Making Periodization Work

Periodization: The process of breaking down a training program into distinct periods of emphasis or time.

Periodization can come in two forms, Linear or Undulating. These forms have subdivisions within them. For example, westside conjugate periodization and waved periodization are both different subdivisions of undulating.


In periodization models you will see pictures and graphs (like the ones above) of these giant blocks (A, B and C) and phases illustrating specific desired training effects. From the outside, you might observe one or two “peaks” over a the entire year and assume that testing is only done twice a year and adjustments to the total plane are rarely made. However, despite the look of it, that’s not correct.

Verkhoshansky outlined 4 useful bits of advice to make periodization applicable and easier to manage.

Step 1. Determine informative fitness characteristics that assess preparedness. These can be obtained in a lab or done by field tests “key performance indicators” (vertical jump height could be one)

Step 2. Test the athlete using key performance indicators (KPIs) in a standardized way once or twice a month. The KPI testing shouldn’t be too taxing (should not interfere with the training process)

Step 3. Reflect on the indicators and see what needs to be changed.

Step 4. Keep training logs and ask the athlete questions to see how they are progressing and how they are mentally (avoid overtraining)

-Siff, M.C. (2000).  Supertraining.  Denver: Supertraining Institute.

Is There Such A Thing As Periodization?

Periodization is not as straightforward as some people may think. At initial glance, it appears as simple as writing a program out based on logical assumptions and then following. Yes… Kind of.

Regardless of what your plan is, it should be designed to better your athlete. However, what we do in the weight room does not always have a correlation to our performance in sport. For example, an increase in back squat strength does not guarantee an increase in on field performance. To make training in the weight room more applicable, we have to use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track potential progress in sport (KPIs = controlled measurable sporting movements). I.e. An increase in max squat strength might increase your vertical jump height and in turn it will give you the potential to improve your sporting performance.

KPIs need to be tested and then analyzed. The athlete may be deficient or proficient in certain areas (Step 1 from above).

Training can then be designed around improving the deficient KPIs. To make sure that what we are doing actually works (Step 2), KPIs need to be tested and monitored. The monitoring of KPIs will determine whether or not the training is actually improving the athlete’s potential.

KPIs need to be tested and then reflected upon. If progress is being made then you can continue the training. However, if progress is not noticed then training needs to be adjusted (step 3).

The last part involves asking your athletes about the training process and keeping training logs. This is done to avoid overtraining. You may be seeing positive physiological changes from increases in KPI scores, but this does not always account for the athlete’s mental state. Logs and communication can give insight to see whether or the athlete is becoming “stale” and no longer enjoying training (overtraining) (step 4).

After reflecting on the 4 steps provided by Verkhoshansky, we might no longer see periodization in the same light. Periodization is merely the process of having a plan. However, the plan needs to be reflected upon and if not working, changed.

In essence, there is nothing special about periodization at all. It is merely training what the athlete needs to improve on and reflecting on whether or not this improvement is occurring. Based on their performance in the KPIs, training will be adjusted and new goals will be put into place. This makes the training program fluid/dynamic.




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