Strength training is an important element in an athlete’s preparation for the competitive part of the year. It should form a part of the yearly training cycle and should be implemented appropriately during the yearly plan. Periodisation in sport is the process of manipulating training goals and processes throughout a season or multiple seasons, and thus, should be at the core of any training program design. The development of periodised training plans can give the overall development of the athlete a clear direction and provide a framework against which development of the athlete can be planned. The first step in building a periodisation model is to identify a competition start date. From this date, the training periodisation tracks backward building in time to train the

Periodisation is not a perfect science. While the planning process can go a long way to improve performance, it is a system of compromise. If one training component is prioritized, others must give way to the area of focus as it is widely believed that all athletic abilities cannot be trained concurrently. This further highlights the need for periodisation when many abilities are required to be improved as a part of the annual plan, and as a function of the fact that most sports are a combination of a variety of complex athletic abilities.

Benefits of Periodisation

When implemented correctly, periodisation will help to achieve planned increases in the physical abilities of an athlete. Adequate planning can help to prevent overtraining or training staleness, as well as ensuring that the athlete is in peak condition to maximize performance at appropriate times of the season i.e. important competitions or games. The principal aim of a coach is to advance the athletes under their care. Periodisation of training has been shown to elicit superior training results compared to non-periodised training, and should form a core element in the athlete-coach interaction.

Training Cycles: the units of periodisation

The largest stage used within the periodisation model is called a macrocycle, and typically this is one season or one year long. However, this stage may be expanded to a two year cycle for elite athletes competing in alternating championship (i.e. international soccer teams in European/World Cup preparation) or a four year cycle for elite athletes competing in major games (i.e. Olympic Games, Rugby World Cup). For the purpose of this article we will look at one full calendar year being the largest period. This is the long term planning stage of the cycle.

The second defined stage within the periodisation model is the mesocycle. This can last from 2-6 weeks but the most commonly used length is 4 weeks. It is during this period of training that the individual goals set during planning will be sequentially developed. This medium term planning facilitates a greater adaptation to training and improvement in the physical capacity being trained.

The structuring of mesocycles will also require the coach/trainer to be aware of the season stage so that training can be tailored to the changing demands during the off-, pre- and in-seasons. Therefore, an additional layer in the periodisation plan must be added to specify what stage of preparation the athlete is at. To facilitate the organization of mesocycles this additional layer of the plan is placed between the macro and mesocycles. Within a mesocycle there may be more than one training aim, and this can be detailed below the mesocycle as a training aim.

The smallest stage used in the periodisation of training is the microcycle. This short-term cycle typically lasts 7-10 days. Most microcycles will adapt to a weekly cycle for non-elite athletes who have to factor in work and weekend commitments.

While the separation of time between season stage, meso- and microcycle synchronize well in the periodisation model, in practice this may not occur so uniformly. Preparatory or transitional mesocycles may overlap into the following competitive season stage. While the two season stages will have differing training aims the mesocycles can be tailored towards the training goal through the adaptation of the short term micro cycle.

The organization of this information may give us a visual representation of training that looks similar to Table1.

I’ve got the basic information, so now what? →Sequencing of mesocycles during training phases!

Having set the lengths of the training phases (preparatory-transition-competition), it is now time to start to set some goals for each mesocycle. The first mesocycle (meso1) should be used to prepare the athlete for the training that will be undertaken in the following cycles; meso2, meso3 etc. This initial step is termed anatomical adaptation. It will facilitate the preparation of the athlete’s connective tissues (ligaments, tendons) to bear the loads that will be placed upon it during the later cycles as well as allowing development of the athlete’s range of movement to facilitate the inclusion of heavy weighted resistance exercise at a later stage.

Following an initial period of preparation, a hypertrophy period can be implemented, if needed. Hypertrophy may be necessary, essential even, for athletes competing in contact/collision sports or for athletes who are lighter than their direct sporting counterparts. For weight-category sports or with athletes for whom increased body mass places them at a disadvantage, this phase may be excluded from the periodisation plan. In place of a hypertrophy phase, an extended adaptation phase may be implemented.

Having set goals for the training cycles the periodisation model now begins to take greater shape and becomes more readily identifiable as training organization as seen in Table 2.

Having established the training model, the coordination of volume and intensity changes through the training program can begin. There are a number of models for volume-intensity interaction that can be applied to the team game periodisation, but there is no definite periodisation model that is absolutely superior to an alternative model, and for the purpose of outlining the periodisation process, this article will address two sequential models: Linear and Undulating.

The linear periodisation model was developed by the Soviet sport scientist Metveyev. In this model, the initial training cycle contains high volumes of low intensity training. This facilitates the increased number of low intensity training sessions being conducted for anatomical adaptation and hypertrophy. As the training schedule moves closer to the competitive stage of the year the intensity of training begins to rise. High volume, high intensity training cannot be maintained for long periods, and so, the volume of training must reduce to allow the higher intensity of sports-specific pre-competitive training to be implemented.

The use of linear periodisation will work well for athletes who have a low competitive level and little experience of structured training, as almost any training will have an effect on a novice or untrained athletes. As an added benefit, the isolation of the training mode and the low intensity of initial training may facilitate the adjustment to the newly initiated training.

Sports which require a limited number of skills or motor abilities to be trained may not show the same benefits. To use a linear periodisation model for multi-skill sports may not be the most effective method as one training emphasis is prioritised per training cycle. This may reduce the exposure of the athlete to training of the necessary skills and abilities required for their specific elite level sport requirements. Hypertrophy gains may fail to be maintained by this method of training and may illicit neural fatigue. The linear model may also expose athletes to the risk of overtraining due to the monotony of unvaried training loads.

Linear Periodisation Volume-Intensity Interaction

In an undulating periodisation program, the interaction of volume and intensity varies frequently. This can be effective in avoiding the negative aspects of the linear model. The use of a wave approach in volume-intensity interactions through the competitive mesocycles allows the athlete to adjust training focus repeatedly, which may help to avoid monotony through the competitive season. This facilitates the maintenance of many physical skills necessary for their sport. This approach may be more beneficial to an advanced athlete who requires more sophistication in their periodisation. This can help to ensure that they are making the increases necessary for performance, and also to avoid becoming over-exposed to a single training stimulus leading to staleness mid-season. While this may increase the complexity of the training plan, it provides a more favourable approach for advanced athletes.

Undulating Periodisation Volume-Intensity Interaction


Periodisation is the systematic organisation of training periods and training aims; it is fundamental to the development of athletic potential. The use of periodisation is an effective tool in organising the type, duration and sequencing of training. Selection of the correct model can help to increase in the strength and further develop the skills of the athlete. By clearly outlining the training emphasis, appropriate manipulation of training, volume-intensity interaction can be implemented to help to avoid staleness and overtraining. Sequentially organisined training can be beneficial for eliciting improvements in novice athletes. However, for more advanced athletes, a more sophisticated training method may be used. By increasing the complexity of the training plan, experienced athletes can help to avoid monotony and overtraining, aiding further advancement of the individual’s athletic potential.