Training organization considers logistical, contextual and internal (or physiological) factors in the training process of a given athlete or groups of athletes, with the purpose of maximizing adaptation, long-term sustainability and performance. Over the past decades a range of training organization or ‘periodization’ models have been proposed including the Block Training System (BTS), complex-parallel temporal training organization, vertical integration system, tactical periodization, agile periodization, daily undulating periodization amongst others. Although organization of training models can commonly be a topic of heated debate in the athletic preparation field, these models provide an array of tried-and-tested structural frameworks for coaches to choose from to best fit their environment. The appropriate choice of training organization model in a particular setting can serve to guide and ease the flow of the training process as well as to optimize adaptation with minimal interference of other facets of athletic preparation such as technical training. With this article, I aim to summarize three popular training organization models: the BTS, the Daily Undulating training model (DUT) and the vertical integration training system.
A bit of history…
The concept of training organization gained much popularity in the 1970’s prior to the Moscow Olympics. Upon reading the Verskoshanky’s Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches (2011) it is mentioned that during this period, Eastern European sports training experts tended to associate improvements in sports results with higher volumes of training. However, if we go back and look at what elite athletes were doing during this period in Russia, I would comfortably say that they were reaching close to the limits of the human body’s capacity. In this regard, an interdisciplinary research team in Moscow Central Institute of Physical Culture, was given the task of investigating which training sequence or temporal organization could yield equal or greater sports results in strength-speed athletic events, without an additional accumulation of training volume. At first instance the research team in Moscow found that in these athletes higher and higher training volumes wouldn’t ensure the best results because they were engaging in training loads of too many different emphasis; meaning that the mixed content of training over a given time in these athletes resulted in a negative interference between adaptations (e.g. maximal strength vs. explosive strength vs. hypertrophy, etc.). From this arose the BTS, which focused on accumulating specialised work targeting a particular physical adaptation over extended ‘blocks’ of time and progressed linearly. Over time, practitioners around the world working with diverse athletes, not only track and field, began to apply such temporal organization of training and realized that as the Russians did warn them, BTS may not always be fit for sports with a more complex kinematic profile and a non-uniform/volatile schedule of competition, such as team or combat sports. A series of organizational models have been developed, and to be honest contextual factors should probably be the biggest driver of a coach’s choice, but let’s explore these three big ones we hear about all the time and see what they have to offer…
BLOCK TRAINING SYSTEM (or CONJUGATE-SEQUENCE SYSTEM)
The BTS organises training into sequences or ‘blocks’ of training which differ the training loads imposed on the athlete to target specific physical adaptations over a given period of time, typically 6 to 12 weeks. In these ‘blocks’ of training, there is a concentrated emphasis on that one outcome adaptation, which biologically and chronologically sets up the athlete for the following block in a yearly training plan. For instance, a training block aimed at creating a metabolic energy base with athlete-specific aerobic work precedes a block aimed at increasing maximal anaerobic power. As a general ‘rule of thumb’ the former training blocks are more general and the latter ones are more specific to the athletic event or sport, and intensity progresses in a linear fashion.
The basic idea behind BTS consists in ‘increasing the functional level of the physiological systems involved in competition (i.e. increasing the athlete’s motor potential)’, prior to performing the more specific work. Essentially, the aim is to ensure that structural-anatomical and bioenergetic qualities are at a solid level before moving into to more complex-technical and explosive training. Once this is achieved, the focus shifts towards ‘improving specific motor control function (i.e. improving the athlete’s capacity to realize his motor potential in the motor structure of competition)’. Having covered that initial base, the athlete is now in a position to execute the totality of the competitive movements at a high-level, theoretically ensuring optimal progression.
* The body can adapt better to one specific stressor at a time than to a complex composition of training stimuli (i.e. biologically, it makes sense).
* Strong ecological evidence suggesting that by the end of a complete (uninterrupted) training cycle, the athlete will be at an optimal (if not close to it) condition to perform gross-motor skills / exercises (some of it described in Bondarchuk, 2007 and in Verkhoshansky & Verkhoshansky, 2011).
* Provides a highly structured temporal organization of training to follow.
* Unrealistic in sports with a volatile schedule.
* Although long-term adaptation may be theoretically favoured, a concentrated emphasis on a specific physical quality may interrupt acute performance in another.
* Provides a highly structured temporal organization of training to follow (yes, also a limitation).
Athletes & settings it could work best for
* Strength-speed T&F events
* Weight/Power lifters
* Endurance athletes (?)
(Images from Verskoshansky & Verskoshansky (2017) p.130-136)
DAILY UNDULATING TRAINING MODEL
Contrary to BTS, DUP favours a training process with greater variation. In the DUP model repetition schemes are altered each training session, hence the term ‘daily’, which subjects the athlete to a wider (and continuous) range of training stimuli. Typically, training cycles still follow the ‘block’ format in that their duration be 6 to 12 weeks, however the cycle progressions do not necessarily follow a strict chronological progression of physical-physiological qualities, hence the term ‘undulating’.
The basic premise behind DUP is that by creating greater variation in training stimulus, we are able to produce superior physiological and performance adaptations in the athlete(s); particularly of strength, power and associated qualities. One of the key rationales behind the daily undulating format is that it allows longer times for specific physical qualities to recover, whilst allowing for the development of others. The DUP model be attractive for athletes competing in sports requiring a range of physical capacities, such as team, court, combat or even strength speed sports, however a key assumption of this training organization model is that of a high pre-existing level of strength and tolerance to varied loading schemes.
* Reduced likelihood of acute detriment to individual physical qualities, due to continuous exposure to varied stimuli
* Variation may foster greater enjoyment of the training process
* A more malleable chronological organization compared to block periodization
* Sub-optimal performance gains at end of training cycle compared to block periodization
* Increased likelihood of a negative interference effect across physical qualities (i.e. variation may interrupt adaptation processes)
* Some evidence of greater susceptibility to accumulated fat