After exploring the basic concepts of long-term program planning in Part 1 of this series and then diving into the principles of overload, recovery, specificity, individualization, reversibility, variety and overtraining in Part 2, we’ll take time to explore volume and intensity of training loads and bring it all together in an overall exploration of periodization application in this final installment of the Periodized Program series!
The exact structure of a periodized strength training cycle can vary depending on the manipulation and/or implementation of training variables such as volume and intensity. Training load is commonly determined by volume multiplied by intensity, with these two factors generally having an inverse relationship. If athletes are going to perform a high intensity training session, they would not be able to last for a long duration, therefore the volume would be short and visa versa. It is through an understanding and careful manipulation of both volume and intensity that effective progression and overload can be applied. Generally volume is the initial training factor, and as athletes move through their training cycles, volume decreases as intensity increases.
Volume relates to the amount of work and is usually determined in quantities, be they distances, times, repetitions, etc. If the volume of training is going to be high, the intensity of the session would have to be moderate to low.
- Overload is provided by increasing the number of sets and reps/distance (still sports specific) performed.
- The load on the bar or endurance intensity is increased infrequently and only too small extent.
- High volume training is often associated with development of hypertrophy in strength/power sports who predominantly train in the lower repetition range.
- It is also used for "base" or anatomical adaptation development.
- During the high intensity phase, the number of sets or duration of training remains mostly constant with the major overload coming from increases in weight or speed.
- High intensity work is often associated with development of maximal strength and power due to the low repetition and heavy weight training regime, which requires high neural drive and summation.
When maximum gains are desired, attempts should be made to increase the training volume prior to increasing intensity. This is done as high volume work provides a "conditioning" effect, allowing greater intensities to be tolerated. It is also during the high volume phase that basic techniques are developed as the load is not maximal and there are numerous training repetitions.
The Adaptive Reserve
The adaptive reserve is our body’s ability to adapt in a positive manner to a training stimulus. It must therefore be considered when planning the application of overload.
- When completely rested, the adaptive reserve is at its fullest. However, when fatigued, the reserve diminishes due to an intensive voluminous training.
- When overtrained, adaptive reserve is minimal with little or no ability to adapt to the training stimulus.
- With these points in mind, hard sessions should only be attempted when the athlete’s reserve has fully recovered.
With this in mind, load planning needs to consider the effect of the determined loads on adaptive influences and hence the effect on the adaptive reserve. Easier (recovery) workouts can be performed when the adaptive reserve is slightly depleted. This maintains strength and muscle mass while not interfering significantly with the recovery process.
There are several distinct patterns of applying overload - these include linear, step and wave increases. Each have pros and cons as will be discussed, but one should also note the effect different forms of overload have on the adaptive reserve.
- Linear increases have no set recovery phases.
- Step increases only provide a form of recovery by maintaining set loads which, when the body adapts, slightly decreases training effect.
- Wave-like increases provide recovery phases as part of their periodization, therefore allowing replenishment of the adaptive reserve.
Effective for rapid improvements in novices; however, not the most effective method for advanced athletes.
Large sudden increases are attempted (e.g., from six to 10 sets or 100m sprints to 400m sprints). Thought to produce more rapid adaptation in advanced athletes. Not suitable for novices who make sufficient progress with less radical methods.
Has all the advantages of the step-like increases with the added benefit of a recovery period. Sharp increases in load only attempted after a recovery period.
In the above example, a recovery period (Weeks 5 and 6) have been programmed in before the "step" increase in Weeks 7 to 10.
Planning to Periodize
The first and key step is to determine the end point, what the training is aimed to achieve (is it the Olympic games in four years time, national titles in September, a wedding in three months or simply the best possible physical condition for summer?)
Determine the amount of time to the target date of the goal. If a full training year is available, then obviously you have 52 weeks of training time available.
Determine the duration of the competitive season and plot all competitions. This will allow a determination of what time is available for use as shown below in Figure 12.
Divide the remaining training time in the phases of development (see Figure 13 below).
Determine the amount of time to be spent on each of the components required by the athlete in each phase (e.g., speed, endurance, technique, flexibility, etc).
Determine how much time will be allocated to each component during the individual macrocycles.
Figure 15 above represents the percentage of time given to each component for the entire general phase. However, the total percentages of time can again be manipulated in the macrocycles. As shown in Figure 16 below, 60% of the time allocated to hypertrophy is conducted in the first cycle, with the remaining 40% of the component being conducted in the second cycle. Likewise, 33% of the relative strength component is conducted in the first cycle, with the remaining 66% conducted in the second.
Determine how much time will be allocated to each component during the microcycles. Also consider the manipulation of volume and intensity for each component during each session. As Ehrhard states in regard to manipulation of intensity for a cyclist, "attaining a balance between high and low intensity time during a week often makes the difference between a habitually burned out rider and one that performs optimally."
Amidst all of the planning and program application process, it is important to remember that each person is different and that the application of all of this information will depend on the specific needs and capabilities of the individual each step of the way. It is great to have a plan and to know where you are going, but ultimately we must also be flexible and open to shifting and tweaking the reality of that plan to fit the real needs of the moment. During the entire step-by-step development of each individual’s program, we must stay tuned to the basic concepts of long-term program planning and the principles of overload, recovery, specificity, individualization, reversibility, variety and overtraining as found in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.
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