Although sports differ widely in terms of their physical, technical and tactical demands, the process by which training plans are constructed is underpinned by a set of common principles.
Collectively, this process is referred to as ‘periodisation’, the means by which training is systematically planned through division into smaller, more manageable segments. The purpose of this structured approach is to allow an athlete’s performance to peak during key periods within the season.
The basis for most sports is an annual plan, although many Olympic sports will work according to a quadrennial cycle. A well-structured, periodised plan will benefit the coach and the athlete via gains in efficiency (the volume of work needed to achieve predetermined goals) and effectiveness (more objectives being attained).
In a simple periodised annual plan, the training year is broken down into three distinct phases; preparatory, competitive, and transition. Each phase has a clear generic purpose, and the duration of each will vary by sport.
- Preparatory Phase: The foundation on which all future activity will be built by increasing base strength and endurance, ‘programming’ sport-specific movements, and enhancing gross and fine motor qualities.
- Competitive Phase: Focused on optimising the condition of athletes for upcoming performances. The objectives of this phase include the optimisation of physical and psychological status, attention to physical weaknesses, and maintenance of general physical condition.
- Transition Phase: An opportunity for the physical and psychological regeneration of the athlete. This phase is generally undertaken in an athlete’s ‘home’ environment, with individuals maintaining a certain level of activity to avoid a significant detraining effect.