Jan 29, 2015R.I.P. Periodization?
By Vern Gambetta
Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog at www.functionalpathtraining.blogspot.com
Is Periodization Dead?
This was one of the questions asked at a presentation I did for athletics and swim coaches at the University of Queensland during my recent trip to Australia. It is an important question, and one that certainly should not be taken lightly. That said, periodization as it has been commonly taught by Bompa et al. is dead! To me, that neat, defined world of general preparation, special preparation, competition, and transition does not exist anymore.
Today’s reality is an extended competitive season without long, well-defined periods of general preparation. It is important to recognize that planning is still the cornerstone of all training, but we must not be bound by antiquated concepts derived from former eastern bloc nations that had strict control of their competitive schedule and total control of their athletes’ lives.
Traditional periodization fails to adequately address the planning and preparation for team athletics. Thorough and complete planning is a must–however, we can’t simply become sheep, walking and blindly following methodology that is outdated. There is a new reality that we must prepare for.
Someone recently wrote me saying, “I realize that it’s impossible to periodize to the extent the eastern Europeans did, but Bompa defined periodization as ‘a process of structuring training into phases.’ Isn’t that still the basic idea?!”
No, not really. I am not convinced it ever was the idea. Just dividing training into phases is easy, but it is not periodization–just one aspect of the concept. That is where everyone is missing the point. It’s not about time, it’s about timing. It’s what you do and when you do it.
I prefer to call this ‘planned performance training.’ I do this because I think changing terms gets us away from this fixation on time and refocuses the emphasis on timing of the application, how it relates to various training stresses, the subsequent interaction of those stresses, and the athlete’s adaptation to them.
I think Kenneth Graham, Sport Scientist at New South Wales Academy of Sport, put it quite well when he told me: “It is important to always be close to the event in some form, neural, metabolic, mechanical, or hormonal.” At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I refer you to chapters five and six of my book Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning, available at www.gambetta.com.
The book details many ideas and thoughts that reflect my experiences in dealing with these issues during my years of coaching and while training as an athlete. Basically, it says that when you boil it all down and get to its essence, planned performance training isn’t really all that complex. If you know the athlete, know the sport, and know the competitive schedule, you have the ingredients of a sound roadmap. However, it’s important that you have sound logic as your compass, because I’ve found that in any journey, there are always times when you end up off course.