When we talk about periodization in soccer, we are talking about the systematic planning of athletic or physical training targeted at the player achieving the best possible performance in the most important competitions of the year. Various aspects of a training program are cycled through, increasingly, during a particular period.
Periodization training is a concept that evolved from general adaptation syndrome developed by Dr. Hans Selye. It is targeted at different stressors, one of which is exhaustion, and thereby manages stress and fatigue which affects the lowering incidence of burnout.
For a soccer team to be successful, there are many games/competitions within a season they need to win. There’s always a plan to top the table at the start of the competitive season and to sustain the fitness level throughout the season in periodization.
How Can Periodization Help A Soccer Player?
The goal of periodization in a high-performance sport like soccer is to adequately arrange the contents of training to optimize competitive performance. Periodization is put in place to help a soccer player avoid situations of overtraining and achieve progress in performance.
Some of the benefits of periodization to a soccer player are explained below
Prevents the Incidence of Plateauing
Plateauing is a situation when, with a normal workout routine, notable results are greatly reduced. In other words, without changing your regular workout exercises, there’s a noticeable difficulty in shedding and gaining weight.
An excellent way to switch up training and prevent the incidence of plateauing for the player is periodization.
Decreases the Chance of Injury
Periodization training typically involves three phases:
- Macrocycles: these planning cycles refer to the training season as a whole. They are long-term stretching out to a span of a year before a competition or can span over a longer period like 4 years.
- Mesocycles: These are planning cycles within the macrocycle spanning from 4-6 weeks. 3 weeks of progressive intensity training and a week of lower intensity training afterward.
- Microcycles: These last a short time and are within the mesocycle spanning for about a week. On the different training days of a week, they vary in intensity.
To a weightlifter, load means the amount of weight, and volume means the number of repetitions (reps). To a runner, load means speed and volume means distance. To a soccer player, the training load is split into an internal and external load.
Physiological variables such as maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max), heart rate (HR), percentage (%) of maximum heart rate (%max HR), and blood lactate are parameters by which internal load can be measured.
Variables such as time, distance, and weight make up the external load. This is the approach most coaches worldwide use since it’s more practical. It can be accurately measured by global positioning systems (GPS).
Three common periodization models exist
- Linear periodization: The load and volume are changed here in the course of many mesocycles. This occurs every 1-4 months.
There are progressive weeks of increasing intensity after which a recovery week follows where the light load is in place and intensity is lowered in each intermediate cycle. Linear periodization is a traditional model used in soccer but it has the danger of creating monotony.
- Nonlinear or undulating periodization: While the volume decreases, load increases – they are changed either daily or weekly.
In an article released in 2018, the effect of linear and undulating training periodization model on the repeated sprint ability (RSA) and strength of soccer players was analyzed. Twenty soccer players of the under-20 category were shared into two equal groups of ten players.
One group was the linear load (LL) while the other was the undulating load (UL). The training stimulus in the strength training varied between LL, where weeks 1 and 2 equaled muscular endurance, weeks 3 and 4 equaled strength while weeks 5 and 6 equaled power, and UL, where there is daily load variation in the same week.
At the end of six weeks, both groups were shown to have improved maximal muscle strength in parallel back squat and RSA. UL induces a greater pain in RSA. Soccer players with stronger lower bodies perform better during sprints, change of direction, and vertical jump.
- Reverse periodization: it is related to nonlinear periodization except for the fact that load is decreased while volume increases. This model is suited for building endurance in players.
In linear periodization progression, gradually reducing the load towards the end of the mesocycle can play an important role in lowering the occurrence of an injury between the training phase and the competition. It brings About changes in maximal strength, lower extremity power, body composition, and muscle volume.
In 1999, to investigate some physical capacities of soccer players, the players were made to undertake 12 weeks of traditional periodized resistance training. 18 amateur soccer players that had limited experience in resistance training were the volunteers-they were divided into two groups of 10 and 8. The group of 10 would represent the experimental group, while the group of 8 players would be used as the control group.
Linear periodized resistance training was carried out on the experimental group alone. Two mesocycles were applied in this investigation.
They were the general or anatomical adaptation phase and the maximal strength phase. 1 Repetition Maximum (1RM) strength in the lower and upper body, Vertical Jump (VJ) height, Body Composition, and Muscle Volume measurements were taken at three varying points in time; baseline, after general phase and, after maximal strength phase.
The investigation showed muscle strength and explosive performance in players with limited experience in resistance training can be elevated on their completion of the general phase of resistance training periodization using moderate loads.
Fights Against Burnout During Training
Training responses to improve performance is what periodization capitalized on. However, periodization takes into account the physical training aspect but not always the psychological well-being of a player.
A periodization training model system for a competitive collegiate season was chosen in 2018 and intended to span over a year.
Some of the factors considered in drawing up this model included a short preseason, condensed match schedule, class time and examination schedules which are academic challenges that affect players’ sleep and get in the way of complete recovery leading to the players feeling exhausted before and during the season.
In managing training load, a method known as session-rating perceived exertion (sRPE) requires players to rate by themselves the intensity of a session on a 1-10 scale after 30 minutes of every training session; 10 is the most intense number.
Whatever exertion value of the player’s state is multiplied by the training duration in minutes for each exercise session to calculate a daily training load.
When 16 days are all that is left for preseason training, a notable increase in training load is what periodization plans call functional overreaching.
Its specialized training is targeted at pushing players to the max of their physical and psychological limits and beyond to hasten adaptation and achieve higher performance.
This type of training usually involves a 4-6 week training plan with a 7-10 days recovery period following.
Unwanted injuries and subsequent loss of training time are the results seen when there are rapid and sudden big changes in intensity and volume of training. Hence, pushing players too hard doesn’t always amount to a rapid increase in fitness levels.
Helps to Avoid Overtraining
In periodization, the amount and intensity of training are monitored closely by a coach to avoid overtraining. He is expected to properly periodize and plan the training and games for the season.
He is to make adjustments after taking note of training and game activity, ensuring that the plan is being followed.
In avoiding overtraining, monitoring training load is crucial for the following benefits:
- Physical tests that are used to validate how effective a training program is improved
- Periodization strategies are better designed
- Players who are poor responders to training are picked out this way.
- Compliance of the training completed to that planned by the coach is controlled
- Before evaluating the outcome of the training process, it’s adjusted to achieve maximal performance.
How to Make the Best Schedule?
Sports coaches should think in longer cycles for better planning and periodization. Larger training in a short period does not result in greater fitness but incurs more injuries.
The first mesocycle preseason through the first four games combines what appears to be 2 separate parts of the season in collegiate soccer.
Instead of the coaches planning for the 10-day overreaching cycle, they blend the developmental and competitive training components into one mesocycle to help accelerate and optimize season-long player development while at the same time reducing injury.
Other ways to keep players engaged and on the edge while lowering daily loads include strength training, spin cycling, pool workouts, Pilates, and Yoga.
Using daily recovery activities such as soccer tennis, horseshoes, and soccer golf still encourages competitive spirit within soccer and at the same time avoids excessive loads.
This contributes to fatigue reduction and players’ readiness restoration for subsequent training sessions.
The preseason of professional teams is about 5-6 weeks long and usually takes up to 5-7 days to unload accumulated fatigue and recover from minor injuries.
To make room for additional stressors that may occur at the first few games of the season, weekly training sessions retain their high quality and intensity but lower the duration, particularly for athletes that play 60+ minutes.
For the second mesocycle, there is a need to recognize the academic demands of the college players and stay away from monotony. Hence, instead of achieving greater fitness goals, maintenance of high-level injury-free fitness or performance stabilization is the new goal.
In a case where stressors and recovery are balanced efficiently, during the 2nd mesocycle and players are not too weary, the team can proceed toward a championship. Even then, an overtime game or practiced game is taxing at this time. Hence, this third mesocycle is all about fatigue management.
The most effective way to maintain or improve performance is by upholding high training intensity while reducing the frequency.
The benefits of periodization are enormous. It better prepares soccer players for the competitive games and helps them remain at their peak all through a season. Soccer players can maximize training gains for peak performance, reduce events and incidence of injuries and kill monotony.
However, there are some challenges and limitations to it. Periodization is best applied during training before the start of a season. A maintenance program focusing on sport-specific skills during a season might be more beneficial for players.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!