Monday, September 27, 2010

Block Periodization: Breakthrough in Sport Training

Here is my review of the Block Periodization book for the from 2008.

Block Periodization: Breakthrough in Sport Training
Vladimir Issurin

Who is this guy?

Vladimir Issurin serves as a scientific and professional coordinator at the Elite Sport Department of the Israeli Olympic Committee at the Wingate Institute. He completed his undergraduate studies on Sport Sciences and Ph.D. dissertation on aquatic motor fitness and movement technique of swimmers at Leningrad Sport University (1963-1972) and his post-doctoral studies on motor/technical sportsmanship in the individual water sports in Moscow Sport University (1988). He served as a scientific adviser and head of the complex scientific group for the USSR Olympic canoe/kayak team during three quadrennial cycles (1978-1991) and received two governmental awards. Since 1991 professor Issurin has lived in Israel and works as a researcher, professional consultant and coordinator for Israeli Olympic National teams (since 1992). He is a lecturer at the Wingate coaching school and Wingate Physical Education College. As a member of the national Olympic delegations he took part in five Olympic Games; twice as a team leader of the Israeli kayak and swimming national teams (2000 and 2004). He has written over 150 scientific articles in national and international journals and over 50 international presentations.

What does this product claim?

The basis of contemporary training was founded several decades ago when scientific knowledge was far from complete and athletes’ workloads, results, and demands were much lower then they are currently. At that time the traditional training periodization, as a division of the whole seasonal program into smaller periods and training units, was proposed and elucidated. This traditional periodization was republished many times and became a universal and monopolistic approach to training planning and analysis. However, further progress in sport science has reinforced the contradictions between traditional periodization and the successful experiences of prominent coaches and athletes. Gradually, these experiences led to alternative coaching concepts and, ultimately, a revamped training approach called Block Periodization. Its general idea presupposes the use and sequencing of specialized mesocycle-blocks, where highly concentrated training workloads are focused on a minimal number of motor and technical abilities. Unlike traditional periodization, where simultaneous development of many abilities is the norm, the block periodization concept proposes the consecutive training stimulation of carefully selected fitness components. This new approach has been implemented in various sports and has led to outstanding athletic achievements. Therefore, the purpose of this book is to introduce Block Periodization of sport training as a general concept and as the basis for a revamped training system. The adoption of this system requires reformation of many theoretical positions and practical guidelines, which previously seemed unshakable.
This book is intended for coaches, athletes, researchers and physical education students. It is unique in the field because it links successful experience from world sport practice with the scientific basis of sport training. It consolidates empirically proved positions with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge.

Where can I get it and how much does it cost?
Ultimate Athlete Concepts
$72.00 (domestic)   $77.00 (international)

Binding\Design\Paper Quality
            The book is in soft cover and A4 format. The binding is sturdy. Paper is high quality and the font is large (12pts) with large line spacing, which allows for easier reading. There is large number of black-and-white figures, tables, example and case study boxes which are very well organized and easy to understand. The book is organized into 5 chapters and it has about 220 pages. Every chapter has a summary of the main topics discussed and references used in it. At the end of the book there is a small glossary for most important terms used in the book. There is also announcement of the forthcoming book by the same author ’Principles and basics of advanced training of athletes’.


Chapter 1. Block periodization vs. traditional theory
            This chapter explains the shortcomings of traditional training approach (mixed-parallel or concurrent approach) in training of advanced and high-level athletes. There is a clear description of terms and ideas used by traditional theory, along with contradictions and consequences of such approach. There are logical reasons explained why such approach should be revisited in training of high-level athletes and why ’new’ approach should be used. New approach, or Block Periodization Concept (BPC) utilize concentrated workloads with sequential (consecutive) development of motor abilities with the aim of achieving multi-peaks during the year. Residual training effects are explained and there is an interesting table showing residual duration of various motor abilities after cessation of training. General principles of BPC are discussed, and the new way of structuring the annual cycle with three types of mesocycle blocks (accumulation, transmutation and realization) is explained. The chapter ends with a table outlining principal differences between traditional training approach and BPC.

Chapter 2. The workout: general concepts and structure guidelines
            In second chapter, there is a discussion on workout types and their classification. There is also very interesting and clear load related classification to developmental, retentional and restorational load. The concept of key workout is also discussed and explained, along with workout structure (warm-up, main part, cool-down) and the concept of key exercise or key task. The most interesting parts of this chapter are the guidelines for constructing workout. They include the discussion of  sequencing exercises for different training modalities, compatibility of different exercises (within one workout), designing multiple training sessions in one training day and the general algorithm for structuring a single workout. This chapter is very interesting and informative since it discuss compatibility and sequencing of training modalities I have never seen in any other book, especially not explained in such clear and to-the-pont way.

Chapter 3. Microcycles, mesocycles and training stages
            There is a differentiation between microcycles (the shortest training cycles) in three principle ways: loading, competing  and recovery. The loading microcycle is further differentiated into adjustment, loading and impact based on loading level. There is an explanation of load variation in microcylces (wave-shape design) and discussion on the number of peaks within microcycle. Since the BPC assumes a high concentration of specialized workloads directed at minimum number of target abilities, this in turn determines the special demands of the appropriate microcycles, which should show mostly separate, not complex, distribution of workloads taking into account their reciprocal interactions and expected residuals. Said this, the author presents guidelines for structuring microcycle: (1) priority of key workouts, (2) interaction of successive workouts, (3) sharing restoration means, (4) initiating and peaking training workloads and (5) monitoring the training. There are exampes of (1) microcycle to develop aerobic (strength-aerobic) abilities, (2) microcycle of high intensity anaerobic workloads, (3) microcycle for explosive strength in highly coordinated exercises, (4) pre-competitive microcycle and (5) microcycle for sport-specific fitness maintenance in dual and team sports. Since I work mostly with team athletes, the last example was most interesting too me, especially because it involvs the concept of mini-blocks,  that may be used in my particular situation. Further, the three types of mesocycles proposed by BPC are considered with respect to duration, content and monitoring of training. Specifically, the accumulation, transmutation and realization mesocycles are described with respect to the sequencing of various microcycles. There is also a word on preventing overtraining by athletes self-estimation of training response in their log-book, especially during the fatigue-accumulation transmutation mesocycle. Some interesting concepts worth mentioning here are the effect of taper (realization mesocycle) on emotional tension and anxiety of the athletes, nutritional advices during the taper, the effect of competition and emotional strain in the training stage on training residuals of preceding cycles and the method of prolongation of training residuals by inclusion of special compact mini-blocks.

Chapter 4. Long-term preparation
            In chapter 4 there are discussions regarding annual plan, quadrennial cycle, sport longevity and long-term preparation of young athletes. The basics of annual cycle construction included goals and objectives, sequencing the main steps in the annual plan, and general tendencies in workload compilation. Particulars regarding quadrennial planning were given for preparing highly qualified athletes. Special attention was given to workload trends in preparing older and experienced athletes and their younger counterparts. The common approach to long-term athletic preparation assumes there are four separate stages. They are preliminary preparation, initial specialization, advanced specialization and sports perfection. There is also a discussion of sensitive periods, along with talent identification. There is a presentation of so-called dual approach to giftedness, that differs between two factors: (a) predisposition to certain activity and (b) trainability.

Chapter 5. Altitude training
            The concept of altitude training (AT) is being discussed in this chapter, and to be honest, there are some useful information that cannot be found in any other book I have read so far, although some of the stuff I already heard from my prof. Vladimir Koprivica during my studies. The chapter begins by laying out scientific background, general factors affecting altitude performance and basics of altitude adaptation. There is a discussion regarding contradictions of the effect of AT in physiological textbooks vs. coaching publications. The concept of ’responders’ and ’non-responders’ is introduced. The chapter proceeds on a discussion regarding general principles of AT and the definition of three main goals of AT: (a) preparation for sea-level performance, (b) preparation for altitude performance and (c) diversification and improvement of annual preparation. There is a description of phases of altitude acclimatization: (a) acute, (b) transition and (c) stabilization. Post altitude re-acclimatization and the concept of positive and negative phases of athletes state following AT is also discussed and this is the most interesting part of the chapter. Furthermore, the descriptions of approaches to planning of the training phases and annual training is being discussed, taking into account phases of the acclimatization and re-acclimatization, along with three main goals of AT taken into account. Non-conventional  approaches to AT are also being discussed along with their possible use. The chapter finishes with guidelines for structuring an altitude preparation program.

Final Thoughts:
IMHO, the ’Block Periodization: Breakthrough in Sport Training’ by Vladimir Issurin is currently the best book regarding  Block Periodization, and thus it deserves to be a must-have for all coaches of higher-level athletes, researchers and teachers of theory of training. This book deserves it’s place among other theory of training books from authors such are Tudor Bompa, Yuri Verkhoshansky, Mel Siff, Leonid Matveyev, Platonov, Thomas Kurz, Vladimir Koprivica, Julian Malacko, to name a few. Altough the book is regarding Block Periodization, there are some very usable informations that can be used outside of this model. The major critique of the book is the ’fuzziness’ of the terms and purely theoretical examples. More sport-specific examples should have been introduced. I guess that with his new book ’Principles and basics of advanced training of athletes’, Issurin will deal with the general terms used in this book, and that these two books will form a must-have ’combo’ that is certainly going to be a major contribution to the field of trainign theory.
One may ask whether this book  (and BP per se) is applicable to lower level athletes and team sports. Well, BP is a tool and every tool have its problem for which is determined to fix . So, the anwer depends on the situation you deal with. Anyway, I hardly imagine that BP can be used in team sports with such a long competition period and short preparatory period, although there are some interesting concepts and ideas (like mini-blocks, compatibility and sequencing of training modalities, designing of a microcycle) that could also be use in more traditional or complex-parallel periodization.
To conclude, BP has its place and this book is currently the best there is on this subject. Get it!

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