Choosing a Periodization System to Maximize Individual Performance

Here is a link to another video from 2012, this time from Nick Winkelman at the 2012 NSCA National Conference titled ‘Athlete Profiling: Choosing a Periodization System to Maximize Individual Performance’. Nick is the Director of Training Systems and Education at EXOS (Formerly Athletes’ Performance) overseeing all mentorship education courses and heads up the NFL Combine preparation at the EXOS Arizona facility alongside his colleague Denis Logan. He has completed his Masters in Strength and Conditioning at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, and presents all over the USA on the Perform Better circuit. Nick was recently a Keynote speaker at the 2013 ASCA National Conference and will be a Keynote speaker at this years UKSCA National Conference. I was fortunate to work with Nick during my Internship at EXOS last summer when he wasn’t around the world presenting or coaching on mentorships and  it was a great honour to go to him for advice and I learnt lots from someone who is playing a pivotal role at the forefront of improving athletic performance and education. This video is a great resource for any coach/student and you don’t need to be a member of the NSCA to view the video. Below are some notes which I took from the presentation and I have also attached the lecture slides courtesy of the NSCA.

Winkelman Athlete Profiling

Nick began his talk with special thanks to a handful of people including Mike and Meg Stone – again recognition to two of the most influential people within sports science. Nick outlined that there has never been a lecture explaining the entire continuum of periodization, coaches will present how they periodized their athletes training, but is that how we should train all athletes? This presentation gives us perspective of which periodization style to use in your environment.

There are certain critical factors that allow you to select a form of periodization such as environment (gym space), time in season (in-season, off-season), level of athlete (elite, youth, college, military, beginner, untrained).

Just as the body is dynamic in adaptation, we must have periodization that is dynamic to match that adaptation.

You do not get performance enhancement until you walk through the door of recovery.

Maximize recovery to elicit performance effect, to coincide with in-season capabilities.

It is important to monitor training. How do you know if volume, intensity, and volume load is doing precisely what it’s prescribed to do? Tracking volume load (sets x reps x load) daily, weekly, and monthly gives the coach an objective view of the training process. We also need a subjective view (rate of perceived exertion) to make adjustments – one athlete could report a 4 whereas another 9 for the same workout, one finds it easy, another hard.

Why periodize? Diminish overtraining by managing load, intensity and recovery.

The goal is to optimize performance over the sporting season (longitudinally).

Sports specificity vs. sports relevance. Is a back squat specific to sprinting? No. Is it relevant? Yes. Relevance creates the basis for specific work. By working on strength in say, the back squat. You are increasing the strength and anatomical adaptations needed for when it comes to progressing to more specific exercises (bounding, plyometrics, accelerations). Nick used the analogy “take the care in the garage to work on the motor. We’re not working on the driver, but if we work on the motor we optimize the drivers capabilities on the field”.

Winkelman Considerations

Ask yourself, is what we are doing in the weight room transferring to their sport?

Understanding what the sport helps you develop/maintain is different to understanding what they need to be successful in the sport. What do I need to train vs. what can I get as adaptations from the sport.

Use of an unload gives the body time to catch up (supercompensate). For example a 4 week training cycle would usually require 4 weeks to achieve a peak. The taper in the NFL Combine at 4 weeks prior to combine has given athletes more consistent performances.

Elite athletes can push past the typical 3:1 paradigm, sometimes 4:1, 5:1 or 6:1.

Using sequential/potentiation will merge qualities – hypertrophy >> strength >> maximal strength >> power. Optimal transfer = result of complimentary sequencing.

If using a concurrent approach, we want no change or an increase, definitely not a decrease in performance.

More overload during the off season is non specific, but does its job to maximize overload. The most specific task athletes can do is play their sport, every other derivative in non specific.

Strength in appropriate areas will build coordination. Using the back squat and plyometric example from before, back squat will provide the overload, the plyometrics decrease ground contact time, provide morphological and neural  adaptations – resulting in greater transfer to sprinting than the pure back squat itself.

Winkelman Progresseion

Early to ripe, early to rotten. The shorter you have to develop a quality, the shorter time you have to use it. If you have not worked on a quality long enough and enter the in-season, the quality (or lack of) will decrease quickly.

Winkelman Residuals

Novices will adapt to anything.

Non-periodized periodization works with untrained due to their lack of training history. There is no difference in undulating vs. linear theme of periodization. Lack of differences due to laying down the anatomical adaptation from new stimuli, without knowing how to express that new found strength.

A linear model seems to prepare the body better moving forward through longer exposure for anatomical adaptation by saturating the system, laying the foundations for future higher intensity work. If performing daily undulating or weekly undulating periodization – the body has less exposure for saturation to occur, therefore no sequencing for adaptation.

When working with intermediates increase variation on 3 levels – phase, weekly, and daily through summated microcycles and heavy and light days.

Phase by phase to weekly undulating intensity manipulations provide suttle manipulations rather than large variations. See the slide below with the changes in relative intensity rather than changes in themes. The sets and reps can stay the same, but by simply reducing the intensity by 10% the focus can shift from strength to power rather than a completely different theme.

Winkelman Undulating

Off-season = focus on saturation
In-season = maintenance. Don’t over saturate by changing between speed and force days, not themes! Think exposure but not depletion.

Long season sports – manipulate the 3 levels – phase, weekly, daily.

Advanced athletes can make use of delayed transformation through concentrated loading in conjugate sequence model. Focusing on one stimulus saturates the system with limited concurrent development of other biomotor abilities.

Conjugate Sequence

Conjugate sequence is ultimate overreaching and best for high level athletes. Preferably with an Olympic sport, but can be done in team sports/long season sports in short dosages.

Periodization and Programming for Strength Power Sports

The link below is to a video from the 2012 NSCA Coaches Conference where world renowned sport scientist Dr Mike Stone presented on “Periodization and Programming for Strength Power Sports – the Short Reader’s Digest Version”. Dr Stone is the godfather of sports science with 40+ years of strength and conditioning research and application. I travelled across to the USA in late 2012 to see him present and witnessed a true passion for developing the most efficient training methods through extensive research, and this has been passed on to all who have had the honour of studying under him.  This video is a great resource for any coach/student and you don’t need to be a member of the NSCA to view the video. Below are some notes which I took from the presentation.

There is no substitute for being strong, and there is no substitute for talent.

Some people’s window for adaptation is bigger than others.
Training is a process, therefore plan ALL aspects of the training process. Think long-term multi-disciplinary approach than early specialization

Question if athletes are actually “well trained”. College athletes go away for breaks from training several times per year and don’t come back the same athlete. This issue can also apply at the elite level, see the following quote from GB Cycling Coach Shane Sutton regarding GB’s lack of medals at the recent Track Cycling World Championships “They got it wrong. They went out for the festive season, came back and weren’t where they should have been. We’ve just gone backwards and I think the accountability rests with the riders.”

Be creative in exercise selection, utilize post activation potentiation, cluster sets, compound sets

You MUST monitor training – document what happens. Ask yourself “are they adapting? Which programmes work better than others?”

Rapid gains are not always in the best interest for the athlete. The rate of gain is directly related to the average intensity of training. Final performance level is inversely related to the rate of gain (think long-term). The time period of maximum performance is inversely related to the rate of gain.

BE WARY of going to maximum every time you step in the weight room. The use of RM Zones (e.g. sets of 8-10 RM) will result in quick gains, but will fall off long-term.

Fitness-fatigue – a drop in volume = potential for preparedness, likely leading to increases in performance

Overload = the intensity (force, power, RFD) of work
Specificity = metabolic & mechanical transfer
Variation = how we as coaches manipulate overload & specificity. Variation is the most important factor in fatigue management. Variation is the removal of linearity to cause specific adaptations by reducing overstress/overtraining.

Periodization vs. Programming

The overall concept can be broken down into specific periods (strength, power, strength endurance etc). Programming is how you make these periods occur (sets, reps, exercises, density, frequency, intensity)

Periodization is cyclical in nature bu manipulating variables to reach specific goals.

Goals of periodization
Reduction of overtraining potential & fatigue management
Maximize specific adaptation
Elevate performance at the right time (event/competition)

Focus on general to specific (remember specificity relates to metabolic and mechanical aspects)
Progress from high volume to low volume, there is usually an inverse relationship
Active rest results in rapid drop in fitness, so it may be better to drop volume & intensity to reduce dramatic losses in fitness

Athletes can’t hold a true peak performance for more than 3 weeks. This brings implications for when peaking if competing in sports/events with multiple competitions.

Simultaneous development of different physical & physiological characteristics or motor abilities presents a problem. A mixed methods approach (strength, strength endurance, power, aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance etc) results in high volumes, and poor fatigue management.

In the weight room, recovery time is likely to be greater after a higher volume load. However, a lighter volume load does not represent a “light day”. Sets of 10 with a lighter weight result in greater metabolic disturbance even though the amount of work is equal to sets of lower reps. Mike referred to this publication by Jeff McBride’s group at Appalachian State on Acute Responses to Different RT.

The number of competition days has increased, which reduces the number of days available to train. If you can’t train you won’t perform well.

The specific  phase you’re in now potentates the next phase through concentrated loading & volume manipulation.

If you drop volume, strength can be maintained for some time.

If you develop bad technique you may be stuck with it for the rest of your life. When learning technique you may be limited by your strength. (In gymnastics stronger athletes pick up technique faster, e.g. ability to hold an iron cross will be limited by strength).

Freshman (strength endurance & basic strength)
Sophomore (basic strength)
Junior (basic strength & power)
Senior (strength & power)

Fluctuate light & heavy days. If there are too many consecutive moderate – heavy days you never allow the athlete to recover and this mutes adaptation. By applying a big stimulus (heavy day/high volume) followed by an unload (light day/low volume) gives the athlete a chance to recover and adapt. See this paper by Carl Foster who has published numerous research on the use of Rate of Perceived Exertion in resistance training Foster Monitoring Training OTS MSSE 98.

Examples of Microcycle day-to-day variation

Stone Day-To-Day Variation

The use of relative intensities (eg. 60% 1RM = L/Light) minimizes the risk of overtraining athletes. Heavy and light days are created by adjusting load, not the repetitions/sets which changes the overall volume load. One method of programming called Daily Undulating Periodization which varies daily from e.g 10-12 RM on Monday, 6-8 RM on Wednesday, and 2-4 RM on Friday. Looking back at the acute hormonal responses to a training workout depending on the load/set/rep scheme, “lighter days” e.g. 10-12 RM are actually increasing the volume load, therefore actually become the “heavy day” as it will take longer to recover from. Again this causes problem for fatigue management and the likelihood of overtraining syndrome.

See Periodization_Strategies for more information periodization and programming, including basic, intermediate and advanced periodization strategies.

Assessment and Training of Lower Body Power

Here is a video from the SPRINZ Strength and Conditioning Conference 2013 of Jeremy Sheppard’s practical workshop. The SPRINZ website has Jeremy’s Keynote Address titled as “Consideration for the Assessment and Training of Lower Body Power” so I assume this workshop supplemented the presentation. Anyway, the video is 1 hour 40 minutes long and Jeremy is one of the best coaches in the world so it’s well worth it.

After taking three volunteers through a simple warm up (lunges, shuffles, bear crawls, spidermen, duck walks etc) Jeremy can instantly identify areas of restricted range of motion (hip and ankle specifically) and gives examples of mobility drills to increase range in the joints through banded traction. Any poor posture is causing a leak in power when it comes to transferring to explosive movements seen in jumping sports such as surfing, volleyball, basketball, and netball. Athletes in these sports require greater ankle mobility to absorb forces, if there is a lack of ankle range, the stress goes to the lower back and knees which alters the biomechanics negatively. Jeremy had the volunteers workout barefoot, as do his athletes, using the feet for feedback as sometimes shoes/trainers can cover up how the foot and ankle move during movement. Any sport has repetitive strain aspects therefore athletes need to be robust to train and compete.

Childhood is a position where plyometric training can be effective, and if we don’t capitalize on this, we might miss a big opportunity to train those characteristics. This big window of adaptation might not be open to the athlete later on in their development.

Tuck jumps in place are a good exercise for accentuated eccentric overload. By bringing the knees up to the chest, changes the velocity of the foot prior to ground contact as compared to a CMJ. Altitude landings are a training exercise. If you have relatively untrained perform altitude landings, their CMJ and DJ will increase through an enhanced eccentric component. During jumps we don’t want overly loud landings – force = mass.acceleration, mass is constant to we have to dissipate acceleration better, but if absorb force over too long a period = screw up their sport. Coaches can create different environments purposely depending on the adaptation required (this could be similar to the depth/drop jump – spending as little time on the ground/jumping as high as possible by Verkoshansky). The coach has to weigh up – least chance of injury vs. stiffest most abrupt landing.

Some progressions of altitude landings:
Altitude landing (bilateral)
Altitude landing (unilateral)
Altitude landing > broad jump
Altitude landing > vertical jumpAltitude landing > 180 degree jump – challenges perceptual ability

Use external cues/analogies – create a context that allows the athlete to learn.

If you increase the height of the drop = increase the stretch load. Lower heights can be used for short contacts. An ‘optimal’ height can be used for jump height and the next available height to challenge the neuromuscular system, it won’t kill them but increases eccentric overload.

Accentuated Eceentrics
CMJ onto box holding DB’s, (drop DB’s at the bottom of the descent) – lots of feedback in the drill
Too light = not enough stimulation
Too heavy = myogenic stimulus
By increasing the eccentric component, the neuromuscular system is more “prepared” to shift a heavy load = increases acceleration in the concentric phase
Start around 20% body weight

Assisted Jumps
References the work of Dr Lee Brown
Velocity based athletes need to be strong
Assisted jump teaches the muscles to accelerate fast and achieve higher peak velocity

Weightlifting Movements
Power Snatch – if an athlete can’t perform it, it shows something is limiting (shoulder, hips, ankle) but it can be worked on
Get range, get stability, get strength

If you’re competing in sport but can’t get in the required positions, you’re training below the level required to compete at

Snatch balance is great for stability, strength and eccentric overload

Is an exercise similar to the sport? No. Is it specific? Yes

Olympic lifts require triple extension, eccentric control and high neuromuscular aspect

The full clean/snatch optimizes full potential of power clean/snatch. Power variations are servants to the full lifts

DB versions of the lifts can be used to lower the risk of injury.

In weak athletes – unilateral training will increase strengthIn strong(er) athletes – must perform heavy bilateral strength training