If you want to get serious about your athletic performance, then you have to change the way you look at how you train. It doesn’t mean train harder, although at times you may have to train harder than you ever have. It doesn’t mean you have to train longer, although you may have to sacrifice other distractions to ensure you stay true to your training goals. What this type of training does do is provide a structured path from day 1 to day 365 with specific activities to maximize your preparation and performance this season. This is called periodization training.


Periodization is a progressive training cycle that focuses on developing strength, endurance, speed, agility, and specific skills to improve an athlete’s performance in different phases. This specific and detailed training program progresses over time to develop adaptations while maintaining all the gains and without overtraining.

It prioritizes the training goals by designing a specific training program that enhances your performance skills and allows your body to peak at the right time. It’s an annual training plan that’s divided up into specific segments that have particular goal(s) and challenges the body with different types of intensities. It promotes muscle and endurance development within the tougher stages followed by easier stages to facilitate recovery.

Strength training and conditioning programs should be prioritized by the player’s position and the sports season (off-season, pre-season, in-season). These details are crucial when devising a periodized strength training program.


It’s important to understand the foundation of periodization prior to developing an effective training program. The periodized phases are typically divided into three types of cycles: Macrocycles, Mesocycles, and Microcycles. These cycles determine the duration of each phase and how the program will be designed for the sports season.


• The longest of the three cycles and includes all stages of periodized training program which includes; strength, endurance, intensity, competition, recovery.
• Utilizes all 52 weeks in a year, which allows you to facilitate a long, thought-out training plan and see how the whole program will unfold over time.
• Example: If you have a competition, national championship, or an event one year from now, you can mark that date on the calendar and work backwards to create a program that allows you to peak at that moment.
• If there are multiple competitions throughout the year, use the same process to facilitate the appropriate schedule to hit the performance peak.
• Since it’s an overview of a yearly plan, changes can always be adapted to meet an athletes' needs.


• A specific training phase designed to accomplish a particular goal or skill.
• Duration typically lasts from 3-4 weeks, or a 21-28 day training cycle, followed by a recovery period of easier workouts (3-5 days) before transitioning into the next mesocycle.
• Multiple mesocycles are created within each phase based on that goal
• Duration can fluctuate depending on how the athlete performs the workout protocol, how quickly their body reacts, and their recovery speed
• Example: the endurance phase could be designed to improve muscular speed and endurance by performing timed intervals of exercises that progressively overload the muscles worked


• Shortest training cycle, typically lasts for 1 week
• The goal is focused on a specific training block that progressively overloads the training volume.
• Examples: (1) endurance workout; 3-4 long sessions within one week to progressively overload the training volume (2)intense sprint or hill workout 2-3 consecutive bays followed by 2-3 days recovery or easy activity that promotes movement recovery.
• Typically, 3-4 macrocycles are linked together to form a mesocycle


Typically, a strength and conditioning coach designs the periodized program for teams or individual players to follow throughout the season. This helps prepare players for the sports demands and reduces the risk of injury.

A periodized program can be designed in great detail according to the team/ athletes needs and in a precise order. Whether you’re actively playing a sport or train hard like an athlete, a periodized training program can be cycled in phases to accomplish specific goals.

Here is an example of how to manage your workouts in stages over a yearly training plan. Keep in mind, the sport and players position will determine the programs specific focus.

IN-SEASON [Competitive]

Focus: maintenance of strength, power, endurance
• Full range of motion and functional exercises
• Low-moderate total body circuit intervals, light cardio
• Consistent post recovery techniques (check out more information on post recovery)
• No heavy or intense workouts 2 days before game or event

POST-SEASON [Transition]

Focus: recovery, rest, regrouping from season or competition; transition period
• Active rest days for about 2 weeks following a sports season to allow for full muscle recovery.
• Examples: light-moderate full body workouts, cardio sessions, yoga

OFF-SEASON [contains 4-5 phases]

An off-season workout plan is designed to maximize your full potential for your sport. This program is divided into 4 or 5 stages, depending on the athlete or teams training goals. The phases are designed to build upon the previous phase for the athlete to achieve increased strength, power, and endurance for optimal performance during their season.

When designing each phase, consider the sports demands, the athletes position, the immediate training goals, and the overall results you want to accomplish. This will help prioritize the workouts and set the tone for what is expected to improve over time.

Phase 1 || Stability, Stamina, & Balance

Focus: Build a foundation of strength for increased resistance and advanced exercises in later phases, correct muscle imbalances resulting from an injury or from overuse, develop stabilizing muscle strength for joint support

• Workouts typically focus on functional bodyweight and core stability exercises that improve overall strength & endurance, stability & balance, and correct imbalances or faulty movement patterns.
• Low-moderate intensity workouts (50-65% of maximal effort) & typically higher reps (10-15)
• Strength train 4 days a week, cycle in aerobic conditioning

Phase 2 || Strength & Endurance

Focus: Continue building a solid foundation of strength and endurance as in phase 1 by changing the training variable and adding in more endurance drills.

• Moderate intensity to challenge a strength increase in muscular endurance
• Increase the work load (65-75% of your maximal effort), decrease the reps (8-12), increase sets
• Strength train 4 days a week, cycle in anaerobic and aerobic drills specific to your sport on non-strength days.
• Strength workouts can be performed in intervals, circuits, supersets, tri-sets, pyramid-sets, etc.
• Example: include a series of strength exercises followed by a core stabilization exercise or muscular endurance drill for a series of reps or timed intervals

Phase 3 || Muscle Development

Focus: develop significant strength gains, explosiveness, and quickness through intensity and volume to prepare for upcoming season or event

• This phase will take you right up to when your season or event begins.
• Increase the work load (75-85% of maximal effort), decrease reps (6-8), increase sets
• Strength train 4 days a week, cycle in anaerobic and aerobic drills specific to your sport on non-strength days.
• The goal is to develop as much muscle mass as possible by increasing strength and lean body mass to enable better power output and performance

Phase 4 || Explosive Power

Focus: Transfer strength gains obtained from previous phases by applying powerful bursts of force.

• This phase is a continuation of phase 3 by adding explosive power drills into the strength workouts.
• Helps develop quick, explosive bursts of force that simulates game-speed power.
• Workouts include a strength exercise followed immediately by a power exercise
• Strength exercises are performed at a high work load with low reps
• Power exercises or explosive drills are performed at a low intensity with higher reps
• Sets can vary 2-3 per exercise group
• Example: bar squats followed by dumbbell jump squats
• Readjust workouts as needed to prevent plateauing and to accommodate a changing max.

Phase 5 || Refine & Enhance

Focus: time period to fine tune your skills and be well conditioned on all platforms

• Training period before season or event approaches
• Structure workouts that maintain a balance of what you achieved in previous months
• Practice in full gear (specific to your sport) with team drills, plays, or routines that improve performance
• Continue strength and conditioning workouts for maintenance around practices
• Schedule 1 day as a ‘skill development’ workout
• Strength train 3-4 days a week varying workouts and incorporate aerobic/ anaerobic conditioning on non consecutive days
• Strength should be improved allowing you to lift 6-8 reps at 65-75% of your max
• Decreased workload (moderate intensity), higher reps (10-12) to avoid overtraining
• Conditioning Example: run 3 days varying the conditioning to heavy runs or quick & explosive drills (1-2 days; sprints or hills) (1-2 days; agility drills or plyometrics)
• Strength Examples: (1) increasing weight, decreasing reps (2) moderate weight, increasing reps (3) time of exercise performed. Continue this process until athlete is lifting 90-100% of max 1-3 times nearing the beginning of their season.
• Taper strength and conditioning variables every 2-3 weeks leading up to season or event

[Note: Phase 4 & 5 can be combined together.]

PRE-SEASON [Preparatory]

Focus: general & specific development

• Preparing a general plan with specific goals for improvement
• Light workouts to facilitate movement

Week Prior to Season or Event:

• Do not do any lifting or intense workouts
• Run at a moderate intensity 2-3 days, stretch/ foam roll
• Allow full recovery and rest before season starting

This is just an example of how a periodized training schedule can be planned out.

In summary, a periodized training program is strategically designed to develop the reduce the risk of injury and enhance an athlete’s performance skills so they peak for the playing season.

Developing an effective annual training plan is an iterative process and will allow your body to continually improve and allow you to adjust your training goals each year.


Maria Sollon

Maria Sollon Scally MS, CSCS holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Enhancement/Injury Prevention and Kinesiology. She has obtained numerous certifications in various areas of fitness and is a national conference presenter. Maria specializes in Pilates, Performance Coaching, and Corrective Exercise Techniques and Kettlebells. She is the creator of the Plyo Pilates Method and has developed a series of amazing workout DVDs. She is a Master Trainer for Total Gym, Resist-a-Ball, Body Blade, Peak Pilates, Kettle Bell Concepts and is a freelance writer for Fitness accredited magazines, newsletters, and fitness blog sites. Maria demonstrates her knowledge each day and uses her dynamic creativity throughout her specialized line of work. http://www.groovysweat.com http://www.groovysweatstore.com (purchasable workout videos) http://www.youtube.com/groovysweat (workout clips)

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