Simply put, periodization is time management. As a planning technique, it provides the framework for arranging the complex array of training processes into a logical and scientifically-based schedule to bring about optimal improvements in performance.
Periodization sequences the training components into weeks, days, and sessions. Periodization is situation specific depending upon priorities and the time available to bring about the required training and competition improvement. In the LTAD context, periodization connects the stage the athlete is in to the requirements of that stage.
Periodization organizes and manipulates the aspects of modality, volume, intensity, and frequency of training through long-term (multi-year) and short-term (annual) training, competition, and recovery programs to achieve peak performances when required.
Periodization, far from being a single fixed process or methodology, is in fact a highly flexible tool. When used appropriately in conjunction with sound methodology and ongoing monitoring and evaluation, it is an essential component in optimal sports programming and athlete development at all levels.
LTAD addresses this requirement by developing periodization models for all stages, taking into consideration the growth, maturation, and trainability principles that are unique to the primary development stages — the first 2 decades of life — yet seamlessly integrate with the subsequent stages of athletic performance and life.
LTAD is typically a 10- to 12-year procedure that optimizes physical, technical, tactical — including decision making — and mental preparation, as well as the supporting ancillary capacities. Within LTAD is quadrennial planning, which refers to the 4-year Olympic and Paralympic cycle for elite athletes, and the annual plan, which is based upon identified periods of athletic preparation, competition, and the transition into the next calendar plan.
Current examples of periodization models identified in the sport performance literature are designed for the sub-elite and elite senior/mature performers. There is very little information on periodization for children or adolescents or for athletes with disability.
Single, double, triple, and multiple periodization formats follow the same principles with frequently introduced prophylactic breaks; that is, programmed and priorized recovery and regeneration elements.
The terminology that describes the smaller subsets of time — organized blocks of training or competition — is macro, meso, and micro cycles. Macro cycles are the largest blocks within a phase of training and are usually 8 to 16 weeks in length. Meso cycles are smaller blocks of time, usually about a month. The smallest training block is often organized as a micro cycle and by convention is usually 7 days. The introduction of a recovery micro cycle determines the length of a meso cycle after 1 (1:1), 2 (2:1), 3 (3:1) or 4 (4:1) loading micro cycles.
Table 2 illustrates the phases of an annual plan for a single or double periodization.
Figure 9 illustrates the ‘art and science’ required by the coach when planning the horizontal and vertical integration of the 9 Expanded S’s of training and performance. The horizontal arrows represent the progress of an athlete that is quantifiable and based on scientific guidelines; the vertical integration is based on the interrelationship of each aspect of training and performance, which is often based on the ‘art’ of coaching.
Figure 9 Horizontal and Vertical Intergration 9 Expanded S’s - The Art and Science of Coaching (Balyi, 2004 and Norris, 2000)