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Sports periodization has traditionally focused on the exercise aspect of athletic preparation, while neglecting the integration of other elements that can impact an athlete's readiness for peak competition performances. Integrated periodization allows the coordinated inclusion of multiple training components best suited for a given training phase into an athlete's program. The aim of this article is to review the available evidence underpinning integrated periodization, focusing on exercise training, recovery, nutrition, psychological skills, and skill acquisition as key factors by which athletic preparation can be periodized. The periodization of heat and altitude adaptation, body composition, and physical therapy is also considered. Despite recent criticism, various methods of exercise training periodization can contribute to performance enhancement in a variety of elite individual and team sports, such as soccer. In the latter, both physical and strategic periodization are useful tools for managing the heavy travel schedule, fatigue, and injuries that occur throughout a competitive season. Recovery interventions should be periodized (ie, withheld or emphasized) to influence acute and chronic training adaptation and performance. Nutrient intake and timing in relation to exercise and as part of the periodization of an athlete's training and competition calendar can also promote physiological adaptations and performance capacity. Psychological skills are a central component of athletic performance, and their periodization should cater to each athlete's individual needs and the needs of the team. Skill acquisition can also be integrated into an athlete's periodized training program to make a significant contribution to competition performance.
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An Integrated, Multifactorial Approach to Periodization
for Optimal Performance in Individual and Team Sports
I˜nigo Mujika, Shona Halson, Louise M. Burke, Gloria Balagué, and Damian Farrow
Sports periodization has traditionally focused on the exercise aspect of athletic preparation, while neglecting the integration of
other elements that can impact an athletes readiness for peak competition performances. Integrated periodization allows the
coordinated inclusion of multiple training components best suited for a given training phase into an athletes program. The aim
of this article is to review the available evidence underpinning integrated periodization, focusing on exercise training,
recovery, nutrition, psychological skills, and skill acquisition as key factors by which athletic preparation can be periodized.
The periodization of heat and altitude adaptation, body composition, and physical therapy is also considered. Despite recent
criticism, various methods of exercise training periodization can contribute to performance enhancement in a variety of elite
individual and team sports, such as soccer. In the latter, both physical and strategic periodization are useful tools for managing
the heavy travel schedule, fatigue, and injuries that occur throughout a competitive season. Recovery interventions should be
periodized (ie, withheld or emphasized) to inuence acute and chronic training adaptation and performance. Nutrient intake
and timing in relation to exercise and as part of the periodization of an athletes training and competition calendar can also
promote physiological adaptations and performance capacity. Psychological skills are a central component of athletic
performance, and their periodization should cater to each athletes individual needs and the needs of the team. Skill acquisition
can also be integrated into an athletes periodized training program to make a signicant contribution to competition
Keywords:training, coaching, nutrition, psychology, recovery, skill
Since ancient times, athletes have been guided by trainers
and coaches in their quest for improved physical performance.
By and large, the principles behind exercise training have been
based on the intuition of more or less successful coaches, as well
as tradition and folklore. However, at the turn of the 20th century,
as physiologists started applying their skills to understand the
biological mechanisms underpinning exercise and training adap-
tations, coaches and athletes began to recognize the importance
of a more scientic approach to the training process. This
approach initiated the application of principles and methods
such as dose and response, interval training, circuit training,
and the periodization of training.
However, periodization
simply understood as the systematic planning of long- and
short-term training programshas traditionally focused on the
exercise aspect of athletic preparation, while neglecting the
integration of other elements (such as nutrition, biomechanics,
or psychology) that can impact an athletes readiness for peak
performance in competition.
Although the concept of integrated periodization is not new, a
systematic and scientic approach to this idea is lacking. Bompa
indicated that integrated periodization combines all the training
components into a whole and matches them according to the
periodization of the biomotor abilities, which dictates the diet
and the psychological skills best suited for a given training
phase. Unfortunately, the concept has not been developed any
further to benet from the continual evolution of scientic
knowledge. Recent advances in various areas of the sports
sciences can contribute to the development of integrated peri-
odization, and thus make a signicant impact on training theory
and practice. The aim of this article, therefore, is to review the
available evidence underpinning integrated periodization. In
particular, this review will focus on the following aspects by
which athletic preparation can be periodized for optimal perfor-
mance in competition:
Training periodization
Periodization of recovery
Dietary periodization
Periodization of psychological skills
Skill periodization
Training Periodization
One of the biggest challenges for coaches and athletes of all
calibers is to design their long- and short-term training programs
to induce optimal training adaptations and maximize performance
at the desired moments of the competitive season. Long-term career
paths are most often planned for athletes to peak at the end of a
quadrennial period culminating with the Olympic Games, coincid-
ing with their athletic maturity. In the short term, peak performance
is usually attained by skillfully intertwining lengthy phases of
hard, intensive training and shorter phases of reduced training.
Mujika is with the Dept of Physiology, University of the Basque Country, Leioa,
Basque Country, Spain, and the School of Kinesiology, Universidad Finis Terrae,
Santiago, Chile. Halson is with Physiology, and Burke, Sports Nutrition, Australian
Inst of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Burke is also with the Mary MacKillop Inst
for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Balagué is with the Dept of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago,
IL, USA. Farrow is with the Inst of Health and Sport, Victoria University,
Melbourne, VIC, Australia, and Movement Science, Australian Inst of Sport,
Bruce, ACT, Australia. Mujika ( is corresponding
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2018, 13, 538-561
© 2018 Human Kinetics, Inc. INVITED BRIEF REVIEW
Team sport athletes, however, are usually required to perform
consistently over several months for league format competitions,
but also to peak for major regional, national, and/or international
Phases of intensive training result in acute physiological
effects that might limit performance capacity in the short term
(days to weeks), but they also generate adaptive responses that
eventually lead to improvements in sports performance. The
intention of these intensive periods of training overload is to
maximize medium- to long-term physiological adaptations to
training, while ignoring the potential acute negative impacts. By
contrast, reduced training or taper periods are introduced to dimin-
ish the detrimental impact of training while the physiological
adaptations achieved during intensive training are further
enhanced. Under ideal circumstances, this process will translate
into maximal physiological adjustments and an optimal perfor-
mance potential.
In less ideal circumstances, however, training
programs may result in unwanted situations, such as underperfor-
mance, excessive fatigue, overtraining, illness, or injury forcing an
athlete to interrupt his or her participation, with subsequent de-
training effects.
In this context, periodization is a planning tool
available to coaches, athletes, and sports scientists to organize their
training and competition programs.
Dening Periodization
Multiple denitions of the term periodizationcan be found
throughout the sports performance literature. For instance,
Lambert et al
dened periodization as the process of systemati-
cally planning a short- and long-term training program by varying
training loads and incorporating adequate rest and recovery.
described the term as the purposeful sequencing of differ-
ent training units (long-duration, medium-duration, and short-term
training cycles and sessions) so that athletes can attain the desired
state and planned results. Beyond the more or less subtle differ-
ences among denitions, periodization should probably be consid-
ered a exible concept or method, rather than a rigid model, and a
systematic attempt to gain control of the adaptive response to
training in preparation for competition.
Norris and Smith
sider periodization, essentially, a systematic and methodical plan-
ning tool that serves as a directional template for a specic athlete.
Rather than a rigid concept, periodization could be seen as a
framework within and around which a specic program can be
formulated for a specic situation. In this respect, the essence of a
periodized training program design is to skillfully combine differ-
ent training methods to yield better results than can be achieved
through exclusive or disproportionate use of a single method.
practical example of such a mixed-method approach can be found
in Mujika et al,
who organized the training season of a world-
champion paratriathlete with a exible application of 2 consecutive
periodization methods, depending on the primary target of each
training phase, namely, achieving physiological adaptations or
competition performance. In line with this contention, a recent
systematic review on the effects of periodization and training
intensity distributions on middle- and long-distance running per-
formance suggested that different training approaches may prove
valuable at different phases of the season and in preparation for
competitions of varying distances. For instance, training early in
the season could be organized to target specic physiological
values (eg, heart rate, blood lactate concentration), but as the
competition approaches, the focus would shift toward training at
and around the race pace, irrespective of physiological values.
Periodization Methods
According to Issurin,
Matveyev was the rst author to summarize
and compile scientic and empirical concepts to set the foundations
of the traditional theory of training periodization, meaning the
subdivision of the seasonal program into smaller periods and
training cycles. Since then, periodization has become an important
and indispensable part of training theory. A key feature of the
traditional periodization method was the early emphasis on high
training volume and a transition to higher training intensity with
reduced volume as competition periods approached. A second
feature of the method was a reduction in training variation and
increase in training specicity throughout the annual cycle.
The major structural components of a periodized training plan
were listed by Matveyev
as the microstructure, the mesostructure,
and the macrostructure. These, respectively, refer to the structure
of separate training sessions or short groupings of sessions
(microcycleie, a short plan usually lasting about a week); the
grouping of a number of microcycles, leading to the realization of a
predetermined and specic training or performance goal or goals
(mesocycleie, a medium-duration plan usually lasting about a
month); and larger groupings of mesocycles concerned with longer
periods (macrocycleie, a long-duration plan usually lasting about
half a year or a year).
These structural components have also
been classied into distinct subcategories, such as developmental,
shock, regeneration, and peaking/unloading microcycles,
or intro-
ductory, basic, control, supplemental, preparatory, and competitive
Alternative methods to traditional (or linear) periodization
have been proposed, such as nonlinear or undulating, block, fractal,
conjugate sequence, or reverse periodization.
linear and block periodizations (in which the sequencing of
accumulation, transmutation, and realization mesocycle blocks
purportedly benets from the favorable interaction of cumulative
and residual training effects
) have been the main methods studied
for strength development
as well as performance enhancement
in a variety of elite sports, including cross-country skiing and
and tennis.
Depending on the event and
the prevailing philosophies in a sport, coaches and athletes may
plan for single, double, or multiple peaks for the season. Although
the yearly training plan varies considerably between and within
sports, according to the athletes level (eg, developmental or elite),
the type of competition (eg, weekly xtures or major tournaments
in team sports versus single-day events or major championships
in individual sports), and the recovery needs after each event,
there are some common elements. As a rule, most periodization
methods share a common distribution of training in phases of
general preparation, specic preparation, competition, and transi-
tion (Table 1).
highlighted other common features of
periodized training programs:
The training program is designed according to the main
performance goal for the season.
Training loads are increased progressively and cyclically.
The training phases follow a logical sequence.
The training process is supported by a structured program of
scientic monitoring.
Recovery or regenerative techniques are used intensively
throughout the training program.
Emphasis on skill development and renement is maintained
throughout the training program.
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Integrated Periodization for Sports Performance 539
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Table 1 Integrated Periodization Plan for Individual Sports
General preparation Specific preparation Taper Competition
Training High volume
Low to moderate
Low specicity and
mixed training
modalities (eg,
resistance, core stability,
Moderate and high
High intensity (eg, race
High specicity
May include specialized
training (eg, altitude and/
or heat adaptation)
May include domestic
and/or international
Low volume
High intensity
High specicity
Competing in single-
or multiple-day
May involve multiple
rounds (ie, heats,
seminals, nals)
Rest, recover, and
May include some
maintenance training
(eg, reduced training,
cross-training, cross-
Recovery Appropriate recovery to
maximize training
adaptation and goals of
general preparation
May involve
withholding recovery to
maximize adaptation
Specic recovery
support after key
sessions, particularly
those requiring high
levels of skill and/or
high-quality training
Recovery may also be
utilized to reduce fatigue
and soreness in
preparation for key
Recovery can be
utilized to minimize
fatigue during the
taper. This may be
useful to decrease the
period of time required
to taper effectively
Increased recovery
may be incorporated to
maintain high-
intensity training
during this period
Recovery support
provided to minimize
fatigue and maximize
Support to manage
fatigue around travel
and jetlag
Physical and mental
May include physical
therapy for injury
Nutrition Periodized energy and
macronutrient intakes
toward desired changes
in body composition
while maintaining
adequate energy
availability for health
and heavy training load
General support for
training sessions and
recovery between
sessions, including
strategic timing of
nutrient intake around
Where desired, periodic
targeted low-CHO
availability training to
stimulate aerobic
Altered energy and
nutrient intake to
accommodate changes
in training focus
Specic support/
recovery for key
sessions or specialized
training (eg, iron, fuel
for altitude training)
Further optimization of
body composition
targets toward taper and
competition phase
Practice of specic race
nutrition and supplement
Support for high-
intensity training with
adjusted energy intake
to avoid unnecessary
weight gain associated
with a reduced energy
Continued monitoring
of optimal body
composition for
competition phase
Support for
including recovery
between multiple
rounds in a session
and/or multiple
competition days
Nutrition and
practices addressing
the physiological
of the event
Nutrition for travel
similar to an active to
sedentary individual
Some minor weight
gain expected or
supplements no
longer required
Proactive nutrition
for injury
rehabilitation, if
Psychology Motivation, pain and
fatigue management,
and self-awareness
Goal setting for practice,
imagery, and relaxation/
activation techniques
Kinesthetic awareness
and control, increased
self-efcacy, and
emotional management
Use of video,
improvements log, and
rhythm work
Optimal arousal,
effective focus, and
cognitive and
emotional self-
Competition routines,
attentional focus, and
Trust, exibility, and
Competition plan,
restructuring tools,
and tolerance
of ambiguity
Effective evaluation
and self-care/
New goal setting
Skill High volume and high
functional variability
of skill repetitions
Skill outcome
performance likely to
be more inconsistent
Progression should be
aggressive but calibrated
on optimizing athlete
challenge point
Increased specicity
of practice, greater
representation of the
skills within the
performance setting
Overload key skills to
promote adaptability and
Keep in mind
reversibility by
continuing to practice,
but with a reduction in
Less-variable practice
conditions can be
employed to inate
performer condence
(if required)
Event can be 1 day or
over multiple days:
Maintain practice
repetition between
competitive bouts
focused on adapting
skill to upcoming
opponent or
Not applicable
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The improvement and maintenance of general athletic abilities
is an underlying component of the training program.
Each phase of the training program builds on the previous
Comprehensive reviews into long-term planning,
tional linear periodization,
block periodization,
other periodization methods for elite performance are available
Periodized Approach to Other Training
Other aspects of training that could benet from a well-planned or
periodized approach include heat adaptation, altitude adaptation,
body composition, and physical therapy.
Periodization of Heat Adaptation. In a consensus document,
Racinais et al
provided recommendations regarding the optimi-
zation of exercise capacity during sport activities in hot ambient
conditions, mainly for prolonged sporting events. Based on the
temporal dynamics of heat acclimatization induction, decay, and
reinduction, periodized heat acclimatization strategies were pro-
vided for the early season, precompetitive, and competitive per-
iods. A recent case study on the periodized heat acclimation
protocol used by 2 elite sailors preparing for the world champion-
ships in the heat seems to conrm the validity of the approach.
Nevertheless, recommendations from these studies were mainly
based on physiological markers of heat acclimatization and deac-
climatization, and their impact on competitive sports performance
remains uncertain. In a recent review on heat acclimation con-
siderations for elite athletes, Casadio et al
indicated that more
work is needed to understand how to optimize the periodization of
heat acclimatization within an athletes annual training plan (eg,
long- and short-term periodization of heat acclimation, scheduling
around an athletes training and competition calendar, and appli-
cation in highly trained populations).
Periodization of Altitude Adaptation. In view of the above, it can
be suggested that a similar periodized approach to altitude training
is also needed. Such an approach should be based on the emerging
knowledge of the temporal dynamics of the physiological changes
associated with altitude acclimatization, deacclimatization, and
reacclimatization, and their impact on competition perfor-
Millet et al
proposed different combinations of
natural altitude, simulated altitude, and sea-level training to
enhance general adaptations and prepare for competition periods
at sea level and altitude, but such proposals for altitude use in the
annual training plan remain untested in both individual and team
Periodization of Body Composition. Body composition period-
ization was recently dened as the strategic manipulation of energy
intake and energy expenditure between various training phases to
reach a targeted body composition range that is optimal for
performance (eg, peak power to weight ratio), while minimizing
risk to short- and long-term health.
A case study featuring the
body composition of an Olympic-level female middle-distance
runner throughout a 9-year international career showed signicant
seasonal uctuations in anthropometric outcomes between training
phases. In addition, strong correlations were identied between
decreasing skinfold values during peak competition periods and
faster 1500-m race times, with only 2 injuries over the 9-year
Despite a strong conceptual underpinning, more
research is needed on the optimal implementation of periodized
body composition strategies in short- and long-term planning.
Periodization and Physical Therapy. In an attempt to bridge the
gap between sports training and rehabilitation of the injured athlete,
overviews of periodization methods and their application to reha-
bilitation have recently been provided.
The rationale behind
such approaches is that greater knowledge of periodization models
can help sport physical therapists in their evaluation, clinical
reasoning skills, exercise progression, and goal setting for the
sustained return of athletes to high-level competition.
Criticism to Training Periodization
Although most coaches and athletes agree on the perceived benets
and outcomes of a periodized training program (eg, a reduction in
the risk of injury, a lower risk of developing symptoms of over-
training, and a better chance of peaking for key competitions),
opinions are divided on the process of periodized training. The lack
of consensus can perhaps be attributed to the jargon often used
around periodization, which sometimes leads to misinterpretation
and confusion over nomenclature and makes the concept of period-
ized training more complicated than it needs to be. Skeptics also
point out that the concept is not completely supported by science.
Verchoshanskij, a respected authority on training methodolo-
gies, questioned the validity of Matveyevs theory of periodization,
considering it outdated and unacceptable for contemporary train-
ing, and highlighted 4 cardinal errorsundermining the theoretical
and practical signicance of the concept of training periodization
A poor understanding of sporting activities and technology of
the preparation of elite athletes and the professional know-how
of the coaches;
A primitive evaluation of the methodological concept, which
is only theoretical, lacks an objective foundation, is purely
speculative, and lacks objectively conrmed practical recom-
Disregard of the biological knowledge; and
Limited acceptance of related sciences and experimental re-
sults on training principles.
Although some of the aforementioned criticisms may be well-
founded, Norris and Smith
considered that the concept of periodi-
zation has grown beyond the initial specic recommendations of
Without denying the historical value of the periodi-
zation philosophy or the substantial contributions made by eminent
training theorists, Kiely
suggested that periodization dictates
should be understood as hypothetical and tradition-driven assump-
tions rather than evidence-led constructs. In this context, coaches
and athletes should shift from the preordained training structures
toward a philosophy characterized by an adaptive readiness to
respond to emerging information. Effective planning may be
perceived as the implementation of sensitive and responsive learn-
ing systems designed for the early detection of emerging threats
and opportunities. More recently, Kiely
indicated that realigning
periodization with contemporary stress theory provides an oppor-
tunity to recalibrate training planning models with contemporary
scientic insight and progressive coaching practice.
Loturco and Nakamura
recently suggested that the periodi-
zation concept should be revisited, in view of a purported low rate
of effectiveness to control and attain an athletes peak performance.
They also highlighted the need to develop more applied, effective,
and realistic methods of training for athletes who compete several
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times per year and need to maintain high performance levels
throughout a complete macrocycle. Such criticisms, however,
seem to be directed toward rigid and inexible concepts of the
classic periodization structure (eg, the necessity to progress from
basic to particular aspects of the specic sports performance within
the same training cycle). When an integrated periodization
approach is used, based on current scientic research and under-
standing, this practice reects a philosophical need for planning
and addressing the core components of athletic preparation to
maximize and optimize future performance, rather than adherence
to a central methodology.
Recent criticism also came from a comprehensive review on
the conceptual and methodological issues surrounding empirical
research on training periodization.
Only 42 randomized or ran-
domized controlled trials were identied that met stringent inclu-
sion and exclusion criteria. Problems emerged in the following
Conceptually, periodization and variation were being used
interchangeably in research.
No empirical research tested predictions concerning direction,
timing, and magnitude of adaptations.
More than 95% of papers were mostly unidimensionalthat
is, focusing almost exclusively on the physicalaspects of
Empirical research on long-term effects was absent (no study
lasted more than 9 mo).
Controlling for confounding factors, such as nutrition, supple-
mentation, and medication, was largely ignored.
Data analysis was biased as dispersion in responsiveness to
experimental protocols was ignored when discussing the
The work by Afonso et al
highlights the importance of
considering periodization from a multidimensional perspective if
coaches and scientic staff are to appropriately schedule training
load, a limitation that this review tries to overcome.
Periodization in Team Sports
A periodized approach in the long- and short-term manipulation of
training stress and recovery is thought to be essential for optimal
athletic performance and success in competition. Individual sport
athletes usually achieve tness and performance peaks through
months of consistent training followed by a period of tapered
training, culminating with a single or a limited number of important
races or championships.
The physiological, psychological, and
performance benets of such a peaking strategy are well estab-
lished for endurance
and strength-oriented individual sport
In the best interest of peak performance at major
competitions, these athletes can afford to exhibit subpar perfor-
mances and even miss competitions that do not fall within the scope
of their major goals. By contrast, team sport athletes in general, and
soccer players in particular, usually need to perform at a high level
week after week if they want to be in contention for the champi-
onship at the end of the competitive season.
Designing periodized training programs for team sports ath-
letes poses unique challenges and difculties. Indeed, athletes (eg,
soccer players) are required to work on multiple aspects of their
individual tness and physical readiness to perform, while concur-
rently participating in extensive technical and tactical team training
sessions to prepare for upcoming matches, as well as extended
periods of competition itself (see Table 2).
In this context, proper
manipulation of the total training stress, both over the training
and competition season and within short-term training cycles, is
required for success. Moreira et al
examined the training periodi-
zation pattern of a professional Australian football team during
different phases of the season, using the session rating of perceived
exertion (s-RPE) method. Higher training loads and session dura-
tions were performed for all training types during the preseason
compared with in-season, but the in-season games were of greater
load and intensity than preseason games, and the overall distribu-
tion of training intensity was similar between the preseason and in-
Ritchie et al
quantied training and competition load across
an entire season in an elite Australian football team, using global
positioning system tracking and s-RPE. The total s-RPE load was
greater during the preseason, where most of the load was obtained
via skills and conditioning. A large reduction in the s-RPE load
occurred in the last preseason block, consistent with a taper phase
also described in other football codes, such as soccer,
and rugby sevens
and also in elite basketball.
season, half the total load came from games, and the remaining half
from trainingpredominantly skills and upper-body strength train-
ing. Total distance, high-intensity running, and accelerationdeceler-
ation activity showed large to very large reductions from preseason
to in-season, whereas changes in mean speed were trivial across all
This work highlights the importance of considering
periodization from a multidimensional perspective if coaches
and scientic staff are to appropriately schedule training load.
Periodization patterns in weekly planning have also been described
by means of s-RPE and heart rate in elite basketball players during
the competitive season, including 1 or 2 matches per week.
Coaches spontaneously provided an unloading phase during the
competitive weeks, irrespective of the number of weekly games
These studies indicate that team sport players often train
hard to get t in the preseason, taper their training to reach a tness
peak before the competitive season starts, and then try to maintain
their tness through moderate training and match participation in-
Although attempts have been made in soccer to substantiate
the idea of periodizing training into phases, scientic evidence to
support its application is still scarce. Mara et al
studied the
variation in training demands, physical performance, and player
well-being according to training phase in a female soccer team,
as well as the relationships among these variables throughout a
national league season. As in the aforementioned Australian
football studies, training demands (eg, total running distance,
high-speed distance, and acceleration counts) during training ses-
sions declined across all phases from preseason to late season.
Although endurance capacity and well-being measures did not
change across training phases, acceleration and 25-m sprint per-
formance progressively declined toward the end of the season.
Fessi et al
reported that tapering training weeks before important
or especially difcult soccer matches led to increased total running
distance, intense running, high-intensity running, and total number
of intense activities during match play.
Unfortunately, these
results could not be dissociated from potential confounding factors,
such as mental fatigue, pacing strategies, current match result, or
tactical considerations. Consequently, the results of repeated taper-
ing before soccer matches should be interpreted with caution.
implemented a block periodization training model in a
professional soccer team during 4 consecutive seasons and reported
that the highest team performance in competition was achieved
during the realization blocks, in particular when the team played
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542 Mujika et al
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Table 2 Integrated Periodization Plan for Team Sports
General preparation
Specific preparation/
Main competition/
Regular season Play-offs/Finals
Training Aerobic conditioning
Resistance training
Team-based activities
supported by individual
May include specialized
training (eg, altitude
and/or heat adaptation)
Match play
match xture
Recovery from match
Specic conditioning
between matches to
maintain tness and peak
for key matches
Preparation for match
Same as main
season phase with
major tness/
performance peak
Corrective surgery
and/or injury
Recovery May involve withholding
recovery to maximize
Cold water immersion
may be avoided after
resistance training
Increase in recovery
between training
sessions in preparation
for specic training
Recovery following
preseason matches
(eg, active recovery,
cold water immersion,
contrast water therapy,
massage, compression
recovery (same as specic
precompetition phase)
Between competition/
event recovery (same as
specic preparation/
precompetition phase)
recovery (same as
specic preparation/
precompetition phase)
Increase positive
mood state
Nutrition Appropriate energy and
micronutrient intake to
support body
composition goals,
including increase in lean
body mass and
loss of excess body fat
General support for
training and recovery
between training sessions,
including strategic timing
of intake around sessions
Potential for targeted use
of training with low
carbohydrate availability
to enhance adaptations to
aerobic training
Focus on hydration
during hot weather
Continuation of
nutrition goals from
the preparation phase
Practice of match
nutrition and
supplement strategies
Prematch and during-
match strategies of
nutrition and performance
supplements to address the
specic needs of each
players position
or style of play
Postmatch recovery
Maintenance of body
composition achieved
in general preparation and
precompetition phases
Nutrition for travel for
away matches
Same as main
season phase
Potential inclusion of
considerations for
warm/hot weather
Minimization of
negative changes in
body composition
Proactive nutrition
for injury
rehabilitation, if
Psychology Motivation, pain and
fatigue management, and
Goal setting for practice,
imagery, relaxation/
activation techniques
Individual engagement,
team communication
Kinesthetic awareness
and control, increased
management, and
learning style
Use of video,
improvements log
Promoting contact
among players, group
Optimal arousal, effective
focus, cognitive and
emotional self-
management, competition
routines, attentional focus,
and relaxing/energizing
Promoting uniformity,
togetherness, group
initiative, collaboration
Trust, exibility, and
Competition plan,
cognitive restructuring
tools, tolerance of
ambiguity, and team
interpersonal trust
Empowering team
creative use of talents
and self-care/
New goal setting
Skill High volume and high
functional variability
of skill repetitions
Skill outcome
performance likely to
be more inconsistent
Greater volume of less
structured game play
Increased specicity
of practice and game
play (specic tactical
concepts practiced)
within the competitive
performance setting
Increased cognitive
engagement expected
through tactical
Specic tactical and
technical preparation for
match (including own
team rules and introducing
awareness of the
opponentsstyle of play)
Off-eld/court preparation
more prevalent (eg, video
preview and review)
Same as main
season phase
Not applicable
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against low- and middle-ranked teams. It was suggested that block
periodization can be considered an alternative training design for
professional soccer teams.
In addition to the preseason and competition season, team
sports also involve a transition (ie, off-season) phase. During this
transition phase, which typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks, players usually
are away from the team discipline and supervised training, and
even if they individually engage in some form of exercise, some
degree of detraining will certainly take place. A detailed descrip-
tion of the anatomical, physiological, and performance conse-
quences of training cessation or insufcient training in athletes
over time is beyond the scope of this article, and interested readers
are directed to previous reviews on the topic.
Strategies aiming
to reduce the severity of detraining would be worthwhile for the
less active athlete during the transition period. These strategies
generally include performing either a reduced training program or
an alternative form of training (ie, to cross-train).
In line with the
above, Silva et al
recently described the physiological changes
that occur during the transition period in soccer players (ie, small to
moderate negative changes in body composition, a moderate
decline in sprint performance with and without changes of direc-
tion, small to moderate decrements in muscle power, large decre-
ments in maximal oxygen consumption and time to exhaustion, and
moderate to very large impairments in intermittent-running perfor-
mance) and addressed the issue of utilizing the transition period
to lay the foundation for the succeeding season. These authors
considered that the transition period should be viewed as a
window of opportunityfor players to recover and to rebuild
for the following season, and they recommended a minimum
effective doseof training to attenuate the loss of endurance and
neuromuscular performance, reduce muscle strength imbalances,
and improve the playersability to cope with the elevated training
demands of preseason training, thus reducing the risk of injury.
In summary, it seems clear that a periodized approach to the
season could be a useful strategy in soccer and other team sports. A
preseason characterized by progressive overload training and cul-
minating with a 2- to 3-week taper is a well-supported strategy.
Once the competitive season starts, how a team maintains the peak
tness levels achieved during the preseason periodized program will
depend on factors such as time between games, travel, competitive-
ness of the opponents, injury, minutes of match play, and physio-
logical adaptations to competition, recovery, and training of
individual players. Integrating these variables into the in-season
periodized training plan for the team to retain or further improve
early-season tness and performance levels can also be an effective
The main aim of the off-season should be recovery
and regeneration, but a maintenance training program is recom-
mended to avoid excessive detraining and to facilitate subsequent
adaptation during the preseason.
Based on this framework, further
investigation of training periodization in team sports is warranted.
Strategic Periodization: Team sports coaches often struggle to
determine the most appropriate training loads to prescribe in-
between matches during the competitive season. Multiple factors,
including the quality of the next opponent, the number of days
available to train and recover between matches, and travel associ-
ated with away games, inuence the between-match training
Strategic periodization (or tactical periodization)
is an emerging concept in the context of team sports. It has been
dened as the intentional peaking for matches or events of per-
ceived greatest priority or difculty throughout a competitive
This is typically achieved by means of deliberate
manipulation of training loads and recovery in the lead-up to
targeted matches. Effective implementation of strategic periodiza-
tion is considered a useful tool in managing the heavy travel
schedule, fatigue, and injuries that often accompany a sports
team throughout a competitive season.
developed a periodization model for an Australian
football league team based on the number of training days between
matches and the effect of interstate travel, and suggested several
factors that can affect the success of an in-season periodization
plan, such as the coachesunderstanding of the training process, the
prescription and monitoring of the volume and intensity of skill
training sessions, and the balance between training load and
recovery. Expanding on these ideas, Kelly and Coutts
a model to guide in-season training loads in team sports. The model
allows users to predict match difculty by categorizing and scoring
3 key factorsnamely, the level of the opponents, training days
between matches, and match location. The weekly training load is
subsequently planned using the s-RPE method and is based on
match difculty, which is reassessed on a weekly basis. Training is
also monitored through s-RPE, and the planned training load is
compared with the load that is actually performed. This model
should allow users to guide the prescription of training throughout
the competitive season and ensure the team maintains optimal
tness levels leading into key matches.
Robertson and Joyce
developed a match difculty index for
use in rugby, based on the inuence exerted by external factors
on match outcomes. The opponentsprevious- and current-year
rankings, as well as the game location, were the most inuential
external factors in determining the difculty of a match. Building
on their previous model, Robertson and Joyce
recently provided a
strategic periodization framework that team sport organizations can
use to evaluate the efcacy of such plans. Match difculty index
models were developed on the basis of xed factors available to
the teams prior to the commencement of the competitive season
(ie, match location, the opponentsprevious-season rank, and
between-match break length), as well as dynamic factors obtained
at monthly intervals throughout the in-season (ie, the opponents
current-season rank, the difference in ladder position between both
teams, the number of players changed from the previous match or
matches, the number of rst-year players selected in the side, and
the team form based on the number of wins scored by the team in
the previous weeks). The opponentsprevious-season rank was the
strongest indicator of match difculty across models, whereas the
inuence of away games on match difculty became stronger as
the season progressed. In addition, the number of matches won by a
team over the past 4 attempts represented the most appropriate
denition in dening team form.
A match difculty index can be a useful tool to evaluate the
long- and short-term efcacy of strategic periodization plans in
team sports and can inform a periodized approach to training.
However, future research should extend these concepts to other
team sports, such as soccer; develop sport-specic match difculty
indices; and assess the impact of additional xed and dynamic
factors for model development.
Strategic periodization should not be confounded with so-
called tactical periodization, a soccer training methodology that is
gaining popularity but which lacks evidence-based support. The
key principle behind the method is that the game of soccer should
always be learned and/or trained respecting its logical structure,
which revolves around the 4 moments of the game(ie, defensive
organization, offensive organization, defense to offense transition,
offense to defense transition). Accordingly, at least 1 of these 4
moments of the game is always present in every training exercise.
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Every game action occurs in one of these moments and involves a
decision (tactical dimension) and an action or motor skill (technical
dimension) that requires a particular movement (physiological
dimension) and is directed by volitional and emotional states
(psychological dimension); furthermore, these dimensions are
never trained independently. Readers are referred to Delgado-
Bordonau and Mendez-Villanueva
for further information on
this method.
Periodization of Recovery
Periodization of recovery has become an important consideration for
athletes and coaches, and the role of recovery in adaptation is
currently one of the more controversial and divisive aspects of
recovery theory and practice. Fatigue and muscle damage resulting
from training and competition may inuence training quality and/or
performance over subsequent days. For this reason, recovery is often
viewed as an important means of returning the body to a homeostatic
state. However, overall adaptation to training and maximizing per-
formance at critical periods are the ultimate goals for the elite athlete.
Structuring recovery within the training plan to appropriately
distribute both training stress and fatigue/soreness is necessary to
maximize performance and adaptation. The manipulation of recov-
ery with the training program may incorporate one or all of the
below themes:
Withholding recovery at certain times, most commonly in the
general preparation phase, to maximize adaptation to training
(chronic recovery);
Utilizing recovery during the specic preparation phase to
prepare for certain training sessions (acute recovery);
Utilizing increased recovery to decrease acute fatigue during
the competition phase (acute recovery); and
Incorporating recovery during travel, recovery from injury,
and to manage psychological stress (acute and chronic
Although much of the available evidence suggests that various
proactive recovery strategies (eg, hydrotherapy, whole-body cryo-
therapy, massage, and compression garments) may hasten recovery
of exercise performance following acute strenuous exercise,
there are many unanswered questions when considering adaptation
and chronic recovery exposure.
The analysis of the impact of
acute and chronic recovery may aid in the periodization of recovery
practices, in particular one of the most popular strategies: cold
water immersion (CWI).
Acute Versus Chronic Effects of Recovery
Essentially, there are 2 opposing theories on the use of recovery, in
particular CWI, in relation to the adaptation process. One theory
is that recovery should enable athletes to train more effectively in
their subsequent training session, which has been proposed to
translate into greater training adaptations and improved perfor-
mance in the long term. However, training theory suggests that
postexercise fatigue and inammation is necessary to promote
longer-term training adaptation and improvements in performance.
It is not currently known if performing hydrotherapy will
dampenthe anticipated training benets.
An understanding of the mechanisms by which CWI may
inuence recovery, and therefore adaptation, is useful to enhance
the ability to periodize recovery within the training program. While
a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this review, the primary
mechanisms include a decrease in tissue temperature, increase in
buoyancy, increase in hydrostatic pressure, decrease in muscle
perfusion, decrease in nerve conduction velocity, and decrease in
permeability of cellular, lymphatic, and capillary vessels.
sequently, these mechanisms may result in anti-inammatory
effects, decreased perception of fatigue, increased efux of meta-
bolic waste products, decreased edema, decreased recovery time
and secondary tissue damage, and increased reabsorption of inter-
stitial uid (for review, see Tipton et al
). These physiological
and psychological effects have the potential to inuence both acute
and chronic recovery.
Acute Recovery. The effects of recovery on acute performance
often demonstrate mixed results despite a number of reviews and
meta-analyses highlighting small but positive effects on perfor-
This may be due in part to thermal and cardiovascular
effects that are inuenced by individual responses in body temper-
ature and blood ow.
Further variability may be the result of
water immersion protocols (temperature, duration, and depth) and
the individualsbody composition.
Although there are multiple
inuences on the effectiveness of CWI, it is generally considered
that when CWI protocols are appropriate, performance is acutely
Chronic Recovery. Much of this speculation about the chronic
use of hydrotherapy recovery techniques has come from a small
number of studies. In a study by Yamane et al,
performed regular CWI following cycling or handgrip exercise
3 to 4 times a week for 4 to 6 weeks. The authors concluded that
microdamage and metabolic alterations may be negatively inu-
enced by CWI, due to the prevention of muscle hyperthermia,
which may have interfered with myober regeneration. A number
of methodological limitations, however, question the study nd-
ings and applicability to the sporting population: muscle tempera-
ture was not measured, so the degree of muscle cooling is not
known; subjects were few and untrained; water temperatures were
lower and immersion durations longer than those typically used by
athletes; and performance tests were not representative of athletic
performance. In a subsequent study by the same group, untrained
male subjects performed wrist-exion exercises 3 times a week for
6 weeks. Subjects who immersed their experimental forearms in
cold water after exercise showed reduced wrist-exor thicknesses,
maximal muscle strength, brachial artery diameter, and local
muscle endurance increment.
In contrast with the above, Howatson et al
examined the
inuence of CWI on maximum voluntary contraction, perception of
muscle soreness, creatine kinase, muscle girths, and range of motion
following 2 bouts of drop jump exercise separated by 14 to 21 days.
No signicant differences were observed between CWI and control,
indicating no effect on adaptation. Similarly, Broatch et al
reported no effect of CWI on molecular signaling pathways asso-
ciated with regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis phospho-p53
and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γcoactivator-1α
mRNA after 6 weeks of cycling sprint interval training. Further-
more, no changes were observed in peak aerobic power, maximal
oxygen consumption, and 2-km time trial performance. The con-
tention that chronic CWI may blunt training adaptation in athletes
is, thus, not supported by the available research.
Roberts et al
compared the effects of CWI and active
recovery on changes in muscle mass and strength after 12 weeks
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of strength training, as well as the effects of hypertrophy on
signaling pathways and satellite cell activity after acute strength
exercise in physically active men training 2 days per week. Cold
water immersion attenuated long-term gains in muscle mass and
strength and blunted the activation of key proteins and satellite cells
in skeletal muscle up to 2 days after strength exercise. The authors
concluded that athletes should reconsider the use of CWI for
recovery. However, as the participants were untrained and were
training only two times per week, the relevance of this study to elite
athletes is questionable. Furthermore, Fröhlich et al
CWI of a single leg over a 5-week strength training period. Small
negative effects were observed for changes in 1-repetition maxi-
mum (RM) and 12RM at the completion of the training phase in the
leg that underwent CWI. Again, the participants were not elite
athletes, and the changes observed were very small.
Finally, some studies have examined the use of ice or cold packs
postexercise on aspects of muscle recovery. While ice/cold packs
may differ from CWI in both performance outcomes and mechanism
of action, the results of these papers have been used to question the
role of hydrotherapy in adaptation to training. Nemet et al
12 elite junior handball players to 2 ×15-minute cold pack applica-
tions to the legs immediately following 4 ×250-m running efforts.
Cold pack application resulted in signicant decreases in circulating
growth factors and inammatory cytokines interleukin-1β(IL-1B),
interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), insulin-like growth factor
1 (IGF-1), insulin-like growth-factor-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3),
insulin-like growth-factor-binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1) during
recovery. The authors concluded that local ice therapy resulted in
a greater decrease of both proinammatory and anti-inammatory
cytokines and a greater decrease in anabolic hormones.
Halson et al
investigated the effects of CWI 4 times per
week or passive recovery over 7 days of baseline training, 21 days
of intensied training, and an 11-day taper. Cyclists in the CWI
group had an unclear change in overall 4-minute power relative to
control, although mean power in the second effort relative to the
rst was likely higher for the CWI group relative to control. The
effect in mean sprint power in the CWI group was likely benecial
compared with control, but differences between groups for the
10-minute time trial were unclear. This is one of the only studies
that has investigated recovery in a well-trained population, incor-
porating practical use of CWI in athletes undertaking a consider-
able amount of training. Results suggest that hydrotherapy does not
hinder adaptation to training and may indeed enhance a number of
aspects of cycling performance.
The effect of regular postexercise CWI (3 sessions per week
of endurance training for 4 wk) on muscle aerobic adaptations to
endurance training has been recently examined.
Data collected via
muscle biopsies revealed that repeated CWI enhances p38 mitogen-
activated protein kinases (p38 MAPK), adenosine monophosphate-
activated protein kinase (AMPK), and possibly mitochondrial bio-
genesis. As performance was not measured in this study, the
implications of these adaptations on athletic performance are unclear.
Although high-quality scientic data in the area of chronic
recovery and adaptation are scarce, available research suggests that
if practitioners wish to take a conservative approach to recovery,
withholding CWI after resistance training sessions would be
Considerations for Periodization of Recovery
Although evidence regarding the effects of recovery on adaptation
is limited, based on the above information, periodizing recovery
to maximize the positive benets of training stress, fatigue, and
soreness appears warranted. Furthermore, there is no one-size-ts-
allapproach, and consideration of the sport and its demands, as
well as the individual needs of the athlete, should be at the forefront
when periodizing recovery. Some of the key themes are out-
lined below:
Withholding recovery at certain times, most commonly in the
general preparation phase, to maximize adaptation to training
(chronic recovery): As the fatigue induced during training is a
major inuence of adaptation to training, many athletes inten-
tionally increase training load to induce fatigue, then provide
adequate recovery to induce adaptation. There may be phases
of training where higher levels of fatigue are acceptable, and
therefore, recovery may not be essential or indeed may be
harmful. This is most often seen in the early general prepara-
tion phase, where there is adequate time to reduce fatigue prior
to competition. However, when failure to adapt occurs due to
high training loads and limited recovery, a state of nonfunc-
tional overreaching or overtraining may develop,
and thus,
careful monitoring of fatigue is necessary.
Utilizing recovery during the specic preparation phase to
prepare for certain training sessions (acute recovery): In sports
involving a high skill component or when high-intensity, high-
quality training sessions are required, it is suggested that the
athletes have minimal fatigue to optimize the quality of
training. In this regard, recovery can be incorporated into
the specic preparation phase to maximize the athletesability
to prepare for certain training sessions. Specically, athletes
participating in sports involving eccentric muscle damage and/
or physical contact may experience increased levels of damage
and soreness, which may require enhanced recovery needs.
Utilizing increased recovery to decrease acute fatigue during
the competition phase (acute recovery): As outlined earlier,
there is evidence to suggest that acute performance may be
positively inuenced by recovery. For this reason, recovery is
often highlighted during the competition phase. Again, it is
important to consider the sport itself and the nature of the
competition. When competition occurs frequently, such as in
elite soccer and other team sports that are played 1 to 3 times
per week, the athlete may benet from increased recovery.
However, in some individual sports, such as swimming, where
major competitions may be 1 to 3 times per year, there may be
a lesser demand for recovery for these athletes.
Incorporating recovery during travel, after an injury, and to
manage psychological stress (acute and chronic recovery):
Many elite athletes are required to travel extensively for
competition, which can increase fatigue both acutely and
over a season.
Recovery strategically placed around periods
of travel may aid in managing fatigue, especially around
competition. While there is minimal scientic evidence, anec-
dotal evidence suggests that for athletes who are at a higher
risk of injury (either because of the type of sport they are
involved in or because they have experienced previous inju-
ries), additional recovery may help reduce the risk of injury
and enhance recovery from existing injuries.
From a psychological perspective, CWI may have a positive
effect on mood, as evidenced by increases in dopamine, serotonin,
and β-endorphins.
This may be important during periods of high
psychological stress, such as during competition. Finally, many
athletes report increased subjective recovery and reduced soreness
with appropriate recovery, and, as such, strong belief effects for the
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role of recovery in performance may be held by some athletes. The
effect of this belief in recovery on actual performance may not be
clear; however, as belief effects can be extremely powerful, this
should not be discounted as an important inuence on performance
in elite athletes.
In summary, recovery strategies, and CWI in particular, can
inuence both acute and chronic performance and adaptation.
Recovery may be withheld during the general preparation phase,
increased during specic preparation, and further increased during
competition and periods of increased recovery needs. Careful
consideration of the use of recovery in different phases of the
training program may result in optimal performance outcomes for
individual and team sport athletes (see Tables 1and 2).
Dietary Periodization
Sports nutrition has evolved over the past 4 decades from a series of
disjointed ideas and one-size-ts-all guidelines into an evidence-
based science promoting integrated and personalized practices.
Whereas early efforts were based on static recommendations
focused on the fuel needs for endurance athletes, contemporary
sports nutrition guidelines are event specic, suited to each indi-
vidual athlete, and periodized to meet differences in goals across
time, ranging from a training microcycle to a whole sporting career.
Although a single or unied denition of the term dietary
periodization does not exist, there are at least 4 different themes
that can be explored to justify a strategic manipulation of nutrient
intake between and within days to optimize athletic performance.
These can be illustrated by the following examples:
Periodizing energy and nutrient intake to track changing needs
or goals of training and competition;
Periodizing strategies that increase capacity for fuel utilization
from one substrate (eg, fat) to another (eg, carbohydrate
[CHO]) with the goal of harnessing increased capacity from
both systems;
Alternating between 2 often opposite strategies of providing
nutritional support to promote optimal performance and with-
holding nutritional support to increase the training stimulus or
enhance adaptation; and
Arranging nutrient intake over the day, and in relation to
training sessions, to enhance the metabolic interaction between
exercise and nutrition.
Periodizing Nutrition to Track Changing Needs
Although athletes may set their goals to span a longer period, such
as an Olympic cycle or the years of a college scholarship, the yearly
training plan provides a convenient template to illustrate the
changes in nutritional priorities and strategies across different
phases of training and competition. Tables 1and 2illustrate
some of the typical priorities or nutritional practices included in
the general preparation phase, specic competition preparation,
competition itself, and transition or off-season between phases for
individual athletes and team sport athletes. Changes in the type,
volume, and intensity of training clearly create major differences in
energy needs, as well as requirements for CHO (eg, to meet muscle
fuel needs), protein (eg, to promote adaptation), uid (eg, to replace
sweat losses), and some micronutrients (eg, iron for altitude
training). Manipulations in body composition, which require al-
terations in energy intake and potentially in protein intake, may
need to be factored into the general preparation phase, leaving
sufcient time to gradually achieve optimal competition physique
(body fat and lean mass goals) while supporting the training load
and providing adequate energy availability to support health.
The organization of the type and timing of nutrient intake to
optimize adaptation or recovery around specic sessions or training
phases (see Tables 1and 2) must also be factored into the total
energy and nutrient plan, as well as incorporated from day to day as
According to the athletes event or sport, a range of nutritional
strategies may be undertaken around a competition to address the
physiological or biochemical factors that would otherwise limit
performance or cause fatigue. These include protocols to provide
adequate fuel availability or maintain hydration, consideration of
gastrointestinal comfort, and the use of evidence-based supple-
ments. According to the frequency and number of competition
events undertaken by an athlete, these strategies may be an
occasional or signicant part of the athletes total nutrition plan.
In any case, the athlete should include some practice with intended
event nutrition protocols during the competition preparation phase
to identify successful practices and ne-tune the plan of imple-
mentation. Real-world competition often involves a combination of
nutrition practices or complicated timetables of use;
thus, an
individualized and practiced nutrition plan must be developed.
Historically, the off-season was a time of signicant detraining
and deconditioning, with athletes reducing or refraining from
training while indulging in less healthy eating practices and/or
increased alcohol consumption. In modern sport, however, many
athletes or their teams now instigate a more judicious approach to
the phase between seasons to avoid spending signicant amounts
of the following seasons general preparation time regaining the
previous level of conditioning. Specic mention must be made of
the nutritional support for the injured athlete or the athlete recov-
ering from surgery. Previously, this period was also a time of
signicant loss of tness and gain of body fat, and although athletes
now try to reduce energy intake to avoid a situation of energy
surplus, a more proactive approach to injury rehabilitation is to
focus on the maintenance of lean mass and the support of the repair
and regeneration of damaged tissues.
This approach may involve
a thorough organization of energy intake that is commensurate with
the change in energy expenditure, higher intake of protein that is
well spread across the day, and consideration of nutrients and
supplements that might address the health of bone, collagenous
tissues, and muscle.
Periodizing Fuel Systems to Build Metabolic
In many events, competitive success is determined by the muscles
ability to optimize adenosine triphosphate production to meet the
requirements of the exercise task; this reects both the size of the
available substrate pools and the musclesmetabolic exibility,
dened as the ability to integrate or transition between substrates in
response to hormonal and/or contractual stimuli.
In the case of
continuous, prolonged (>90 min), endurance-based exercise,
depletion of the bodys relatively limited CHO stores is a common
cause of fatigue or suboptimal performance.
Although well-
trained athletes have an enhanced capacity for fat oxidation, their
ability to use their relatively large fat stores as an exercise substrate
is clearly not maximized because it can be further upregulated by
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switching to a low-CHO, high-fat diet (LCHF). Indeed, short-term
exposure (5 d) to a diet providing <20% energy from CHO and
60% to 65% from fat, while continuing to undertake both high-
volume and high-intensity training sessions, has been shown to
achieve a robust retooling of the muscle to increase the mobiliza-
tion, transport, and oxidation of fat, even in the face of strategies to
acutely restore high CHO availability, such as glycogen super-
compensation and CHO intake during exercise.
Although the strategies needed to prime each of these fuel
systems are polarized, it has been hypothesized that a sequential
implementation might be able to harness enhanced capacity from
both substrates. Specically, undertaking the briefest effective
adaptation to a high-fat diet before reestablishing high CHO
availability in the 24 hours prior to, and during, an endurance
or ultra-endurance event might improve metabolic exibility and
performance if it could combine high CHO stores with an ability to
use them more slowly due to increased fat utilization. However,
researchers have failed to nd that this fat adaptation/CHO resto-
ration protocol enhances the performance of subsequent prolonged
exercise, despite achieving remarkable reductions in muscle gly-
cogen use (for review, see Burke
). One apparent explanation for
this outcome is that, rather than sparing glycogen utilization, fat
adaptation causes an impairment of CHO oxidation due to a
reduction in glycogenolysis and downregulation of the activity
of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex.
The consequences of
reduced efciency of CHO utilization within the citric acid cycle
are likely to manifest in a reduced ability to support the adenosine
triphosphate requirements for exercise at higher intensities. Indeed,
a study of the fat adaptation/CHO restoration periodization model
on performance in a 100-km cycling time trial found the most
signicant effect to be an impaired ability to undertake sprints at
>90% peak power output/80% maximal oxygen uptake.
outcome, representing a reduction rather than improvement of
metabolic exibility, would likely translate into reduced perfor-
mance of shorter endurance events conducted at these exercise
intensities (eg, half-marathon; 40-km cycling time trial), as well as
an impaired ability to undertake the critical activities within most
longer endurance/ultra-endurance sports events (ie, a breakaway, a
tactical surge, attacking a hill, or sprinting to the nish line), which
determine the overall outcome. Understandably, the interpretation
of these decade-old data was that dietary periodization involving a
brief fat-adaptation/CHO restoration could not be recommended
for the typical endurance/ultra-endurance event in which a range of
exercise intensities are required, even for brief periods; however,
events involving only low-to-moderate-intensity activity might
benet from further investigation of the protocol.
The recent reemergence of interest in the ketogenic LCHF diet
(<50 g/d CHO, 75%80% fat, and moderate protein intake) has also
raised further possibilities of a periodized integration of otherwise-
polarized strategies for promoting fat utilization and CHO oxida-
tion. Possibilities suggested within lay discussions of the ketogenic
diet include chronic adherence to the LCHF diet, with the intro-
duction of CHO only on race day, in preevent and during-event
or block periods (eg, 34 wk) of adaptation to the LCHF
diet within a diet otherwise constructed around higher CHO
availability, in a manner similar to altitude training. In the latter
case, the prevailing theory is that benets achieved during the
adaptation phase will persist and be apparent once a return to
normalCHO availability is combined with a precompetition
taper. Despite fervent discussions of these ideas on social media
platforms, there is no research literature on which to judge their
merits. In addition to downregulation of muscle characteristics
related to CHO utilization, the chronic effect of very restricted
intake of CHO on intestinal CHO uptake would also need to be
It is possible that the sudden reintroduction of CHO
on race day might exceed the downregulated capacityof gut glucose
absorption via sodium-glucose-linked transporter-1 (SGLT-1)
transporters, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort as
well as interfering with the provision of additional muscle substrate.
Studies are needed to explore these and other variations of the
periodization of fat adaptation and high CHO availability.
Nutrition for Adaptation Versus Recovery/
Increased ability to study cellular responses to exercise and nutrient
stimuli has provided the insight that, across many areas of sports
nutrition, the processes related to adaptation may be divergent from
those that promote recovery/performance. In an admittedly simpli-
ed overview, many processes that promote recovery from exercise
to restore homeostasis and exercise capacity are based on the
provision of nutrient support. Meanwhile, in some areas, the
absence or deliberate withdrawal of nutritional support may
increase exercise stress and/or promote the signaling pathways
that lead to a remodeling of the muscle and other physiological
systems to create a faster, stronger athlete. Consequently, some
nutritional strategies may be suited to supporting the athlete to
compete optimally or to complete key training sessions as well as
possible (ie, train harder). Conversely, the opposite strategy may
stimulate greater adaptation to the same exercise stimulus and could
be integrated into training phases (ie, a training smarter
approach). These concepts may explain the research literature
around the use of antioxidant and anti-inammatory nutrients;
some studies have shown that supplementation can impair training
adaptation and long-term performance via a chronic blunting of
adaptive processes that involve redox-sensitive signaling pathways,
whereas others report enhancement of acute recovery via a reduc-
tion in oxidative/inammatory damage (for review, see Braakhuis
and Hopkins
). Similarly, there is evidence that although uid
intake enhances endurance performance in the heat,
dehydration during training sessions may enhance the physiologi-
cal and cardiovascular processes of acclimatization.
less, the area in which most investigation has been undertaken
around the theme of strategic addition or withholding of nutritional
support involves the manipulation of CHO availability.
Whereas the earliest sports nutrition guidelines recommended a
high CHOdiet for all athletes, with targets provided as absolute
amounts of CHO (regardless of an athletes size or exercise load) or
as percentage of energy intake (regardless of the total energy
contemporary guidelines recognize that CHO intake
should be seen in the context of CHO availability,in which
the daily amount and timing of CHO intake are compared with
muscle fuel costs of the training or competition schedule. Scenarios
of high CHO availabilitycover strategies in which body CHO
supplies can meet the fuel costs of the exercise program, whereas
low CHO availabilityconsiders scenarios in which endogenous
and/or exogenous CHO supplies are less than muscle fuel needs.
The current guidelines
recommend that high CHO availability
should be achieved on days in which competition or high-quality/
demanding training sessions will benet from optimal fueling of
muscle and central nervous system function (ie, optimization of
work rates, perception of effort, skill and technique, and concen-
tration and mental processing). On these occasions, CHO intake
should be integrated with other dietary goals to achieve adequate
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muscle fuel (from glycogen stores supported by additional exoge-
nous CHO supplies), as well as to support other body processes
requiring CHO (eg, immune system support). Targets will consider
both the total amount of CHO and its timing of intake around the
workout or event. Competition strategies will need to address the
practical considerations for consuming nutrients around exercise
(eg, event rules, opportunity to consume foods/drinks, and avail-
ability of supplies). Some training sessions should mimic these
conditions to practice the behaviors and to train the gut(ie,
enhance rates of gastric emptying or intestinal absorption of
CHO, increase tolerance/gut comfort).
On days when training
is of lower volume and/or intensity, it may be less critical to meet
such targets or practice these strategies. The practical manifestation
of this approach is that each athlete would vary his/her CHO intake
from day to day according to the fuel needs of their exercise load
and the importance of optimizing the CHO contribution toward this.
More recently, it has been recognized that CHO and, in
particular, muscle glycogen, play important direct and indirect
roles in regulating a muscles adaptation to training. Specically,
undertaking a bout of endurance exercise with low muscle glyco-
gen stores produces a coordinated upregulation of key cell signal-
ing kinases (eg, AMPK, p38 MAPK), transcription factors (eg,
p53, peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor delta [PPARδ]),
and transcriptional coactivators (eg, PGC-1α).
A number of
mechanisms underpin this outcome, including increasing the activ-
ity of molecules with a glycogen-binding domain, increasing free
fatty acid availability, changing osmotic pressure in the muscle cell,
and increasing catecholamine concentrations.
Strategies that
restrict exogenous CHO availability also promote an extended
signaling response, albeit less robustly than is the case for exercise
with low glycogen stores.
These strategies enhance the cellular
outcomes of endurance training, such as increased maximal mito-
chondrial enzyme activities and/or mitochondrial content and
increased rates of lipid oxidation.
The combination of research and practical experience has led to
a paradigm that athletes should train with low CHO availability (train
low) to enhance the training response. Although this might be
achieved chronically with an LCHF diet, strategies that could
achieve it periodically around targeted training sessions include
doing 2 training sessions in close succession, or minimal CHO
intake in between, to enable the second bout to be done with low
glycogen content (low endogenous CHO availability), or training in
a fasted state with only water intake (low exogenous CHO avail-
ability). Studies of train lowstrategies in subelite athletes have
reported evidence of enhanced signaling and cellular responses to
training, particularly with training with low glycogen, suggesting an
amplication of the training response.
However, evidence of a
consistent transfer to superior performance outcomes is lacking.
Issues with study methodology (eg, the difculty of measuring
performance with real-world signicance; inconsistency between
protocols that clamped training loads vs protocols that allowed
athletes to train as hard as possible) partly explain this disconnect
between mechanistic and performance outcomes. More importantly,
however, in the early studies in which train lowwas implemented
in all sessions or all of the key (high-intensity) sessions in the training
program, benets due to enhanced adaptation may have been
negated by the observed reductions in quality/intensity of these
This suggests that train lowstrategies need to be
carefully integrated into the periodized training program to match the
specic goal of the session and the larger goals of the training phase.
A more recently identied exercisenutrient interaction adds
another strategy to the CHO periodization options. Delaying
glycogen resynthesis by withholding CHO in the hours after a
higher intensity training session has been shown to upregulate
markers of mitochondrial biogenesis and lipid oxidation during the
recovery phase
without interfering with the quality of the
session. A further benet and practical application of this protocol
is that it allows the sequencing of (1) a train highhigh-quality
training session, (2) overnight or within-day CHO restriction (sleep
low), and (3) a moderate-intensity workout undertaken without
CHO intake and, in the case of a morning session, after an
overnight fast (train low). Indeed, superior training adaptation
and performance outcomes have recently been reported when 3
cycles of this sequence were introduced into the weekly training
programs of subelite athletes, over either a 3-week
or 1-week
period of observation. In these studies, benets were seen with this
periodized CHO approach that were not observed in another group
that undertook similar training with a similar, but evenly distrib-
uted, CHO intake. These studies provide encouraging evidence that
a range of train highand train lowstrategies could be individ-
ually integrated into the athletes training program to amplify the
desired adaptation and performance outcomes. Such an approach
has been described in case studies of the preparation of elite
endurance athletes.
Finally, it should be recognized that studies of elite athletes
appear to show less responsiveness to periodization of CHO
availability than is seen in subelite athletes. An investigation of
a 3-week program of intensied training in world-class race
walkers failed to detect any difference in the immediate perfor-
mance benets achieved by the group who consumed a periodized
CHO diet and another group who consumed the same total CHO
intake, but evenly spread to promote high CHO availability for all
training sessions.
Another study of elite endurance athletes
reported no benets to training adaptation or performance gains
from the integration of a within-day sequence of a high-quality
train high/sleep (recover) low/moderate-intensity train low
protocol 3 days a week compared with a diet providing more
consistent CHO availability.
It is uncertain whether the observed
lack of additional benets is systematically related to the caliber of
the athlete: for example, a reduced ceiling for improvements in
which differences are harder to detect, or an ability to undertake
intensied training where the stimulus already maximizes the
adaptive response
or depletes CHO stores even in the face of
high CHO intakes around training, such that the actual differential
between a diet with high or periodized CHO availability is
Further investigation is merited.
Spreading Nutrient Intake Over the Day
to Maximize ExerciseNutrient Interaction
In many areas of nutrition and sports nutrition, guidelines for
nutrient intake are provided in terms of daily targets, with little
regard for how this might be consumed over the day and in relation
to exercise. In the previous theme, the deliberate organization of
CHO intake around exercise sessions to either provide or withhold
its availability as a fuel source was shown to achieve different
outcomes to a periodized or evenly distributed spread of CHO
across the day. Protein is another nutrient receiving interest around
its optimal spread across the day. Protein balance is a product of
muscle protein synthesis minus muscle protein breakdown, and
over a day, the direction and magnitude of the balance continually
alters according to factors such as intake of dietary protein,
exercise, and periods without food (for review, see Phillips
In the period immediately after exercise, there is a substantial
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increase in rates of muscle protein synthesis, especially in trained
This is most evident in the hours immediately after
the exercise bout, and in trained subjects, it may not return to basal
levels until at least 24 hours of recovery.
However, while
exercise reduces the degree of negative protein balance that occurs
between meals, the response remains negative (ie, breakdown
greater than synthesis) unless the athlete consumes a source of
or, more specically, essential amino acids.
The maximal protein synthetic response to a resistance exer-
cise bout is achieved with the intake of 0.3-g high-quality protein
per kg of body mass (2025 g for the typical athlete), soon after
the completion of the bout,
at least when this is consumed from a
single and rapidly digested source. This results from the dual role of
protein-rich foods in providing a source of the branched-chain
amino acid, leucine, which turns on protein synthetic machinery, as
well as supplying the amino acid building blocks for the construc-
tion of new proteins.
The optimal amount of protein, when
consumed within meals and/or from more slowly digested sources,
may be larger because it may require a larger amount to achieve the
optimal plasma leucine concentration. Although the postexercise
intake of high biological value protein has been the focus of most
attention, the optimal pattern of intake to take advantage of the
enhanced protein synthetic response over the rest of the day is also
important. This has been shown to be a pattern of repeated meals
and snacks providing the optimal protein, served every 3 to
5 hours.
A slightly larger protein serving, just prior to going
to bed, has also been shown to enhance protein synthesis by
maintaining elevated rates overnight.
These patterns of intake
are not typically found in a Western eating style, suggesting that
many athletes could improve the outcomes of their training by
altering their habitual protein intake practices.
In summary, nutrition and exercise interact powerfully to promote
physiological adaptations and to enhance exercise capacity. There
are a number of ways in which timing the intake of nutrients over
the day in relation to exercise and as part of the periodization of the
athletes training and competition calendar can enhance the out-
comes of this interaction. Nutrient timing and periodization pose an
exciting new area of sports nutrition in which there is an evolving
evidence base, as well as the need to consider the practical aspects
of consuming foods and uids around exercise and in the athletes
busy lifestyle.
Periodization of Psychological Skills
Periodization is considered a key strategy in optimal training and
sport performance, but it has not reached sport psychology in any
consistent way. This section explores the possible reasons, sum-
marizes what is presently known, and offers some suggestions for
future steps.
The major stumbling block in the lack of periodized work of
psychological skills in sport is the lack of agreement in the eld as
to what the basic sport psychology skills are. There is also some
confusion between skills, tools, and outcomes. There are several
labels that appear repeatedly, but that may just reect the use of
similar training methods. The second issue, assuming an agreement
could be reached on the rst one, would be to clarify if skills build
onto each other, thus requiring some to be taught before others.
There is no clear evidence for this issue, eitheronly some
common sense or experiential evidence. Finally, there is the issue
of adequately balancing psychological training intensity and vol-
ume: How many skills should be taught in 1 phase? For how long
should they be practiced? What is the difculty level of the skills?
All of these are variables without evidence-based answers.
With a holistic approach to periodization, coordinating psy-
chological skills training with physical training, recovery, nutri-
tion, and skill acquisition, the picture becomes even more obscure
(Table 1). Nevertheless, the fact that an issue is complicated or
confusing is not reason enough to avoid it; on the contrary, the area
should be developed and built on what has been previously learned.
Existing Models
provided one of the rst comprehensive descriptions of a
periodized approach to mental training programs. He proposed an
arbitrary combination of desired qualities for a well-prepared
athlete, including being condent, optimistic, calm under pres-
sure, mentally focused in the present, and determined.
should be able to improve these qualities by using psychological
techniques derived from 5 basic mental skills: relaxation, positive
self-talk, energization, visualization, and concentration. Inside
each of these, the author listed several techniques to help train
the skill.
In addition to acknowledging the arbitrariness, Bacon
highlighted the need for individualized training, suggested the use
of a mental skills assessment tool, such as Suinns
and recommended that athletes and coaches choose skills to work
on based on the data obtained. In addition, Bacon
underlined the
need for integrating mental training into the athletes other training
activities and making sure that the mental objectives of each phase
are compatible with the objectives of the other training compo-
nents. He proposed Boutcher and Rotellas
model, which starts
with basic mental skills, then adds sport-specic mental skills, and
nally individual competition strategies. Bacon
also addressed
the sequence of skills to be taught, indicating the likelihood of
needing to use some of them to effectively teach others and
recommending the following sequence: relaxation, positive self-
talk, energization, visualization, and concentration. Bacon also
provided a detailed description of how this could be applied during
a monolithic season with 1 major competition at the end. Despite
being a comprehensive and practical approach, it is untested, and it
only addresses the initial questions minimally, except for the
recommended teaching sequence, which is also untested.
also proposed a model of specic skills to be
trained at different phases of the training cycle, indicating that
the skills addressed should match the needs of the training phase, as
well as the demands of the sport and the characteristics of the
athlete. The author offered a model for horizontal jumps training
and proposed a modied version of Vealeys
classication of
skills, starting with basic skills: motivation, self-awareness, pro-
ductive thinking, and self-condence. Next are performance skills:
cognitive-perceptual skills, attention management, and energy
management. Personal developmental skills are next: identity
formation, interpersonal functioning, and media management.
Finally, team functioning skills are as follows: leadership, com-
munication skills, cohesion, and team condence. Here, again, the
model was proposed but not tested.
Hammermeister and VonGuenthner
also discussed the issue
of periodization of psychological skills training. They proposed
linking Burton et als
model of mental training periodization,
which emphasizes manipulating volume, intensity, and specicity,
as well as rest, and matching the mental training variables to the
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actual phase of training. Hammermeister and VonGuenthner
also suggested combining the periodization model with the Mental
Skills Menu,
which is a progressive list of exercises for various
mental skills, allowing for the individualization of the program to
the needs of athletes and coaches.
proposed periodization as the backbone for training
mental skills with the following phases: understanding, acceptance,
utilization, and integration. These phases address the issue of the
degree of understanding and motivation to train psychological skills,
and they evoke the Stages of Change model
widely used in health
psychology. The specic techniques to be taught are secondary to
the persons willingness to accept the need for these techniques. The
basic concept proposed is to become very familiar with the teams
long-term training cycle, match the skills to meet the specic
demands during each training phase, and systematically manipulate
the volume and intensity of mental skills training (MST) during each
training phase. Holliday
suggested that during the base training
phase, foundation skills are taught; the preparatory phase incorpo-
rates MST tools; the competitive phase calls for MST skills; and the
peaking phase requires mental readiness. Volume and intensity of
MST are manipulated, with high volume (development of mental
tools and amount of mental training) in the rst 2 phases and
increasing intensity (difculty of skills, complexity, specicity, and
consequences of failure) in the last 2 phases.
tested this model with a prepost measure, show-
ing an increase in usage of MST both during practice and during
competition, an increase in self-condence, and improvements in
performance (both self-rated and coach-rated). Holliday stated that
individual needs took preference over planned interventions,
acknowledging the importance of individualizing MST. The author
also acknowledged the lack of a control group and other methodo-
logical issues but offered a comprehensive model nonetheless.
Stonecypher et al
described an interesting proposal, having
the coaches do the mental periodization work. They suggested
using the Judge and Gilreath
model, which simplies skills as
arousal awareness, opportunity for feedback, and motivation as
focus of the preparation phases; precompetitive routines as the
main preparatory skills of the precompetitive phase; and con-
dence as the main focus of the competitive phase. The authors
described the implementation of the program with a softball
pitcher. Some of the limitations of the protocol have to do with
the lack of exibility in adapting such a program to the needs of an
individual athlete. For example, the study species the need to
work back to the basics of imagery if the athlete has difculty
controlling the images. That is correct, but what to do when an
athlete has very poor imagery skills overall? Although increasing
the role of the coaches in periodization of psychological skills
training is clearly the way forward, given the nature of the work and
the complexity of psychological responses, a sport psychologist
should be consistently involved with the coaches and athletes
participating in the program.
Periodization of Psychological Skills in Team
The information available on periodization of psychological skills in
team sports is even more scant, and completely inexistent in the
specic case of soccer. Perhaps the reason is that team sports present
more complications from a psychological standpoint: the competi-
tive season is long, and matches are often held weekly, which
shortens the preparation phases and requires practitioners to operate
in microcycles. Early competitions often function as training,
although performance remains important. Table 2displays a possible
structure for the periodization of psychological skills in a team sport.
Besides the requirements shown in Table 2, periodization for
team sports would also demand the consideration of the socio-
emotional interventions needed by the specic group development
phase. Tuckman
proposed the most widely used model for the
evolution of small groups, which he devised for work groups and
has extended to athletic teams. Each phase has specic task issues
and socioemotional issues and requires different responses from the
teams leader (Table 3).
Ideally, Tables 1to 3should be combined to ensure attention to
the development of psychologically relevant performance skills by the
individual players, while at the same time working with the coaches
to make sure they develop a cohesive, high-performing group.
Examining the above studies, several common issues emerge:
The individual athletes psychological needs will determine in
a general way which skills he or she should work on training or
acquiring. Issues such as athletic experience, level of partici-
pation, prior exposure to psychological skills training, and
personal characteristics will greatly determine which skills
should be addressed.
There is a strong motivational factor to practicing mental skills,
so the athletesand coacheschoice of skills is probably
helpful in that respect. That is why Balague
stated that
identifying the psychological demands of the sport and of the
current training phase, and teaching psychological skills that
address these needs, would increase compliance with mental
training regimes.
Table 3 Model for the Evolution of Sports Teams
Phase Task issues Socioemotional issues Leader behavior
Forming (goal setting) What should we do?
How are we going to do it?
What are the goals?
Am I included?
What is my role?
Is this good for me?
Leader very active, informs, and
encourages participation
Storming (clarify and promote
What are the rules?
Rewards and punishments?
How am I evaluated?
Who has the power?
Who is the boss?
Who am I against?
Test limits
Leader promotes expression of differences
Looking for solutions
Norming (cohesiveness) Create a sense of team
Generate feedback
Sense of belonging, conict
resolution, and conformity
Group more independent of leader
Promote uniformity
Performing (self-regulation) Problem-solving
Balance information action
High productivity
Leader delegates
Support expression of ideas
All resources are used
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Educating the athletes regarding the different skills available is
helpful; it should be done early in the athletic development
process and can be done as a group activity, but training will
need to be conducted, at least in part, on an individual basis.
Some athletes may think that they do not need to build, for
example, their self-condence. This is particularly the case
with gifted athletes who have been the best in their environ-
ment. Once these athletes move to a group of equally gifted
individuals (ie, a professional team), or after experiencing a
severe injury, for instance, self-condence doubts may appear,
and they will require tools not previously needed.
Psychological skills, unlike physical ones, are not universally
accepted in sports as essential for performance and/or train-
able. Perhaps it is impossible to identify a general sequence of
psychological skills for sports performance that should be
followed by every athlete. The issue would then become
one of assessing the type and level of skills possessed by
the different athletes and showing the connection between the
skills that need to be developed and the demands of the training
phase for that specic sport.
Psychological Skills for Performance
What are the psychological skills most relevant to performance in
the competitive periods? Most coaches and athletes would proba-
bly agree that motivation, self-condence, effective focus, and
cognitive exibility (to allow for good decision making in the
changing conditions of sport competition) would make most
expertslist, followed by the ability to regulate intensity, both
physically and emotionally, as well as interpersonal skills (eg,
being a good teammate, being a leader).
There has been a lot of interest in the notion of grit,identied
as a group of qualities that determine probability of success given
equal talent.
These qualities are:
Courage: More specically, the ability to manage fear of
failure is imperative and a predictor of success. The supremely
gritty are not afraid to fail, but rather embrace failure as part of
a process. They understand that there are valuable lessons in
defeat and that the vulnerability of perseverance is requisite for
high achievement.
Conscientiousness: The achievement-oriented individual is
one who works tirelessly, tries to do a good job, and completes
the task at hand. In the context of conscientiousness, grit, and
success, it is important to commit to go for gold rather than just
show up for practice.
Long-term goals, endurance, and follow-through: One of the
distinctions between someone who succeeds and someone
who is just spending a lot of time doing something is this
practice must have purpose. That is where long-term goals
come in. They provide the context and framework in which to
nd the meaning and value of the athletes long-term efforts,
which helps cultivate drive, sustainability, passion, courage,
staminathat is, grit.
Resilience (optimism, condence, and creativity): A key
component of grit is resiliencethe powering mechanism
that draws ones head up, moves an athlete forward, and helps
them persevere despite whatever obstacles they face along the
way. In other words, gritty people believe everything will be
alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.
Excellence versus perfection: Excellence is an attitude, not an
endgame. It is far more forgiving than perfection, allowing and
embracing failure and vulnerability in the ongoing quest for
improvement. It allows for disappointment and prioritizes
progress over perfection.
The labels that Duckworth et al
proposed appear to be a
combination of the traits listed by the coaches. Their ndingsthat
these attributes predicted success in the performance of West Point
cadets better than physical or intellectual talentprovide support
for the need to nd ways of training them.
One qualitative study conducted with multiple medalists or
people who medaled in more than 1 sport
identied the following
components of what the author called performance intelligence:
Knowing how to maximize your potential,
Knowing how to work with your environment, and
Knowing how to deliver high performance.
The rst component combines self-awareness, condence, and
emotional regulation. The second component requires social and
interpersonal awareness and cognitive exibility. The third one
includes perseverance, productive thinking, and emotional stabil-
ity/regulation. Considering the population studied, Jones
provides a template for the skills to develop when looking for
consistent elite performance. The major labels differ, but the
components are basically the same as reported above.
Psychological Recovery
Psychological recovery is another area that has not been addressed
sufciently. In soccer and other sports with long seasons, with
many matches or competitions, practitioners should nd ways to
help manage psychological fatigue and help with emotional recov-
ery, as they do with physical fatigue. In general, it is known that
active restprovides better recovery than passive activities.
Engaging in a different activity that requires some cognitive skills
is preferable to a passive occupation (eg, watching television).
From a longitudinal perspective, the situation of the experi-
enced athlete, who has been in the sport for a long time and
probably needs different tools to continue being motivated and
continue to perform at the desired intensity, should be considered.
Psychological recovery is likely to be an essential component in
that specic situation. At the other end of the spectrum is the
current situation of early specialization, with many youth sports
having a 12-month-long season. Besides the motor learning evi-
dence that asks for variety of motor patterns, the issue of psycho-
logical fatigueloss of motivationis also likely to be related to
the observed pattern. These questions require further research.
Psychological skills are a central component of athletic perfor-
mance. Failures are often attributed to lack of concentration, poor
focus, low motivation, or mental errors. At the same time, there is
no agreement as to what the basic psychological skills are and how
best to train them. Periodization methods should address individual
needs, include specic protocols for team sports, and address both
physical and psychological recovery. In the future, obtaining
evidence-based data should be the ultimate goal for researchers
and practitioners alike.
Skill Periodization
Somewhat similar to the psychology literature, the skill acquisition
literature is relatively bare when the concept of periodization is
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considered. The literature is full of experimental work that has
examined 1 particular skill acquisition concept, such as the method
of instruction (ie, internal vs external, simple vs complex), practice
scheduling or organization (ie, blocked vs random, constant vs
variable, massed vs distributed), or feedback content and timing (ie,
knowledge of results vs knowledge of performance, delayed vs
However, very few researchers have attempted
to pull these concepts together into a single skill development
model or to tease apart the nuances of preparing team sport relative
to individual sport athletes.
There are some exceptions where applied models have been
proposed that provide some direction regarding skill progres-
Similarly, there are some theoretically driven models
about how to optimize the practice environment for skill develop-
ment and, ultimately, the attainment of expertise.
these models or frameworks are relatively silent on the specic
issue of periodization. A recent exception was proposed by Farrow
and Robertson,
who developed a skill acquisition periodization
framework for high-performance sport that adopted the SPORT
acronym previously applied in the physical training literature
and adapted concepts derived from the extant skill acquisition
literature (note that the term skill acquisition literatureis used
liberally to describe work from the related elds of motor learning,
sports expertise, and sport psychology). The following section
selectively reviews these models in more detail and provides a
summary of the SPORT framework for the periodization of skill
(Tables 1and 2).
One of the rst groups to consider the development of skills
more holistically was Vickers et al,
who integrated the concepts
of instructional complexity, practice scheduling, and feedback
delivery into a decision-training model. These authors highlighted
the fallacy of a common perception in the practical setting, where
coaches typically try to develop skill through a progression of
simple to complex instruction coupled with signicant volumes of
repetitive (blocked) practice and feedback (a method Vickers et al
labeled behavioral training). Such skill development conditions
typically lead to an improvement during the practice session/s, but
positive transfer to the performance setting is often poor.
Consequently, Vickers et al
pursued a more aggressive approach
called decision training,which is essentially the opposite of the
behavioral training approach. That is, the instructions started with
greater complexity, practice was more random/variable, and
reduced levels of delayed feedback were provided. Baseball batters
reective of novice, intermediate, and advanced skill levels com-
pleted a 7-week training program in 1 of the 2 experimental
conditions. Consistent with theoretical predictions, results revealed
that for the 2 higher skill-level groups, the decision-training
approach produced superior transfer performance (hitting percent-
age), despite their practice performance being suppressed, whereas
the novice batters beneted from the behavioral training approach.
While this is an isolated study, the ndings provide some direction
regarding what aspects need to be considered collectively when
attempting to periodize skill.
Guadagnoli and Lees
challenge point framework focused
more specically on the practice and feedback conditions required
for optimal skill learning. Summarizing a large body of empirical
motor learning research on the constructs of practice and feedback,
these authors
highlighted the importance of understanding the
interaction between the skill level of a performer and the relative
difculty of the skill to be practiced. A series of testable predictions
was then made on the basis of these various interactions, whereby
the optimalchallenge point could be determined for a performer
of a given skill level practicing a specic task. While the framework
has not been subject to a great deal of empirical application as yet,
the predictions of the framework are most useful in the develop-
ment of a periodized model of skill development.
Perhaps the most heavily cited work in the eld of skill
acquisitionor, more specically, expertisecomes from the
seminal work of Ericsson et al,
who provided the theory of
deliberate practice. Although a detailed summary of the deliberate
practice research over the ensuing 20 years since its conceptuali-
zation is beyond the scope of this review (see Ford et al
for a
review as it pertains to sport), a key point is to consider what
Ericsson et al
would propose in relation to the periodization of
skill. While periodization is not specically mentioned, there is
certainly reference to the importance placed on increasing the
amount of effortful practice over time. Consequently, it was argued
that selective rest and recovery is required for the learner/performer
to derive the maximum benets of deliberate practice. These
recommendations t neatly with existing periodization literature
in the sport physiology domain.
Application of the SPORT Acronym
As previously suggested, the skill acquisition periodization frame-
was motivated by some of the previous literature reviewed
and then packaged using the SPORT acronym.
SPORT stands
for Specicity, Progression, Overload, Reversibility, and Tedium.
When contextualized from a skill acquisition perspective, specic-
ity was dened as the extent to which practice reected the
demands typically experienced in competition. Progression
referred to the skill performance of an individual and also consid-
ered the performers capacity to complete and tolerate an increased
skill practice load. Overload, or more specically load, considered
the cognitive effort demanded when practicing a skill, as well as the
volume of practice accumulated. Reversibility focused on being
able to measure the degree of skill learning that was achieved and,
importantly, how permanent (or reversible) that learning was. The
experience of tedium was considered detrimental to skill develop-
ment, so practice variability was promoted as a method to reduce
the likelihood of tedium appearing within a practice program.
For each element of the SPORT framework, Farrow and
provided a range of recommendations and hypotheti-
cal predictions about how skill could be optimally periodized in a
high-performance program. An important caveat for the implemen-
tation of this approach was that routine measurement of key skill
performance parameters was recorded such that practice demands
could be adjusted according to an individuals or teams progres-
sion. While space prohibits a detailed review of each of these
predictions, a number of key summary points can be made:
Specicity of practice is considered an essential element of any
periodized plan. While the complexity of this specicity could
be systematically manipulated through variations in the con-
straints applied, such as the amount of defensive pressure
applied or time pressure experienced, specicity is always
present in some form.
Progression is contextualized in relation to the complexity of
the skill to be practiced and how it interacts with the amount of
practice repetitions (frequency) to be completed. In simple
terms, the complexity and frequency can be manipulated (and
recorded) to develop an overall load where an optimal chal-
lenge point
is obtained. This optimalload may be expe-
rienced for a number of sessions before performance is
evaluated and a new challenge level developed.
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Overload is closely related to progression, and in many
respects, these 2 constructs are most important in ensuring a
periodized program. In skill training, consideration of the
amount of cognitive effort an athlete is using to complete a
task is a useful metric to consider overload.An underpinning
philosophy is that cognitive effort is usually a positive sign that
the performer is being required to actively engage in skill
From a periodization perspective, providing op-
portunities to unload the degree of cognitive effort is critical,
particularly when considered in parallel with the physical
training load (eg, see Marcora et al
Reversibility highlights the importance of being able to sys-
tematically record skill performance to determine the degree of
learning achieved. Furthermore, within a periodized program,
being able to identify how long a skill can be left without
practice before reversibility effects appear is particularly useful
in high-performance programs that are inevitably overcrowded
with competing practice needs and limited practice time.
Tedium or the state of being bored due to monotony is argued
to be detrimental to any skill development program. It is
suggested that increased practice variability is a useful method
for reducing the likelihood of tedium. The motor learning
literature has developed an extensive body of knowledge on
the value and limits of practice variability (eg, see Brady
a review). Concomitantly, higher practice variability is asso-
ciated with suppressed practice performance, but also with
superior transfer performance and increased cognitive effort.
These interactive features need to be well-understood when
periodizing a skill development plan.
In summary, while there is a signicant body of literature on
isolated skill acquisition concepts that are important for a scientist
or practitioner to understand when wishing to develop skill, they
have traditionally been examined in isolation from each other.
Furthermore, there has been a relative absence of research that has
considered the development of skill more holistically, with some
notable exceptions, as detailed in this review. The recent SPORT
skill acquisition periodization framework is one such example that
now requires signicant empirical testing to further validate the
prospects and limits of this framework as a model for skill
Periodization emerged several decades ago as a rational and
systematic method to organize a seasonal training program into
smaller periods and training cycles, usually referred to as macro-
cycles, mesocycles, and microcycles, with the aim of achieving a
performance peak at major competitions. Since its conceptualiza-
tion, periodization has become a widely used method by athletes
and coaches worldwide. However, the integration of other factors
that can impact athletesreadiness for optimal performance has
mostly been neglected. Recent developments in various areas of the
sports sciences (eg, recovery, nutrition, psychology, and skill
acquisition) can contribute to the development of integrated peri-
odization and make an impact on training theory and practice, in
both individual and team sports.
Traditional or linear periodization usually divides the
season into periods of general preparation, specic preparation,
competition, and transition, during which training volume, inten-
sity, specicity, and recovery are modulated in relation to the
competition calendar. Alternative periodization models, such as
nonlinear or undulating, block, fractal, conjugate sequence, or
reverse periodization, have emerged over the years, but variations
of the above training periods are a common feature. Although the
quality of the research supporting periodization theory has been
criticized, most sports scientists and practitioners alike understand
that the essence of a periodized training program reects a exible
and adaptive need for organizing the core components of athletic
preparation and skillfully combining different training methods to
optimize competition performance, rather than adhere to a rigid
construct. In fact, periodized training programs have recently been
shown to induce performance enhancements in a variety of indi-
vidual and team sports.
Team sport athletes can indeed benet from a periodized
approach to the season, characterized by progressive overload
training culminating with a 2- to 3-week taper in the preseason;
in-season, the periodized training plan will depend on factors such
as time between games, travel, or competitiveness of the opponents.
These factors, along with fatigue and injuries, are in fact the main
drivers for the recent emergence of the concept of strategic periodi-
zation (ie, the intentional peaking for matches or events of perceived
greatest priority or difculty throughout a competitive season).
Recovery strategies in general and CWI in particular can
inuence acute and chronic training adaptation and competition
performance in individual and team sports. Withholding proactive
recovery during the general preparation phase may benet adapta-
tion, whereas implementing recovery strategies during the specic
preparation and competition periods, as well as other periods of
increased recovery needs, may result in optimal performance out-
comes. Similarly, a strategic or periodized manipulation of energy
and nutrient intake can be used between and within training days to
track changing needs or goals of training and competition and to
increase the capacity for fuel utilization from carbohydrate and fat.
Withholding nutritional support can increase the training stimulus
or enhance training adaptation, whereas providing such support can
promote optimal performance. Dietary periodization can also
enhance the metabolic interaction between exercise and nutrition
by arranging nutrient intake during the day.
Psychological skills and skill acquisition are central compo-
nents of athletic performance, but research on the periodization of
these areas is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, the available
evidence suggests that psychological periodization methods should
address individual needs, include specic protocols for team sports,
and address both physical and psychological recovery in relation
with the exercise training goals and contents. The literature on
isolated skill acquisition concepts has recently evolved to provide a
framework for skill periodization that can also be integrated with
other components of athletic preparation.
This review has summarized the available scientic evidence
underpinning the concept of integrated periodization of multiple
factors that impact athlete preparation for individual and team
sports performance. Specic research on integrated periodization is
an emerging area of athlete preparation for competition that
warrants further investigations. This review may represent a stim-
ulus for future studies in this area.
Practical Applications
The practical applications of an integrated periodization approach
for athletic preparation can easily be inferred from the discussions
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and summary statements made throughout this review, as well as
the recommendations for individual and team sport plans presented
in Tables 1and 2, respectively. An integrated periodized approach
seems to be particularly relevant in the lead-up to a major tourna-
ment, such as the upcoming 2018 FIFA (Fédération Internationale
de Football Association) World Cup. Although preparing a team
for a major tournament is not, in principle, radically different from
preparing an individual athlete for a championship event, the
complexities of a team preparation can be daunting. Although
there are different approaches to optimizing team sport perfor-
mance in the lead-up to the World Cup, the coaching staff should
consider biological, technical, tactical, psychological, and socio-
logical variables to decide on the most suitable strategies to get the
best performance from each player. Peaking for a major interna-
tional tournament usually requires choosing between recovering
from domestic competition and then rebuilding playerstness or
trying to extend the tness level of the players and capitalize on
adaptations acquired during the domestic season. While both
approaches can be valid, the choice should depend on the level
of accumulated fatigue each player presents after the domestic
competition, as well as the time available between the end of the
domestic season and the beginning of the international competi-
tion. The basic structure of a period of relative rest following the
regular season, followed by a block of intensive training culminat-
ing in a taper, seems to be a reasonable strategy for participating
teams to adopt, but an individualized approach is often required.
Training throughout the competition should aim at maintaining
playerstness and technique prociency, achieving specic goals,
and lling time. Players receiving more match time should focus on
recovery throughout the tournament, whereas players receiving
little or no match exposure should perform extra training to
maintain their tness and performance levels.
In the lead-up to the World Cup, teams should consider
periodizing the use of individualized recovery strategies, whereby
recovery is either increased or decreased to maximize performance
(acute recovery) and increase adaptation (chronic recovery),
respectively. Before reducing the use of recovery in a bid to
increase adaptation (chronic recovery), consideration should be
given to the type of training, time before the start of the tournament,
phase of training, injury status, and mood state. Recovery can be
used to prepare for certain training sessions (acute recovery) or can
be used during the tournament to reduce fatigue (acute recovery).
For example, CWI can be used to prepare for afternoon skill-based
training following general tness or weight training sessions in the
morning. Cold water immersion should be completed immediately
postmatch, where possible, and 3 to 4 times per week between
matches (where matches are separated by approximately 1 wk).
The recommended protocol for cold water immersion is 10 to 15
minutes in 10˚Cto15˚C water to shoulder level and in vertical
position to maximize the effect of hydrostatic pressure. Other
proactive recovery strategies (eg, contrast water therapy, massage,
and compression garments) can also be considered in both the lead-
up to and during the World Cup.
Many of the specic nutritional strategies to achieve optimal
performance (eg, achieving optimal physique, using the interaction
of nutrition and training to develop required physiological char-
acteristics, development of a match nutrition plan) should have
been achieved well before the World Cup period. The last 4 to
8 weeks of preparation, however, provide an opportunity to tweak
any incomplete goals. The nal week prior to the tournament is
likely to involve a training taper with lower overall volume but with
match-specic play. Each player should be guided by a sports
dietitian/nutritionist to understand and address their changing
needs, with a particular focus on changing needs for energy and
carbohydrate intake. The pretournament nutrition plan should
include thorough practice of match nutrition strategies to allow
players to become habituated to valuable practices of prematch
fueling and within-match uid and fuel replacement; each player
should ne-tune an individualized plan. Note that the rules of
football do not allow ad libitum intake of uid or carbohydrate
within each playing period (eg, a 45-min half); therefore, players
with high sweat losses and fuel use must use the prematch warm-up
and half-time opportunities efciently to consume uids and
carbohydrate sources. According to the tournament draw, teams
may be required to play at different times of the day and should
develop different timetables of prematch eating and postmatch
recovery, according to the specic schedule of match play and
travel. Additional requirements to address specic environmental
conditions should be considered.
Carbohydrate intake should vary from day to day, and within a
day, according to the specic fuel needs of a training session or
match and the benets of providing high carbohydrate availability
(being fueled for optimal performance according to the anticipated
needs of the players position or style). While some periods or
players may benet from proactive refueling practices after key
training sessions or matches (eg, early intake 1 g/kg CHO), in
other scenarios, there may be little need for this due to light training
loads. In addition, optimal recovery, adaptation, and repair are
achieved by a meal plan that spreads the intake of high biological
value protein sources over the day (eg, soon after a match or key
workouts, and at meals or snacks every 34 h). This strategy may
need to be built into postmatch recovery practices.
With the above nutritional recommendations in mind, teams
should arrange catering within the constraints of the tournament
logistics, with sufcient exibility to cater for the different nutri-
tional needs of individual players, different likes and dislikes/
intolerances, and some familiarity or cultural acceptance. Issues
around food hygiene should also be built into the nutrition plan.
Learning psychological skills to be applied at the World Cup
requires coaches to be intentional about it. Asking athletes period-
ically to reect on their level of energy, tension/relaxation, and
focus would go a long way in developing self-awareness. This
should be done rst in practice, both at times when performance is
good and when the athlete struggles. After some training sessions
and after all competitions, teams should teach evaluation by asking
the 3 questions, Good-Better-How: What was good (what did
you do well)? What do you want to do better? How are you going to
The warm-up is a built-in element in training and competition.
In the lead-up to the World Cup, coaches should emphasize the
need to include mental warm-up elements to ensure that the player
is psychologically ready for training and, later on, for competition.
Keeping the focus on the body, using breathing to regulate tension,
having some energy generating images, and identifying training
goals could be built into the existing warm-up routines and provide
a foundation for self-regulation.
Designing pressure situations for players and providing skills
to manage them is a great training technique for managing the
pressures of competition. In addition, creating change in routine
situations is also good practicefor example, allowing a very short
time for warm-up or forcing a delay before a timed run or a specic
skill performance. Teaching players to be exible is essential in an
environment where change is always present. Incorporating imag-
ery in the learning and training processes can also be a valuable
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strategyfor example, when athletes are on the sidelines or wait-
ing for their turn in training, have them visualize their next move. It
is also important to create opportunities for social interaction in and
out of the sportfor example, have players work in specic
projects with team members playing in different positions or rival
domestic clubs.
When preparing a team for a major tournament, such as the
World Cup, bringing the team together and developing specic
tactical approaches should be the priority for a coach. This would
include the introduction of team rules for particular circumstances
in a match. Importantly, these rules need to be specically practiced
so that they become well understood by the team. Once a team has
established their own playing signature, they can be exposed to
different types of opponents that they may encounter in the
tournament and practice how they would deal with such ap-
proaches. Consequently, the majority of training time in this phase
of preparation would consist of tactical training. A consequence of
such team-focused practice is that individual touch skills are not
practiced as much within a team training session. Coaches must be
aware of this and must afford players regular opportunities to
maintain their individual skills through high-volume touchses-
sions, where the focus is more on players feeling they are in control
of their skills. Finally, note that a heavy tactical training phase can
cause high mental load, so such training should be scheduled for
when players are mentally freshand in a state that will maximize
learning time.
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