PT on the Net Research

Periodized Programs - Part 3

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!

Training Loads

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.



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.

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.

Loading Patterns

Linear Increases

Effective for rapid improvements in novices; however, not the most effective method for advanced athletes.

Step Increases

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.

Wave Increases

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

Step 1

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?)

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

Divide the remaining training time in the phases of development (see Figure 13 below).

Step 5

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).

Step 6

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.

Step 7

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.


  1. Aitken, D. (1996). Periodization. Quest for the ultimate training plan. Fitlink magazine. First Quarter 1996. Coorparoo, Bne: Fitlink. pp18 -23.
  2. Baker, D. (1995). The Effect Of Wave-Like Periodized Strength Training Cycles On Maximal Strength and Lean Body Mass. Strength and Conditioning Coach Vol 3 No. 3.pp 11 – 16.
  3. Bompa, T.O. (1987). Periodization as a key element in planning. Sports Coach July September 1987. Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  4. Bompa, T.O. (1994). Theory and Methodology of Training. Third Edition. Dubuque, Iowa; Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
  5. Calder, A. Accelerated Adaptation to Training. Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  6. Charniga, A., Gambetta, V., Kraemer, W., Newton, H., O’Bryant, H., Palmieri, G., Pedemonte, J., Pfaff, D., & Stone, M., (1993).
  7. Periodization Part 1&2. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal. Vol 15, No1,1993. pp 57 - 76.
  8. Clarkson, P.M. (1990). Too Much Too Soon: The Aftermath of Overexertion. Sports Science Exchange. Chicago, IL: Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Vol 2(1990) Number 21.
  9. Damm, G. (1997) Overload. Sports Coach Summer 1997. Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  10. Damm, G. (1996) Specificity. Sports Coach Spring 1996. Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  11. Damm, G. (1996) Variety. Sports Coach Autumn 1997. Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  12. de Vries, H.A., & Housh, T.J., (1994). Physiology of Exercise 5th Edition. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Benchmark.
  13. Ehrhard, T. (1998), "Periodizing Interval Training for Peak Performance Without Overtraining" Performance Conditioning for Cycling Vol.4 (5).
  14. Fleck, S.J., & Kraemer, W.J., (1997). Designing resistance training programs. 2nd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Hawley, C.J., & Schoene, R.B. (2003). Overtraining Syndrome: A Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention, The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Vol.31 (6), pg. 25Healy,D.,(1998). Strength Training Team UA Style. Olympic Coach. Vol 8 (2).
  15. Hawley, C.J, & Schoene, R.B., (2003). Overtraining Syndrome: A Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention, The Physician And Sportsmedicine, Vol 31 (6).
  16. Istvan, B. & Way, R. (1998). Long Term Athlete Development Model Macrocycle and Microcycle Planning of the Annual Plan. Strength and Conditioning Coach Vol 5 No. 3.pp 3 – 10.
  17. Istvan, B. & Hamilton, A.E. (1995). Long Term Planning of Athlete Development “The Training To Train Phase.” Strength and Conditioning Coach Vol  3 No. 3.pp 4 - 11
  18. Lemyre, P-N., Stray-Gundersen, J., Treasure, D.C., Matt, K., & Roberts, G., (2004). Physiological and psychological markers of overtraining and burnout in elite swimmers, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(5), Supplement abstract 1024.
  19. Mc Ardle, W.D., Katch, F.I. & Katch, V.I., (1996). Exercise Physiology: Energy, nutrition and human performance 4th Edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  20. Mackinnon, L.T. & Hooper,S. Overtraining. University of Qld. pp 79 - 84.
  21. Marieb, E.N., (2003). Human Anatomy and Fitness 7th Edition. Massachusetts, NW: Benjamin/Cummings.
  22. Meir, R., (1994) A Model for the Intergration of Macrocycle and Microcyle Structure in Professional Rugby League. Strength and Conditioning Coach Vol 2 No.3. pp 6 – 12.
  23. Plowman, S.A. & Smith, D., 2003. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness and Performance. 2nd Edition. Benjamin Cummings.
  24. Powers, S.K., & Howley, E.T., (1997).  Exercise Physiology. 3rd Edition. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Benchmark.
  25. Pyke, F.S. & Woodman, L.R. (1991). "Principals of Sports Training" in "Better Coaching Advanced Coach’s Manual" ed. F. Pyke, Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  26. Rushall, B.S. &  Pyke, F.S. (1993). Training for Sports and Fitness. Crows Nest, NSW. Macmillian Education Publishers.
  27. Sharkey, B.J. (1990). Physiology of Fitness. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  28. Sharkey, B.J. (1986). Coaches Guide to Sport Physiology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  29. Shield, T. (1995). The Application of Overload. Fitlink magazine. First Quarter 95. Coorparoo, Bne: Fitlink. pp13 -16.
  30. Tschiene, P. (1997). Theory of Conditioning Training: Classification of Loads and Modelling of Methods from Adapted Aspects.  Leistungssport (Germany) Vol 27, No 4 July 1997.
  31. Urhausen, A., Coen, B., & Kindermann, W. (2001). Intensive training vs. rest: Effects on ergometric, hormonal and psychological results. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(5), Supplement abstract 755.
  32. Uusitalo, A.L.T. (2001). "Overtraining: Making a Difficult Diagnosis and Implementing Targeted Treatment," The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Vol.29(5), pg.35
  33. Wilks, R. (1995). Training Theory and Strength Training. Strength and Conditioning Coach Vol 3 No.1.pp 10 – 15.
  34. Wilmore, J.H. & Costill, D.L. (1988) Training for Sport and Activity. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  35. Wilmore, J.H. & Costill, D.L. (2004) Physiology of Sport and Exercise. 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  36. Woodman, L.R. & Jarver, J. (1995) "Planning the Training Program" in "Better Coaching Advanced Coach’s Manual" ed. F. Pyke, Belconnen, ACT: Australian Coaching Council.
  37. Zatsiorsky, V.M., (1995). Science and practice of strength training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.