Annual Training Program

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The annual plan is the tool that guides athletic training over a year. It is based on the concept of periodization, which divides the annual plan into training phases, and the principles of training. An annual training program is necessary to maximize performance. In principle, this means that athletes must train continually for 11 months, then reduce the amount of work during the last month. This work should vary from regular training to facilitate physiological, psychological, and CNS rest and regeneration before beginning another year of training.
    The main objective of training is to reach a high level of performance at a given time, usually the main competition of the year, based on correct development of athletic shape. Good athletic shape occurs when the degree of training is high and the psychological status enhances a high level of performance. To achieve such a performance, the coach must properly periodize and plan the entire program so the development of skills, biomotor abilities, and psycho­ logical traits follow logically and sequentially. Well-organized and planned training is difficult to achieve. In many instances, the highest performance of the year does not occur at the major competition, a result of inadequate knowledge and planning experience.
    In training methodology, one of the most challenging and complex problems is peaking athletic shape on the planned date. Often, athletes peak before the main competition due to being pushed to reach a high level without adequately alternating work with short regeneration phases. It is also common for athletes to peak after the top competition, the result of deficient preparation or an inadequate load or demand. A typical example of poor planning occurs in gymnastics when routines are finalized just before an important competition.
    The coach must do the planning, especially for inexperienced athletes. Experienced athletes should help the coach set objectives and plan for the following year. This way, they have a say in designing their programs, and the coach can use their feedback in a positive way. Athlete involvement in planning can be an important motivational tool for them and the coach.

Gymboss Timers

    Periodization is one the most important concepts in training and planning. This term originates from period, which is a portion or division of time into smaller, easy-to-manage segments, called phases of training.
    The concept of periodization is not new, but not everybody is familiar with its history. Periodization existed in an unrefined form for an unknown time. It is difficult to trace who initiated it. It was used in a simple form by the Greek Olympians. As mentioned, Philostratus was the vanguard of today's planning. Over the centuries, many authors and practitioners added to the process, improving the knowledge to the present status.
Since 1963, I developed many aspects of periodization, copyrighted under the names:

Periodization of Strength

Periodization of Bodybuilding
Periodization of Psychological/Mental Training

Psychological Supercompensation

Periodization of Endurance
Periodization of Nutrition
Integrated Periodization
The Chart of the Annual Plan

    Periodization refers to two important aspects. Periodization of the annual plan divides it into smaller training phases, making it easier to plan and man­ age a training program and ensure peak performance for the main competition of the year. Periodization of biomotor abilities refers to structuring training phases to lead to the highest level of speed, strength, and endurance.   

    Many are unaware of the difference between periodization as a division of the annual plan and periodization of the biomotor abilities. which results in confusion. In most sports. the annual training cycle is conventionally divided into three main phases: preparatory. competitive, and transition. The preparatory and competitive phases are divided into two sub-phases because their tasks are different. The preparatory phase has a general and a specific subphase, based on the different characteristics of training, and the competitive phase usually is preceded by a short precompetitive subphase. Furthermore. each phase is composed of macro and microcycles. Each smaller cycle has specific objectives derived from the general objectives of the annual plan. Figure 8.1 illustrates the division of the annual plan into phases and cycles.


    Athletic performance depends on the athlete's adaptation, psychological adjustment to training and competitions, and development of skills and abilities. The duration of phases depends heavily on the time the athlete needs to increase training level and athletic shape. The main criterion for calculating the duration of each training phase is the competition schedule. Athletes train many months for competitions, aiming to reach their highest level on those dates. This requires organized, well-planned annual training that facilitates psychological and physiological adaptation. You can enhance the organization of an annual plan by periodizing training and using the sequential approach in developing athletic shape. However, an optimal periodization for each sport and precise data regarding the time required for an optimal increase in the degree of training and athletic shape is not yet exact. Individual characteristics, psychophysiological abilities, diet, and regeneration increase this difficulty. You can facilitate your planning ability by developing a model plan that you can continually improve, based on yearly observations.


Needs of Periodization
    Adaptation created the different training phases because athletes progressively develop and perfect functions over a long period. Also consider physiological and psychological potential and realize athletes cannot maintain athletic shape at a high level throughout the year. Athletes should precede any increase in training work with an unloading phase in which they decrease the training level. Develop athletes' physiological foundation during the preparatory phase, and strive for perfection according to the needs of competitions during the competitive phase.
    The methodology of developing skills, strategic maneuvers, and biomotor abilities also requires a special approach, unique for each training phase. The athlete learns a skill sequentially throughout training phases over time; this is also true for strategical maneuvers. The closer to perfection a skill becomes. the more sophisticated strategical tools a coach can use. Periodization also influences developing a sequential approach to perfecting biomotor abilities. Enhancing athletic shape requires increasing the volume and intensity of training in an undulatory manner. as proposed by the principle of load progression.
    Climatic conditions and the seasons also play decisive roles in the needs of periodizing training. The duration of a training phase often depends on climate. Seasonal sports. such as skiing, rowing, and soccer, are restricted by climate. In sports such as rowing and soccer, winter is always the preparatory phase, and the competitive phase is in the summer or spring and fall. The reverse is true for winter sports such as skiing and hockey.
    Competition and intense training specific to the competitive phase has a strong component of stress. A phase of stressful activities, such as maximum concentration and CNS fatigue, should not be long. even though most athletes and coaches may be able to cope. It is important to alternate stressful phases with periods of recovery and regeneration, during which the athletes experience less pressure. Such a phase, usually the transition phase, creates a favorable mood and generates potential, providing a solid foundation for the following period of heavy work.

Classifying Annual Plans
    Simple annual plans have been used since ancient Olympic Games. Philostratus referred to a preparatory phase for the ancient Olympic Games with few informal competitions before and a rest period after. A similar approach was used for the modern Olympic Games (1896 in
Athens, Greece). and by U.S. college athletes at the beginning of the 20th century. Planning has progressively become more sophisticated, culminating with the German programs for the 1936 Olympic Games. when coaches used a 4year plan and annual plans. After World War II, the Soviets started a state-funded sports program with the scope of using athletics as the stage to demonstrate the superiority of their political system.
In 1965. Matveyev published a model of an annual plan based on a questionnaire that asked athletes how they trained. He analyzed the information statistically and produced an annual plan divided into phases, sub-phases. and training cycles. Some enthusiasts called it the classical model, forgetting what had been done before Matveyev from Philostratus onward. The difference between the specialists of the early 1900s and post-World War II is that the Russians, Germans, and Romanians have published books and articles about planning.
    Figures 8.2 through 8.5 illustrate models produced by four authors.


    Although annual plans differ according to the specifics of the sport. classification depends on the number of competitive phases in a plan. Seasonal sports such as skiing, canoeing, and football, or sports with one major competition during the year, use only one competitive phase. Such an annual plan is a monocycle; since there is only one competitive phase, there is only one peak (figure 8.6). This plan is divided into preparatory. competitive. and transition phases. The preparatory phase includes general and specific preparation. In figure 8.6, note the relationship between general and specific preparation: as one decreases the other increases substantially.
    The competitive phase is divided into smaller sub-phases. The precompetitive subphase, which usually includes exhibition competitions only, precedes the subphase of main competitions, in which all official competitions are scheduled (C). Before the most important competition of the year, the coach plans two shorter phases. The first is an unloading phase (U), or tapering off, of lower volume and intensity so athletes can regenerate and supercompensate before the main competition. A special preparation phase follows, during which the coach may make technical and tactical changes. The coach can organize this phase separately or with the unloading phase and may use it for relaxation and psychological preparation for competitions.
    During the preparatory and early competitive phases, emphasize training volume with low levels of intensity according to the specifics of the sport. During this period. quantity of work should dominate. as opposed to the competitive phase when you emphasize work intensity or quality ..
    Another important point: as the competitive phase approaches. the training volume curve decreases drastically while the intensity curve increases (figure 8.6). Such a monocycle model is typical for sports dominated by speed and power. The volume curve decreases to allow the coach to concentrate on speed and power.
    The model illustrated in figure 8.6 is not appropriate for everyone. Training specialists from endurance sports would be mistaken to follow figure 8.6. For sports in which ergogenesis is close to 50-50% or dominant aerobic. the curve of the training volume must be high throughout the competitive phase as well. Otherwise. the development of specific endurance will be insufficient and negatively affect the final performance. For aerobic-dominant sports. I have pro­ vided another model (figure 8.7). Please note in figure 8.7. the division of the annual plan in the training phases is based on the type of endurance training the athlete will perform. Also. the volume of training. so important for aerobic sports. is dominant throughout the year.


    A completely different approach is taken in sports that have two separate competitive seasons such as track and field. in which indoor and outdoor sea­ sons are common. Because there are two distinct competitive phases. such a plan is called a bicycle (bi in Latin means two). Figure 8.8 illustrates a bicycle that incorporates the following training phases:
    • Preparatory phase
I. which should be the longer preparatory phase.
    • Competitive phase I.
    • Short transition (12 weeks) linked with a preparatory phase II. The unloading transition phase is for recovery.
    • Competitive phase II.
    • Transition phase.


    A bi-cycle consists of two short monocycles linked through a short unload­ing/transition (U/T) and preparatory phase. For each cycle, the approach may be similar except for training volume, which in preparatory phase I is of much higher magnitude than in preparatory phase II. Also, the level of athletic shape may be lower in competitive phase I. (In our example of track and field, the outdoor championships are usually more important.) This is illustrated by the curve of the athletic shape, which reaches the highest values during competitive phase II.
    Again, for endurance sports, the volume curve must always be higher than intensity, even during the competitive phase. This approach will ensure proper emphasis on the dominant energy system, which in the end (competitive phase II) will translate into better performance.
    It is not unusual for sports like boxing, wrestling, and gymnastics to have three big competitions during the annual plan (for instance, national championships, a qualifying meet, and the competition itself). Assuming each competition is 3 or 4 months apart, an athlete would have three competitive phases, and the plan would be a tricycle (Latin tri, meaning three).
    As illustrated by figure 8.9, a tricycle incorporates the following sequence of training phases:
    • A long preparatory phase I
    • Competitive phase I
    • A short unloading, transition, or preparatory phase II
    • Competitive phase II
    • Unloading, transition, or preparatory phase III
    • Competitive phase III
    • Transition

    When planning a tricycle, the most important competition of the three should occur during the last cycle. The first of the three preparatory phases should be the longest, during which the athlete builds the technical, tactical, and physical foundations that will foster the following two cycles. Be­ cause such a plan is conventionally used with advanced athletes, the general preparation subphase is only in the early part of the first cycle. Also the curve of volume is the highest, reflecting the relative importance of training volume in the preparatory phase I, as opposed to the following two preparation phases.
    The curve of intensity for each cycle follows a pattern similar to a monocycle. Both the volume and intensity curves drop slightly for each of the three un­ loading phases preceding the main competitions. For the curve of athletic shape, the coach would plan the highest peak for the third cycle, which corresponds with the main competition of the year.
    Finally, sports such as tennis, martial arts, and boxing have four or more competitions when peak performance is desirable (figure 8.10). In such cases, the structure of the annual plan differs in that the preparatory phase, so important for developing skills and biomotor abilities, is short. Although international athletes with a good foundation of training during the early years of athletic development may find it easy to cope with such a heavy schedule, children and teenagers do not. This is why many young tennis players burn out before they have a chance to experience the satisfaction of winning major tournaments.
    A multicycle of four or more competitive phases is a challenging task. This is especially true if the athlete skips a quiet preparatory phase in which to regenerate and focus on improving biomotor skills in an un-stressful environment. We see this situation in tennis, in which many players are injured or withdraw from tournaments because of physical and mental exhaustion.


Selective Periodization
    Programs for young athletes often follow those specifically produced for mature and advanced athletes. I would like to propose that everyone concerned look at periodization from the point of view of athletes' readiness for heavy schedule competitions. Irrespective of whether you are in a sport of multi peaks, consider the following sequence of types of annual plans.
    A monocycle is for novice and junior athletes. The advantage of such a plan is that it has long preparatory phases, free from the stress of competitions. This allows the coach to concentrate on developing skills and a strong foundation of physical training.
    A bicycle is for experienced athletes who can quality for national championships. Even then, the preparatory phase should be as long as possible, to allow time to train fundamentals.
    A tricycle and multi-peak plan are recommended only for advanced or international athletes. Presumably, these athletes have a solid foundation and their background allows them to handle an annual plan with three or more peaks with greater ease.
    Although the duration of training phases depends on the competition schedule, table 8.1 could be a good guideline for distributing weeks per training phase.


Stress----Planning and Periodization
    Stress is a significant by-product of training and competition, which if not properly manipulated may affect athletes' performance and behavior. Because training deals primarily with biological and psychological components, stress is considered the sum of these phenomena, elicited by internal and adverse external influences.
    Throughout training and competition, athletes experience biological, psychological, and sociological stressors. Stress is additive and is produced by competition, the audience, peers, family, coach's pressure to perform well, and training intensity. A wise coach deals with these athletic by-products by training athletes to cope and by planning the stress properly throughout the annual plan. Again, the concept of periodization is an important tool in properly planning stress. As shown in figure 8.11, the curve of stress does not have the same magnitude throughout the annual plan, a distinct advantage of periodization.

    Please note in figure 8.11 that the curve of stress parallels the curve of intensity-the higher the intensity, the higher the stress. The shape of the curve is low during the transition phase, progressively elevates through the preparatory phase, and fluctuates during the competitive phase because of alternating stressful activities (competitions) with short regeneration periods. During the preparatory phase, the magnitude of the stress curve is the outcome of the relationship between training volume and intensity. While the volume or quantity of training is high, the intensity is lower, because it is difficult to emphasize a high amount of work and an elevated intensity simultaneously (with the probable exception of weightlifting). Training intensity is a prime stressor. Because the coach emphasizes it less than training volume through most of the preparatory phase, the curve of stress is also low. One exception to this may be testing dates, which could stress some athletes, especially those who find it difficult to meet the standards. Similarly, because coaches in team sports select the team during the preparatory phase, the days before selection are often stressful as well.
    The stress curve throughout the competitive phase has an undulatory structure because of alternating competitive with developmental and re­ generation microcyc1es. It appears evident, therefore, that the number of competitions and their frequency cause an elevated stress curve. When top competitions are more frequent, athletes experience more stress. In these cases, the coach must plan a few days of regeneration following competitions, and only when athletes are almost recovered do they participate in intensive training lessons again. Similarly, the coach would be wise to plan a short unloading period (23 days) before important competitions.
    Apart from alternating high and low stressful activities, the coach may also use relaxation techniques to help athletes cope. Some athletes cope well, and others have more difficulty. Those who have difficulty dealing with stress may need more than motivational and relaxation techniques. When selecting athletes, the coach should consider psychological tests that sort the candidates according to the needs of high-performance athletics.
    The ability of athletes to cope with stress depends, to a high degree, on the coach. The coach has to plan the program to allow phases of regeneration and relaxation and introduce athletes to mental training and its specific techniques.
    I strongly believe that athletes' psychological behavior depends on their physiological wellbeing. In other words, athletes' mental state is a by­ product of their physiological condition. This is why I believe that, "Perfect fitness results in the best psychology!" A well-planned periodized program will ensure superior psychological readiness, stress management, and mental training.
    While creating a periodized training program, the coach should produce a psychological periodization (please also refer to Integrated Periodization later in this chapter). Canadian psychologists were among the first to realize the necessity of psychological periodization. Following are the mental training phases as suggested by Bacon (1989).

FROM: PERIODIZATION: Theory and Methodology of Training -by Tudor O. Bompa, PhD


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