Periodisation is often said to have been initially implemented in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia. Periodisation is however, not a Russian discovery. If one looks back to as far as the ancient Olympic Games several manuals were written on the planning and training of the Greek Olympians.

Periodisation involves developing a training plan which meets a client/athlete’s goals and details the form of training, length of time, future changes and specific exercises. A structured, well planned training programme, is far more effective than aimless training.

In training it can be said one doesn’t plan work, one plans for physiological reactions to the training plan. The long term aspect of the training plan is known as the annual plan, whereas short term aspects are termed monthly and weekly plans. An annual plan usually organises a training programme over a one year period.

In summary, a training plan must be objectively based on the client/athlete’s performance, whether it be in tests or in a competition. The training plan should reflect progress in all training components of fitness and should also consider the competition schedule or calendar for the year. A training plan should also be fairly simple and flexible so that the trainer can modify it depending on the rate of progression of the client/athlete.

There is various terminology used when dealing with periodisation. The Russians call an annual plan a macro cycle and a training phase lasting between four and eight weeks is referred to as a meso cycle. Each meso cycle can further be broken down into micro cycles which typically last one week. Periodisation can be described as the division of the training year into manageable phases with the main objective being to improve performance or to enable the athlete to peak at certain times during the year. This means that the athlete will aim to peak during a certain number of competitive phases in the year.

Some sports may only have one competitive phase whilst others may have more. Sports which have one phase are said to be mono cyclic and are traditionally divided into preparatory, competitive and transition phases. Other sports however may have more than one competition phase and are said to be bi-cyclic. In this case the planning process becomes a little more complicated and decisions need to be made around which are the most important competitions. Bompa, a well-known sport scientist has suggested that mono cycles should be used for novices and junior athletes. Bi-cycles for experienced athletes and tri-cycles should only be recommended for athletes who are advanced and have extensive training backgrounds.

The challenge for the trainer is that in many sports there are a number of many different competitions throughout the year. When one takes into account factors such as travel, performance expectations, and social and psychological factors, lack of planning can place a huge amount of stress on the athlete. If not carefully monitored this can result in under performance and possibly burn out.