In order for athletes to achieve peak performance during their competitive season, all mental and physical sports training and preparation must build throughout the year. Fitness training for peak performance means following an annual training plan designed to match the specific demands of your sport. A fitness plan is typically set up in phases of 4-6 weeks. Each phase, or period, has a specific purpose that prepares athletes for the competitive season. It brings to life key training principles–specificity, overload, recovery, and variation.
The principle of variation is the foundation of periodized training, or periodization. Periodization was popularized by the Eastern Europeans. It involves building a carefully-designed training program in cycles of lengths as short as one week to a year. The practice of varying activity also applies to learning sport skills once they pass the beginner stage of learning. Training in phases not only helps athletes build toward their peak at just the right time, it also prevents boredom and getting stuck at plateaus.
The first phase of fitness training starts soon after the end of the previous season. After a short break and an active rest, general conditioning begins all over again. Conditioning builds a base of strength, endurance, and other important components of fitness. It should also help prevent common injuries.
The next few phases of training become more intense and specific. These phases build upon conditioning. They enhance such qualities as agility, explosiveness, and jumping ability for game play in basketball or volleyball. High intensity training can build cardio through fast, intermittent bursts of activity and short recovery periods that closely match the competitive conditions of many sports. Intense weight training, which should be carefully coordinated with other aspects of training, boosts power and gross motor coordination while balancing muscle groups.
The last in-season phase of training is critical. This is where all athletes must be at their best for the peak of the competitive season. To peak, it’s a matter of maintaining high levels of sport-specific fitness and sharpening mental and physical skills for top game play.