It’s a $10 word, but “periodization” offers an important concept worth grasping for dedicated soccer players. At its most basic, periodization means that you aim to train year-round with the goal of being in tip-top shape at kickoff for your first official league match. And you calibrate your training through the season, offseason and preseason so that you get just enough rest and just enough challenge to try to maintain as close to that Game 1 perfection as possible.
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Let’s say you play high school, club-level or college soccer, or even are fairly serious about your recreation league that starts in the fall. And let’s further assume that your first official game starts just before or after Sept. 1. This means that you can expect two to three weeks of preseason practices before that first game. And before that, you need to use the late spring and midsummer offseason to dedicate yourself to become stronger, faster and more explosive -- when you are away from the grind of league games. Thus you can see that starting way before your first game -- in around late April or May -- is the right time to begin a cycle of trying to get your body in shape for your fall league.
Elements of Your Training
Within your offseason, preseason and in-season training, periodization involves fine-tuning your body so it can handle the demands of a 90-minute soccer game. An experienced strength and conditioning coach, if you have one for your team, is likely to hand you a workout plan with carefully thought-out modifications. You may be asked to handle heavier weights and shorter sets in the middle of summer, for example, to maximize your strength and power. Then your strength coach may slightly lower the intensity of your weight-room sessions and ask for skills work as the first game approaches.
More Fancy Terminology
The term periodization also refers to the divvying up of the year into training phases. The goal is to avoid hitting plateaus or overtraining and to continue your strength and conditioning improvement. Your overall training period, notes University of North Carolina strength coach Greg Gatz, is called a macrocycle. If you play both fall and spring soccer, for example, your macrocycle is six months. You also can have mesocycles of about four to six weeks, designed to incorporate rest or challenge as needed. Microcycles address daily training details and fine-tune your training to changes in your fitness.
At the Elite Level
At the elite level, star players deal with complex training cycles. A nation’s top players need a four-year periodization plan for the Olympics and the World Cup, as well as annual plans for their pro leagues. Trainers need to also account for important matches, such as Olympic qualifiers and prestigious cups other than World Cup. So periodization plans may need to bring players to multiple peaks throughout the training year.