Youth Training

Periodization as a Strategy, Not a Tactic –

Posted on Updated on

By Karsten Jensen

Periodization is a controversial topic within our field and has been since I started training back in 1992.  Whether you believe in periodization or not for your athletes, this article will shed some light on the topic.  Enjoy!

 

Below are some of the critique points that I have come across in recent years:

  • Periodization is not scientifically proven.
  • Periodization is overrated and over studied.
  • Periodization is too rigid and does not work for our athletes.
  • Periodization is too time-consuming.
  • Periodization is too complex and only for people in lab coats

These critique points may be true if your understanding of Periodization is limited to Periodization as a tactic. However, Periodization is fundamentally a strategy.

From my personal experience as a strength coach, author, and lecturer over the last 25 years, I have found it incredibly useful – even absolutely necessary – to distinguish between principles, strategies, and tactics in order to really understand a particular topic.

Thus, the purpose of this article is to

  • Highlight the difference between principles, strategies, and tactics as it applies to Periodization.
  • Show that you can reject any one example of Periodization as a tactic, but you cannot reject Periodization as a strategy (and this insight will be extremely helpful)

What is a principle?

A “principle” is a basic truth, law or assumption (thefreedictionary.com).  A first principle is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

What could be deemed the first principle of athletic development? I recommend that you answer that in detail for yourself in a way that resonates with your work.

My background is strength and conditioning, not coaching a specific sport. Thus, here is a suggestion for the 1st Principle of  Athletic Development as centered on the physical side:

Optimal development of bio-motor abilities (physical qualities) to support the ability to practice and compete (the specific sport/s) – with maximal quality – at the desired level, at a given age.

You could say that a principle is vague. However, the above phrase invites critical questions and consequences:

  • What does optimal mean? It is the balance of all involved abilities that support the young athlete’s ability to practice and compete.
  • Supporting the ability to practice and compete with maximal quality implies prevention of injury and the nourishment of motivation, joy and confidence.

Thus, the 1st Principle defines the overall objective of our work as coaches.

How are we going to achieve this objective?

principle strategy tactic

Figure 1: The overarching task is defining the 1st Principle. The strategy is chosen to achieve the 1st Principle. Tactics are used to execute the strategy.

 

A Strategy is Chosen to Achieve the Objective That is Defined by the 1st Principle

A strategy is the larger, overall plan designed to achieve a major or overall aim. The strategy will be comprised of several tactics.  A strategy is broad, big-picture and future-oriented (1)

The training literature contains multiple but related definitions of Periodization. (2)  Fundamentally, the word periodization means “a division in to periods.”

If you do a web search with the word periodization, you will find books on sports training, history and geology.

Thus, “periodization” is a word similar to “categorization” (dividing items – for example, apples divided into categories) or classification (for example dividing athletes into age groups, levels or weight classes).

From the definition of periodization as a ‘division into periods” it becomes clear that, fundamentally, periodization is a strategy for organizing long-term training by dividing the training into shorter periods.

We can take this definition a step further and suggest a more training-specific definition of periodization:

“Periodization is a division of a longer training cycle into periods with different goals, structures, and content of the training program.  When these periods are sequenced in such a way that the training adaptations in one period prepare the athlete for the training in the next period, then the selected physical abilities are optimized at the goal-attainment date.”

The above definition highlights why periodization as a strategy is virtually unavoidable unless your training programs always:

  • Are geared toward the same training adaptation
  • Have the same structure
  • Have the same content

Tactics

Clearly, there are more decisions to be made before we have a finished program. These more detailed decisions are the “tactics.” The strategy can be executed with different tactics.  Tactics are plans, tasks, or procedures that can be carried out. Tactics may be part of a larger strategy.

So far, Linear Periodization, Reverse Linear Periodization, Undulating Periodization, and Block Periodization are the only systems that have been researched in controlled studies. These systems are all periodization tactics.

I have never seen a critique of periodization as a strategy. When I have seen a critique of periodization, the critique has been of a particular periodization tactic.

As a trainer, you can look at any one of those systems and decide whether or not they are not ideal tactics for the athletes that you work.

However, once you make that choice, you still have to decide how are you going to organize your long-term training?

Conclusion

This article described a hierarchy of 1st principles, strategy, and tactics. It made the argument that periodization is fundamentally a strategy. Yet, the critique of periodization is typically centered on tactics rather than principles or strategies.

A “next step” in exploring periodization is the question about how to divide the long-term period into shorter periods as well as a deeper look into the characteristics of the mentioned periodization systems.  More to come….

  1. https://www.diffen.com/difference/Strategy_vs_Tactic
  2. Jensen, K. Appendix 1. Periodization Simplified: How To Use The Flexible Periodization Method on the Fly. www.yestostrength.com

 

Karsten Jensen has helped world class and Olympic athletes from 26 sports disciplines since 1993. Many of his athletes have won Olympic medals, European Championships, World Championships and ATP Tournaments.

Karsten is the first strength coach to create a complete system of periodization, The Flexible Periodization Method – the first complete method of periodization dedicated to holistic, individualized and periodized (H.I.P) training programs.

Karsten shares all aspects of The Flexible Periodization Method (FPM) with his fellow strength coaches and personal trainers through The Flexible Periodization Method workshop series (Levels I-VIII).  Find more information at www.yestostrength.com

Speed Exercises for Elite Athletic Performance

Posted on

The 10 Best Speed Exercises for Athletes

Todd Durkin -May 4, 2015

Improving speed should be a goal for every athlete. No matter what sport you play, being faster than your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing a championship. With that in mind, I’ve assembled a list of the 10 best speed exercises that will leave your rivals in the dust.

Although these are the best exercises for improving speed, they should not be the only exercises that you do. Be sure to have a total-body strength and conditioning program in place, as well as proper nutrition and recovery protocols, to maximize your results.

1. Power Clean or Clean Pull

To be fast, you need to be powerful. A good way to build power is by training the Power Clean (or any Olympic lift variation).

  • Starting with your feet hip-width apart, grab the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Keep your back flat and chest tall as you pull the bar off the floor.
  • After the bar passes your knees, sweep the bar into your hips (making contact at mid-thigh/the hip crease).
  • Aggressively extend your hips, knees and ankles to catapult the bar up to your shoulders.
If you cannot perform a clean correctly, replace it with a Clean Pull. A Clean Pull is a clean performed without catapulting the bar onto the shoulders (think Explosive Deadlift).

2. Squat

The Squat is one of the best exercises no matter what your goal is in the gym, so it’s an obvious pick for being one of the best for improving speed. There are many squat variations that are excellent choices. We will focus on the Barbell Back Squat.

  • Grab the bar with a grip that’s comfortable for your shoulders.
  • Unrack the weight, brace your abs and push your hips back to descend into the squat position.
  • Squat until your thighs are parallel (or slightly below parallel) to the ground or slightly below parallel.
  • Keep your knees in line with your toes, chest up and back flat as you push through your heels to stand up.

3. Deadlift

Like the Squat, the Deadlift is a clear choice for this list because it increases the amount of force you can put into the ground.

  • With your feet about hip-width apart, grasp the barbell with an overhand or over/under grip outside your knees.
  • Keep your chest up and back straight as you pull the bar off the floor by fully extending your hips.
  • Keep the bar close to your body throughout the lift.

4. Sled Push/Sprint

Incorporating sled work into your program is a great way to build strength and speed for sprinting. It’s especially valuable for accelerations because of the forward body angle. I recommend doing both heavy Sled Pushes and lighter Sled Sprints.

  • For a heavy push, load a sled with a weight that’s challenging to push for 10 to 20 yards.
  • Push the sled forward, keeping your elbows straight and your back flat.
  • For sled sprints, lighten the load to a weight that will allow you to sprint with the sled for 10-20 yards.
  • You can even pair both exercises in a contrast set.

5. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Many athletic movements take place on one leg, including sprinting, so it’s a good idea to utilize single-leg exercises in your training. There are a ton of single-leg exercises to choose from, but my particular favorite is the Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat.

  • With dumbbells at your sides and your back foot elevated on a bench, squat while keeping a straight back and tall chest.
  • Push through your heel to extend your front knee and hip back to the starting position.

6. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

The Single-Leg RDL is another great single-leg movement, but it focuses on your hamstrings and glutes, or your “go” muscles.

  • Hold two dumbbells in front of you, and balance on one leg.
  • Slightly bend the knee of the balancing leg and begin to push your hips back toward the wall behind you.
  • Be sure to maintain a flat back position as the dumbbells reach knee/shin level.
  • Extend your hips to go back to the starting position.

7. Broad Jump

No list of the best exercises for improving speed would be complete without some plyometrics. This move teaches your muscles to contract explosively, an essential trait of speed.

 

  • Set yourself up with feet hip-width apart.
  • Perform a quick counter movement by pushing your hips back to the wall.
  • Quickly extend your hips, knees and ankles to jump forward for distance.
  • Land softly in a squat position.

8. Single Leg Hurdle Jumps

Single-Leg Hurdle Jumps train quick single-leg movements and deceleration, important for multi-directional speed and quickness.

  • Standing on one leg, perform a quick counter squat and immediately extend your knee and hip to jump over the hurdle.
  • Land as softly as possible on the same leg.

 

Both the Broad Jump and Single-Leg Hurdle Jumps can be done by going into the next jump immediately after you land or by pausing yourself in between.

9. Depth Jumps

This is one of the best exercises to increase explosive power needed to sprint.

  • Stand on top of a bench or plyo box.
  • Step off the edge and immediately jump as you touch the ground.
  • The jump performed as you land can be a vertical jump or a broad jump.
  • Use a small to medium size box/bench to minimize the force that is absorbed when landing.
10. Pallof Press

Sprinting takes a tremendous amount of core stability, so it makes sense to involve core stability exercises in your training.

  • Set up the cable handle at chest level.
  • Take a few steps away from the machine to unrack the weight.
  • Press the handle away from your chest and hold it at arm’s length.
  • Pause for 3-5 seconds as you squeeze your abs to stabilize your torso.
  • Return the handle to your chest and repeat.
  • Complete the exercise on both sides.

Prevent Over-training young athletes

Posted on

Prevent Over-training Young Athletes

In far too many situations throughout North America, strength coaches and personal trainers make common errors in their programming for young athletes, many of which can lead to overtraining syndromes –

 Critical Analysis of Biomotor Ability

In working with young athletes, there is very little reason to ever ‘test’ their ability at certain lifts or speed variances. Your programming guidelines must be based around teaching proper execution of technique in your young athletes from a lift and movement economy standpoint. Having said that, having 3, 5 or 8 RM values on any particular exercise should be deemed a distant secondary consideration to teaching the proper values of form and function.

By using a ‘Teaching Model’ of exercise development rather than a ‘Training Model’ you are taking the pressure off of kids to reach for biomotor improvements at the expense of developing sound technique.

 Changing Exercises to Often

Although when training adult clientele, there are neural advantages to altering your exercise selection often, with young athletes the reality is that the initial stages of training should comprise little more than dedicated time to teach and become proficient in the basics of lift and movement economy.

Far too often, trainers work to make young athlete routines challenging and neurally stimulating by incorporating complex programming and exercise selection into the mix early in the athletes’ training life. Resist the urge to make a neurological impact and instead, focus your efforts on developing sound competency in just a few basic lifts – the foundation you build during this time is paramount to eventually increasing both the volume and intricacy of your programming.

 Consider the Athlete’s Entire Life

When creating a training program for a young athlete, you must take into consideration their entire life – that is, don’t just make training sessions hard for the sake of making them hard. You do a disservice to the athlete and your business by following this practice.

For instance, if the young athlete is in-season for a particular sport, there practice and game schedule must be considered into the reality of your overall programming. Soccer practices, for instance four days per week coupled with one to two games per week, will leave any young athlete bordering on the verge of overtraining syndrome as it is. Your job during times like this is to augment them with restorative training that does not serve to push them lower beneath what would be considered normal and healthy biological levels.

Additionally, you must work to understand your young athletes’ eating and sleeping habits as well. Inappropriate nutrition and poor sleeping patterns (which many teenagers face today) are precursors to overtraining syndrome in that they are two of the more important restorative elements trainees can use to combat such concerns.

As a professional trainer working with young athletes, you are responsible and must assume accountability for their overall health and wellbeing. When training young athletes and in an effort to ensure quality, efficacy-based training practices, resist the temptation to do the ‘norm’ by making exercise sessions hard and physically challenging. Instead, follow the three key points above to ensure optimal training conditions and guard against the very real concerns of overtraining.

 Committed to your success

Coach Kevin

 

 

Complete Athlete Development is the number #1 resource available that
shows you EXACTLY how to create cutting-edge training programs for young
athletes of all ages and for all sports, that will keep them progressing without
the concern of over-training.