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Periodization as the ultimate way to break through plateaus

Is the application of principles of periodization necessary in your training programs?

There are coaches and trainers who say no: "Periodization is not necessary". "We can't use periodization with our athletes."

I believe that these coaches base their statement on a misunderstanding of what periodization REALLY is.

Periodization is a division of a longer training cycle into different periods with different goals, structures and contents of the training program. (These periods are sequenced in such a way that performance and selected physical abilities are optimized on a pre-determined date or in a pre-determined time period).

With the above definition periodization becomes the over-arching concept for breaking through any plateau to experience ones full potential.


"Insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting a different result". Thus, when athletes and clients reach the inevitable plateau on a given training program SOMETHING about the program must change. When you change this SOMETHING, you automatically have a NEW period with a new goal, structure and content of the training program.

Effective periodization is not pre-determined patterns of changes in volume and intensity. Effective periodization is flexible and provides guidelines for creating systematic changes to the training program to continuously move forward towards the stated goals/ones full potential.

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Comment by Karsten Jensen on January 22, 2015 at 3:56pm

I agree with that, John! :-)

Comment by John Weatherly on January 22, 2015 at 3:24pm

Agree with many of your comments, but do you think a 2 yr study on the Spanish Kayak team is going to get the attention of coaches in American football, basketball, baseball, or hockey?  Need work on huge sports - that's my point!

Comment by Karsten Jensen on January 22, 2015 at 1:15pm

Thank you for your comment.

The longest studies that I am aware of (and remember of the top of my head) is one or two studies on the spanish kayaking team followed over two seasons. They followed a linear model in the first year and a block model in the second year. Better results was demonstrated in the 2nd year. You could say that the study demonstrate the effect of switching periodization model.

If you are a little on the critical side on periodization you will want to look up John Kiely - he agrees with you and state that he finds that the studies on periodization only proves that variety is important.

I personally find that there is enough evidence (science, basic physilogy and empirical experience) for me to use and confidently teach periodization. I just updated the theory behind the The Flexible Periodization Method with is 200 references (studies and textbooks) that support the suggest strategies. More than pre-determined loading patterns the FPM is an 11 step method to design a program that uniquely fits individual needs at a specific point in time.

I would say overall that that there is a lot of physiology/science to support various pieces of the puzzle, more so than science to support the entire puzzle. I think that has to do with the number of involved variables during real life training.

Let's say that I did not want to use principles of periodization to structure long term training until a body of long term studies were made. My question would then be: What principles am I going to structure my programs by until these studies appear?

Comment by John Weatherly on January 20, 2015 at 2:22pm

Just to expand on my above comment, it may be some coaches don't buy in because there isn't published work on their sport.  If you could show good studies on their sport, they'd probably (most reasonable people would) listen.

Comment by John Weatherly on January 20, 2015 at 2:10pm

Granted many use the concept of periodization (a lot of variants) but isn't it odd there's not much long-term published research on this topic in North America on huge sports like American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey?  I happen to think the concept makes sense but find it peculiar there isn't more published long-term work on the big sports.  Do you know of any long-term published periodization work on American football (not including the Oklahoma St study), basketball, baseball, or hockey?  Just curious, maybe I'm missing something but shouldn't evidence-based practice be based on some evidence (not just anecdotal)?  I mean more than a 12 week mesocycle here.

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