – assists in reducing the risk of overtraining by monitoring load, intensity and recovery.
  • Maximises both general and specific preparation for competition.
  • Able to optimise performance over a specific period of time.
  • Tailored to the individual and takes into account time constraints, training age and status, and environmental factors.
  • Avoids the risk of over training!

Periodisation organises an athlete’s training year in cycles to promote peak conditions for their set competitions. Improving performance can only happen with a science-based, periodised training plan!

Find out more about periodisation, tailored specifically for you by one of our Exercise Physiologists at Sydney West Sports Medicine.

Call us on (02) 9851 5959 to get started on a training program today!

Baechle, Thomas R., Earle, Roger W. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Nebraska. Human Kinetics.Turner, A. (2011). The Science and Practice of Periodization: A Brief Review. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33(1), pp.34-46.