More on Periodization

At each stage of LTAD, periodization plans take into consideration the growth, maturation and trainability principles that are unique to each stage. The result is a comprehensive and rational schedule of training, competition and recovery time blocks that optimize athlete development. 

LTAD is typically a 10- to 12-year path that optimizes physical, technical, tactical and mental preparation. LTAD outlines two major cycles for periodization planning:

  • Quadrennial planning, which refers to the 4-year Olympic or Paralympic cycle for elite athletes.
  • Annual planning, which is based upon identified periods of preparation, competition, and the transition into the next calendar plan.

Each annual plan is broken down into smaller subsets of time – macro, meso and micro cycles. Macro cycles are the largest blocks within a phase of training and are usually 8 to 16 weeks in length. Meso cycles are smaller blocks of time, usually a month in length. The smallest training block is a micro cycle, usually described as 7 days in length.  

Current examples of periodization models identified in the sport performance literature are designed for sub-elite and elite mature performers. There is very little information on periodization for children or adolescents or for athletes with a disability.

Periodization of elite athletes can be extremely complex and varied. It can include single, double, triple and multiple periodization formats and different “loading” to recovery ratios.

To design periodization plans, coaches can use their sport-specific LTAD model to draft training and competition schedules that are appropriate to the age and stage of the athletes they are coaching.

Periodization has been described as both an art and a science as involves some creativity and intuition by coaches to ensure elite athletes peak at the right time.

Phases of an annual plan for a single or double periodization:

Five Phases of a Single Periodized Annual Plan Eight Phases of a Double Periodized Annual Plan
  • General Preparation Phase (GPP)
  • Specific Preparation Phase (SPP)
  • Pre-Competition Phase (PCP)
  • Competition Phase (CP) Peak
  • Transition Peak (TP)
  • General Preparation Phase (GPP)
  • Specific Preparation Phase 1 (SPP)
  • Pre-Competition Phase 1 (PCP)
  • Competition Phase 1 (CP) Peak
  • Specific Preparation Phase 2 (SPP)
  • Pre-Competition Phase 2 (PCP)
  • Competition Phase 2 (CP) Peak
  • Transition Phase (TP)

>> Learn about the next key factor: Competition