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PEAK PERFORMANCE APRIL MAY 2011

PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME Allen Hedrick discusses the science behind periodisation and looks at how personal trainers can implement it to train clients more efficiently.

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single competition (such as a marathon) or transitions into in-season training cycles (e.g., a football season) which is meant to maintain the increases in strength and power that occurred during the previous training cycles. 1, 5, 6

efore I discuss the finer points of periodisation, let’s define it. Periodisation can be described as the planned manipulation of training variables to maximise training adaptations while, at the same time, preventing overtraining.2 All trainers – whether they know it or not – will use this concept in training with clients. By becoming more aware of the theory behind it, trainers should be able to maximise results with clients.

This approach to periodisation is termed linear because it combines progressive increases in intensity with concurrent reductions in training volume. It needs to be pointed out that linear periodisation is an incorrect label because, by definition, periodisation is composed of non-linear variations in programme design.3

The concept of periodisation can be traced back to Selye’s general adaptation syndrome, which says that systems adapt to stresses they are exposed to in an attempt to meet the demands of the stressor.6 Periodisation breaks the training year into specific periods. The largest division is a macrocycle, which normally includes an entire training year but can range from a period of several months to four years for an athlete training for the Olympics.7 Included in the macrocycle are two or more mesocycles. Each mesocycle lasts several weeks to several months, depending on the goals of the athlete and, if applicable, the number of competitions during the macrocycle. The smallest division of time is the microcycle. A microcycle usually lasts one week, but can potentially last as long as four weeks.7 The basic principle of periodisation involves a gradual shift in emphasis from a high volume of training (exercises x sets x repetitions) and low intensity (percentage of maximum effort), to a low volume and high intensity of training.5 Each mesocycle signals a change in the volume and intensity of training and normally reflects a specific training goal for the respective period of training.

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The normal sequence progressing through

the mesocycles of a linear periodisation model starts with a preparatory or hypertrophy cycle, which is characterised by a high volume and low intensity of training. 1, 5, 6 During this period the goal

Linear periodisation, as just described, has two possible limitations. First, because there is a constant increase in intensity, there is little time for recovery. Second, the hypertrophy that occurs early in the mesocycle is not well maintained in cycles of training where low (five or less) repetitions are performed. This is because higher volume training is required to increase/maintain muscle mass.4

Normal sequencing of cycles, adapted from Stone et al

Mesocycle

Sets

Reps

%1RM

Hypertrophy

3-5

8-12

60-75%

Strength

3-5

6-8

80-85%

Strength/power

3-5

4-6

85-90%

Peaking

3-5

2-4

>90%

is to increase muscle mass and/or muscle endurance. After this cycle two strength and strength/power cycles normally occur. During strength and power cycles volume gradually decreases and intensity gradually increases. Off-season training normally finishes with a peaking phase during which the athlete prepares either for a

Undulating periodisation This was created to eliminate the problems associated with linear periodisation. Undulating periodisation differs from linear because it has more frequent variations in volume and intensity throughout the training cycles. The theory is that short periods of training increase hypertrophy,

FITPRO NETWORK | APRIL MAY 2011

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PEAK PERFORMANCE alternating with short periods of training directed at increasing strength or power, provide a better training stimulus than linear periodisation.6

peak for the city championships. We also know she has been playing tennis and lifting weights regularly so she is beginning the programme with a basic

This belief is based on the fact that long periods of linear increases in intensity leads to neural fatigue, compromising increases in strength. By alternating between training cycles designed to increase hypertrophy/ muscle endurance and training cycles designed to increase strength/power, neural fatigue is avoided. In linear periodisation variations in programme design occur after a period of multiple weeks or months of training. Undulating periodisation, in contrast, makes use of alternations in programme design during the same week or on a daily basis.6 For example, the training programme can be adjusted so that athletes perform sets of 12-15 repetitions on Monday, 8-10 repetitions on Wednesday and 3-5 repetitions on Friday. Such a plan places considerable stress on the neuromuscular system because of the continuous significant changes in programme design. It is believed that this high level of stress makes the programme effective, leading to increases in strength/ power while eliminating plateaus in the training programme.6

level of conditioning already established. Further, we know we want her to peak with a power/endurance cycle because of the demands of the sport. As a result, we could use the following sequence of cycles to accomplish the desired goal. However, as discussed earlier, this linear approach does have some potential limitations. First, as can be seen, there is a continuous increase in intensity, with no recovery periods. Second, after the initial training period, there is no further focus

Mesocycle

Sets Reps %1RM Length of cycle

Hypertrophy

3-5

8-12

60-75%

6 weeks

Strength

3-5

6-8

80-85%

6 weeks

Power

3-5

4-6

85-90%

6 weeks

Power endurance

3-5

3-7

65-90%

6 weeks

Implementation

To play the sport at a high level requires a good level of flexibility, strength, power and muscular endurance. At this point we know what the physiological demands of the sport are and how long we have to work before we bring her to a physiological

Using the exercises outlined, a personal trainer could have the client train three days per week. Monday and Friday would be scheme one days where the primary training goal is emphasised. In contrast, Wednesdays will be a scheme two day, where concentration is on the secondary training goal. Using this system, the priority training goal is emphasised twice per week and the secondary goal once a week. The benefit of this is that there are daily variances in intensity, and hypertrophy is better maintained during the strength and power cycles. Further, you can train power and power endurance simultaneously during the final peaking phase so the client improves power and is able to maintain that high power output for the duration of the match.

Conclusion Periodisation is commonly used by most strength and conditioning coaches working with an athletic population. However, periodisation can and should also be used by personal trainers working with their clients to help them achieve optimal results. Linear periodisation is the most common approach, but undulating periodisation may provide specific advantages as it compensates for the inherent weaknesses in linear periodisation. fn To view the references related to this article visit www.fitpro.com/references

ALLEN HEDRICK

on hypertrophy, and there is a relationship between hypertrophy and strength, and strength and power, so maintaining hypertrophy throughout the training cycles is important. As a result an undulating periodisation approach is recommended. The larger table below shows the primary goal of each training cycle as (#1) and

Allen is head strength and conditioning coach at CSU-Pueblo. He previously worked at the National Strength and Conditioning Association as Education Co-ordinator and as Strength and Conditioning Co-ordinator at the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado.

Mesocycle

Sets

Reps

%1RM

Length

Hypertrophy(1)/ strength(2)

(1 and 2) 3-5

(1)8-12 (2)6-8

(1)60-75% 6 weeks (2)80-85%

Strength(1)/ hypertrophy(2)

(1 and 2) 3-5

(1)6-8 (2)8-12

(1)80-85% 6 weeks (2)60-75%

Power(1)/ hypertrophy(2)

(1 and 2) 3-5

(1)4-6 (2)8-12

(1)85-90% 6 weeks (2)60-75%

Power(1)/power/ endurance(2)

(1 and 2) 3-5

(1)4-6 (2)3-7

(1)>90% 6 weeks (2)65-90%

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Having defined periodisation and provided an explanation of the terminology, it’s time to look at a practical example of a periodised training programme. For example, a PT has a 35-year-old female tennis player as a client. She plays in a city league and wants to prepare for the championships to be held in six months' time. For the last four years she has played tennis three times per week and performed resistance training twice per week. Her resistance training has been performed at a recreational level with no specific goal in mind other than general fitness.

the secondary goal as (#2). It shows how the training variables are manipulated to meet the stated goals for the primary and secondary goals.

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APRIL MAY 2011 | FITPRO NETWORK

26_27 Periodisation.indd 27

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Peaking at the right time  

Allen Hedrick discusses the science behind periodisation and looks at how personal trainers can implement it to train clients more efficient...

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