Planning a Year: Mechanistic or Biological Approach?

Before going into the main issue here, let me define basic terms (from my article Training: Planning and Programming )

[i]Training is a complex transformational process which qualifies athlete for higher accomplishments/performances in sport competitions. Besides this, training exert transformation of athlete’s abilities, characteristics and skills from some initial state to some new, final state, which represents indispesable/vital prerequisite for succes in his/her sport branch. The way this process is run, depends on the selection of methods, means and loads.

It can be said that the training plan is not forced and non-flexible template or pattern, but rather flexible and in general lines defined collection of goals, actions for achieving those goals and criteriums, which represents the result of planning as an integral and continuous process of the control of the athlete preparation system, but in the same time the result of coach’s philosophy, creativity, and the experience.

Training program represents, for shorter period of time, a precise set of actions defined by the methods, means and loads and their relative durations, periods/phases, interelations and their ratios to achive short-term goals defined by training plan.

This is mine definition of Periodization:

Periodization is cyclical alternation of training means, methods and loads during particual period, according to planned goal defined by training plan. Periodization bring a “game theory” (Plisk) into training system — coach uses periodization to “play” with adaptive system of athlete and thus brings greater improvement, prevents injury and overtraning and boredom and possible staleness. Periodization is used to “peak when it counts”. Periodization is a TOOL and is inferior to planning of training.

Ok, let’s start…

When designing yearly plan, coaches usually get informed about competition calendar and start planning from “end to start” and from “global to local”. This means defining training goals, periods and method of periodization used. Training component are identified and organized into plan.
Then a coach decides about when and how much he is going to do something during some periods… this means splitting the yearly plan into periods (GPP, SPP, COMP, TRAN…).
This is little mechanistic approach — cutting a yearly plan into block of a given emphasis, without considering BIOLOGICAL approach…
Why would coach say that GPP last for 4wks and not 5wks? If he is experienced he can say that, but what if he is not??? How come he know how much time does he need to bring desired goals defined for GPP phase?

Basically, I see a lot of yearly plans that just “cut” the plan into some “mechanical” periods (take a look at Joe Kenn’s book - last chapter about planning a year)…

The solution that quikazhell mentioned on The Death of Periodization thread is the following:

Autoregulating, as defined by quik, is basically defining general goals for a given periods, doing all components of training system (conjugate), evaluating week-by-week responses and progress and regulating the ratios of trainig components (swithing emphasis) over time to reach selected goals and to peak when it counts.

Another solution is presented in Al Vermeils System. Al also uses Vertical Integration — all components are done and the emphasis is switched over time. Al defined a upper and lower norms for a given component, for a given sport and position. Basically, athlete stays in a given emphasised period until he reaches a given norm. Then the training emphasis is switched.

My own opinion is that training plan should be designed and modified according:

  1. Training calendar
  2. Various criterias, like aviable facilities, wheather etc
  3. Biology and adaptation

Thus, the coach must determine goals and priorities, and the actuall moment of realisation of that goals (peak when it counts). Next he must make a GENERAL splitting of a yearly plan into periods (to guide him in his process, to allow easier peak and control), but the major thing he must consider is the biology and adaptation of the athlete… he must adapt training to athlete (but also athlete must adapt to trainig to peak), his improvement rate, adaptibility and recoverability…

Comments? Ideas?

May be included in #3 but what about training age

a beginner can probalby improve everything at once

even at the intermediate level, this may be possible.

as athletes get more advanced, they need to put more focused training into any given capacity, which leaves less ability to adapt to other aspects. Hence the use of maintenance phase type approaches (focus on one or two capacities, maintain everything else).

this was also the basis of true conjugate periodization (not as popularly defined), use focused training to bring up a given capacity and use the sequencing of training over time to improve the athletes’ capacity

In Pl’ing, Sheiko (or is it Smolov) is a good example of a true conjugate system.

Westside, while popularly called conjugate, is really a concurrent system.


According to your input here I may say that you are confusing Conjugate Sequence System (CSS) with conjugate/concurrent system!

Conjugate/concurrent schemes try to improve couple of traits at the same time.

CSS is simmilar to conjugate, but it doesn’t try to improve all at once, rather to improve one ability (concentrated loading) while maintaining others with minimal volume. After some time the emphasis is switched.

It may seem that Westside is a concurent scheme if you look at their template only, but they switch emphasis over their year, thus this classifys them as CSS… I think James Smith wrote about this somewhere!

I have put all of mine current understanding of Periodization in this article.

What I wanted to ask in this thread is based on what criteria does coach knows when to switch emphasis of training, whetever he uses CSS or Sequential (TRaditional) Method? Why are the block mechanically defined by competition calendar? For example: we have 3 month to competitions, let’s do 1 month hypertrophy and two months of maximal strength work (or emphasis block if one uses CSS)!!!

According to my email exchange with Prof. Verkhoshansky, it’s either concurrent or conjugated.

The conjugation is a peculiar way of sequencing.

Simmons’ conjugation is not what originally meant.

VERY important theme you have here Duxx,

As the question of scheduling, theoretically best practice dictates the coach follows the biological adaptation timeline. You observe constantly and alter the program constantly to facilitate the athlete’s adaptation to the training. Then you progress carefully and try to minimise the risks of pushing the limits.

But sometimes (most times?) the coach and athlete will have to change the end-goal to bring it into line with the biological adaptation time-line.

It’s obvious you cannot sensibly say my target this year is to run 100m in 9.9sec but with six months remaining before last race of the year, your athlete is still running 10.9. It’s not going to happen. We know that, so the goal must be realistic in first place. We also know that.

Then the coach needs to work to a plausible time-line, a schedule which is realistic if still ambitious.

I suppose I am saying you can only progress the program at the rate the athlete can absorb, tolerate and then thrive on the training given. Much of the progress will be based around capacity to recover, so adjustments to the program will always be made on that basis.

I doubt I’ve contributed anything here, but it is still a question central to everything in coaching. Good job Duxx.

Duxx, that link no longer works :frowning: do you have a new one?

Is this it? :confused:

Nice said. Thanks!
Anyway, this is an old thread, and I already gave a solution to this problem in my ‘soccer manual’. I wonder could someone post a link, cause I’m out of town…

‘What I have learned’ is a continue of the ‘Overview of periodization methods’ also aviable at efs but without pictures


I have the following concerns at first glancing your article:

a) We don’t have such a long preparatory period (on average) to allow reaching a high level or preparedness, let alone the maintenance of preparedness throughout the season.

b) We don’t need to peak (on average).

c) Not all biomotor abilities and their qualities (“components”) start at the same level of development.

d) Not all biomotor abilities and their qualities are developped at the same rate.

e) Not all biomotor abilities and their qualities are maintained in the same way.

In the light of c-d-e) the theoretical managing of the components’ training seems quite mechanicistic.

In practice, it is MORE mechanicistic than what you define “traditional” periodization (which I don’t consider that way, but I won’t get into that).

I agree with all that, but what is a practical solution to the problem?
Have you looked at ‘new’ article on in-season planning in soccer (see soccer subforum)?

I was referring to Planning the Competition Period for Soccer.

To find the solution consider the following:

a) Time to optimal development of each component (preparatory phase).

b) Rate of improvement of each component (macrocycles).

c) Maintenance strategy for each component (purely competitive phase).

d) Time to pinnacle level and rate of detraining of each component (peaking)

The solution is NOT the mathematical division of work among the components.

Think of the methodological implication of each point considering the soccer specific situation, because if you read them superficially they won’t hint the solution. :wink:

Wouldn’t the planning be mechanical and the biological part be the adjustments made based on adaptation to training response/results?

You should have post this on that thread :slight_smile:
Great points to consider… but you forgot one: head coach. Is he able to cooperate with such ideas, etc, etc? Also, this is pretty much IMPOSIBLE to consider, cause you have 11 players + 7 reserves + 10-20 additional players. Yes, you should do this for key players, but still it is much imposible and thus only reserved for theoretical discussion… we need something more practical… and understandable for head coaches :slight_smile:

I had some interesting experiences the other way too. The head coaches were trying to get the S and C guys to understand the impact of what they were giving out and wanted me to point it out.
In one case, the Rugby coach wanted the S and C guys to get the message from me to keep from “ruffling feathers” but, if they didn’t “get it”, he was going to take matters into his own hands anyway.

Wouldn’t the planning be mechanical and the biological part be the adjustments made based on adaptation to training response/results?

Very much agree!

Great points to consider… but you forgot one: head coach. Is he able to cooperate with such ideas, etc, etc? Also, this is pretty much IMPOSIBLE to consider, cause you have 11 players + 7 reserves + 10-20 additional players. Yes, you should do this for key players, but still it is much imposible and thus only reserved for theoretical discussion… we need something more practical… and understandable for head coaches

I am not talking about individualization of training here, but general planning.

The head coach gotta trust your work, it’s kind of unfortunate that you are in a big club and can’t really do much experimentation.

My suggestion is to get a lower level club on the side to experiment with different methological approaches. That’s what I do…