Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Problems of the periodization of training in mixed sports. Part 3

Periodization models

Before I even start this part of the series, I want to bring to attention that not all mixed sports or team sports or sport games are equal in terms of training demand. Some of them depends more on the physical preparedness and some not (take badminton for example compared to rugby). Some of them demand more aerobic system development and some demand more alactic power and strength (take again rugby and American football for an example). The point here is that I am talking in general about the mixed-sports with some inclination toward soccer since this is the sport where I work.  Keep this on mind. 

I also encourage you to check the following blog entries: What the Heck is Periodization anyway, and Periodization Confusion if you haven’t already because I am going to refer to certain periodizaton models.

As stated in the previous part (Part 1 and Part 2), most if not all, training wisdom comes from non-mixed, traditional sports (strength/power and endurance). This includes traditional complex-parallel models and newer block/sequential models of periodization. 

Once again, theoretically in complex-parallel model all aspects of preparedness (technical, tactical, physical, theoretical, and psychological) and their sub-components are addressed more or less at the same time. Problem with this approach was mixed results due mixed training and great volume of training needed. 

Block/sequential models tried to solve this problem by concentrating training load aimed at small number of preparedness factors in certain period of time (Block). Using this training system, advanced athletes lowered overall training volume and stimulated adaptation by unidirectional concentrated loads. 

The point being taken here is that ADVANCED athletes in NON-MIXED SPORTS utilized block/sequential approach to bring strength/power or endurance to the maximum level during certain time period (peak).

I have seen numerous solutions utilizing both complex-parallel models and block/sequential models in strength/power sports and endurance sports. The question is what model to use in mixed sports?

For example, Joel Jamieson developed block/sequential system for MMA fighters, but contrary to team sport athletes, MMA fighters doesn’t have 1-3 fights every week for 24+ weeks and they can peak for certain event. 

I recently saw block/sequential solutions for team sports (basketball in this case) by late Yuri Verkhoshansky in the Forum E-book (page 72). To be honest, this model is very sound for preparatory period (for experienced basketball players in terms of strength/power training), but it doesn’t take into account the long season of team sports. 

Again, the solution is not to blindly follow the model of other sports without taking into account your constraints, contexts, time limits, needs, team culture, equipment, competition calendar, facilities, even weather (believe it or not, a lot of periodization solutions were discovered due weather/facilities issues). You cannot put square peg in round hole. At least not without problems. 

The solution might be a blend between these two models (complex-parallel and block/sequential) taking into account biological/adaptation laws and constraints/context you are dealing with. In recent interview Dan Baker made great points regarding this. Make sure to read it.

Well, let’s try to figure out the periodization model based on the characteristic of mixed-sports and insights of complex-parallel and block/concurrent periodization models.

Preparatory period

In my recent e-book “Physical Preparation for Soccer” (or check the article series) I have presented a model of 8-weeks preparatory period (or pre-season period). This one I am about to present is not going to be any different, but it is going to have certain tweaks.  I suggest reading that first before proceeding.

So, to create training system, we need to take into account the following characteristics: 

- Mixed sports demand 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 (strength/power and endurance)

- 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.

So, the potential solution is complex-parallel model where all aspects are addressed (strength, power, speed, endurance), but certain variations and progressions over time (with some ideas from block training).

Before I present the periodization model, I need to mention problems of concurrent development of strength and endurance. Recent review paper made by García-Pallarés  and Izquierdo, Strategiesto optimize concurrent training of strength and aerobic fitness for rowing andcanoeing,  provides great insights into this conflict. Dan Baker also speaks about concurrent development of strength and endurance in the recent interview. The recent research done on elite soccer players by Helgerud et al., show that concurrent strength and endurance training brought some great results in maximum strength and VO2max.  In the mentioned paper by García-Pallarés  and Izquierdo there is model of interference by Docherty and Sporer presented:

Based on this model, peripheral adaptations by hypertrophy strength-training methods and peripheral adaptations by VO2max training methods are in conflict and result in decreased hypertrophy effect. García-Pallarés  and Izquierdo made their own graph too:

I have couple of comments based on these models. First, some of the new research points out that the adaptations seen by VO2max interval are central (increased stroke volume) not peripheral (see Lyle McDonald’s article and work by Andrew Coggan). And second, we need to take into account interference between a lot of methods. For example in strength training we basically have three categories: (1) depletion/local muscular endurance, (2) hypertrophy and (3) maximum strength (for more info see Categories of weight training) and in energy system development we have even more categories: (1) extensive endurance, (2) intensive endurance, (3) threshold, (4) aerobic power, (5) glycolytic capacity, (6) glycolytic power, (7) neuromuscular power (for more info see Methods of endurance). 

Figuring out what goes with what and what is in conflict with what, along with taking into account total training time and load, autonomic nervous system load, joint load, muscular load and such is beyond this article and my knowledge (and research being done).  For now, and for sake of being simple, we can refer to García-Pallarés  and Izquierdo model, which states that hypertrophy is less when we combine VO2max intervals and hypertrophy loads. Well, that can be a good thing, especially if we aim to improve relative strength. 

Another aspect worth mentioning is the principle of not repeating what is done in technical-tactical sessions for conditioning. If technical-tactical sessions are of low intensity and prolonged duration, then why repeating it in the conditioning? If the technical-tactical sessions are in the domain of glycolytic conditioning, how much more you can do before breaking up? 

Since most technical sessions in soccer are of low intensity, conditioning needs to take care of high-intensity stuff.

Well, here is a theoretical model of preparatory period in mixed-sports (soccer, rugby as a model) for elite and sub-elite athletes (not for developmental ones):

(1) Introduction Period
Goal: Introduce players to the training demands and loads and prepare them for the real training to come
Duration: 1-3 weeks
Strength: High reps stuff (10-15reps) to prepare the muscles, tendons and joints (yes, Anatomic Adaptation). Technique learning. ISO holds can be done here too. Can be done in Upper/Lower or Total Body arrangement 2-4 times per week (even more, even less). If needed, hypertrophy can be addressed here to a degree.
Speed: ABC of running and change of direction speed. Build ups and technical runs. Extensive tempo can be done here.
Power: Low intensity plyos (aerobic plyometric), easy bounds, rhythmical extensive jumps to prepare the athlete for more intensive stuff to happen. Landing mechanics can be done here too. MB wall drills for upper body/core.
Endurance: Extensive aerobic runs (sweet spot), Aerobic Fartlek (variable run), extensive tempo and longer aerobic power intervals (1min-5min). Technique work (longer duration) and small sided games (easy, aerobic)

(2) Strength and power period (and VO2max)
Goal: Develop max strength, power, speed and aerobic power . Introduce means you plan using all the time during the competition period.
Duration: 2-4 weeks
Strength: Basic compound stuff. Progression can be used in terms of intensity. Higher frequency of sessions and higher volume (number of sets) since this is the time you can do it. Can be done in Upper/Lower or Total Body arrangement 2-4 times per week (even more, even less). Assistance stuff can be done for high reps or in hypertrophy zone. Introduce the exercises you plan using during the rest of the preparatory period and competition period to avoid soreness later. (I will cover this later)
Speed: Hills and straight sprints. Up to 300m in volume. Maybe some change-of-direction drills. Higher volume.
Power: Explosive and reactive jumps. Squat jump, step-up jump, lateral jumps, depth jumps (progression), lunge jumps, MB Throws. Keep doing low intensity jumps and MB wall drills.
Endurance: VO2max interval in intermittent regime (Billat 15/15, 30/30, 60/60) or in longer interval (2-5mins). Utilize small sided games with the same aim.

(3) Gylcolytic and RSA period
Goal: Develop glycolytic power/capacity (if needed or continue doing VO2max drills) and RSA (Repeat Sprint Ability)
Duration: 1-3 weeks
Strength: Same as in previous period but with less volume (keep the intensity) and frequency.  
Speed: Hills straight sprints and situational agility. Lower volume due RSA training.  
Power: Same as in previous period but with less volume.
Endurance: Glycolytic conditioning (intermittent, shuttles, suicide drills) and RSA. Small-sided games with the same goal or a combination (skills and decision making done in the fatigued state).  

Following these periods, a small taper  (unloading week) can be used to provide transition to the competition period, since we want good performance for the first game.  

As you may see, this model has elements of both complex-parallel and block/sequential models. I plan using this model for out next preparatory period (in a month). 

In the next part I will cover some competition period planning. Any critique/comment on this model is highly welcomed. Stay tuned for the next part.

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