Periodization is the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period.

Conditioning programs can use periodization to break up the training program into the offseason, preseason, in season, and the postseason. Periodization divides the year round condition program into phases of training which focus on different goals.

Theory of planning

Training should be organized and planned in advance of a competition or performance. It should consider the athlete’s potential, his/her performance in tests or competition, and calendar of competition. It has to be simple, suggestive, and above all flexible as its content can be modified to meet the athletes rate of progress.

The macrocycle

A macrocycle is an annual plan that works towards peaking for the goal competition of the year. There are three phases in the macrocycle: preparation, competitive, and transition.

The entire preparation phase should be around 2/3 to 3/4 of the macrocycle. The preparation phase is further broken up into general and specific preparation of which general preparation takes over half. An example of general preparation would be building an aerobic base for an endurance athletesuch as running on a treadmill and learning any rules or regulations that would be required such as proper swimming stroke as not to be disqualified. An example of specific preparation would be to work on the proper form to be more efficient and to work more on the final format of the sport, which is to move from the treadmill to the pavement.

The competitive phase can be several competitions, but they lead up to the main competition with specific tests. Testing might include any of the following: performance level, new shoes or gear, a new race tactic might be employed, pre-race meals, ways to reduce anxiety before a race, or the length needed for the taper. When the pre-competitions are of a higher priority there is a definite taper stage while lower priority might simply be integrated in as training. The competitive phase ends with the taper and the competition.

The transition phase is important for psychological reasons, a year of training means a vacation is in order. A typical weekend warrior might take three months while a professional athlete might take as little as two weeks.

The mesocycle

A mesocycle represents a phase of training with a duration of between 2 – 6 weeks or microcycles, but this can depend on the sporting discipline. A mesocycle can also be defined as a number of continuous weeks where the training program emphasize the same type of physical adaptations, for example muscle mass and anaerobic capacity. During the preparatory phase, a mesocycle commonly consists of 4 – 6 micro-cycles, while during the competitive phase it will usually consist of 2 – 4 micro-cycles depending on the competition’s calendar.

The goal of the plan is to fit the mesocycles into the overall plan timeline-wise to make each mesocycle end on one of the phases and then to determine the workload and type of work of each cycle based on where in the overall plan the given mesocycle falls. The goal in mind is to make sure the body peaks for the high priority competitions by improving each cycle along the way.

The microcycle

A microcycle is typically a week because of the difficulty in developing a training plan that does not align itself with the weekly calendar. Each microcycle is planned based on where it is in the overall macrocycle.

A micro-cycle is also defined as a number of training sessions, built around a given combination of acute program variables, which include progression as well as alternating effort (heavy vs. light days). The length of the micro-cycle should correspond to the number of workouts - empirically often 4-16 workouts - it takes for the athlete or fitness client to adapt to the training program. When the athlete or fitness client has adapted to the program and no longer makes progress, a change to one or more program variables should be made.

The annual plan

The annual plan is important in that it directs and guides athletic training over a year. It is based on the concept of periodization and the principles of training. The objective of training is to reach a high level of performance (peak performance) and an athlete has to develop skills, biomotor abilities and psychological traits in a methodical manner.

Preparatory phase

This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually which can be sub divided into three different phases. One should always remember that this is a base creation phase with the objective to attain the previous training state, and the longest period of periodization must be devoted towards the preparatory period.

Competitive phase

This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.

Transition phase

This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts 3–4 weeks (perhaps longer) but should not exceed five weeks under normal conditions and may be sports specific. It allows the body to fully regenerate so that it is prepared for the next discipline.