Traditional vs. Block Periodization – how to be the best version of yourself on every competition?

Participation in high-level competitions requires a lot of sacrifice and effort, putting the body under significant physical and mental demands. Depending on the nature of the sport, the abilities, and energy systems that need to be developed, all athletes and coaches must create and occasionally modify their preparation or training plan. Adequate planning is necessary if we want to be able to prepare just in time for a tournament.

The process of systematic planning of athletic or physical performance regarding reaching the best possible performance is defined as periodization. Finding the right approach will allow the athlete to perform at its best.

In the past few years, the number of karate tournaments increased drastically. Becoming part of the Olympic family, resulted in increased number of tournaments, where karate athletes get points necessary to qualify for the Olympic games in 2020. This means that athletes strive toward “peak” performance on every competition. Since the karate is not a seasonal sport and tournaments are spread-out throughout the year, coaches are challenged regarding building and sustaining their athletes’ form. Keeping athletes’ form on a high level throughout the whole year is hard with the traditional approach of periodization. For this reason, something that we can take into consideration as a possible approach for providing multi-peak performance is the block periodization.

Unlike the traditional periodization approach where you focus on developing different abilities simultaneously, with a moderate volume and intensity through a prolonged period, the block periodization approach uses small blocks (mesocycle) of high-intensity workloads where you concentrate only on one or two abilities at a time.

Now, do not get me wrong. Nothing beats the traditional periodization approach when it comes to working with young individuals who are slowly preparing for all the efforts and challenges they will have to embrace when they get in the elite or professional sport. This means that this type of periodization (Block Periodization) approach is suitable only for highly trained athletes.

These days the high volume of tournaments scattered throughout the year puts all the karatekas under extreme pressure. This includes the Karate 1 and Series A Premier League tournaments, continental, World and European championships, and other international and local competitions all around the world.

The abundance of tournaments is the reason why block periodization might provide the desired results when it comes to developing an effective training plan for a sufficiently long period, optimal implementation of the program and achieving the most favorable stack of all athletic abilities precisely at the time of the important completion. And maybe most important, Block Periodization has been shown to provide opportunities for multi-peak performance, comparing to the traditional approach.

 

Although the Block Periodization has limitations, the pros outrun the cons. At this point, below are some of the reasons why you might want to reconsider your traditional training approach.

 

Characteristics of the Block Periodization training approach

BP approach uses smaller 2-6 week blocks (mesocycles), and each focuses on the development of different abilities. These blocks are:

  • Accumulation period – development of basic compatible abilities (aerobic endurance, muscular strength and general movement patterns related to the sport).
  • Transformation period – development of sport-specific abilities such as anaerobic endurance, specialized muscular endurance and practicing of event-specific techniques.
  • Realization period – encompasses competition model exercises, focusing on maximal speed and full recovery.

To put a light on the positive side of BP, here are some of the benefits:

  • BP approach allows reduced volume without necessarily changing the number of workouts.
  • Enhanced monitoring of performance and easier conduction of tests due to the reduced number of targeted abilities.
  • More effective maintenance of mental concentration since athletes focus only on a limited number of abilities.
  • Nutrition can be easily readjusted since the low number of energy systems are targeted at a time.

 

The concept of Residual training effect

As previously mentioned, this model focuses on the development of the limited number (one or two) of abilities at a time (in each block). For this reason, it is crucial to get familiar and understand the concept of the residual training effect, which is something the BP training is based upon.

By definition, the residual training effect refers to the “retention of changes induced by systematic workloads beyond a certain period after cessation of training.”  And this is usually connected with detraining when training is stopped. For example, to put it in perspective, for how long you can see the benefits related to the cardiovascular capacity and speed, once you stop running or doing specific speed workouts. At this instance, probably you will see some benefits related to your cardiovascular capacity even after three weeks. However, you can say goodbye to your speed (or explosive strength) after a week or two of no specific speed training.

This idea of residual training effect is something that puts many challenges when developing an annual training plan and can be considered as one of the negative sides of BP approach. For this reason, it is imperative to get familiar with the duration and the physiological background of the residual training effect for different motor abilities after cessation of training. This is something I will focus on in the future posts where I will elaborate on each mesocycle (accumulation, transformation, and realization) individually.

 

What about you?

Do you have any challenges regarding your training method and the ability to sustain good form throughout the year? What’s been your experience with periodization and what are the challenges you are facing? Please leave your thought in the comments.

 

Resources:

Issurin, V. (2008). Block periodization versus traditional training theory: A review. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 48. 65-75.

Issurin, V. (2009). Block Periodization: Breakthrough in Sports Training. Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2008

 

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