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Hierarchical Structure of Periodization Cycles

by Developing Power
Kinetic Select August 2018

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The periodization of training is facilitated by a hierarchical structure that allows for several distinct interrelated levels that can be used in the planning process. Each level of the periodization process should be based on the training goals established for the athlete or team.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing Power, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

The periodization of training is facilitated by a hierarchical structure that allows for several distinct interrelated levels that can be used in the planning process (table 3.1). Each level of the periodization process should be based on the training goals established for the athlete or team. Conceptually, these levels of organization start with a global context and then progress into smaller more defined structures.

Hierachical Structure

Seven hierarchical structures are typically used in the periodization of training.

The highest level of the hierarchical structure is the multiyear plan, which is most typically built around the Olympic quadrennial cycle (11, 52, 74, 76, 83, 113). This cycle presents the athlete’s longer-term training goals and uses multiple annual training plans. The next hierarchical level is the annual training plan, which contains the training structures within an individual training year (22, 32-34, 38, 76, 81). Annual plans can contain one or more macrocycles, depending on how many competitive seasons are contained in the annual training plan (11, 50). Each macrocycle is then subdivided into three periods: preparation, competition, and transition (32, 38). The preparation period is divided into the general preparation and specific preparation phases. The general preparation phase develops a general physical base and is marked by high volumes of training, lower training intensities, and a large variety of training means (49, 65). The specific preparation phase targets sport-specific motor and technical abilities, which are built on the foundation of the general preparation phase (38). The competition period is structured to slightly improve or maintain the physiological and sport-specific skills established in the preparation period (38). This period is typically subdivided into the pre-competition and main competition phases. Conceptually, the pre-competition phase is a link between the preparation period and the main competition phase (38). Finally, the transition phase is the most important linking phase and can bridge either multiple macrocycles or annual training plans (11, 74, 81).

The next hierarchical structure, the mesocycle, is sometimes referred to as a medium-duration training cycle (48, 49, 61, 76, 94, 104, 113, 115). It is often referred to as a block of training and is a central training cycle in the block-periodization model (38, 50). Mesocycles typically contain two to six microcycles, which are next in the hierarchy (38). Each microcycle is made up of both training days and sessions, which contain the individual training units. These last components of the hierarchy form the foundation for the whole training system and outline the main training factors delivered (38, 50).

With Developing Power, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has created the definitive resource for developing athletic power. With exercises, drills, assessments, analysis, and programming, this book will elevate power and performance in all sports. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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