Periodization for GS, Part I (Introduction)

In this post I will go over terminology and give a quick overview of periodization. Essentially, periodization is long term planning. This plan should be done in a way that helps you reach new levels of performance. Kettlebell sport or GS takes place in a closed environment so there are less variables, than say a team sport. This makes it a great candidate for periodization. I have slightly modified a few things to make it fit better for GS, as it is a form of resistance training that involves both strength and endurance qualities.

Terminology

People often get caught up with different terms. However, the main thing is that you are using them correctly and able to communicate. Basically there are four different lengths of planning: the workout, short cycle or microcycle, medium cycle or mesocycle and long cycle or macrocycle.

Workout/session

This is the breakdown of your exercises, sets & reps/duration, rest periods

Microcycle

A microcycle is made up to the session/workouts. Most people plan their workouts over a seven day microcycle, whether they know it or not. If someone has to work I generally use seven day microcycles or a weekly cycle as it fits easily with their timetable.

Mesocycle

Mesocycles are made up of microcycles. Three to four microcycles often work well for a medium length cycle or mesocycle. These are often structured in a step loading matter, e.g. week 1 medium, week 2 high, week 3 very high, week 4 deload.  This would be referred to as a 3:1 cycle, I sometimes call these monthly cycles or phases. However, you can have longer or short mesocycles. If you are using a block periodization approach (see below) one or more mesocycles may make up each ‘block’ or phase of training.

Macrocycle

As you can guess, a macrocycle is made up of a number of mesocycles. Normally this is the length of your general preparation and specific preparation for one competition period. This may consist of three to six mesocycles ending with a break after one or more competitions.

 

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(Functional) overreaching

Is planned short term overtraining. This may be useful for advanced athletes looking to break through plateaus. If this work intensity is sustained over a long period of time, it would be considered non-functional overreaching or overtraining.

 

Tapering

This phase of training is a short or medium length of training with a reduction in volume, reducing fatigue and allowing for peak performance on competition day. During a taper, it is generally considered better to maintain intensity and frequency. I will go into this in more detail in another post.

 

Different approaches to periodization

There are a number of different approaches to periodization. One such approach is known as traditional periodization, sometimes called linear. There are also block, and various non-linear styles of periodization. They can all be used successfully and each have pros and cons. The number and timing of competition is always a consideration. The fitness qualities trained in each cycle (vertical stacking of qualities) and order or sequence of these cycles (horizontal) is also of the upmost importance.

 

Traditional

Focussing on a number of qualities and progressive moves from low intensity to high intensity.

An example of this might be – all sessions in phase one involve low intensity and large volume, phase two – moderate intensity and volume, and finally  – high intensity, low volume. This approach may work best for beginners (may need to reduce set duration), people returning to the sport from injury, or if you are trying to build a really solid base.

Two 7 day microcycle for snatch (example – low intensity/high volume)

Day 1 – Snatch 16 min/12 kg, Day 3 Snatch 16 min/12 kg (increase total reps), Day 5 Snatch 20 min/12 kg,
Day 8 Snatch 16 min/14 kg, Day 10 Snatch 16 min/14 kg (increase total reps), Day 12 Snatch 20 min/14 kg.

 

Check out a pic of Matveyev’s model of periodization

 

Block (horizontal stack) classic (phase potentiation)

This type of training would focus on one quality or in the case of GS one weight of kettlebells. This may be particularly important for high level athletes looking to break plateaus in a particular area. At higher levels you may not get enough stimulus to cause an adaptation if you train multiple areas. One of the major issues with this approach is that you can detrain one area, whilst you are focusing on another. Common strength power sequencing (or horizontal stacking) for resistance training is hypertrophy (muscle gain) phase, maximal strength phase and power and/or endurance phase. This may not be the best approach for planning GS resistance training as the sport itself is a form of resistance training. For GS you could do a phase focusing on 16 kg bells and GPP, then 24 kg, followed by 32 kg. A block outline for GS could be general endurance, special endurance, and special strength endurance. The idea behind both sequences is that each phase better prepares you for the next phase, this is known as phase potentiation. This approach may suite athletes with a large base and good strength levels.

7 Day Jerk microcycle (example 24 kg focus)

Day 1 – 120s:60s intervals 24 kg x 5 + 16 kg 4 mins, Day 2 – 5 min competition pace + 2, + 16 kg 4 mins, Day 3 – 8 min competition pace + 2 min 20kg.

 

Concurrent (vertical stack)

In GS the most common combination of training different fitness qualities is strength and endurance training, often referred to as concurrent training. Both of these qualities are important for GS, however they have an interference effect. This is not really an issue for GS because you must train both qualities regardless. This may be particularly useful for people looking to increase their strength and build up to a new kettlebell weight. The main thing you need to consider with this approach is how much cross training is needed in addition to your GS training, and if it can be done with GS training alone. If you could accomplish something with GS training alone it is always better.

 

Non-linear/Undulating

Non-linear or undulating models allow you to train in a number of different zones, which in turn allows you to build and maintain numerous qualities simultaneously. It is different from a block model with allows you to focus all your energy on one area and may help some people break a plateau. A common way to plan undulating models for resistance training is to break down sessions into: strength endurance (12-15 reps), strength (1-5 reps) and power (1-6 reps) or hypertrophy (6-12 reps). These different zones can be skewed to allow you to have a focus for each mesocycle of undulating periodization. So within an undulating model you can adopt a sequenced approach for your mesocycle. For a GS microcycle an easy way to work this system is light (use bells lighter than comp weight), medium (use bells around comp weight), and heavy (use bells heavier than comp weight).

7 day microcycle (long cycle)

Day 1 (Light day) – 16 kg 12 minutes, Day 3 (medium day) 4 minutes 24 kg + 5 minutes 20 kg, Day 5 (heavy day) 60s:60s 32 kg x 10.

This is may be good approach to use for long competition periods, as you can maintain different qualities.

 

Auto-regulation

This type of training works hand in hand with non-linear periodization. Basically, if you’re tired you can manage your fatigue by having a lighter session, whereas if you’re fresh, have a harder session. This may not be the easiest approach to implement and in a general preparation phase may not be the best approach.

 

Polarized training

This approach is used by elite endurance athletes and would work best as an endurance block mesocycle. The idea is that you train at very high intensities and low or moderate intensities. The bulk of your training should be low intensity, longer duration sessions, and a small amount of your training should be very high intensity, shorter duration, with minimal sessions in between these intensities – hence the word ‘polarized’. Each or these approaches works on a different molecular singling for mitochondrial biogenesis, and intensities in between this don’t simular these pathways to the same extent, thus should be avoided.

 

Each of these periodization methods is valid and should be used or even mixed and matched for individuals best training outcomes.

Author

My name is James Ross, I’m a qualified personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach and amateur sports scientist. I am a founder and coach at Cohesion Strength and Conditioning in Melbourne and started the website www.gsscience.com.

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