Customarily, training cycles refer to short-term plans such as micro-, meso, and macrocycles. In training, a microcycle is probably the most important and a functional tool of planning because its structure and content determine the quality of the training. Training lessons within a single microcycle are not the same – thay alternate according to the objectives, volume and intensity depending of the goal of the microcycle. It is important to know that in any microcycle an aspect of recovery or regeneration must be included, no matter how „hard“ the microcycle was planned.
The length of the microcycle can vary from 4 days to 2-3 weeks depending of the training plan. However, the most common is the length of 1 week (7 days). In order to plan a microcycle you must pay attention to the effective sequencing of different abilities.
According to Bompa (1999), there are some general rules for developing different abiliities within a microcycle (for clarity we refer to microcycle of 7 days from here to onways):
- Three lessons will be enough if you develop endurance at submaximal intensity;
- Maximal endurance can be planned for two days, but the remaining must be dedicated to recovery
- Two lessons per week are enough for maintaining strength, speed or flexibility;
- Two or three lessons per week should be optimal for developing leg power.
- Working at athletes limits can be done no more than two times per week.
Therefore, generally it is not useful to make more than three „hard days“ within a microcycle. Some of the examples of planning either 1, 2 or 3 hard days are presented in Figure 1.
Figure 1. A microcycle with one peak (Sunday).
Figure 2. A microcycle with two peaks (Thursday, Sunday)
The structure of a microcycle depends on the general goals of the athlete and on the specific aims of the training cycle (maximal strength, power, temporndurance etc….) and according to their aim in the general training plan a microcycle can be:
According to the cumulative load within a microcycle a different sequencing strategies depending of the athlete´s level can be used. Again, you must bear in mind that it is not useful to plan similar load microcycles for longer period, because the body adapts to the load and the adaptive response of the body for trainings decreases.
Figure1. An example of using similar load microcycles in a row.
But instead of that try to alternate between medium, high and recovery microcycles. For low level athletes a 1:1 ratio might be appropriate meaning that after high load microcycle a recovery cycle must be needed. Higher level athletes can increase the number of load microcycles compared to recovery microcycles and ratios like 3:1 and 4:1, even 5:1 can be used. Remember, before starting a new „load microcycle“ it is appropriate that the previos recovery period has been sufficient, otherwise you might suffer an unexpected fatigue during the next load cycle. Add another recovery week if you doubt in your athlete condition.
Figure 4. An example of using 4 “hard” microcycle and one “easy/recovery” microcycle.
Reference: Bompa T. Periodization. Theory and methodology of training. Human Kinetics, Chicago, IL. 1999.