Case Study: Why and how we periodise

When we sat down in December last year and planned how our clients were going to tackle the year ahead, we phased it into two 6 monthly intervals and put it in a general periodisation format that could be easily adapted and implemented for our clients who have full time jobs and want to get the best out of their body and whilst minimising injury. We commenced the plan in February.

Why don’t we start in January? We don’t bother starting in January as there are still a lot of people on holidays and still yet to work out the schedules as a result of the silly season completion.  For the few that are training in January we set them up with a general training program which is aimed at minimising their untrained statuses prior to taking on our schedule.

We periodised this year as if we were all athletes in either a team sport or individual sport where we have a competition in June. For us the ‘competition’ is our Athlete Development Program (ADP). During this program we make our clients perform sprint and agility sessions, power and strength resistance sessions, monitor nutrition and skinfolds, other conditioning sessions and prehab sessions. They train like a professional outfit would train during season. This is our target to prepare for.

Stimulus Fatigue Theory

February: General Preparation Phase (accumulation)

We kick of February with a General Preparation Phase (accumulation phase) where we do big volumes to increase work capacity, reduce % fat and increase muscle mass. This is essential if you want your athletes to have the tools to take on the rigors of the season and therefore must:

  1. Have to have good recovery rates
  2. Have to be leaner – as any extra % fat correlates to non-functional mass
  3. They have to have the muscle mass for us to be strength on.

Basically, we are building the foundations. We did this through a brutal program called German Volume which uses 50-60% of our 1RM’s (repetition maximums) for 10 sets of 10. We did this in a mixture of compound lifts (multi-joint) and isolation (single joint) lifts in order to prevent overuse injuries that may arise with such volume.

March: Strength Capacity Phase (intensification)

After a de-load in early march we commenced our Strength capacity Phase (intensification). Now that we have the muscle mass we can put the body through some big intensities to get us as strong as possible. In this phase we did a program called 5,4,3,2,1 where we started at 80% of our 1RM and moved all the way to 95% for 1 rep – never going to failure leaving that little in the tank to avoid over stimulating the CNS. You don’t have to train to failure to get stronger.

April: Strength-Power Phase

Again, after a deload, we started a Strength-Power phase the 3rd instalment in this periodised plan. This month we started to introduce big power movements to help attenuate our strength gains from the previous month. We added Olympic-lifts for the competent and regressions or plyometrics for the new comers to this type of training to help add an explosive element to the force-velocity relationship. In order to be stronger, not only do you have to lift heavy things, but we also have to have a better rate of force development. Meaning: how well can we move forces or how fast can we do it. Kind of mimicking what we do in everyday life, running, twisting, pushing and pulling all in the variety of planes life throws at us. This program was based around a wave-like periodisation format where we had our major strength and power lifts early in the program and moved to assisted exercises to attenuate the strength/power exercises performed at the start of the program. We built intensity each week easing off in the final week.

May: Pre-Competition Phase

In May we started what I like to call the pre-competition phase. Even though we don’t have a competition to play in, we periodised around our ADP program starting in June. In this phase we had to do a little top up of both strength/muscle building/work capacity and power production all before we start running around like headless chooks in our ADP. In this program we had a bigger emphasis on Power and plyometrics at the start, most of our guys were getting pretty competent with the Olympic lifts now so we started to throw more and more weight around. We also managed to have a decent eccentric component in the program to aid force production and muscle building at the same time. Finally we added a variety of compound lifts for high reps just to keep our work capacity up and reduce a catabolic environment (muscle wasting) we may have faced from low reps high intensity in the previous phase.

June: Athlete Development Program

In the next few days we will be releasing the results from our first 6 months in a 6 month report card. Stay tuned for a ‘warts and all’ post which will define the good, the bad and the ugly.




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