Strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Martinez, recently talked to a roundtable of seven coaches and trainers from four different countries about several sports science topics. This is the third in this series of Sports Science Roundtable articles.
Daniel Martinez: What is your view on periodization and its relevance to your team’s needs?
Cory Innes: A well-rounded knowledge of basic periodization structure and the detraining effect of the various bio-motor qualities is crucial. This knowledge should be so well understood that the practitioner can adjust and adapt training both within the wider plan and daily. (For instance, being able to stick to the periodization structure of what you are trying to achieve but being flexible within that process because, in the real world, perfect concentrated loaded periods and deloading periods don’t occur on a constant 3:1 macrocycle.)
There also needs to be reflection on what you expect to see, what you are seeing, what the difference is, and why there is a difference. This helps you understand an athlete at an individual level. There should also be a greater emphasis on skill development so that exercises performed are performed with perfect mechanics for what you have programmed. The “how” is more important than the “what,” and you need a vision of what you want to see in what time period, and what skill progressions you may need to achieve that.
Cory Kennedy: I think periodization is a very important starting point with every group you work with, but it is not final. There are definitely key periods of the year that are pre-defined with a specific type of training, which is probably the case for most people in our field. Early off-season, with GPP (General Physical Preparation), happens close to universally, although what that means can change from sport to sport. After that, we definitely employ a blend of block training with fluid periodization. We typically establish specific objectives for the athlete and the two to three qualities we need to build in the next cycle. Then, using the different monitoring tools at our disposal, we try to adjust our daily choices based on the state of the athlete. There are many roads that lead to Rome, so as long as our destination remains clear, our daily choices can be somewhat adaptable.
’Sport science’ informs the direction that the necessary ebbs and flows of training, practicing, competing, and all other stressors must take relative to the original periodization model. ~ Devan McConnell
Devan McConnell: Periodization lays the general framework for how I structure our training, both on a micro and macro level. I find great usefulness and success in the long-term planning of training, despite this being recently out of fashion. That being said, I don’t think that it is appropriate to consider any periodized plan as “gospel.” The entire point of tools such as subjective wellness questionnaires, sRPE, internal and external load monitoring, and CNS and ANS assessments is to provide relevant, immediate feedback on an athlete’s ability to adapt to stress. Ignoring this information blindly because it does not fit with the pre-ordained, periodized model would be foolish. Therefore, “sport science” informs the direction that the necessary ebbs and flows of training, practicing, competing, and all other stressors must take relative to the original periodization model.
Jonas Dodoo: I have always been a believer in training all components throughout the year in a “complex hierarchy,” where you essentially list all your training components and their objectives. You also list which ones will have primary, secondary, tertiary, quaternary (and so on) priority when planning learning objectives, training focus, training time, training stress, etc. It’s always easy to address your primary priority within each phase/cycle, but the problem I encountered early in my career is that it’s easy to overshoot your tertiary and quaternary priorities. This can become a problem, as these priorities can demand more adaptation reserve than planned and lead to over-training or dilution of training. It’s just as easy to undershoot these components, which may have detrimental long-term implications.
Mike Boykin: Periodization, or the structured and systematic implementation of a plan, is obviously exceptionally important, although perhaps not in the classical sense of a coach having all training-related details laid out until the “peak” competition. For our staff and athletes, periodization is more practically applied to ensure that the people involved in an athlete’s preparation understand what the goal(s) is/are for a certain period of time and which objective or subjective metrics need to be monitored most carefully.
This is always dynamic, and it shifts depending on numerous factors including, but not limited to: an athlete’s health (physical and emotional), technical progress, and physical development, as well as time of year. To give a fairly straightforward example, take an athlete who is coming off a chronic injury that has caused numerous compensatory strategies and limited consistent training. Until this athlete has stabilized health factors and mechanics, performance markers (such as times during practice or weight lifted in the gym) are not a priority. Unless the entire coaching/therapy staff is on the same page with this, an athlete will consistently receive mixed messages on what they should be focusing on.
Nate Brookreson: I believe that the planning of a yearly training block is one of the most important processes a coach can go through. It creates communication with sport coaches in determining the most important competitions to plan for, allows you to stratify programming between different levels of athletes, permits you to have meaningful conversations with athletes about how you are going to achieve success and what markers you will use to determine this, and serves as a road map for other coaches who might be assisting you with your team to see your thought process and rationale. I don’t feel that a periodized plan needs to be at the level of individual exercises because I think these will be influenced by what team you are working with and your exercise preferences with them.
I believe in creating a plan based on your training goals (e.g., strength endurance, strength, strength speed, etc.) and then filling in exercises, sets/reps, and percentages based on these goals. I try to be as scripted with the training in the off-season as possible, as there are times when I am trying to create fatigue to target specific adaptations, although within reason. However, when we reach our in-season phase, there are specific competitions at which my objective is to attenuate fatigue, and I am more sensitive to getting feedback from the athletes to manage the training loads and make changes in programming as necessary.
Patrick Ward: Periodization comes down to logical, structured planning. In team sport, I look at it in two main ways—mesocycle and microcycle. The mesocycle is going to be dependent on the phase of the season (e.g., training camp, in-season quarter 1, etc.), while the microcycle is specific to what we do that week in preparation for the upcoming competition. The microcycle layout is critical in team sport, given the frequent competitions and how one week flows into the next. Understanding that weekly structure and preparation is something I strongly believe in. Then, how subsequent weeks feed into a block of time—a mesocycle—helps you take a longer term look at things.
I left macrocycle off the list only because looking at programming/planning from year to year isn’t as critical for us, given that a pro sports team turns over a lot of players each year. There are also coaching changes, and these athlete and coach changes alter the training context each season. There isn’t as much consistency from year to year, like there might have been before the times of free agency.
The next installment of this Sports Science Roundtable series is: “The Effect of Monitoring on the Training Process.”
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