Follow us on


07976 306 494

Tag Archive: periodisation

  1. Applying the Bondarchuk Method of Training: Martin Bingisser

    Leave a Comment

    Systematic Planning for Your Athletes

    System of training

    Martin presenting

    Developing a plan for your athletes can be problematic, time consuming and potentially useless. Martin Bingisser gave some very useful tips in his GAIN presentation which will help coaches looking to develop a system.

    Martin is an advocate of the Bondarchuk system of training which uses a limited sequence of exercises over a period of a few weeks before switching to another sequence and repeating. His thoughts on planning around this system were enlightening, even though I don’t use the Bondarchuk system.

    bondarchuk method

    System underpins the plan

    Martin said that the much touted Soviet Training methods focussed on the plan, the processes and then the system. He said this was back to front.

    The system you use should be the foundation of what you do, then the processes that help you implement the system, and then the plan of what you do.

    This is similar to Simon Sinek’s “Start with why” and used by Jim Radcliffe of University of Oregon.

    4 steps of the Planning Process

    Martin takes a 4-step approach to planning.

    1. Define
    2. Plan
    3. Experiment
    4. Change

    1 Define: Know your sport, your position and your athlete before you start.

    You need some general guidelines before you start planning. For example the more specific the exercises, the greater their transfer to the sport will be. The more experienced the athlete is, the fewer useful tools you will be able to use.

    You need to define which tools will be suitable for which athlete and position. You need to define exercise selection. He favours a lot more General Physical Education exercises rather than Specific Development Exercises.

    (I took the time to do this a few years ago when I created my coaching toolbox on Excel. I was finding I was only using exercises that were most recent in my memory, rather than using what had worked 10 years previously. Taking time out to do this saves a lot of time in the future).

    2 Plan: Putting the pieces together.

    bondarchuk training sytstem

    Cyclist Tom Baylis hanging in gym

    All training causes physiological adaptations.” So everything works at the beginning or to some extent. Knowing what works for your athletes at what stage of their career is important.

    Plan for transfer, but also plan for balance.

    (I use this with the cyclists I coach: they spend so much time in a flexed and compressed position, that I put extension and inversion into every training session. This has no impact on their cycling performance, but it does allow their body to become balanced which then allows them to spend more time on their bike.)

    3 Experiment: Go out and train.

    All training is an experiment, so try it and learn from the feedback. (It has to be said that Martin is currently an active competitor in the Hammer, but I agree that every coach can try things out to some extent).

    Experiment also applies to adapting and improving your coaching cues. “Make your feedback useful and frictionless”.

    elite athlete training devon

    Consistent trainimg gets consistent results

    Martin has also learnt by experimentation what matters in training and what measures are useful. By limiting the variables in training (fewer exercises, more consistent stimulus and don’t overreach) it is easier to get consistency in training.

    The nature of the Bondarchuk method is that the athlete is peaking 6 times a year and with more peaks you get more feedback. This means that you can learn lessons every 2 months and change, rather than wait for 6 months and realise you are on the right track.

    (I haven’t used the Bondarchuk method, but there is a lot to be said about focussing on one thing at a time and improving that, measuring it and adapting. Compared to “Workout of the Day” madness where you are constantly changing focus).

    4 Change: It’s the driver of adaptation.

    Change when you’re on top, rather than at the bottom” said Martin. This means continuous reflection and adaptation.

    You can make short term changes with a long term change in mind. For example, if the long term goal is to improve throwing ability, then changing the leg strength exercises from back squat to front squat after 2 months may force a further adaptation.

    If it is the same programme every year, how can you cause an adaptation?”

    Martin listed details of the exercises within his programme, as well as showing video clips of how they transferred to his sport of Hammer throwing.

    Whether you use the Bondarchuk method or not, the thinking behind his seminar was sound and can be applied elsewhere.

    Further Reading

  2. Periodization: beginners guide

    Leave a Comment

    What is Periodisation?


    Young people play more than 1 sport

    Most people start off with Tudor Bompa’s Periodization or, in this country, Frank Dick’s sports training principles when learning about periodisation. They cover the basis premise about modulating volume and intensity over a period of time to allow overload and adaptation to take place.

    The problem is that these theories have been taken from predominantly single energy system sports such as shot putt or marathon running, in events that have one or two relatively short seasons a year.

    Trying to reverse engineer these concepts into multiple sprint field sports that have very long seasons with very short off seasons doesn’t really work.

    There has been a paucity of research that compares different periodisation strategies with each other compared with a control group who do standard training.

    As a result, coaches either stick to linear periodisation, or 1 or 2 variations within this theme (myself included). There is a need for decent research that analyses what aspects of periodisation would be most useful at different stages of an athlete’s career and also for different parts of the season.

    At present it appears that any periodisation- linear, daily undulating, weekly undulating, accumulation and intensification- works on beginners in strength training. It may be true to say that experienced athletes may benefit more from periodisation of modality and intensity with less manipulation of volume.

    A few years ago I put together a 4 year plan for young athletes looking at overall themes of training, rather than detailed session plan. As Gary Winckler points out, there i sno point in planning in detail more than 2 weeks ahead, because things change too much.

    As Von Clausewitz said “No plan survives contact with the enemy“.

    Periodisation is great as an overarching principle, but is must be flexible and adaptable.

    Further reading:

    (I know it is the US spelling, but Periodisation doesn’t get typed into search engines much!!)

  3. Training Design Do’s and Don’ts: Gary Winckler


    Train to the athlete’s strengths

    Gary WincklerGary Winckler has 38 years of coaching experience behind him. He has taken track athletes to every Olympic Games since the 1984 Olympics.

    (Pictured to my right, with P.E. specialist Greg Thompson)

    More impressively, each of those athletes has had a Personal Best or Season Best at the Games.

    He knows how to prepare for the big event.

    I first met Gary 2 years ago when he presented on speed training concepts.

    This presentation at GAIN in June 2014 covered the concepts that work for him and also how he has evolved his coaching.

    Training Do’s

    The most important factor is the performance requirement of the athlete. This is different from the performance goal. Once you know that, then it is essential that you look at ways of positively influencing that requirement.

    Talk with the athlete about goals/ factor of the process, rather than how fast do you need to run. This means as a coach that you need to clearly understand the performance requirements.

    Write them down! Then look at when your top performance needs to be achieved.

    Evaluate the strengths/weaknesses of the athlete in light of these performance requirements. Can positive changes in the key performance factors be realistically achieved in the short or long term?

    What will be required? Train to the athlete’s strengths as this will provide better and more consistent results.

    So far, so good.

    Devil is in the detail

    Training designDo you understand the skills needed to bring about changes in performance? Can you design exercises that positively impact these skills? What exercises exist that I can use?

    What exercises can I develop to most efficiently translate skills into performance?

    (Picture is of me practicing hip heists whilst walking up track steps with Gary in background).

    This is what distinguishes Gary: he works from the top down. (Compare that to the current UK paradigm of learning 2 exercises and then reverse engineering how they improve performance.)

    Once you have got this set of exercises look to perform them better today than you did yesterday.

    Eliminate conflicting training stimuli: it may result in confused adaptations. For example if you have a speed development theme, then every exercise should lead into that or help develop that.

    Understand the long/ short term adaptation to prescribed exercises with respect to Overload, Reversibility and Recovery. Does my exercise presrcription adhere to these principles?

    You can destroy a session by pushing that 1 rep too many


    • athlete training planConstant tweaking of the session and exercises is necessary. “Does the athlete make the bridge between exercise and performance”? If they fail to improve performance, then why are those exercises in place?
    • Evaluation is a constant: keep good records and take notes.
    • Design training cycles that appropriately balance general and specific exercises. Too much specificity can halt adaptation. Too much general work can detract from performance.

    Training Don’ts

    Invest too much time in creating annual periodisation plans as they never end up working in reality. Instead look at the overall theme and then plan the microcyle in detail.

    Design the training programme without understanding the current goals.

    Get caught up in linear models for training volumes and intensities. A consistent application of volume is necessary for building and stabilising performance. An excessive amount of time dedicated to building volume leads to a decrease in performance.

    (I find that with UK athletes, volume appears to be the prime directive. They are often given advice like “you must run 4 times a week” or “swim 8 hours a week” with little thought given to what happens within those sessions.)

    Manipulating Intensity, Density and Volume

    Jaz sawyers trainingGary gave some insights into how he does plan his training. He said that volume in speed/ power programmes has little variation.

    Instead “the volume is dictated by the quality of execution demanded by a performance objective”.

    Intensity is the degree of difficulty of the session and is expressed as a % of 100. Quality, however, is a % of perfect. Are you aiming for intensity of quality?

    Density is the training frequency of a particular stimulus. This directly affects the training load. In order to enhance technical development, a number of smaller doses that are prescribed more frequently is better.

    Complexity is the co -ordinative demand (related to intensity) of an exercise or sequence of exercises.

    By manipulating these variables correctly, Gary stated that planned restoration is built into the training plan, rather than having to be put in as an extra. He and Vern Gambetta both expressed an opinion that Overtraining did not occur in Speed/ Power athletes (I have to disagree on this having had personal experience of the effects of huge volumes of intense training under stress).

    Gary finished by talking about individualisation of training. This can take many forms by varying: sets, distances run, reps, weights, altering heights of boxes or exercise choices.

    Low intensity training is safe for groups. High intensity training must be individual.


    It was a privilege to listen to Gary and get the chance to ask him questions. This quietly spoken coach has bags of experience, knowledge and wisdom. He was happy to share this over the course of the conference in his sessions and in the down periods. Really invaluable insights.

    I have taken his advice from 2 years ago and applied it in the speed training I do with our athletes. I have used this planning advice already in preparing athletes for upcoming Championships. I just hope that they benefit as much as Gary’s athletes have.

    Further Reading;

    Planning your training programme in season

  4. Planning your Training: Block Periodisation for Young Athletes


    What is Periodisation?

    block periodisationPeriodisation is the term given to the practice of breaking down an athlete’s  conditioning plan into specific phases of training. Block periodisation is one version of this.

    By varying the emphasis of the training at regular time intervals, periodisation attempts to produce optimal gains in strength, power and endurance.  

    Periodisation aims to optimize both short term (e.g. weeks, months) and long term (e.g. years, over a career) goals. Competitive athletes will aim to peak their physical performance for major competitions on a weekly basis (e.g. Football, Rugby) or for a major competition (e.g. Athletics, Tennis).

    Although young athletes are often competing in matches and tournaments, the goal should always be long term progression and periodisation should be devised to develop quality as well as quantity of physical performance.

    The training variables that can be manipulated in an attempt to optimize the training program include:

    • Volume of work done (e.g. sets and reps, number of sessions)
    • Load (e.g. heavy or light resistance)
    • Rest periods between exercises
    • Types of exercises used (e.g. platform based exercises, multi-directional movements, technique based exercises).

    Does periodisation work?

    Despite the popularity of periodised training, there is little research examining its efficacy. A handful of studies have examined the effectiveness of a periodised resistance training programme on increasing strength and power.

    Studies lasting between 6 and 24 weeks have repeatedly shown that athletes using programmes progressing from high volume and low intensity to low volume and high intensity increased strength (load lifted) and power (vertical jump/cycling force production) compared to constant training
    intensity (1,2,3,4,5,6).

    Interestingly, many of these studies showed that both groups increased strength in equal amounts up until the periodisation group began a phase of lower volume.

    At this point the periodisation group began to see increases in strength significantly greater than the control group.

    This supports the Delayed Transformation concept which suggests that a period of low volume is needed for optimum adaptation to take place.

    One major limitation of these studies is the relatively short period over which they were conducted. Future research could investigate the longitudinal effects of periodisation to determine its efficacy for long term progression.

    Does Periodisation Work for Young Athletes?

    Tamas Feher weightlfting programmePeriodisation for young athletes is difficult in practice. Many factors affect the ability of teenagers to attend training, not least school commitments and the increasing importance of academic achievement in society. Youngsters also rely heavily on parents for transport and funding coaching and equipment which could be barriers to regular participation.

    Even on occasion when athletes are able to attend training, long school days (probably with inadequate nutrition and sleep) place a large amount strain on the body. This is not the best preparation for a training session possibly including heavy lifts or new complex techniques.

    For this reason, flexibility within a training plan is vital, as is the ability of the coach to judge when to apply each exercise or training method.

    Another consideration when coaching young athletes is the difference in growth and development rates (7). Individual’s rates of growth and maturation are largely unpredictable, thus making it hard to periodise a programme to peak at a specific time. This is also an important consideration when training groups of young athletes, as individuals will mature at different rates, making a progressive training programme difficult to plan.

    In addition to this, periodising different phases of training may not even be necessary for a developing sportsperson. Young athletes have a high degree of neural plasticity and can therefore adapt to almost any training stimulus(8).

    Even concurrently training competing physical qualities (such as maximal strength and anaerobic endurance) will result in a positive adaptation of both qualities to some extent.


    Although Periodisation appears to be a valuable tool for maximising training of competitive athletes, rigidly sticking to a periodised plan is unrealistic for most developing athletes.

    Numerous factors affect the ability of youngsters to train, affecting any opportunity to plan regular training. Physical and emotional stress of training and competing in different sports as well as juggling school work would mean adherence to a strict periodised plan could lead to overtraining and burnout.

    Young athletes are also more able to adapt to multiple training stimuli, reducing the need for separate phases of training. Over time, however, as the athlete becomes better developed, training programmes should become more planned and focused.

    To get an Annual training plan and weekly sessions join our Sports Training System.

    Matt Durber 


    1) McGee, D., T.C. Jessee, M.H. Stone, & D. Blessing. (1992) Leg and hip endurance adaptations to three weight-training programs. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6:92–95.

    2) O’Bryant, H.S., R. Byrd, & M.H. Stone. (1988) Cycle ergometer performance and maximum leg and hip strength adaptations to two different methods of weight-training. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 2:27–30.

    3) Stone, M.H., H. O’Bryant, & J. Garhammer. (1981) A hypothetical model for strength training. J. Sports Med. 21:342–351.

    4) Stowers, T., J.McMillan, D. Scala, V. Davis, D. Wilson, & M. Stone. (1983) The short-term effects of three different strength–power training methods. Natl. Strength Cond. Assoc. J. 5:24–27.

    5) Willoughby, D.S. (1992) A comparison of three selected weight training programs on the upper and lower body strength of trained males. Ann. J. Appl. Res. Coaching Athletics March:124–146.

    6)  Willoughby, D.S. (1993) The effects of meso-cycle-length weight training programs involving periodization and partially equated volumes on upper and lower body strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 7:2–8.

    7)Arsmtrong, N. & Welsman, J. () Training Young Athletes, In: Lee, M.J. eds. Coaching Children in Sport: Principles. pp191-203.

    8) Brooks, T. (2011) Periodization for the young athlete. http://iyca.org/periodization-for-young-athletes. International Youth Conditioning Association.

  5. Vladimir Issurin: Block Periodisation, UKSCA lecture.


    Vladimir Issurin

    Vladimir Issurin is a Coach with the Israeli Olympic Committee and Masters swimmer. His lecture compared traditional periodisation with block periodisation.

    He started by comparing training and competition days between 1980-1990 and from 1991-2000 across a variety of sports.

    The first decade (pre fall of Berlin wall) was characterised by more training in volume and less competition days compared to the more recent decade. So, with less preparation time, the traditional periodisation model from Mateyev with 2-3 peaks a year would not work.

    Issurin said the limitations of the traditional model were the low stimulation produced by mixed training (high stimulation is needed to produce high levels of fitness) and excessive fatigue accumulation. This led to the inability to take part in many competitions.

    Block periodisation is the sequence of highly concentrated specialised workouts. The mesocycles are blocks where there is a focus on a minimal number of targets and the total number of blocks is relatively small.

    Anatoly Bondarchuk used:

    • a developmental mesocycle of 4 weeks
    • a competitive mesocycle of 4 weeks
    • a restoration mesocycle of 2 weeks

    The total duration of this training stage was 9-10 weeks.

    What it looks like in Practice

    Accumulation: basic motor/ technical abilities, aerobic endurance (necessary to combat stress hormones post competition).

    Transmutation: specific motor/ technical abilities, anaerobic endurance, specific endurance, technical well controlled work. Here the athlete will be fatigued, so the mesocycle must be short- 3 weeks is optimal.

    Realisation: Tapering, full restoration. speed. This part should not be longer than 2 weeks.

    This would then be repeated throughout the year depending on the competition schedule.


    Issurin was quite adamant that mixed training doesn’t work, it leads to an imbalance in homoeostasis and the body can’t cope with the stress hormones.

    From personal experience I would concur with those conclusions- the exceptions being with junior athletes who are using low levels of intensity and are just getting fit through accumulation of total work.

    There are some interesting points in this lecture, but I thought the delivery was over long and there was some repetition. It wasn’t really ground breaking as this information has been available for some time.

    Further reading:

  6. Sports Nutrition- Grow your own veg

    Leave a Comment

    bbcdiginAs Andrew Hamilton remarked a couple of weeks ago on the blog festival with regards to sports nutrition: Walk before you run. It constantly amazes me how clueless young athletes are about simpel eating facts. One of the reasons is that society has beome distant from food in its natural state. Do youngsters go scrumping anymore? (that would combine the tree climbing for pulling strength and healthy eating!).

    One of the best ways to get people inetrested and knowledgeable about the food they eat is to grow your own veg.

    The BBC are running an excellent campaign here called Dig In. They are giving away free seed packets and tips on growing your own veg.

    You don’t require a farm, and allotment or even a garden to do this. The idea is to get everyone growing some sort of food.  I use old cider barrels cut in half and also tyres (free) filled with earth and compost and plant things there.

    The food will then be free- useful for all of us on budgets-, fresh and seasonal. The only thing required is a bit of patience.

    Why not get started now?