Traditionally periodisation (I use the English spelling of Periodisation in the article but when I’m quoting or referencing the original article I’m using the American spelling of the authors) for endurance athletes follows a linear type approach with the introduction of volume over time with intensity added later into the programme. I thought this would be an interesting article to look at the different approaches and the results.
Clemente-Suárez, VJ; Ramos-Campo, DJ; (2019) Effectiveness of Reverse vs. Traditional Linear Training Periodization in Triathlon Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 16: 2807
At Qwik Kiwi I follow the periodisation approach of Jack Daniels, PhD, with a whole lot of influence from the Godfather of periodisation Tudor Bompa (if only I knew he was at York University when I was there in 2017 for the Invictus Games). I am alway keen to try out new paradigms and thought processes. Unfortunately this research has some limitations, but let’s go on.
This research placed 32 amateur triathletes randomly into one of three groups:
- Reverse Periodisation (RP) group,
- Traditional Periodisation (TP) group, or
- Control Group (CG).
The Reverse Periodisation (RP) group followed a ten week training plan where there first 4 weeks were an intensity training block, the second 4 weeks were a volume training block and this was followed by a 2 week taper.
The Traditional Periodisation (TP) group performed the volume training block in their first 4 weeks, followed by the intensity training block and then the 2 week taper.
The Control Group (CG) conducted their normal training without any influence or guidance from the researchers.
The volunteers for the research was made up of 11 males and 13 females who had been training for triathlon for over a year and competed at a national level in the Olympic and/or Sprint distance.
The males had the following characteristics:
- Average age: 27.7 years ± 5.7 years
- Average weight: 70.6kg ± 6.3kg
- Average height: 175.2cm ± 5.0cm
The females had the following characteristics:
- Average age: 26.8 years ± 6.8 years
- Average weight: 58.5 kg ± 4.1 kg
- Average height: 164.7 cm ± 4.6 cm
- Average training sessions per week: 5.6 ± 0.4*
- Average duration of each session: 55.2 minutes ± 25.9 minutes*
- Average volume of training per week: 7.0 hours ± 1.5 hours*
* Data not listed for the males
I find this data confusing if they average 7.0 hours of training per week and an average of 5.6 training sessions per week, simple maths tells us on average those sessions are 1:15hr long not 55.2 minutes.
Within the Reverse Periodisation (RP) group there were 11 members (the ratio of males to females is not known) and had the following characteristics:
- Average age: 25.6 years ± 6.8 years
- Average weight: 65.4 kg ± 8.5 kg
- Average height: 170.5 cm ± 6.2 cm
- Average training sessions per week: 5.5 ± 0.2
- Average duration of each session: 45.9 minutes ± 24.8 minutes
- Average volume of training per week: 6.9 hours ± 2.2 hours
Once again simple maths tells us this is an average of 1:15hrs per session on average, not 45.9 minutes.
Within the Traditional Periodisation (TP) group there were 13 members (the ratio of males to females is not known) and had the following characteristics:
- Average age: 28.2 years ± 9.6 years
- Average weight: 66.6 kg ± 8.7 kg
- Average height: 170.5 cm ± 6.2 cm
- Average training sessions per week: 5.5 ± 0.3
- Average duration of each session: 46.3 minutes ± 25.3 minutes
- Average volume of training per week: 7.0 hours ± 2.1 hours
Again simple maths tells us this is an average of 1:16hrs per session not 46.3 minutes.
Within the Control Group (CG) group there were 8 members (the ratio of males to females was 50:50) and had the following characteristics:
- Average age: 25.9 years ± 3.4 years
- Average weight: 62.4 kg ± 5.3 kg
- Average height: 166.1 cm ± 3.9 cm
- Average training sessions per week: 5.8 ± 0.2
- Average duration of each session: 48.2 minutes ± 28.2 minutes
- Average volume of training per week: 7.1 hours ± 2.0 hours
Again simple maths tells us this is an average of 1:13hrs per session on average not 48.2 minutes.
Prior to commencing the training programme the athletes all went through two days of testing. This testing was completed again at at the end of the 8 week training plan and then again at the end of the taper preiod.
Day 1 included:
- Body composition
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
- Swimming Performance (50m sprint test and a 400m test)
Day 2 included:
- Maximal horizontal jump
- Running performance (2,000m, including blood lactate levels at the end)
At this point I was a little confused, as there was no cycling performance test. It is reasonably common to use a horizontal jump as a measure of maximal lower limb power, but that is different from sustained cycling power. I speculated that they may not have had access to any cycling erg type laboratory equipment. They spelt this out at the end of the article as a limitation. I believe they down played this and can’t justify any valid triathlon related results without actually testing cycling performance.
The researchers classified training intensity using a three zone system. Zone 1 (Z1) as low-intensity (roughly equivalent to my Level II), Zone 2 (Z2) as anaerobic threshold (equivalent to my Level IV) and Zone 3 (Z3) as high-intensity (equivalent to my Level V).
When the subjects completed the high-intenisty block of training their training was primarily conducted in Z2 & Z3. When they conducted the volume block of training it was done at Z1. There are no details as to how the workouts were structured with in these blocks of training.
Across the different periodisation principles there was no significant change to body mass. There were some changes in Heart Rate Variability (HRV) picked up in both the experimental groups. These changes were from either baseline to the end of the experiment (week 10), or from week 8 to the end of the taper period (week 10). Most likely this is due to less training load during the taper, with the athlete now fresher having been resting more.
Swimming performance over both 50m and 400m improved for both the experimental groups but not the control group, showing that either periodisation model works better than just doing your own thing.
There was no significant difference between the experimental groups jump performance and that of the control group. This indicates that as none of the athletes were doing jump training, none of them improved at jumping!!! What this means for cycling, we’ll never know.
The Traditional Periodised (TP) group improved their running performance from the start to the 8 week and also after their taper. These results were not reflected by the Reverse Periodised (RP) or Control Group (CG).
The Reverse Periodised (RP) were able to tolerate significantly higher blood lactate levels at the 8 week mark but that had dropped by the end of the taper period. These results were not reflected by either the Traditional Periodised (TP) group or the Control Group (CG).
What these results show is that periodisation in general is more effective for swimming and running performance, than unstructured training.
As mentioned at the start of the article I follow the methodology of Jack Daniels, PhD, with a whole lot of influence from the Godfather of periodisation Tudor Bompa. This is incorporated into all my training plans and coaching programmes. It reflects both the time available for the build up and also when coaching an athlete it works in their relative strengths and areas that need improvement.
For more Science on Sunday articles here is last weeks article: