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Soccer Equipment

Football Periodization


Periodization is derived from 'Period' which is a division of time into smaller, easy-to-manage segments.  In our case ''Training Periods'. Specifically, periodization is the division of a yearly training plan into training phases which apply to the principles of training.  Work load and intensity of training programs in split into successive small units ranging from one week to a full year. Each segment of training targets a specific type of training (i.e. skill, speed, strength, stamina and suppleness (the five S’s).  In football these fitness attributes need to be blended with both technical and tactical training.  A well designed training program takes into account both the physiological and psychological needs of players.

To acheive mamximum performance and effective training it is the coaches responsibility to properly periodize and plan the training for the year.  The development of skills and psychological attributes should follow a logical sequence. 

Our goal is to have our players peak at the optimal times (i.e. Competition).  Deficient preparation will result in less than optimal performance.  Planning a successful training plan isa two way process between the coaching staff and players to develop a realistic and attainable schedule with a balance between training and recovery.  Inexperienced players and youth players are dependent on their coaches to develop these plans.


Plans should be designed using a sequential approach.  A well organized plan will result in the desired psychological and physiological adaptation to the player.  The duration of phases depends heavily on the time the players needs to increase training level and also the timing of competition where peak performance is desired. Single season sports have an annual plan called a monocycle; since there is only one competitive phase, there is only one peak or competitive phase (Fig 1).

Fig 1. Relationship of Volume, Intensity and Technique in Training Plan

The Yearly Training Plan (or Cycle) is conventionally divided into three main phases:

  • Preparatory (General & Specific)
  • Competitive
  • Transition (Recovery)

The preparatory and competitive phases are divided into two sub-phases because their tasks are different. The preparatory phase has a general and a specific subphase, based on the different characteristics of training, and the competitive phase usually is preceded by a short precompetitive subphase.  A complete training program can span from 3 months to 12 months. The 12 month program is called the Yearly Training Plan (YTP).

The Sub-phases of training can be further divided into the following terminology:

  • Microcycle – Shortest period of training – usually one week but can vary from 4 to 10 days.
  • Mesocycle – A group of microcycles – usually one month but can vary from 2 to 4 weeks
  • Macrocycle – A small group of Mesocycles – usually three months but can vary considerably

Fig 2. Breakdown of a Basic Annual Plan

The Football Season  (Bi-Cycle)

For a standard football season we have two seasons of competition (bi-cycle).  Optimal performance can be acheived for approx. 8 week periods.  Intensity and volume (extent) of our training are principle opposites.  Therefore, if our training intensity is high, our volume should be low.  In the build up to games the volume should be cut back, but the intensity can remain high.  As the competitive phase approaches the training volume curve decreases drastically while the intensity curve increases.  During a season (competition) there are limited opportunities to train in high volume due to games resulting in deteriorating endurance.  During the second half of the competition phases the extent should be increased to compensate for this.  During the preparatory and early competitive phases, emphasize training volume with low levels of intensity according to the specifics of the sport. During this period quantity of work should dominate.  Opposed to the competitive phase when you emphasize work intensity or quality.  Note also, Preparatory phase I. which should be the longer preparatory phase.  A bi-cycle consists of two short monocycles linked through a short unload­ing/transition and preparatory phase. For each cycle, the approach may be similar except for training volume, which in preparatory phase I is of much higher magnitude than in preparatory phase II.

Fig 3. Relationship of Volume and Intensity over a Bi-Cycle Season

Types of Training (Generic vs Specific)

The majority of training for football fitness should be soccer-specific training (Approx. 80:20).  The only purpose of non-related (general) fitness (i.e. running, cross training, etc) is to increase a players basic fitness levels or to aid in maintaining them.  This type of training is appropriate during off-season periods when players are away from regular team training.

It should be noted that in youth soccer due to the stop and start nature of developing players, that there is the argument that we are unable to create the necessary overload.  Coaches should carefully design their drills and games to create physical overload or simplify them.  For example, increasing the playing area of the exercise, reducing the number of players, limiting touches, etc.

Fig 4. Types of Training for an Annual Plan 


  • An important part of planning microcycles is to maintain scheduling consistency throughout the year. For instance, if games (competition) always fall on a Saturday, then special endurance training should always be on a Saturday (mirroring a game). The body remembers and if each microcycle begins with high volume and ends with race pace work
    (day 6) and recovery (day 7) then that should be maintained throughout the year. (T. Bompa)
  • Individual characteristics, psychophysiological abilities, diet, and regeneration increase this difficulty.
  • Creating effective annual training plans is an iterative process and you will be continually improving and adjusting plans from year to year.
  • Consider climate changes and facilities in your plan design.
  • A monocycle or bi-cycle year for novice and junior athletes is the maximum. The advantage of such a plan is that it has long preparatory phases, free from the stress of competitions. This allows the coach to concentrate on developing skills and a strong foundation of physical training.
  • Stress is a significant by-product of training and competition which can alter performance.  Periodization is an important tool in properly planning for anticipated stress.  Generally stress follows training intensity patterns.
  • Bompa states: that athletes' psychological behavior depends on their physiological wellbeing. In other words, athletes' mental state is a by­ product of their physiological condition. This is why I believe that, "Perfect fitness results in the best psychology!


Theory and Methodology of Training -by Tudor O. Bompa, PhD