Traditional Periodisation

In order to build upon the first blog in this series, it is important to understand what each of the different periodisation models incorporate.  We shall start with a commonly used model known as ‘traditional periodisation’, also known as the linear model.

The traditional model is the planned distribution of specific workloads to avoid points of maladaptation in performance increases in order to optimize sporting performance for the most important competitions of the year (Siff, 2003).

It was originally observed, and then proposed by Russian scientist Lev Matveev. This model fluctuates high volume and low intensity to low volume and high intensity throughout the macro-cycle – yearly training cycle (Matveev, 1958).  Although commonly known as the linear model in the western world, later publications and study of Matveev’s work demonstrated a wave-like, non-linear undulating fluctuation of the intensity and volume variables (Matveev, 1977).

A case study of the polish Olympic Judoka and gold medalist from 1996 shows that prior to the Olympics of that same year, he took part in only three competitions. He took first place at all three, winning all 22 contests. However, twelve years later at the Beijing Olympics, the gold medalist participated in seven to eleven competitions to gain Olympic qualification (Sikorski, 2011).  This shows that the level of competition required to compete at the highest levels is constantly increasing.

The level of performance is also increasing, as is the amount that an athlete must train and compete in order to just qualify for the highest leveled competitions. Similarly, this is happening at an ever-increasing rate in the world of competitive CrossFit, and not just at the competitive level. At an everyday gym-goer lever, the rising social pressure to look good is driving people to take their health more seriously and pushing people into the gym more frequently than ever. The drawback of this comes when those health conscious individuals do not have access to the correct and most effective training models, and eventually become a casualty of poor training methodology.

Bartolomei et al (2014) studied the effects of a fifteen week strength and power training program on twenty four trained athletes. Each was randomly assigned to one of two models being used, traditional periodisation (TP) or block periodization (BP). Tests were carried out pre- and post- fifteen-week cycle, and utilized the exact same exercises and volume (total weight lifted per session). The difference came through the subtle manipulations of training intensities. Results showed that the BP group were more likely to improve upper body strength and power scores than the TP group, with equal volume, however there were no significant differences in lower body strength and jump power performance.


So as in part one of the blog series, we ask what can we take away from this and how can we apply it to CrossFit for health and CrossFit for sport?

Firstly, like an elephant in the room, it has to be said that many general gym goers don’t tend to have access to complex training programmes. It is therefore essential, in this coach’s opinion, that if you are training hard daily, then you should be taking into consideration the best type of training model to elicit the best response from your body and make the most of your training time.

It also jumps out from the definition of the model that a main focus of any of the different periodisation methods is to avoid phases of mal-adaptation. This is most likely something that we have all experienced – that time where nothing you try seems to work. Using periodisation allows you to manage the training volume and intensities appropriately in order to avoid these highly irritating phases.

In terms of CrossFit for sport, the same points above apply. Management of training principles, including volume, intensity, frequency etc. all allows an athlete to train optimally. However, it is from my experience that if you are an athlete already competing at a high level in sport (not just CrossFit) a more sophisticated method of training management may be used, as the volume and intensity needs to be dissected into different training phases – a constant linear progression could result in a negative outcome.

So that leads me to the next installment of this series, the use of concurrent periodisation, ‘The Hybrid Model’.

Coach Lee

If you missed part one you can catch up on it here.

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