Block or linear periodisation has been commonly used for years and years, but may not be the most optimal for fighters. here is why.
Block periodisation is where you, as the name suggests, move from block to block focussing on a different quality each time, usually moving from prep, to strength, to speed. Don't get me wrong, there are times for using this and getting good results but for me, personally, it doesn't work for combat athletes.
why not block
The time where block periodisation could be used is with beginner athletes, in situations where you know exactly when they will be fighting. But even then, I believe there are too many down sides to use.
Unexpected fight dates: Especially in Covid times, fights are being taken on 2-4 weeks notice. If you are in the middle of a strength block but all of a sudden must be tapering off, it won't flow. You will miss out on key elements of performance. If you know fight dates way in advance then cool, but in my experience, you don't. Dates change and opportunities pop up, leaving you under prepared.
Detraining: With block periodisation you could finish strength focussed work 6 weeks before you fight. Between then and fight day, you will lose strength. Using a block style will lead to detraining and losing qualities you want at their peak for competition.
Managing fatigue: Block training doesn't take the whole training week into consideration. Usually, it is set up with a 3:1 loading ratio meaning 3 weeks of progressive overload before a deload. But, what happens if week 3 (hardest week) is when your athlete is tired, has heavy sparring etc. You will sacrifice performance in skills sessions, recovery, all of which can lead to higher risk or injury and overtraining. Block works on the idea that your athlete will be in a position to lift heavier each week, which isn't the case. If the fighter reaches week 3 and isn't able to lift more than week 2, this will knock confidence, see below for more on mindset.
Mindset: This is not one of the main factors as to why I don't like block periodisation but worth a mention none the less. I know from personal experience having 4 weeks of the same lift can be mundane. Camps are long and if we can make them a little more enjoyable then let's do it. Changing up exercises each week is also beneficial from an overuse standpoint. Drilling the same positions for 4-8 weeks will increase the chance of injury and only develops strength in one position.
What should we do
Who knows. There are many different ways. I just think block is what you shouldn't be doing. When it comes to planning on the whole, I know growing up and learning, lots of emphasis was placed on a annual plan. Designing the next 12 months in detail and setting up for the year ahead.
REALITY CHECK - nothing goes to plan. It is a waste of my time planning that far ahead. Instead I just mark in when we need to train certain qualities to avoid detraining. After that, I stick to 12 week, not 12 month periods.
What do we do? Here's some pointers to give you an idea.
- Get prep work in straight away for 2-4 weeks, 4 ideally but again, you might have to go shorter. Get the Aerobic base built, strength endurance, movement qualities and ability to buffer lactate.
- Go into a 'Stay ready' type system where we train all qualities through the week. We will train max strength and strength speed, before moving into more speed strength emphasis. I guess this would look more like Daily Undulating Periodisation or Conjugate.
Doing the above means the guys are prepped and ready. If we don't get news, no bother, let's cycle through again. If we do, we are already there and can adjust slightly to taper.
That's my thoughts on periodisation and in particular, block periodisation. As I said, there are many ways to skin a cat but through experience this is what I found works. In my opinion, there are too many reasons to not use block, to justify it in combat sports.
But what do I know...
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