October 2018 in review: the microcycle

Last year in one of our first site themes we focused on periodization and understanding adaptation. In October we decided to revisit periodization as a site theme, but this time from a different perspective: looking in depth at the microcycle. In designing a training plan, the focus is normally placed on the individual session, or the larger mesocycles or macrocycles. The microcycle often gets lost in the middle.

Throughout the month we put together some great new resources including 6 new articles, 5 podcasts, 1 member hangout, and 1 new training talk. As always, become a Plus Member to make sure you get access to all of the vast resources on the site. But before we look at the resources, I wanted to share a few key takeaways from this month. Below you’ll find links to all the resources, plus a few key takeaways on my side.

» Past themes: see a full archive of our past monthly themes here.

Think outside the box

Many coaches think microcycle is synonymous with the weekly plan. That doesn’t have to be the case. The focus should be on what the athlete needs to adapt, and sometimes that might require a shorter or longer microcycle. As Vern Gambetta discussed on the GAINcast: “Think about where you have to distribute recovery, regeneration, and rest within the microcycle to get the optimal adaptive response.” Vern further discussed his own approach to the microcycle, which he divides into three phases: preparation, adaptation, and application. Within each microcycle he tries to prepare the athlete, allow them to adapt, and then have them apply the adaptation. Sometimes this can be fit into one week, but it often takes longer. The key point is that he knows the goal of the microcycle and can plan accordingly.

We shared some great examples of how that might look in practice. On the GAINcast, Vern discussed the three-day rollover. Later in the month Nick shared a template of his own rollover approach, and Vern put together a 14-day template.

Connections are gold

The difference between a good microcycle design and a bad microcycle design is all in the connections. You might have a checklist of what you want to accomplish in a microcycle, but unless you think about how things fit together, it will be hard to put the puzzle together. Again on the GAINcast Vern summarized this better than I can: “One session should set up the next session. Conceptually don’t think about separate sessions, think of how they flow together.”

One trap many coaches fall into is always looking behind them. What I do today has to be based on what I did yesterday; for example I won’t do squats today since I did that yesterday already. Connections should also be forward looking. Don’t forget to think about how what you will do today will set up the next session.

It’s all about planning

Tactical periodization is a topic that has intrigued me for the past few years ever since learning about it from Dean Benton in 2014 and discussed it with John Pryor in our 2015 interview.  The premise of tactical periodization is that the core elements of training (tactical, technical, physiological, psychological) are never trained independently. To integrate them requires an immense amount of planning.

This month I finally got to sit down with Dean Benton to look at the topic in detail. He gave some insight into how the training units, training session, and training week are put together in order to best integrate the elements of training. The attention to detail is amazing to read about, and underscores a point that Nick Hill made about tactical periodization when writing about his approach this week: “tactical periodization is just about good teaching, good coaching, good planning, and good practice design.”

Tactical periodization might not be the best approach for everyone, but we can all learn from it. Identify a goal, make a plan, and then ensure the plan works towards the goal. It’s a simple concept, but in the end that’s what training is about.

Resources on the microcycle