Periodization by Michael Yessis'

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The term periodization is used quite a bit in iron sports as well as in individual dual and team sports. It’s a very versatile tool used to help guide training. However, one model doesn’t fit all. The periodization scheme must be adjusted and individualized not only to the sport, but also to the individual athlete and his or her level. This is where much confusion exists.

Periodization has been around for many years and came into popular use after its refinement through theoretical and practical research in the former Soviet Union. Today, it’s an important tool for all coaches and athletes. Without using an effective periodization scheme, it’s impossible for the most part to develop a high level athlete.

In periodization, annual training is divided into different periods or phases. In each phase, the athlete trains in a specific manner in order to gain certain physical and technical qualities and/or results in particular exercises. The development that the athlete achieves then enables him to do the training called for in the next period of training. In this way, the positive changes that the athlete experiences from each period of training makes it possible to tackle the next period of training, which eventually leads to the ultimate goal. Each phase should bring the athlete to a certain level of achievement. This is a major criterion. If the athlete doesn’t reach this level, he won’t be able to move on to the following level.

The basic periodization plan is usually broken up into four phases. Each phase may last anywhere from 3–4 weeks to 7–8 months. Very often, the annual training plan is broken down into two major periods known as macro-cycles. This typically indicates that there are two major seasons in the sport such as in track and field. There is an indoor and outdoor season. However, it should be noted that in many sports, even though there may be only one major competitive season, there are now secondary seasons. For example, basketball has summer leagues and baseball has winter leagues. The macro-cycle is often divided into the meso-cycle, which usually consists of one or more months and the micro-cycle, which is typically a weekly cycle of training. The latter is perhaps the most important aspect of any periodization scheme. Because the term “cycle of training” is used here, don’t confuse it with cycling. Cycling is an orderly and regular change in training protocol or a system of changing exercises and workout routines. It shouldn’t be confused or used in the same way as periodization. They’re distinctly different.

Phase 1: General Physical Preparation (GPP)

The initial stage of training consists of general preparatory or general conditioning exercises to strengthen all the major muscles and joints and develop the functional systems of the body such as the cardiovascular and nervous systems. This period prepares you for the intense training that follows. In addition, GPP is used for rehabilitation and strengthening or bringing up lagging muscles or deficiencies in technique. The work in this period is general in nature so that the athlete doesn’t build up psychological stress. The volume of work done is high, but the intensity is low. This means that more exercises with lighter weights and higher repetitions are needed to strengthen ligaments and tendons as well as develop strength. This period of training should be used by all athletes regardless of sport or objectives.

GPP is most important for novice or low level athletes. The exact length of time spent in this phase depends upon the athlete’s level of ability, mastery of the exercises, mastery of the sports skills, level of fitness, sex, age, and so on.

High level athletes usually spend 3–6 weeks in this period but only if they maintain their levels of fitness throughout the year. High level athletes don’t lose their sports’ form from the previous season. In some sports such as football and baseball, the players are considered high level, but many often get out of shape in the off-season. Therefore, they must do more general work to get back in shape rather than specialized work to improve their performance before the season.

Phase 2: Specialized physical preparation (SPP)

The specialized training period begins gradually as the GPP phase ends. The work at this time becomes very specific to the sport skills and energy systems. SPP has very specific criteria. For example:

1)   The exercise must duplicate the biomechanical characteristics of the competitive skill (duplicate the total or portion of the skill technique).

2)   Strength must be developed in the same range of motion in which it’s displayed in the competitive skill.

3)   The type of muscular contraction used must duplicate that seen in the competitive skill.

4)   The exercise must duplicate the same type of energy system used in the competitive skill (level of maximum oxygen utilization, anaerobic threshold, etc.).

Both volume and intensity are high at this time. For higher level athletes, this is the most important period of the annual training program. This period is the cornerstone of training a high level athlete and is believed to be the “secret” to the Russian training system. High level athletes concentrate their training in SPP, and GPP plays a role in the warm up, cool down, and relation periods.

Phase 3: The competitive period

The end of the competitive preparation period blends into the competitive period. At the end of the SPP training period, most of the activities and exercises duplicate actual competitive situations. In team sports, increases in technical and physical abilities aren’t called for mainly because they’ll change how well an athlete executes the skills, and as a result, how well the athlete carries out the game strategies. However, in many individual and dual sports such as track and field, increases in strength or speed or speed-strength may still be called for in-season. Team athletes must maintain their developed levels of strength and speed-strength in order to maintain their ability to perform at the same level. During the competitive period, the psychological and strategic aspects of the game are most important and are worked on together with actual execution of the competitive skills and exercises.

This is the basic model of periodization that should be used by most athletes. However, on the higher levels, many athletes now use the block system. In this system, the development of one physical quality is stressed. In the previous scheme, more than one physical and technical quality can be worked on at the same time. When the technical or other physical qualities are well developed as they should be with the high level athlete, any needed increases must be concentrated in one or more qualities, or blocks. There can be several blocks. In each block, athletes develop a particular quality that then enables them to do the work in the next block. That work then enables them to do the work in the following block and so on.

In essence, there’s a progression in each period of training that allows the body to develop in a natural progressive manner. When athletes peak, they should then be at their very best, capable of performing like they’ve never performed before. At the same time, athletes won’t experience overtraining. They’ll be able to begin the next cycle of training fresh and healthy so that they can experience greater gains and have an even greater season the following year. All too often though, athletes “get in shape” hopefully to play as well as they did in the previous season. As a result, they never get better when they’re capable of much better performances.

Phase 4: The post-competitive (transitional) period

Regardless of the sport, after the competitive season, an athlete should go through a stage of recuperation and relaxation, especially mentally. During the competitive season, the psychological stress is usually quite high, and athletes must be able to remove some of this stress quickly before the body reacts negatively. At this time, the body can still do physical work, but the mind needs to rest.

Active rest is best, meaning that athletes should remain active for relaxation purposes, not for physical development. Participating in a different sport that they do well in is very effective. They can still experience the physical work but also get enjoyment and satisfaction from a different activity.

Dr. Michael Yessis is a professor emeritus in biomechanics and kinesiology and president of Sports Training Inc., a diversified company that does specialized work with athletes and develops specialized training equipment. Dr. Yessis is the foremost U.S. expert on Russian training methods. He has been to Russia multiple times, has worked with Russian coaches such as Yuri Verkhoshansky, and has translated and published Russian training articles in the Fitness and Sports Review International for over 29 years. He also wrote the number one article read in Muscle and Fitness (Kinesiology, Training Notebook) for over 25 years. Visit his website at www.dryessis.com.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.


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Submitted by DMorgan on Sat, 05/19/2007 - 1:02pm.

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