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  • Writer's pictureChristina Myers

Periodization Defined

"Periodization: The logical and systematic sequencing of training factors in an integrative fashion in order to optimize specific training outcomes at pre-determined time points. " (Bompa & Buzichelli: Periodization, 2019)

Periodization in its broadest definition refers to the organization of the training plan (1). The annual training plan (and four-year plan for Olympic athletes, etc) includes all activities and factors that affect the athlete’s performance, including biomotor abilities, technical and tactical training, and psychological and nutritional strategies (1). Periodization refers to dividing the training up into periods of time, or phases, as a means to make the planning of training easier to manage (1).

The term periodization is typically used to describe two main aspects of training: the annual plan and biomotor abilities (1). Periodization of the annual plan refers to the aforementioned division of the annual training plan into smaller time periods, or training phases (1). These divisions make training plans easier to plan, manage, and ensure that performance peaks in accordance with the athlete’s competitive schedule (1). Periodization of biomotor abilities, similar to the annual plan, allows for peak development of speed, strength, power, agility, and endurance for the most important competitions in a year (1).

Periodization is a term that is often misapplied and misunderstood (1). The concept of periodization is commonly misunderstood as rigid and mechanistic, rather than a flexible set of guidelines (1). Bompa & Buzichelli (2019) recommend that coaches design only one macrocycle at a time, with a plan in place for what will come next. This allows the coaches to design training based on what adaptations actually occur rather than what is expected to occur. When I design the training program for my gymnastics athletes, I create a general plan for the year, with competition dates and breaks in mind (i.e. school holidays, spring break). For my powerlifting athletes, the concept is much the same, though the competitive periods look much different (monocycle or one competitive season for gymnastics versus bi or multipeak annual plans for powerlifting). I plan the sport “seasons” according to these variables and plan general trends and goals for training based on what we are expected to need. I write the first macrocycle and make notes of what I plan to include in the subsequent cycle and those that follow to make up the rest of the annual plan. During the macrocycle, I make notes of observed adaptations, limitations, needs that are perhaps not being addressed, struggles the girls are encountering, equipment limitations, etc. In the last week of the current macrocycle, I create the next macrocycle according to my original plan, but taking into account the observations I made during the previous cycle. This can lead to changing everything from exercise selection and progression to loading, volume, and rep ranges. Ultimately, we are still working through the original overview, but the more minute details may change. Additionally, my girls are at various levels of academic progress. Some attend very academically rigorous programs and may have higher associated stress levels. Occasionally, I adjust training on the fly for these athletes (i.e. when they have stayed up all night working on a project, took a big test that day, etc). This is important for all coaches to consider, as all athletes have external stressors present in their lives outside of training--relationships, academics, work, travel, etc can all contribute to the accumulation of stress that may affect training performance.


1. Bompa, T. O., & Buzzichelli, C. (2019). Periodization: theory and methodology of training (6th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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