Periodisation Deep Dive

Cracking the Code: 8 Periodization Models to Revolutionize Your Training

Ever wonder how top athletes seem to peak at just the right moment?

The answer lies in a powerful training strategy called periodisation.

This systematic approach to planning workouts isn’t just for Olympians—it’s a game-changer for athletes at all levels.

By strategically varying training intensity and focus over time, periodization helps you build fitness, prevent burnout, and hit your peak performance when it matters most.

Whether you’re training for your first 5K or gunning for a podium finish, understanding periodisation can take your endurance game to the next level.

Let’s dive into the different models. I have listed them in the order from most commonly used / easiest to understand to the most complex model.

The Different Periodisation Models:

Linear Periodisation

This is the traditional model, involving a gradual progression from high-volume, low-intensity training to low-volume, high-intensity training as the competition approaches. It’s divided into distinct phases:
– Preparatory phase (building base fitness)
– Competitive phase (race-specific training)
– Transition phase (active recovery)
Best suited for: Novice to intermediate athletes, or those with a long preparation phase before a main event.
Strengths: Simple to implement and understand. Allows for steady progression.
Weaknesses: May lead to performance plateaus for advanced athletes. Less flexible for multi-peak seasons.

Reverse Linear Periodisation

As the name suggests, this model reverses the linear approach. It starts with high-intensity, low-volume training and progresses to higher volume, lower intensity work as the competition nears. This can be beneficial for some endurance events.
Best suited for: Athletes in sports where maintaining power or speed is crucial even as endurance increases.
Strengths: Can help maintain power while building endurance. Useful for sports like rowing or swimming.
Weaknesses: May not provide sufficient base endurance for some athletes.

Undulating Periodisation

This model involves more frequent variations in training volume and intensity, often on a daily or weekly basis. It can be further divided into:
– Daily Undulating Periodisation (DUP): Training variables change daily
– Weekly Undulating Periodization (WUP): Training variables change weekly
Best suited for: Advanced athletes, those needing to maintain multiple fitness components simultaneously, or athletes with frequently changing competition schedules.
Strengths: Provides variety, potentially reducing burnout. Allows for simultaneous development of multiple fitness attributes.
Weaknesses: More complex to plan and implement. May not allow for optimal development of any single attribute.

Block Periodisation

This approach concentrates on developing specific abilities in blocks, typically lasting 2-6 weeks. Each block focuses on a particular aspect of fitness (e.g., aerobic endurance, lactate threshold, VO2max).
Best suited for: Elite athletes, those with multiple performance peaks in a season, or athletes needing to dramatically improve specific aspects of fitness.
Strengths: Allows for concentrated development of specific abilities. Flexible for multi-peak seasons.
Weaknesses: Requires careful planning to avoid detraining in non-focused areas. May be too intense for novice athletes.

Polarized Periodisation

This model emphasizes a distribution of about 80% low-intensity training and 20% high-intensity training, with very little moderate-intensity work. It’s gained popularity among endurance athletes in recent years but needs to managed very carefully.
Best suited for: Endurance athletes in sports like running, cycling, or cross-country skiing.
Strengths: Mimics the natural training patterns of successful endurance athletes. May reduce risk of overtraining.
Weaknesses: May not provide enough specific preparation for some events. Can be psychologically challenging due to the intensity of the hard sessions.

Wave-Loading Periodisation

This involves alternating periods of high and low training stress, creating a wave-like pattern in training load over time.
Best suited for: Athletes prone to overtraining or those who respond well to frequent recovery periods. Strengths: Built-in recovery periods can prevent burnout. Allows for multiple peaks within a season.
Weaknesses: May not provide enough consistent stimulus for some athletes. Requires careful monitoring to ensure proper loading.

Conjugate Periodisation

Originally developed for strength sports, this model simultaneously develops multiple fitness components and can be adapted for endurance athletes.
Best suited for: Multi-sport athletes or those needing to maintain a wide range of physical abilities. Strengths: Allows for simultaneous development of multiple fitness components. Can prevent boredom and staleness.
Weaknesses: Complex to design and implement. May not allow for optimal development in any single area.

Fractal Periodisation

This is a more complex model that applies similar training patterns across different time scales (days, weeks, months), creating a fractal-like structure.
Best suited for: Highly advanced athletes or those with very long-term development plans.
Strengths: Provides a coherent structure across multiple time scales. Can be highly individualized.
Weaknesses: Very complex to design and implement. Requires sophisticated monitoring and adjustment.

Key Considerations:

  1. Athlete’s experience level: Novice athletes often respond well to simpler models like linear periodisation, while advanced athletes may benefit from more complex approaches.
  2. Competition schedule: Single-peak seasons might suit linear models, while multi-peak seasons often require more flexible approaches like block or undulating periodization.
  3. Sport-specific demands: Some sports require maintaining multiple fitness components simultaneously, favoring models like conjugate or undulating periodisation.
  4. Individual response: Athletes respond differently to training stimuli. Some may thrive on variety (undulating), while others may need more focused blocks of training.
  5. Available time: More complex models often require more time to see significant benefits, which may not be suitable for athletes with shorter preparation phases.

Sometimes, the most effective approach often involves combining elements from different models to create a personalised plan that addresses the specific needs and constraints of the individual athlete and their sport.

About Liza Smith

Liza: The Endurance Expert – Unlock Your Peak Athletic Potential!

Dedicated to endurance, particularly in extreme events like Ironman, OCR and Ultras, Liza stands out not just as a coach but as an emblem of determination and tenacity.

With a reputation for moulding winners and transforming raw potential into prowess, Liza is the top pick for those aspiring to reign supreme in their sport.

Liza’s coaching philosophy centres on the power of the mind. Her five pillars – Control the Controllable, Find the Positive, Focus on You, 100% Effort, and Extreme Ownership – guide athletes to both mental and physical excellence.

Whether you're just starting out or vying for the gold, Liza ensures your hard work delivers results. Train with Liza and unleash the ultimate athlete within you.