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

Latest in Strength and Conditioning Research

Here are a few abstracts and links to articles published ahead of print, mostly from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

A Brief Review of Strength and Ballistic Assessment Methodologies in Sport (McMaster et al., 2014)

An athletic profile should encompass the physiological, biomechanical, anthropometric and performance measures pertinent to the athlete’s sport and discipline. The measurement systems and procedures used to create these profiles are constantly evolving and becoming more precise and practical. This is a review of strength and ballistic assessment methodologies used in sport, a critique of current maximum strength [one-repetition maximum (1RM) and isometric strength] and ballistic performance (bench throw and jump capabilities) assessments for the purpose of informing practitioners and evolving current assessment methodologies. The reliability of the various maximum strength and ballistic assessment methodologies were reported in the form of intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC) and coefficient of variation (%CV). Mean percent differences TeX and effect size (ES = [X method2 − X method1] ÷ SDmethod1) calculations were used to assess the magnitude and spread of methodological differences for a given performance measure of the included studies.

Studies were grouped and compared according to their respective performance measure and movement pattern. The various measurement systems (e.g. force plates, position transducers, accelerometers, jump mats, optical motion sensors and jump-and-reach apparatuses) and assessment procedures (i.e. warm-up strategies, loading schemes and rest periods) currently used to assess maximum isometric squat and mid-thigh pull strength (ICC > 0.95; CV < 2.0 %), 1RM bench press, back squat and clean strength (ICC > 0.91; CV < 4.3 %), and ballistic (vertical jump and bench throw) capabilities (ICC > 0.82; CV < 6.5 %) were deemed highly reliable. The measurement systems and assessment procedures employed to assess maximum isometric strength [M Diff = 2–71 %; effect size (ES) = 0.13–4.37], 1RM strength (M Diff = 1–58 %; ES = 0.01–5.43), vertical jump capabilities (M Diff = 2–57 %; ES = 0.02–4.67) and bench throw capabilities (M Diff = 7–27 %; ES = 0.49–2.77) varied greatly, producing trivial to very large effects on these respective measures. Recreational to highly trained athletes produced maximum isometric squat and mid-thigh pull forces of 1,000–4,000 N; and 1RM bench press, back squat and power clean values of 80–180 kg, 100–260 kg and 70–140 kg, respectively. Mean and peak power production across the various loads (body mass to 60 % 1RM) were between 300 and 1,500 W during the bench throw and between 1,500 and 9,000 W during the vertical jump. The large variations in maximum strength and power can be attributed to the wide range in physical characteristics between different sports and athletic disciplines, training and chronological age as well as the different measurement systems of the included studies.

The reliability and validity outcomes suggest that a number of measurement systems and testing procedures can be implemented to accurately assess maximum strength and ballistic performance in recreational and elite athletes, alike. However, the reader needs to be cognisant of the inherent differences between measurement systems, as selection will inevitably affect the outcome measure. The strength and conditioning practitioner should also carefully consider the benefits and limitations of the different measurement systems, testing apparatuses, attachment sites, movement patterns (e.g. direction of movement, contraction type, depth), loading parameters (e.g. no load, single load, absolute load, relative load, incremental loading), warm-up strategies, inter-trial rest periods, dependent variables of interest (i.e. mean, peak and rate dependent variables) and data collection and processing techniques (i.e. sampling frequency, filtering and smoothing options).
Strength and Ballistic Assessment in Sport (McMaster et al., 2014)

The reliability of Functional Movement Screening (FMS) and in-season changes in physical function and performance among elite rugby league players (Waldron et al., 2014)

This study aimed to 1) assess the reliability of the FMS protocol and 2) to establish changes in both FMS and tests of physical performance throughout a season. The reliability of the FMS components (12 in total) was assessed via a non-parametric statistical approach, based on two trials, separated by one week. Score on the FMS, strength (3 RM full-squat, 1 RM bench press), running speed (10 & 40 m) and jump height of 12 elite male under-19 rugby league players was monitored at pre-, mid- and late-season periods. There was no bias (P > 0.05) found between trials for the FMS, with the majority of components reaching 100% ‘perfect agreement’, reflecting the good reliability of the FMS tool. There were no effects (P > 0.05) of season stage on any of the FMS components; however, an improvement (P < 0.05) between the pre- and both mid- and late-season periods was apparent in every component of fitness, such as 1 RM bench-press (112.92 +/- 24.54 kg; 125.83 +/- 21.41 kg; 125.98 +/- 24.48 kg) and 40 m sprint time (5.69 +/- 0.35 s; 5.62 +/- 0.31 s; 5.64 +/- 0.27 s). Our findings demonstrate that the FMS can be reliably administered to elite rugby league players but will not change in accordance with physical performance across a competitive season. Our findings should not necessarily deter practitioners from using the FMS but begin to question the specific qualities that are being assessed through its administration.

Influence of Contrast Shower and Water Immersion on Recovery in Elite Netballers (Peiffer et al., 2014)

Contrast water therapy is a popular recovery modality in sport; however, appropriate facilities can often be difficult to access. Therefore, the present study examined the use of contrast showers as an alternative to contrast water therapy for team sport recovery. In a randomized, cross-over design ten elite female netball athletes (mean +/- SD; age: 20 +/- 0.6 y, height: 1.82 +/- 0.05 m, body mass: 77.0 +/- 9.3 kg) completed three experimental trials of a netball specific circuit followed by one of the following 14 min recovery interventions; (1) contrast water therapy (alternating 1 min 38[degrees]C and 1 min 15[degrees]C water immersion), (2) contrast showers (alternating 1 min 38[degrees]C and 1 min 18[degrees]C showers) or (3) passive recovery (seated rest in 20[degrees]C). Repeated agility, skin and core temperature and perception scales were measured pre, immediately post, 5 h and 24 h post-exercise. No significant differences in repeated agility were evident between conditions at any time point. No significant differences in core temperature were observed between conditions however, skin temperature was significantly lower immediately after contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with the passive condition. Overall perceptions of recovery were superior following contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with passive recovery. The findings indicate contrast water therapy and contrast showers did not accelerate physical recovery in elite netballers after a netball specific circuit; however, the psychological benefit from both interventions should be considered when determining the suitability of these recovery interventions in team sport.

Differences in lower body stiffness between levels of netball competition (Pruyn et al., 2014)

There are many notable differences in physical and skill attributes between competition levels, especially in team sports. Stiffness is an important mechanical factor to measure when considering athletic performance and injury incidence. Active vertical stiffness (Kvert) during hopping and passive stiffness during lying and standing were measured during the preseason period for 46 female netballers (24.0 +/- 3.7 years, 72.2 +/- 7.6 kg, 175.2 +/- 6.7 cm). Participants were classified as elite, sub-elite, representative or recreational based on their current level of competition. A one-way ANOVA revealed that elite players possessed significantly higher Kvert than recreational players (p = 0.018). Large effect sizes (ES) suggested that elite players also possessed higher Kvert than sub-elite (d = 1.11) and representative (d = 1.11) players. A number of large and moderate ES were also present when comparing the passive stiffness of elite players to their lower ranked counterparts. The results of this study suggest that elite players possess higher levels of active stiffness when compared to their lower ranked counterparts. The differences in stiffness levels may contribute to a player’s ability to physically perform at an elite level, and also provide one explanation into elevated rates of injury at higher levels of competition.

Velocity based training of lower limb to improve absolute and relative power outputs in concentric phase of half-squat in soccer players (Ramirez et al., 2014)

Purpose: The power production is force-velocity related. We hypothesized that speed based training of lower limb using half-squat can lead to absolute and relative power improvement in concentric movement, with a same external load.

Methods: One group of 19 soccer players (age 24.4 yr, SD = 3.7 yr) participated in a pretest-posttest power training protocol, consistent in 2 training sessions per week during 10 weeks, targeted to work the leg power by performing half-squat with fixed external load (M = 71.7; SD = 5.4), at 65% of 1RM. Measurements of power (absolute -W-, and relative -W/kg-), force (N) and velocity (m/s) (mean and peak) were made from a concentric movement of a half-squat exercise with a fixed external load.

Results: The training protocol increased relative power (M = 47.5, SD = 47.5; p < .001) and absolute power (M = 169.2; SD = 95.5; p < .001). Also, number of repetitions (M = 2.9; SD = 2.4; p < .01), force (M = 66.6; SD = 36.7; p < .001) and velocity (M = .1; SD = .1; p < .001) were increased. However, only improved velocity was related to changes in absolute (r = .939; p < .001) and relative (r = .757; p < .001) power.

Conclusion: The speed based training, combined with moderate to high external load can lead to an improvement of absolute and relative power in concentric phases of half-squat in soccer players. This could be important for improving the performance of the players in the field.

Influence of the intensity of squat exercises on the subsequent jump performance (Fukutani et al., 2014)

Jump performance can be enhanced after performing squat exercises, and this is thought to be due to the phenomenon of postactivation potentiation (PAP). However, the influence of the intensity of squat exercises on jump performance enhancement and its association to PAP have not been elucidated. Thus, we examined the influence of the intensity of squat exercises on the subsequent jump performance and the magnitude of PAP. Eight weight lifters (age, 19.8 +/- 1.3 years; height, 1.67 +/- 0.07 m; body mass, 77.1 +/- 14.8 kg) were recruited as subjects. The intensity of squat exercises was set in two conditions: Heavy condition (HC) (45% 1 repetition maximum [1RM] x 5 repetitions [reps], 60% 1RM x 5 reps, 75% 1RM x 3 reps, and 90% 1RM x 3 reps) and Moderate condition (MC) (45% 1RM x 5 reps, 60% 1RM x 5 reps, and 75% 1RM x 3 reps). Before and after the squat exercises, the subjects performed counter-movement jumps three times. In addition, a twitch contraction was concurrently elicited before and after the squat exercises. In both conditions, twitch torque and jump height recorded after the squat exercises increased significantly compared with those recorded beforehand. The extents of increase in both twitch torque and jump height were significantly larger in HC than in MC. We conclude therefore that a high-intensity squat exercise is better than a moderate-intensity squat exercise as a warm-up modality for enhancing subsequent jump performance.