The Importance of Periodization in Sport

The most common mistake made by the general public is to believe that any type of exercise will benefit high performance in sport. Professional sportsmen and women in conjunction with their multi-disciplinary teams, however, understand that a specific training methodology is required for long-term adaptation. This specific training methodology implemented over twelve months is more commonly known as periodization.

Periodization is the division of a training year (known as a macrocycle), into smaller and more manageable intervals (known as mesocycles), where the ultimate goal is to ensure the athlete reaches his/her peak performance at the most important competition phase within their year plan.

The human body is an amazing and very adaptable vessel, but for professional sport, this adaptability must be applied correctly, if to become a benefit to the athlete. For example, if an athlete trains on a program only designed to target his slow-twitch muscle fibres, he/she will ultimately become slower in both reaction speed, as well as the overall contractile speed of the muscles, which can affect his/her sports performance. Another example, which comes to mind, is when an athlete only partakes in a conditioning program designed for high-intensity explosive movements. Long-term adaptation to such a training program will improve the athlete’s overall power with an increase in fast-twitch muscle fibres, but at a cost to the athlete’s endurance capabilities.

For these reasons, periodization is and always will be an important part of an athlete’s year plan. There are multiple reasons to apply the science of periodization in developing long-term programs, which should be challenging, yet fun for the athlete to partake in.

Some of the reasons why periodization is so important are listed below:
1. The goal of periodization is to manipulate the training stimulus to allow optimal adaptations to incur over an extended period.
2. The acute variables of exercise program design (exercise selection, intensity, repetitions, rest intervals, sets, and tempo) can be applied in a manner to gradually increase the level of difficulty, which is effective, yet safe in achieving results.
3. Resistance training can cause two types of stress on muscle tissue, metabolic stress, and mechanical stress. A properly designed periodization program can alternate between phases of heavy weights at low reps for mechanical stress and lighter weights at high reps for metabolic stress.

KeNako Academy Strength and Conditioning Trainer
Henrico Louw