Training Periodization

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Eating the same foods day in and day out can get pretty boring; add in the fact that the body might not be getting enough of the essential nutrients that it needs to function properly and you can see why variety is vital to our overall health. This same idea can be applied to athletics – if athletes worked out in the same exact manner each time they lifted, ran, or played their sport, they wouldn’t see much progress. If a soccer player works out by only running 3 miles each day, they will have a difficult time improving the other important components of their game including speed, agility, and strength.

To get the most out of their workouts, athletes should divide their training regimens into various phases or segments in order to challenge their bodies in a new way. Some methods of training progression include: linear, non-linear, and wavelike. According to Jeff Brodeur, Strength and Conditioning Specialist at The Micheli Center, “linear progression is more appropriate for beginners that don’t have as much size and strength, or experience with resistance training. It’s a good periodization plan to prepare the athlete for those areas.”

Here is an example: an athlete has 3 months of summer before they start their first preseason. In order to prepare properly, they decide it is best to follow the linear progression model.

Sample linear progression 12-week plan:

Weeks 1-4: Hypertrophy phase (hypertrophy: “excessive development of an organ or part; specifically: increase in bulk (as by thickening of muscle fibers) without multiplication of parts.”)

  • 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise

Hypertrophy is more of a foundational phase, working strictly to build muscle mass. This phase includes basic movements in the progression (for example: a barbell front squat).

Weeks 5-8: Strength phase

  • 3-5 sets of 3-6 repetitions for each exercise

Jeff explains that the first phase is for building a foundation – now that the muscles are adapting to the stimulus that has been put on them, they’re essentially developing in an anabolic state. The second phase includes increasing intensity (weight, or percentage of your RM (rep max)), and decreasing volume (sets and reps). In this phase, you’re increasing your max strength and progressing into slightly more difficult exercises (for example: a split squat).

Weeks 9-12: Max strength phase

  • 1-5 sets of 1-5 repetitions for each exercise

This is the final phase, which works on your absolute strength. This phase can include more difficult progressions (for example: a rear elevated split squat). The intensity of the weight used is really high and close to your 1 RM, while the volume (sets and reps) is low.

Jeff believes the off-season is a great time to prepare the body for the demands of the sport. “You can spend a lot of time during the off-season focusing on strength, explosiveness, speed and agility, endurance, and overall athletic performance.” While training throughout the off-season is extremely important, it is also wise for athletes to include some cross-training, which will help to avoid overuse injuries. By participating in other sports and activities, the athlete can improve their athletic abilities while simultaneously training various muscle groups.

Keep an eye out for our future posts on non-linear and wavelike periodizations!

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