Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Problems of the periodization of training in mixed sports. Part 2

Characteristics of mixed sports


The point being taken by the preceding discussion (see Part 1) is that the mixed sports DOES NOT demand for EXTREME levels of strength/power and endurance.   

From a physical preparation standpoint, the two main goals (if we exclude injury prevention) in mixed sports are:

- Improvement of maximal (specific) power (explosive and reactive strength) to carry on the ball skills and off-the ball movements (accelerating, cutting, stopping, jumping, etc) at higher intensity levels. This is sometimes limited by maximal strength. 

- Improvement in the ability to carry the above mentioned activities over the duration of the game – improving their frequency and duration and minimizing their cost (by improving efficiency), by improving recovery capacity of the organism

For these reasons most mixed sports fall in the group of alactic-aerobic sports. Alactic-Anaerobic energy system (ATP/CP) is used to fuel short and powerful activity bursts, while the Aerobic system is used to replenish ATP/CP and to fuel lower intensity activity. 

From time to time, there are instances where

- Mentioned high intensity activities are prolonged (up to 30sec) or there is longer duration sub-maximal intensity activity -  SE, or Special Endurance
- Mentioned high intensity activities are repeated (up to 5-7 times) with very short rest (less than 20secs) – RSA, or Repeat Sprint Ability.

During these periods, Anaerobic-Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy system is utilized to a greater degree, thus there is some need for developing this energy system too, especially because those situations can decide the winner or the loser. There is a lot of cross and longitudinal researches that tries to figure out the relationship between RSA, SE, Aerobic Power (VO2max, vVO2max), Aerobic Capacity (vLT), on filed performance (distance covered, distance covered at higher intensities, number of sprints) etc, but without concise answers.

One can say that endurance training for mixed-sports should have elements of anti-glycolytic training where one should minimize role of glycolytic energy system during the game and thus minimize fatigue. This is why it is important to develop alactic and aerobic energy systems, with occasional reliance of glycolytic energy system.

Competition Calendar

Most if not all training wisdom comes from non-mixed sports (strength/power, endurance) or should I call them Traditional Olympic sports, like track and field, swimming, rowing, and cycling. In those sports competition calendar is well defined with couple of peaks (in terms of sport result) per year (1-3, but even more in modern strength/power sports). The duration of the preparatory period to competition period is in favor of preparatory period.

Because of this characteristic of Traditional Sports, numerous planning strategies has been proposed, like tapering and peaking for the competition period, maintenance of training adaptations via maintenance loads, utilizing residual training effects and delayed training effects in competition period, etc. Since the competition period is rather short, you can achieve peak. 

Contrary to this Traditional Model, in mixed-sports (team sports, sport games) the competition calendar is getting longer and longer with less and less time for preparatory period. The need of the competition period can demand highly prepared players ready to play-injury free at the high level of play for prolonged period of time. In most cases there is no need to peak except for play-offs and international competitions. The goal is meta-stable level of performance over the whole competition period, rather than large peaks and valleys which are normal when peaking (see Joel Friel’s 7 Basic Training Assumptions, especially #7). My head coach Marko Nikolić usually says that we want players performing at 85% over the whole season, rather than them performing at 90+% (peak shape) now and then. The key here is: stable high level of performance and injury-free for a long competition period.

So, how can one utilize training wisdom from traditional sports and apply them blindly to mixed-sports? Square peg + round hole = bad things.


One aspect of mixed-sports is constant skill training (technique/tactics). Perfection of technical skills, decision making, tactics, strategies and playing system development demands a lot of time and energy. There is not a lot of time and energy for extra activities including physical preparation, even if the most of these technical practices are of lower intensity.

If we take this time/energy limit factor into the account with the complexity of motor abilities that need to be developed, then we have a problem of training optimization.  This is especially magnified during the competition period, when there is also a need to be fresh for the games and to recover from them (both mentally and physically in term of nagging pains and small injuries). Since the competition period is long, maintenance is not an option (how can you maintain something for 24 weeks that you have 6 weeks to develop anyway?). Instead of maintenance word, I love to use priority switch – the games are priority, and training, especially physical preparation loses its priority compared to preparatory period.


In this part I have covered the following key characteristics and problems of mixed-sports:

- Mixed sports demands a complex number of physical qualities, but luckily, they don’t need to be developed to the extremes (compared to speed/power and endurance sports). 

- Some of those qualities demands conflicting adaptations (I will cover this in the next part)

- The ratio between competition period to preparatory period goes in favor of competition period and up to 2-4 times, which is in contrast to traditional sports

- Because of the duration of the competition period, there is no need to be in top shape and to peak (except for very important games, play-offs and international competitions), besides it is not possible to do so due de-training (thus maintenance principle is not an option). Players should be injury free and playing at appropriate high level of play, without allowing de-training to happen.

- Skill training demands a lot of time and energy even if it is mostly low-intensity in nature. Thus, there is not a lot of time for extra activities and training need to be optimized. This is especially true during the competition period when there is even less time to develop certain physical qualities.

In the next part I will cover some periodization schemes utilized in non-mixed sports, along with some of the ideas for training optimization in concurrent training schemes based on interference phenomena of conflicting physical qualities.

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