Training for the sport participation begins months before the season. Preparation for fall sports should begin in the late spring or early summer, while preparations for spring sports should begin in late summer or early fall. Proper periodization helps to prevent over‐training and optimize performance by regulating the training cycle. A properly constructed cycle should allow the athlete to peak during the competitive season. A training cycle consists of three phases. The first is shock and usually lasts for one to two weeks at the beginning of training. It is characterized by soreness, stiffness, and diminished performance. The second or resistance phase is the purpose of training. During this phase the body adapts to the new stimulus creating an increase in performance. The final phase is termed maladaptation, which is the result of over‐training. The athlete feels stale, over worked, and performance begins to decline. This phase is the reason that periodization was instituted. The competitive athlete needs to avoid the pitfalls of over‐training. With periodization, the training period is broken down in to cycles. The full training cycle is called a macrocycle ‐ this can last for a period of several months. The macrocycle is comprised of mesocycles. The mesocycle is composed of microcycles, or one week intervals in the training schedule. The mesocycle has distinct periods: a preparatory period, a competition period, and transitional periods within or between the two previous periods. The duration of the periods should be goal dictated and relative to the amount of time between competition phases. One must remember to have a transition phase at the end of the competition season that should last approximately four weeks. This period begins with active rest and little formal training. Normal recreational activities should be encouraged to allow the athlete to recover from the stresses of the competition season. The preparatory period comes next. Preparation is better know as off‐season training. During this period the major emphasis is on conditioning, with limited sport‐specific skill practices and game strategy sessions. Conditioning activities should be relatively low in intensity and high volume; long slow distance running and swimming; low‐intensity plyometrics; and high‐repetition weight training done with light to moderate resistance. These activities progress with weekly microcycles that gradually add intensity while lowering volume. Between the preparatory and competition periods, another transition period may be appropriate. This period often includes slightly more intense training and should be shorter than the transition period between the end of the season and preparatory period. The competition period includes the late preseason and the season itself in most high school sports. It begins with a shift to very high intensity work with low volumes. Practice and skill technique and and game strategy increase in large proportion to conditioning work. The goal during this period is for the athlete to be as his/her highest level of performance and fitness. The results of competition should substantiate the fact that the athlete has a higher level of fitness and conditioning that the previous competition phase. The length of the next cycles should then be adjusted to reflect the higher level of fitness to make the next competition phase even more productive. Keep in mind that these changes are goal dependent ‐ the athlete must strive to reach the goals that are set and adjust the goals as they are attained or become unattainable.
The following is a sample strenght and conditioning macrocycle of a 17 year old male water polo player.
This athlete will typically have an off‐season from December 1 until August 1, and be in‐season from August 1 until December 1. This example will assume very little formal training has been performed prior to this structured workout.
First Preparatory Mesocycle (OffSeason)
Transition Period Dec. 1 ‐ 31
This period is comprised of active rest with no formal structured workouts. Recreational games and fitness activities should be strongly encouraged. This can include swimming, jogging, circuit weight training (low volume and intensity), basketball, racquetball, and informal water polo.
Preparatory Period: 17 weeks
Monday: Strength training ‐ heavy load
Tuesday: Endurance training Wednesday: Strength training ‐ moderate load
Thursday: Endurance training
Friday: Strength Training ‐ moderate to light load
Early Strength Phase (Weeks 16)
Strength training is performed three days per week, completing 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps (3 ‐ 5 x 8 ‐ 12) at 75% to 90% of a 10 rep max (RM). Wednesday's load is 90% of Monday's load and Friday's load is 80% ‐ 90% of Wednesday's load. That is, if the athlete is lifting 100 pounds on Monday, Wednesday's lift will be 90 pounds, and Friday's lift will be between 80 ‐ 90 pounds. As the weeks progress, the percentage of the 10RM load is gradually increased.
Unloading Week (Week 7)
Week 7 is an unloading week. This is included to prepare the body for the shift to the next phase. Both volumes and load are significantly reduced, i.e. 1 ‐ 3 x 2 ‐ 4 @ 85% of 10RM. A 5RM is obtained for each lift.
Strength Phase (Week 8 11)
This period is characterized by a change in volume and load to prevent maladaptation. The volume should be changed to 3 ‐ 5 x 5 ‐ 6 @ 85% (of the new max) on Mondays. Wednesday's and Friday's load should be 95% and 85% of Monday's load, respectively.
Unloading Week (Week 12)
This week should follow the same parameters as week 7. A new 2 ‐ 4RM is obtained for each lift.
Power Phase (Week 13 15)
This phase of the mesocycle is designed for power. Heavier loads with less volume are used to accomplish the desired effects. More warm‐up lifts may be desirable during this phase. The volume should be adjusted to 2 ‐ 4 x 3 ‐ 5 of a 2RM to 4RM on Mondays; Wednesday would be the same volume with a load of 75%.
Unloading Week (Week 16)
This is the final unloading week in this mesocycle. This week is used to determine a new max lift. This new max should have increased 5% to 15% over the previous max. This increase in strength is due initially to increased neuromuscular education and later to the addition of muscle bulk.
2. Second Preparatory Mesocycle
The second cycle steps up the intensity in all
areas. It is shorter than the first mesocycle.
The athlete should begin sport specific activities at this time, including sport specific drills and plyometric drills that incorporate more intense jumping and bounding. During this phase the load for multiple joint activities should be altered. For example, Mondays should be a heavy day for cleans, pulls, and push jerks, and a moderate day for squats, while Fridays would be the reverse. Changing training routines is mandatory to prevent maladaptation.
Preparatory Period (Weeks 1 9)
Monday: Strength Training ‐ Heavy Load
Tuesday: Endurance Training, Intervals, Agility Drills
Wednesday: Strength Training ‐ Light Load, and WP Drills
Thursday: Endurance Training, Intervals, Agility Drills
Friday: Strength Training ‐ Moderate Load
Hypertrophy Period (Weeks 1 2)
This phase is characterized by heavy loads of 3 ‐ 5 x 8 ‐ 12 @ 70% 1RM on Mondays, 50% 1RM on Wednesday, and 60% 1RM on Friday. Each week 5% of the 1RM is added to heavy days and 10% to the moderate and light days.
Strength Phase (weeks 3 4)
During this two week span the workout becomes 3 ‐ 5 x 5 ‐ 6@ 85% on heavy days, 80% on moderate days, and 70% on light days.
Unloading Week (Week 5)
Performed the same as the first and second unloading week above.
Power Phase (Week 6 9)
The intensity during these weeks increases again. Lifting is performed at 3 ‐ 5 x 2 ‐ 4 each day. The load also increases to 90% (heavy), 80% (moderate), and 70% (light) of 1RM.
3. Third Preparatory Mesocycle
The final cycle of the preseason should begin after a two week transition period. This also marks the beginning of the preseason. This cycle has an abrupt drop in volume with a maintenance of the load. Water polo drills and practices dramatically increase. Endurance and plyometric drills are reduced to two times weekly, and the weight training sessions are modified and reduced to two times weekly. A mew 1RM is obtained.
Monday: Heavy weight work and light WP practice
Tuesday: WP practice followed by intense endurance work Wednesday: WP practice
Thursday: WP practice followed by moderate weight work Friday: Plyometric drills for 15 min. and moderate WP workout.
Phase 1 (Week 1)
1 ‐ 3 x 5 ‐ 6 @ 70% 1RM
Phase 2 (Week 2 3)
1 ‐ 3 x 5 ‐ 6 @ 80% on Monday and 70% on Thursday
Phase 3 (Week 4 6)
1 ‐ 3 x 2 ‐ 4 @ 90% on Monday and 80% on Thursdays. 1 ‐ 3 x 4 ‐ 5 @ 95% on Monday and 80% on Thursdays. 1 ‐ 3 x 1 @ 105% on Monday and 100% on Thursdays.
This should bring the athlete into the season with optimum strength and endurance. This program is only a suggestion and should be modified to reflect the individual abilities of the athletes. When water polo coach makes plan and program for one season he must know the difference between preparation period, competition period and active relax period. As I explained it earlier, this preparation period is divided on following sub periods: period of general preparation, period of basic preparation, period of specific water polo preparation and period of pre competition preparation. After that is coming competition period ... etc. It's very important to make order (or chronology) of these periods. Without right order our planning and programming is not good enough for expected results.