A brief review of periodization schedule

29 Oct A brief review of periodization schedule

Periodized training programs are planned distributions of workloads to avoid stagnation in performance improvement and to optimize performance for competitions within the year (Bartoloemi et al., 2014). A periodization schedule consists of specific periods of time in terms of days, weeks, or months of specificity, intensity, and volume of training (Baechle et al., 1991). Two common periodization schedules in present day sport are the traditional periodization schedule and undulating periodization schedule.

The undulating periodization schedule involves daily fluctuations in terms of volumes and intensities within a microcycle (Haff & Triplett et al., 2016). Whereas a traditional periodization schedule will have the athlete perform the same number of sets and repetitions over the course of a microcycle and the corresponding mesocycle (Haff et al., 2016). Intensity may change slightly over the course of a microcycle or mesocycle though the intensity will be in line the desired training effect. For example, a microcycle in the basic strength phase of a traditional periodization schedule may have intensities vary between 80-95% of 1 RM, though these intensities of 1 RM all correlate to muscular strength development (Baechle et al., 1991). Whereas in an undulating periodization schedule day one of the microcycle could entail a intensity of 60% of 1 RM, training day two a 85% of 1RM, and training day three 95% of 1 RM. These training intensities have a varying physiological outcome in terms of hypertrophy, strength, and power relative to the muscular system (Haff et al., 2016).

Traditional Periodization Schedule

A traditional periodization schedule will be presented for this review. As stated in the introduction a traditional periodization schedule is the gradual cycling of specificity, intensity, and volume of training to achieve peak fitness for a sport season or competition (Baechle et al., 199). A traditional periodization schedule will incorporate a macrocycle (Haff et al., 2016). A macrocycle is defined as the total training period (Baechle et al., 2016). The macrocycle is typically one year in length though for certain sports such as Olympic athletes a macrocycle could be 4 years (Baechle et al., 1991). A year-long macrocycle is generally broken down into a pre-season, in-season, off-season (Issurin et al., 2008).

The year-long macrocycle is then divided into a series of mesocycles. The mesocycles of a year long macrocycle are comprised of the distinct periods: a preparatory period, a competitive period, and two transitional periods (Bartolomei et al., 2014). After completion of the competitive season, the second transitionary period of the mesocycle commences. The second transitionary period is the time between the competitive season and the initiation of the preparatory period (Haff et al., 2016). The second transitionary period is marked by active rest or recovery period (Baechle et al., 1991). This period of time allows the athlete to recover both physically and mentally from the competitive season. It is also a time where rehabilitation can occur if injuries occurred during the season. A second transitionary period will typically last two to four weeks in length (Haff et al., 2016).

After competition of the second transitionary period, the beginning of the annual training plan begins. The beginning of the annual training plan is marked by the preparatory period. The preparatory period is marked by the time of year where no competitive events are occurring (Haff et al., 2016). This period typically corresponds to the off-season and the overarching goal of this period is to develop a physiological base to increase the athlete’s ability to tolerate more intense training (Haff et al., 2016). The preparatory period is typically split into a general and specific phase. The general phase occurs early in the off-season and targets the development of general physiological components with higher volumes and lower training intensities (Haff et al., 2016). Whereas the specific preparatory phase occurs after the general phase and a shift in training to incorporate more sports-specific training activities (Haff et al., 2016).

The preparatory phase will be followed by the first transitionary phase. The first transitionary phase is the link between the preparatory and competitive periods (Haff et al., 2016). The main phase with the first transitionary phase is the strength/power phase (Haff et al., 2016). The strength/power phase is marked by lower volumes and higher intensities (Baechle et al., 1991). In order to address both strength and power in this phase in the run up to the season heavy and low load training is utilized to optimize both physiological components (Haff eta al., 2016).

The competitive period is marked by the time of year in which an athlete is participating in competition on a regular basis (Issurin et al., 2008). This time of the year results in a modification of the training volumes and intensities to accommodate regular competition. It is important to recognize the balancing act during this segment of the year as an adequate amount of training volume intensity and volume is necessary to maintain certain physiological levels of strength and power. At the same time if volumes and intensities are to high preparedness for competition may be comprised due to physiological fatigue. Team sports will have a long competitive period lasting the length of the season where a maintenance program will be implemented for this segment of the year (Haff et al., 2016). An athlete in an individual sport may have a competitive period of one or two weeks where peaking has been the goal for  important events (Haff et al., 2016). Peaking athletes will utilize very high to lower intensities with a low volume during the competitive period (Haff et al., 2016). Whereas a team orientated sports, the athletes will modulate training intensities between 85-93% of 1 RM with a moderate volume (Haff et al., 2016).

After completion of the competitive period, the periodization schedule will reset. The reset will again begin with the second transition period of active rest. After completion of the active rest in the second transition period, the annual training plan will begin with the preparation period and proceed through the phases back to the competitive season.

The final component of the traditional periodization schedule is the microcyle. Each mesocycle is broken down into microcycles (Bachle et al., 2016). A microcycle is set number of days or week with the most common being a seven-day training period (Haff et al., 2016). A microcycle will be broken down into individual training session with set volumes and intensities designated for each individualized training session.

Example programming in traditional periodization schedule

As stated previously, a traditional periodization schedule will have set mesocycles within the macrocycle. An example of a mesocycle within a linear periodization schedule during the preparatory period is the hypertrophy phase. The goal of the hypertrophy phase is increases in lean muscle mass and muscular size (Issurin et al., 2008). Intensity in the hypertrophy phase is lower relative to a strength or power phase. Training volume is high in this sample four-week phase to promote increases in fat free muscle mass. Increases in muscle hypertrophy will utilize a low to moderate intensity of 50-75% of 1 RM (Haff et al., 2016). A high training volume of 3-6 sets not including warm-up set will be utilized in this phase with shorter rest period of 1 minute between sets (Haff et al., 2016). The sample hypertrophy phase will incorporate a four day per week training schedule in an alternating lower body/upper body training schedule. Below is a sample training day within a seven-day microcycle of the hypertrophy phase.

Sample Day Microcyle Hypertrophy Phase

Monday Sets Repetitions Intensity Rest Interval
Barbell Front Squat 3 10 50-75% 1 RM 1 minute
Bulgarian Split Squat 3 10 50-75% 1 RM 1 minute
Barbell Deadlift 3 10 50-75% 1 RM 1 minute
Single Leg Dumbbell Dead Lift 3 10 50-75% 1 RM 1 minute
Core Circuit 3 15 1 minute between circuit


After completion of the four-week hypertrophy phase within the preparatory period a shift in training would occur. This shift within the preparatory phase would occur later during the preparatory phase and focus on the development of basic strength. The basic strength phase would involve higher intensities at 80-95% of 1 RM and moderate to high volumes (Haff et al., 2016). After completion of the strength phase for a designated set of microcycles, training would shift to the first transitionary period. Once the first transitionary period was completed with a focus of strength and power, the competitive period of the year would commence.


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Bartolomei, S. Hoffman, J. Merni, F. Stout, J. (2014) A comparison of traditional and block periodized strength training programs in trained athletes. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 28 (4) 990-997.

Haff, G. Triplett, T. (Ed.). (2016) Essentials of strength and conditioning 4th edition, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Issurin, V. (2008) Block periodization versus traditional theory: A review. The journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 48 (1) 65-75.