Periodize Your Training to Optimize Performance

8 Aug

Periodization refers to variations in training specificity, intensity, and volume, organized in planned periods (cycles) within an overall program.  The purpose of periodization is to promote long-term training and performance improvements.  Keep in mind, the key word here is performance; it doesn’t benefit an athlete to improve in the area of strength and conditioning unless those improvements can be applied to his/her sport(s) of choice.

As a general rule, training frequency and volume should decrease as sport-specific activity increases.  We refer to this as “tapering.”  Conversely, training volume should increase as sport-specific activity decreases.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we periodize training as follows:

  • Off-Season Phase (the period between the post-season and ~6 weeks before the first game of the next year’s season)
  • Pre-Season Phase (the period between ~6 weeks before the first game and the first game; this phase can vary, considerably)
  • In-Season Phase (competition phase; regular- and post-season)

Obviously, multiple sport athletes will require some modification to this plan.  For example, a three-sport, high school athlete is potentially always in-season, during the school year.

The Off-Season phase is the time to get your work done!  This is the time of year to train with maximum frequency (number of days per week), intensity (amount of weight, loads), and volume (number of sets and repetitions).  Strength and Conditioning training should be prioritized as (organized) sport activity decreases.  The off-season phase can be further divided into smaller phases:

  • Hypertrophy/Endurance Phase – very low to moderate intensity and very high to moderate volume; the goals for this phase are to increase lean body mass and develop muscular endurance in preparation for more intense training in later phases.
  • Basic Strength Phase – high intensity and moderate volume; this phase progresses to more complex, specialized, and sport-specific training.
  • Strength/Power Phase – high intensity and low volume; this phase involves increased Strength training intensity and performing power/explosive exercises.

In the Pre-Season phase, you should begin to taper your Strength and Conditioning activity as sport activity increases.  We begin to decrease frequency and volume, but maintain intensity.

The In-Season phase, when sport activity (practices, games) becomes the priority,  should be accompanied by further tapers (decreases) in Strength and Conditioning frequency and volume.  This is sometimes referred to as the maintenance phase.  Intensity should remain relatively high.  Many athletes work very hard in the off-season, only to abandon their training during the pre- and (especially) in-season periods.  Don’t make this mistake.  The principle behind muscle/strength is simple: Use it or lose it.  Playing a particular sport will not help you to maintain gains in Strength and Power developed during the off-season.  “Detraining increases body fat and weight, and decreases VO2peak and metabolic rate,” according to Ormsbee and Arciero; Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  A 20-30 minute Strength training session, once per week, “may be sufficient to maintain initial gain in strength and sprint performance achieved during a preceding preparatory period.” (Ronnestad, et. al.; Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)

Don’t just work hard, work smart.  Build it, develop it, and maintain it… then use it!  Your thoughts?

4 Responses to “Periodize Your Training to Optimize Performance”

  1. Cruz Sepeda Jr. August 11, 2012 at 2:29 PM #

    I couldn’t agree more! Periodization is key when preparing for a specific sport season. Although I would have to say, in terms of tactical strength and conditioning, periodization is in my opinion not practical for the tactical athlete. Tactical Strength and Conditioning is whole other beast maybe for a later blog. Great info!

    • Brian Lebo August 11, 2012 at 9:04 PM #

      Thanks, Cruz… I appreciate the feedback!


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    […] taper as he or she progresses to the pre-season and in-season phases.  This is referred to as periodization.  Multi-sport athletes can present somewhat of a challenge, with regard to training frequency, […]

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    […] your training plan periodized (to address sport seasonality) and progressive (increasing intensity over […]

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