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.


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