Short-term Periodization Models: Effects on Strength and Speed-strength Performance

Sports Med. 2015 Oct;45(10):1373-86. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0355-2.


Dividing training objectives into consecutive phases to gain morphological adaptations (hypertrophy phase) and neural adaptations (strength and power phases) is called strength-power periodization (SPP). These phases differ in program variables (volume, intensity, and exercise choice or type) and use stepwise intensity progression and concomitant decreasing volume, converging to peak intensity (peaking phase). Undulating periodization strategies rotate these program variables in a bi-weekly, weekly, or daily fashion. The following review addresses the effects of different short-term periodization models on strength and speed-strength both with subjects of different performance levels and with competitive athletes from different sports who use a particular periodization model during off-season, pre-season, and in-season conditioning. In most periodization studies, it is obvious that the strength endurance sessions are characterized by repetition zones (12-15 repetitions) that induce muscle hypertrophy in persons with a low performance level. Strictly speaking, when examining subjects with a low training level, many periodization studies include mainly hypertrophy sessions interspersed with heavy strength/power sessions. Studies have demonstrated equal or statistically significant higher gains in maximal strength for daily undulating periodization compared with SPP in subjects with a low to moderate performance level. The relatively short intervention period and the lack of concomitant sports conditioning call into question the practical value of these findings for competitive athletes. Possibly owing to differences in mesocycle length, conditioning programs, and program variables, competitive athletes either maintained or improved strength and/or speed-strength performance by integrating daily undulating periodization and SPP during off-season, pre-season and in-season conditioning. In high-performance sports, high-repetition strength training (>15) should be avoided because it does not provide an adequate training stimulus for gains in muscle cross-sectional area and strength performance. High-volume circuit strength training performed over 2 years negatively affected the development of the power output and maximal strength of the upper extremities in professional rugby players. Indeed, meta-analyses and results with weightlifters, American Football players, and throwers confirm the necessity of the habitual use of ≥80% 1 RM: (1) to improve maximal strength during the off-season and in-season in American Football, (2) to reach peak performance in maximal strength and vertical jump power during tapering in track-and-field, and (3) to produce hypertrophy and strength improvements in advanced athletes. The integration and extent of hypertrophy strength training in in-season conditioning depend on the duration of the contest period, the frequency of the contests, and the proportion of the conditioning program. Based on the literature, 72 h between hypertrophy strength training and strength-power training should be provided to allow for adequate regeneration times and therefore maximal stimulus intensities in training. This conclusion is only valid if the muscle is not trained otherwise during this regeneration phase. Thus, rotating hypertrophy and strength-power sessions in a microcycle during the season is a viable option. Comparative studies in competitive athletes who integrated strength training during pre-season conditioning confirm a tendency for gains in explosive strength and statistically significant improvements in medicine ball throw through SPP but not through daily undulating periodization. These findings indicate that to maximize the speed-strength in the short term (peaking), elite athletes should perform strength-power training twice per week. It is possible to perform a single strength-power session with the method of maximum explosive strength actions moving high-weight loads (90% 1 repetition maximum [RM]) at least 1-2 days before competition because of the shorter regeneration times and potentiation effects. Compared with ballistic strength training (30% 1 RM), this method has been shown to provide statistically superior gains in maximal strength, peak power, impulse size, and explosive strength during tapering in track-and-field throwers. The speed-strength performance in drop jumps of strength-trained subjects showed potentiation effects 48-148 h after a single strength-power training session. Regarding neuromuscular performance, plyometric exercises can even be performed after strength-power training on the same day if a minimum rest period of 3 h is provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Resistance Training / methods
  • Seasons
  • Time Factors