I fantasize daily on the concepts and application of periodization, especially those associated with the development of the high performance athlete (for me specifically, volleyball players). I like to say that I have a close, intimate relationship with performance training dating back to my early youth. To this day, I can watch a training scene from any documentary, movie, or tv show, no matter how bad, over and over. I am truly fascinated by the process.
As young as 4 and 5, I was a training nut and this has continued through my adult life thanks to the special influences of all of the great coaches, athletes, and people I have shared my competitive career with. My dad, mom, Coach Gary Green, Michael Boyle, Steven Plisk, Ikki Soma, Oleg Kechko, Ursula Garza, and many others have had a profound influence on my development as a coach, athlete, and most importantly, as a person.
With that said, I can't claim the confusion many feel when they study and examine periodization, the planning and organization of training. I'm sure some of this is based off of my education and experience, but a lot is that whether I knew an advanced method or not I have always been able to make sense of a good training plan. I can't perfectly reference this now but I believe it was in the CFTS (Charlie Francis Training System, now sold as Training for Speed) that Charlie Francis wrote that early aircraft design followed the mantra "Looks right, flies right." This is my fundamental view of periodization. While that statement strikes me and others as too simple, especially when most yearn for complexity, it makes perfect sense. But as this introductory post on periodization will demonstrate, sense is less than perfect and never common.
The difficulty arises when we begin the organization and design process of the training program. Most often it goes in 2 directions:
1-You can't catch 2 rabbits at once or as recently stated by Charles Poliquin, ubertrainer, "If you have one ass, you can't sit on two horses." Funny how when we hear a guru state something that sounds so brilliant we forget things we know like killing two birds with one stone. This process can, and does, go in circles.
2-Cocktails. Programs attempt to address every aspect of their program in every session, in the same way yankees drink Long Island Iced Teas and Texans drink Texas teas (same, but with tequila, sans gin) looking for a quick fix. This is the opposite argument of the catching 2 rabbits example. Trainers and coaches here attempt to address every quality, no matter how complex, in every session. A jack of all trades makes a great handyman but be cautious before you hand over the keys to your ferrari. There is a hierarchy of needs in athlete development as there is to human development (read maslow): as you ascend the pyramid it is not necessary to backtrack on the ascent (unless you have somehow forgotten your way; read detraining).
The key to making a successful distinction of training variables is in the analysis of the training program on the long- (macrocycle), medium- (mesocycle), and short-term (microcycle) level. Fundamentally speaking, you have to be willing to analyze your training program on every level to determine success. If you are analyzing your training program from workout to workout (on the microcyclic level) or from phase to phase (on the mesocyclic level) with no concern for the interaction of each then you are not maximizing your program's potential.
In my next post I will specifically analyze the "common" program and give my personal views on the benefits and shortcomings as well as provide a specific example of the early stages of program design (the Trinity University Training Program I will be writing in the next couple of weeks).