Block vs. Traditional Periodization of HIT: Two Different Paths to Success for the World's Best Cross-Country Skier

Front Physiol. 2019 Apr 5:10:375. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00375. eCollection 2019.


In short-term studies, block periodization of high-intensity training (HIT) has been shown to be an effective strategy that enhances performance and related physiological factors. However, long-term studies and detailed investigations of macro, meso, and micro-periodization of HIT blocks in world-class endurance athletes are currently lacking. In a recent study, we showed that the world's most successful cross-country (XC) skier used two different periodization models with success throughout her career. One including extensive use of HIT blocks, namely BP, and one using a traditional method namely TRAD. In this study, we compare BP with TRAD in two comparable successful seasons and provide a detailed description of the annual use of HIT blocks in BP. The participant is the most-decorated winter Olympian, with 8 Olympic gold medals, 18 world championship titles, and 114 world cup victories. Training data was categorized by training form (endurance, strength, and speed), intensity [low (LIT), moderate (MIT), and HIT], and mode (running, cycling, and skiing/roller skiing). No significant difference was found in the total endurance training load between BP and TRAD. However, training volume in BP was lower compared to TRAD (15 ± 6 vs. 18 ± 7 h/wk, P = 0.001), mainly explained by less LIT (13 ± 5 vs. 15 ± 5 h/wk, P = 0.004). Lower volume of MIT was also performed in BP compared to TRAD (13 vs. 38 sessions/year), whereas the amount of HIT was higher in BP (157 vs. 77 sessions/year). While BP included high amounts of HIT already from the first preparation period, followed by a reduction toward the competition period, TRAD had a progressive increase in HIT toward the competition period. In BP, the athlete performed seven HIT blocks, varying from 7 to 11 days, each including 8-13 HIT sessions. This study provides novel insights into successful utilization of two different periodization models in the worlds best XC skier, and illustrates the macro, meso and micro- periodization of HIT blocks to increase the overall amount of HIT.

Keywords: block periodization; endurance training; intensity distribution; periodization model; traditional periodization; training intensity.