What is Periodisation?

What is Periodisation? As the name suggests Periodisation refers to periods of time that focus on certain aspects of training. Historically, the development of annual training plans was a consistent way for those in the 'Eastern bloc' countries to improve the athletic performance of their athletes. The early research of periodisation therefore took place in places such as the USSR, Romania and East Germany. One such researcher, Dr Tudor Bompa known as the 'father of periodisation' has written several books on the topic, most of which are still used today in contemporary coaching practice.

The idea behind periodisation is that training should progress from general to specific. When applied to an overall season or training year, this would see cyclists develop elements of their physiology that would focus on general aspects of their fitness such as endurance and general strength. As the season progresses, the training program begins to add and develop a range of other physiological capacities (e.g. muscular endurance, force, speed). This more focussed or specific training would lead to an athlete peaking at the appropriate point of their season, in line with their racing/training goals and objectives.

An important component of periodisation is that the annual training program is divided into parts, blocks or 'cycles'. There exists two cycles of interest for those interested in performance: (i) macro-cycles (you may even see this period called a meso-cycle in some literature). A macro-cycle is a phase that last between 2-7 weeks and contains 2-7 micro-cycles; and, (ii) microcycles - which are a weekly or 3-7 day training program.

The rationale for dividing the training year into cycles is that it allows for an emphasis on specific physiological capabilities, while building on previous emphasised aspects. This is important as it is highly unlikely that an athlete is able to develop all physiological capabilities simultaneously!

So what are the examples of the macro-cycles to use in an annual training program? How long should each macro-cycle last for?

It is generally accepted that there exists five or six different macro-cycles that are used during a season. These include: transition, preparation, base, build, peak and race. In the following paragraph there is some further information about the focus of the macro-cycle and the suggested time spent in each period:

Transition - recovery, also known as the off-season. Athletes should generally spend between 1-6 weeks in this period.

Preparation - during this cycle athletes are preparing to train. General exercises including some cross-training, running, resistance training are common during this period. Two to four weeks should suffice for this period.

Base - athletes should be spending between 8-16 weeks developing their base. A focus of training is primarily on endurance, some strength and speed-work.

Build - this phase is about 6-8 weeks in duration. Intensity develops here as does improving areas of weaknesses.

Peak - This is where you are preparing psychologically for your races. You are tapering off, keeping the intensity high but decreasing your time on the bike. Generally 1-2 weeks in length.

Race - a focus on maintenance combined with races that are high in priority.

If you are interested in finding out more information on how to prepare a periodized program for your next event, please contact Trent at Perform Cycling.

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