Maximizing Potential through Periodization:
Nick Dudas CSCS
Have you ever gone to the gym and felt like you have hit a wall, and the progression you once experienced is gone. Most individuals have including myself before learning how to properly periodize. This is known as hitting a performance plateau.
When starting strength and conditioning program the physical adaptations and psychological adjustments can be tremendous. If the program is left unchanged the athlete or individual will experience decreased gains and possibly become over trained.
Periodization was introduced in the 1960’s by a Russian physiologist Leo Matveyev’s. His concept was to divide an overall training program into specific time cycles. The first of these cycles is known as a macrocycle, this consists of the overall program going from one year up to four years. The next is a mesocycle, which last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Last is a microcycle, this last anywhere from one to four weeks. It is detrimental for athletes to have a preplanned strategy consisting of all three cycles to promote long-term training and performance improvements.
As athletes go through out their sports careers the competition becomes more and more intense. Knowing when an athlete should peak in performance is everything. Over time this can only be done through proper periodization. As the microcycles begin you want to start with a preparation phase, it is important in this phase to establish a 1-repetition max on core non-power lifts. This would be lifts such as bench press, military press, back squat, and dead lifts. Once the 1 repetition max is established the preparation phase begins with hypertrophy and endurance. Hypertrophy refers to muscular growth from increasing the cross-sectional area of existing muscle fiber as well as increasing the myofibrils with in the fibers. This can be established from doing sets of 3-5 and repetitions of 10-12. It is important to have a diet that puts to athlete in a surplus of around 500 calories a day to be sure to increase muscle diameter. At the end of the week the athlete should gain a pound of muscle.
After 4-6 weeks of building muscle and endurance athletes want to focus on basic strength. The importance to building strength is to take the muscle the athlete has gained and be able to generate a maximal force at specific velocity. In the basic strength microcycle the volume will drop to 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps. Once the first two microcycles are complete the athlete will want to take a week of lower volume and intensity to recover and prepare for the first transition phase, this is know as a unloading week. Depending on the experience and conditioning of the athlete an unloading week may be used after the first microcycle as well.
Once the unloading week is over the athlete should be ready to begin the strength and power phase. This involves taking the strength gained in the last microcycle and making it explosive. The athlete here will exert maximal forces at much higher speeds. The power microcycle will include not only core lifts but power lifts as well, such as power cleans, snatches, and sports specific plyometrics. The athlete’s intensity will increase and the volume will drop to 3-5 sets of 2-5 reps for 4-6 weeks. This leads us right up to the competition phase where the athlete increases intensity and lowers volume one final time. Everything that has occurred during the training season leads to this point where we want the athlete to peak performance wise on the field.
As the competition period continues the athlete will want to train 1-3 times during the week to maintain strength and power gained in the training season. Athlete’s focus will be turned to more sports specific activities as well to sharpen skills. After the competition period is over it is vital to give the athlete 1-4 weeks of active rest involving recreational activity to allow them to recover from the long training season.
The goal of periodization is to improve the athlete’s overall endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power throughout the seasons. This will keep the athlete focused at the task at hand, while maximizing their potential on the field. Properly transitioning throughout the cycles will keep the athlete’s workouts from becoming stale. Periodization will also keep them from overtraining or reaching the exhaustion phase. Remember that specificity and timing is everything for an athlete to reach peak performance.