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What is Periodization?

Online Glossary / Quick Reference

training in phases, or cycles; sport training strategy characterized by variation in planned phases, or cycles, each with a specific purpose.

About Periodization

cycling, in the context of sports training, refers to the practice of periodization, which involves dividing a training program into distinct phases or cycles. Each phase is designed with specific goals and training methods to optimize performance, prevent overtraining, and ensure peak performance at the right time. This systematic approach to training allows athletes to progressively build strength, endurance, and skill while managing fatigue and recovery.

Phases of periodization

periodization typically consists of three main phases:

  • macrocycle: The longest phase, usually spanning several months to a year. It outlines the overall training plan and goals for the entire training period, including competition schedules and major milestones.
  • mesocycle: Intermediate phases within the macrocycle, typically lasting a few weeks to a few months. Each mesocycle focuses on specific aspects of training, such as strength building, endurance, or skill development.
  • microcycle: The shortest phase, usually lasting one to two weeks. Microcycles consist of detailed daily and weekly training plans, emphasizing specific workouts, rest days, and recovery strategies.

Benefits of periodization

  • Optimized Performance: By systematically varying the training intensity and volume, periodization helps athletes peak at the right time, such as during competitions or important events.
  • Injury Prevention: Structured training cycles allow for adequate rest and recovery, reducing the risk of overtraining and associated injuries.
  • Improved Adaptation: cycling through different training phases helps the body adapt to various physical demands, enhancing overall fitness and performance.
  • Motivation and Focus: periodization provides clear short-term and long-term goals, keeping athletes motivated and focused throughout the training program.

Examples of Periodized Training

  • strength training: A periodized strength training program might include phases of hypertrophy (muscle growth), strength building, and power development, each lasting several weeks.
  • endurance Training: endurance athletes might cycle through phases focusing on base endurance, threshold training, and race-specific workouts to prepare for an upcoming competition.
  • Skill Development: Sports requiring technical skills, such as gymnastics or martial arts, may use periodization to alternate between skill acquisition, technique refinement, and performance practice.

periodization is a versatile and effective approach to training that can be adapted to suit the needs of athletes in various sports.

Understanding the Three Cycles of periodization: Macrocycles, Mesocycles, and Microcycles


The macrocycle represents the entire training season, typically spanning one year. It includes all stages of a periodized training program: endurance, intensity, competition, and recovery. The macrocycle provides a comprehensive overview, allowing athletes to plan long-term goals, such as peaking for major competitions. Adjustments are often made throughout the year to accommodate changes in the athlete's condition or schedule.


The mesocycle is a specific block of training within the macrocycle, usually lasting three to four weeks. Each mesocycle focuses on a particular aspect of fitness, such as endurance, strength, or power. For example, a mesocycle during the endurance phase may consist of several weeks of long, steady rides or runs, followed by a recovery week. Mesocycles allow for targeted development and adaptation, preparing the athlete for more intense training phases or competitions.


The microcycle is the shortest training cycle, typically lasting one week. It includes daily and weekly training variations designed to achieve specific short-term goals. A microcycle might consist of several high-intensity workouts followed by recovery days to enhance key physiological abilities like lactate threshold or VO2 max. Multiple microcycles form a mesocycle, creating a structured and progressive training plan.

Implementing periodization in Training

To maximize the benefits of periodization, athletes should:

  • Plan Long-Term: Use macrocycles to outline yearly goals and major competitions.
  • Focus on Specific Phases: Design mesocycles to target specific fitness components, such as strength, endurance, or power.
  • Incorporate Variety: Use microcycles to introduce daily variations and prevent plateaus.
  • Adjust as Needed: Regularly assess progress and make adjustments to the training plan based on performance and recovery.
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