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

In the previous post, I’ve talked about the idea of approaching the periodization process differently to enable multi-pick performance throughout the year. For this purpose, I introduced the Block Periodization, which is a training approach that is different from the traditional one. I talked about “WHYs” and “HOWs” when it comes to BP, and in what way it differs from the TP.

In this post, before I even start explaining the building blocks, fundamental units which is something the BP is comprised of, I need to share my point of view regarding traditional training approach as well. It would be fair to criticize something that has been developed many years ago and had provided all the athletes and coaches guidance in construction/ development/ planning and systematization of the training units. Matveyev is referred to as the father of modern periodization or the “traditional Matveyev’s periodization theory.” And it works. No kidding, it works. Yes, it has its cons and challenges, which is something that can be overcome with the BP approach. However, saying that BP is a perfect masterpiece with no negative sides is absurd and unrealistic. TP was, is and it will be the foundation of every training approach, which should be reflected on, revise and adjust continually if we seek for optimal performance.

This is why I will use and explain the possible positive implication of the BP approach on the karate training.

Before we start it is nice to introduce some of the terminologies that I am going to use, that is related to BP. Something that finds a critic from some people is the inconsistency of the terminology used in the Block and the Traditional training (TP) approach.

As previously mentioned, BP is comprised of three different types of blocks: accumulation, transformation, and realization. And Accumulation period is what I am going start with.

The accumulation period is equivalent to the preparation period in the traditional periodization. This period is dedicated to building the basic abilities such as aerobic endurance. Some compatible training modalities support the development of this ability for this period such as maximal strength (priority), anaerobic alactic abilities, strength endurance (part of the aerobic capacity).

Before I continue, it is crucial to understand that unlike TP where we focus on progressive improvement on many abilities at the same time, with BP in every block (accumulation, transformation, and realization) we focus only on one or two abilities, also called “key abilities.” This means, in accumulation period, all our attention is directed on developing the aerobic endurance and maximal strength, accompanied by compatible training modalities such as alactic anaerobic abilities (e.g., sprints or jumping activities). To make it clear, we do not strive towards improving the speed, but instead, we use the speed related activates to facilitate your aerobic training.

 

Residual Effect

Block Periodization relies on the residual training effect after concentrated impact. The residual effect means for how long we can see the benefits of training for a specific ability after termination of the exercises for that particular ability.

As we can see on the infographic, the aerobic endurance and maximum force sustain the longest. For this reason, we develop these abilities at the beginning, in the accumulation phase and rely on them in the later stages, transformation and realization.

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Another con related to the Block Periodization, is planning and determining the length of each of the blocks and relying on the residual effects of various abilities in the subsequent phases.

 

Detraining of one ability will have a negative effect on another since they depend and support each other. This requires more attention and necessary changes in the planning process making the planning process challenging.

 

Now we might argue, whether karate is primarily aerobic or anaerobic dominant sport and how much time should we dedicate to developing the aerobic capacity and to what extent. Aerobic system cannot be separated from the anaerobic, and both contribute toward supporting the karate performance. However, according to one research published by Dr. Paul Gastin, senior lecturer at the Deakin University School of Exercise and Nutrition Science in Australia, an all-out effort of around seventy-five seconds requires an equal contribution from the aerobic and anaerobic energy system. Furthermore, a six-minute all-out effort is 79 percent aerobic and 21 percent anaerobic. This shows the importance of developing enough aerobic capacity that will delay the onset of lactate accumulation, which reflects in heavy legs (quadriceps and hamstrings) and arms (triceps).

Now, this might be against many beliefs and point of views regarding energy production and the idea that the carbohydrates are the primary source of energy that supports our physical activities, especially the high-intensity ones. However, you must have in mind that the dietary choices and introduction of low carb diet together with carefully structured training might be the answer to the question, “How is this possible?”.

Devil’s Advocate question: Is it possible large percentage of our karate performance, especially kumite one, to be supported by fat as an energy source?

This is something that we can share ideas on and elaborate in the future. For now, let’s stick to accumulation block and how it will look like when divided into small chunks or micro-cycles.

 

Developing a Micro-cycle

The weekly workout plan can be comprised of a different number (one, two or three) of peak workouts that will focus on the development of the key abilities. In the accumulation process, the primary focus will be on the development of aerobic capacity and maximum strength. Below is an example of a micro-cycle as part of the accumulation phase.

This is an example of a micro-cycle in the accumulation phase which is something that certainly could be adjusted and modified to meet individual needs and what’s. As previously mentioned in this period the primary focus is on developing the aerobic endurance (AE), and maximum strength (MS), complemented with training modalities that focus on alactic abilities (fast and short activities such as jumps or sprints).

The micro-cycle is comprised of three key workouts. We start slowly at the beginning of the week (Monday). This is followed by two high-intensity workouts (Tuesday and Wednesday) and decrease in intensity and load on Thursday so we can recover adequately for the next high load/intensity key workout on Friday. The week finishes with easy workouts on Saturday and off day on Sunday. This provides an opportunity for the body to fully recuperate, adjust to the stimuli and prepare for the next micro-cycle.

 

Type of activates for this period

Aerobic endurance

It is debatable how much time we need to devote to developing the aerobic capacity, and how important it is for the karate sport. When taking about kumite, the first thing that comes to our mind is the explosive high-intensity movements throughout the fight. From this perspective, many coaches and athletes might conclude that this is mostly anaerobic activity. However, if we take a closer look to research done with high-level karatekas where physiological responses and performance analysis between official and simulated karate combat conditions have been evaluated, we can see that the actual number of high-intensity activities lasting for 1-5 seconds were ranging beet ween 14 (official) and 18 (simulated). High-intensity work to rest ration was 1:11 for official matches and 1:7 for simulated.  This shows the significance and contribution of the aerobic system.

Most activities related to improving the aerobic endurance are running, hiking or biking, which are activities usually done with moderate to vigorous intensity. These exercises are meant to help us to gradually prepare our body for the effort in the subsequent phases by initiating physiological changes like muscle capitalization, increase in aerobic enzymes, increase in mitochondrial volume and the level of myoglobin.

It is essential to pay attention to quantifying and controlling the intensity so we can control which energy system is predominating during the workouts. With this, we enable timely recovery.

The easiest way to determine the intensity is by monitoring your heart rate. For this purposes, it is necessary to come up with the different heart rate zones (5 zones) which can be done by determining the maximal heart or finding your lactate acid threshold. Both can be done in a laboratory. However, if you do not have any access to expensive equipment, the heart rate zones can be determined by using a simple formula. This is the least accurate method, but still, it does the job.

Many laboratory tests are conducted on a treadmill or stationary bike. In the best case scenario, the blood lactate levels will be determined while performing your sports activity, which is karate (kata or kumite). This can also be accomplished by a field test, where the primary activity is running. I know this is not ideal, but at least you are going to have something to refer to when determining your workout intensity.

Taking in consideration the nature of the karate sport, besides running, which is the most desired training modality among athletes, implementing karate specific techniques (kihon) in the process of building the strength and cardiovascular endurance can be extremely beneficial.

This way you are not only developing your aerobic abilities, but you are doing this through sport specific movement. This is the same movement you are going to be performing later on, with much higher intensity.

For example, if we follow the weekly schedule from above, on Monday for the afternoon practice, we might decide to practice kihon. Since it is improbable that we can do karate continuously for 45-60 min, this can be done by introducing intervals of 5 to 10 minutes, followed by around 2-minute breaks. On Tuesday, for your morning session, you might do running or some interval training with low to medium intensity jumping (plyometric) exercises as part of your warm-up.

 

Be aware of the intensity

Leave the high-intensity exercises for later. Be mindful of the intensity and do not be tempted to increase the effort just because you feel that you can. Remember, the purpose of this phase is to build solid aerobic endurance, and if you do choose to make sprints as part of your training routine remember that they are here to support your aerobic exercises by recruiting more significant number on muscle fibers, which is something that will positively reflect on the running.

In a nutshell, try to stay below your lactic threshold (if applicable), or in the top range of your aerobic threshold which can be derived with a simple formula, 180 – age. E.g., in my case, my aerobic threshold zone would be 180-31, which is 149bpm. By doing this, you prepare the body to rely on fat in a much higher percentage.

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Maximum strength exercises

This is going to be short section since I already wrote an article about maximum strength training, and why it is beneficial for karate. Unless you are in kata and what to increase your muscle size for different reasons, karate athletes do not have any benefit from classic hypertrophy training. For this reason, the main focus will be on developing the maximal strength which is necessary for power and explosive strength development and increasing the efficiency of the phosphocreatine energy system.

 

Alactic anaerobic activities

By now you have probably noticed that these are complementary activities, which can be used at the beginning and sometimes throughout in the main part of the workout. Their primary purpose is activation and recruiting of a more significant number of muscle fibers resulting in an enhanced ability for producing more power during subsequent activities (aerobic). This way you are “waking up” your muscles, making them available for whatever comes next.

 

Just before you start jumping and sprinting around, remember that these activities are not meant to increase your speed or explosive strength. Not at this stage. So, please do not spend 30 minutes on jumping and sprinting before you start with the main part. These exercises should be part of your warm-up, which should not be more than 10-15 min. More is not better when it comes to plyometric exercises and sprints. If you struggle with finding different intensity plyometric activities, this is e great resource to use.

 

Wrapping it up

  • Accumulation period is one of the building blocks of the Block Periodization responsible for developing the basic abilities such as aerobic endurance.
  • Compatible training modalities such as maximal strength as a priority, anaerobic alactic abilities, strength endurance (part of the aerobic capacity), support the development of aerobic endurance.
  • Training modalities related to aerobic endurance are various types of running and incorporating sports specific activities (kihon).
  • It is of great importance to have some type of quantification and control over the workout intensity to acquire the desired changes and enable proper recovery.
  • Exercises for developing maximum strength are part of this period as well.
  • Various sprints and plyometric exercises are used as complementary training modalities that have a role of catalysts, supporting the aerobic activities.

 

What about you

What approach do you have when it comes to planning your training? What are some of the challenges that you’ve stumbled upon? Please share any thoughts, comment or maybe meaningful feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

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