Athletes need to programme their training year carefully so they can improve fitness, optimise performance, and peak during competition as well as reduce injury risk.
Periodisation is key to planning a training programme and involves dividing the year into specific blocks with each block having a particular goal.
These training blocks are referred to as cycles and periodisation divides training into three cycles; the macrocycle, mesocycle, and microcycle.
Typically includes all 52 weeks of your annual training plan and involves a long-term performance goal. This cycle includes the preparation, competition, and recovery phases of your plan. A macrocycle provides an overview of your training regimen and allows you to incorporate long-term planning in order to peak at competition time.
The preparation period
The length of the preparation period is depended on the sport, however, typically occurs 8-12 weeks before the start of the competition. Performers will block the preparation period into mesocycles. The first mesocycle will involve general conditioning, improving building aerobic fitness, strength, speed, and flexibility.
Training will be high in volume and frequency. This general conditioning cycle is then followed by targeted cycles aimed at developing specific areas of fitness for example strength or speed. This may involve decreasing the volume of training but increasing the intensity. By the end of the preparation period, an athlete should be aiming to get to peak fitness for competition.
The competition period
Performers will focus on maintaining their fitness levels throughout their competitive season. The competition period will include more rest/recovery days as the athlete will be competing and training. The performer must aim to maintain peak fitness when competing. During this phase, athletes may focus on skills, strategies, and techniques. Training volume is reduced but the intensity is still high.
The transition period
Also known as the offseason, the period allows an athlete to recover physically and mentally from a demanding season. The transition period may involve complete rest along with active recovery. Active recovery will consist of low-intensity aerobic or strength work. The training will increase as the next preparation phase draws closer.
Mesocycles are typically 3-6 weeks in length and have a specifically targeted outcome. These involve developing a particular component of fitness such as power, strength, or endurance. The more important the component, the longer an athlete may spend on it. The mesocycles are broken down into microcycles.
A microcycle is the shortest training cycle, typically a week training block. A microcycle provides the information an athlete needs to complete their training for that week. Microcycles may be similar from week to week, for example, a weight training microcycle may have the same exercises however the weight lifted may increase during different cycles. Microcycles may also be different from week to week, for example, a running programme may have different intensity, duration, and training method guidelines.
Example macrocycle for a footballer
The design of the macro, meso, and micro cycles will depend on the sport, season length, and major events to peak for. Below is an example of an athlete looking to peak for the Olympics in July 2020.
This begins in September 2019 with the aim of rest and recovery
- The end of the season previous season (August 2019)
- Allow the body and mind to recover
- Involves active rest and consists of low-intensity aerobic and strength work
- Training may build as preparation season begins
Phase one – General conditioning:
- General conditioning improved; CV fitness, strength, power, and flexibility improved
- High training frequency and volume
- Preparation for 2020 Olympics begins in November 2019
Phase two – Specific conditioning:
- Specific areas of fitness are targeted and improved
- Training volume decreases but training intensity increases
- Sport-specific focus
- In December 2019 more targeted training begins. This focused training continues up until the start of the competition season in April 2020
- Athletes now competing so training volume decreases, and rest days are incorporated
- Specific skills focused on
- Smaller competitions begin in April 2020 building toward the Olympics
- Training tapered approximately two weeks before the event
- Training volume is reduced to avoid injury
- Training intensity is still high
- The peak for Olympics