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P&P #73: Periodization
"The theory and practical application of Periodisation may not be as well understood as is implied both by its proponents and its detractors."
"The overall long-term cyclic structuring of training and practice (in terms of micro-, meso- and macro-cycles) to maximise performance to coincide with important competitions is known as periodisation . This means of organising training has become increasingly popular in the West since it was propounded as yet another one of the Russian 'secrets' behind their training success."
"Preoccupation with periodisation has created the incorrect impression that this is the only long-term way of planning training, a belief that is not even common in Russia. Indeed, the eminently successful Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans do not always apply periodisation, sometimes relying on what appears to be maximal training during every training session, especially in strength sports."
"The foundations of modern training organisation and periodisation were laid in the Soviet Union at about the time of the Russian revolution. One of the earliest texts on this subject was written by Kotov (Olympic Sport, 1917), who considered it appropriate to divide training into general, preparatory and specific stages (Siff & Verkhoshansky: 'Supertraining - Special Strength Training for Sporting Excellence', 1996)."
"There are different schemes for organising training for each sport, each individual, each phase of training and so forth in the Russian methodology, yet some of the Western critics of periodisation declare that a major problem with Russian periodisation is that it neglects individual responses to training.
Other critics state that periodisation was based on Russian work with Olympic weightlifters alone, despite the fact that many of its earliest studies and applications were in Track & Field (Gorinewsky 'Scientific Foundations of Training, 1922; Birsin 'The Basis of Training, 1925; Vsorov 'Basic Principles of Training Athletes', Moscow, 1938)."
"Even in Russia, periodisation based on the competitive calendar alone, was criticised by scientists such as Letunov (Reflections on the Systematic Formulation of Training: 'Sovietskii Sport', 1950). He considered that biological processes determined the form and design of the training program. Verkhoshansky regularly criticised some of the periodisation models popularly used by his colleagues in Russia, who, in turn, did not agree with Verkhoshansky's model of concentrated phases of heavy loading.
It is interesting that the models which were most criticised in Russia are the ones being used now being used most frequently in the West (the early Matveyev model). Therefore, it is not surprising that some Westerners dismiss the role of periodisation."
"PREOCCUPATION WITH PRIMITIVE MODELS
The major strength, coaching and fitness associations in America, as well as most of the educational institutes and English language textbooks on sports training, cover periodisation almost solely in terms of the Matveyev model (low intensity/high volume training progressing to high intensity/low volume training so as coincide with one or more competitive peaks during every macrocycle).
Even the more advanced computer programs for designing long-term training schedules are based on this limited model alone. Even Matveyev did not intend his basic model to be used so rigidly and generally. Part of the problem possibly lies in the very tedious and complicated translation of Matveyev's textbook 'Fundamentals of Sports Training' (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977), which some Western scientists and coaches have read and applied in isolation of later research articles by Matveyev and many other Soviet scientists."
"A careful reading of Matveyev's book shows that he took great pains to categorise numerous different types of cycle and sub-cycle within each periodisation model (e.g. see below).
VARIANTS WITHIN PERIODISATION MODELS
Thus, various transition phases are often recognised between each of the major phases, with the post-competition phase often being regarded as the main transition phase, being used mainly for restoration. Some authorities consider that one of the transition phases should be recognised as a conversion phase during which specialised training converts maximum strength either into speed- strength or strength-endurance.
Although this terminology superficially seems attractive and descriptive, it is scientifically inaccurate, since one type of strength or motor ability cannot change into another, as has been shown by considerable research into the specificity of adaptation. It is more accurate to state that a prior stage of maximal strength training may serve as the foundation upon which later training for speed-strength or endurance is based, a sequence which is fundamental to some systems of training, e.g. the conjugate sequence system (see 5.3)."
"Similarly, different types of microcycle are sometimes identified, such as ordinary (the usual scheme of uniformly increasing loading), introductory (bringing the athlete up to the competition stage), restorative (after heavy loading), competitive (immediately before and including the competition), and shock or stress (stimulating the athlete out of a state of stagnation) microcycles (Matveyev, 1981). Shock microcycles typically are used if the current programme is not eliciting adequate strength gains.
Generally, the microcycle following a shock microcycle is of low intensity, although, some elite athletes may employ two sequential shock microcycles (a double shock microcycle). It is inadvisable to use more than 3-4 shock microcycles a year or more than one double shock microcycle a year because of the serious risk of overtraining or injury. Using these concepts, typical mesocycles may be constructed logically from these microcycles, as follows:
ordinary ordinary shock restorative
ordinary introductory competitive restorative
shock ordinary shock restorative
restorative ordinary ordinary restorative.
Mesocycles may also be defined in a similar manner, including introductory (beginning the preparatory period), base (the main types for increasing specific functional abilities), control-preparatory (transitional between base and competitive types), pre-competitive (immediate preparation for competition), competitive, and intermediary (restorative) mesocycles (Matveyev, 1981).
The intermediary mesocycles, sometimes further broken down into restorative- preparatory and restorative-maintenance mesocycles, usually offer systematic active rest to help the athlete recover after heavy loading."
"Sometimes, the restorative-maintenance mesocycle is simply referred to as a maintenance phase used to stabilise the high level of preparedness achieved during preceding phases. Several experts recognise large mesocycles, which comprise a closely integrated system of smaller mesocycles each of which has specific training goals. Later in this text, the concept of concentrated loading mesocycles is covered in detail because of its special training potential for advanced athletes. Each phase of periodisation, in turn, may be described in terms of sequences of these mesocycles."
TYPES OF PERIODISATION
"The proliferation of Western texts on generalised periodisation has tended to create the incorrect impression that there is solely one model of periodisation, which is most usually the well-known scheme that increases training intensity and decreases volume smoothly as the year progresses (Matveyev, 1964)."
"It is important to realise that this type of model is suitable for certain sports for athletes of a given level of sports mastery, but it is neither the only periodisation scheme nor the most applicable in all situations. Several major periodisation schemes, each with its own variations for different sports and different levels of athlete qualification, are used in practice (Siff & Verkhoshansky: 'Supertraining - Special Strength Training for Sporting Excellence', 1996):
Smooth wave-like variations of the load over definite phases (Matveyev,Ozolin, Sholikh). Research indicates that the load volume during the competitive phase should be about 10-15% lower than the maximum that is reached during the preparatory phase (Matveyev, 1964)."
"Abrupt step-like alternation of loads of different intensity (light, medium, heavy) over the short term and long term. At the short-term level, the training load is varied sharply from session to session, and in the weekly and monthly cycles. Its success has been corroborated by the research of several workers (Yakovlev, Grokin, Vorobyev, Ermakov). This method is described in detail in Vorobyev'sTextbook on Weightlifting.
Equal distribution of training loads comprising strength and technical skills work (Komarova). This form of loading, applied during the preparatory and competitive phases, was successfully used in preparing the Soviet track-and-field team for the 1980 Olympics (Bondarchuk). Increase in strength without concurrent improvement in sport-specific skills training is considered inefficient.
The wave-like concentration of loading with a given primary emphasis for about 5-10 weeks at a time (Verkhoshansky). Each concentrated load with one emphasis acts as the foundation for the next load with a different primary emphasis, so that pronounced adaptation occurs in time for major competitions. This method is intended for more highly qualified athletes and must be prescribed intelligently to avoid overtraining during any given phase."
"The pendulum approach (Arosiev and others), which uses smooth, uniform, rhythmical alternation of the different components of training."
"Within each of these broader models of periodisation, there are numerous variants for specific purposes and individuals in different sports."
"Despite this very impressive display of periodisation models, some highly successful athletes use other forms of long-term training organisation (e.g. perceived daily maximum loading, intuitive or ad hoc prescription on a short- term basis, fairly random use of supplementary training methods, up and down pyramiding)."
"If periodisation is indeed as scientific and invaluable as is claimed by its proponents, how is it possible for non-periodisers to achieve their impressive results? Does this suggest that there are other non-periodisation schemes that deserve a merited place side-by-side with the better periodisation schemes?"
"Is periodisation definitely as effective as is claimed by its supporters? Let us hear from both the periodisers and non-periodisers in an attempt to cast more definitive light on this issue. Bear in mind that responses based on the limited Matveyev periodisation model are inadequate to answer many of the issues raised."
"Is the lack of significant success with periodised training applied by some Western coaches largely a consequence of our limited knowledge of the vast field of Russian periodisation modelling and methodology? Or is it because all forms of periodisation are an unscientific waste of effort? Examine a broader spread of periodised and non-periodised models, drawing on relevant published laboratory or practical material."