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         Annual Programming / 年度計劃

The benefits of long - term programming are unquestionable, because all serious athletes strive to continue to improve year after year. However, short - term programming or annual periodization, because of its tremendous impact on immediate results, is usually the tool of choice for coaches and athletes. Because of the tremendous pressure on immediate results coaches and athletes are often expected to produce instant results. Some coaches are masters at squeezing everything out of an athlete in a matter of a few months. In some cases this is justified, but again, usually it ends in disaster, especially for the athlete who does not understand the consequences. Even worse are parents and coaches who, out of ignorance, demand immediate results and also expect long term progress. As the saying goes, you can't have it all.

For the best overall development of the athlete, annual periodization should be a reflection of long-term periodization. It should divide the program into smaller cycles, allowing better control over the training process, which aims at peak performance for the main competition of the year. The length and specific content of each cycle depends on the stage of long-term development. Cycles emphasize, respective to the long-term goal, the amount of the total volume and intensity, as well as ratio between general and specialized work volume planned for that year. Traditionally, annual periodization consists of three major phases: preparatory-with general and pre-season subphases, competitive and transition. However, I prefer dividing into four major phases, which more closely explain what happens in the training process: accumulation, intensification, transformation and transition. Figure 1 show the interaction of different factor involved in the annual training process.

Figure 1: Simplified example of yearly training periodization.

Accumulation is devoted to the development or rebuilding (for elite level athletes) of general abilities. In the case of younger or beginner athletes who are at the basic training stage, multilateral development should dominate this phase. Elite athletes will work on improving and rebuilding general aspects of abilities involved in the final performance. This is good time to improve or make fundamental changes in technique or performance strategy. It should be the longest phase of annual periodization and, depending on the stage of development and sports complexity, can take 40-60% of year cycle. Accumulation is the foundation or "base" of the annual pyramid where the top is final performance. The quality of the upcoming competitive season and peaking is directly related to this period so the choices an athlete or coach makes related to training here are crucial and can not be random. The biggest progress is made in the accumulation phase. That's why it is imperative, that precise goals are established so the effectiveness of program can be measured by periodical tests. Periodical tests do not only motivate athletes to build a solid base for intensification and transformation, but can also provide important information on individual relationships of general development of different characteristics and final performance. 

Intensification (or pre-season subphase of the preparatory period) is the shortest phase of the annual cycle, aiming to lay foundation for the maximum and above maximum level loads used in the next phase of training, transformation. This phase is a progressive step from accumulation level loads to more specific and higher intensity (sub maximal) loads. Exercises used here are sport specific. This phase takes 20-25% of the annual periodization. In some sports, this phase cuts into the competitive season. In these cases, competitions are programmed into training and performed with a strategy reflecting training tasks for this period.

Transformation (Competitive period). The most important task of training during the racing season is to transform athletic shape formed during the preparation stage into the best possible performance in a specific competition. Training during the transformation has maximum and above maximum intensity loads separated with low intensity ones to secure recovery, and a few workouts aimed at maintaining basic development. All work should directly simulate racing conditions or try to model desired performance. An important factor, which will determine the success of a season, is motivation and the ability to mobilize the body to perform at maximal effort. Focus and will power training is the final key to a great performance. As in formula one car racing where even the best prepared car with a mediocre driver will not perform its best, maximum performance in sport is possible only when an athlete is able to dig into the body's reserves, which are difficult or impossible to touch during the training process. This is why, after the intensification phase, competitions themselves are the best tool for the transformation of the newly developed level of athletic shape into performance. The number of races or maximum loads in this period depends on the athlete's level of development and individual response. Most competitions in the transformation phase are used for training. The number of primary competitions cannot be too big and is usually limited to between 2 to 5, depending on the sport and the level of the athlete. The primary competition will require a full taper (reduction of training load by up to 60%) during the last 2-4 weeks of training. Relative to the entire training cycle, direct preparation for competition is short, but its importance cannot be overstressed because its effectiveness determines the outcome of the transformation of long hours of hard work into results.


The adaptation period for a specific competition should not be longer than 2-3 weeks. It could take between 3-12 weeks for an athlete, who trains year round to reach peak performance, depending on the sport and the individual. Once the athlete peaks, the amount of time he/she can stay at this level of performance varies from 1-5 weeks and depends on many factors including years of training experience, quality and quantity of accumulation stage training, etc. If everything is done properly, peaking can produce a 2-6% betterment of performance depending on the level of the athlete.

After this short period of time on top, the athlete can drop almost immediately to a very average or even low level of physical conditioning so that even a fairly easy preseason workout can be difficult to finish. For this reason, it is very important that elite and approaching elite level athletes asses individually the duration of their peak performances and the number of competitions leading to it and keep track of that for future planning. The obvious question, which everyone asks is, why can't we hold peak performance longer? The training that brings peak performance is based on the sequence:

     Max load (stress)   
Breakdown (damage)  
  Rebuilding (repair)

The sequence can actually cause more damage than is needed, but because of the basic accumulation and intensification training, the body can cope with this for a limited amount of time. During this time results dramatically improve, but eventually too much damage accumulates and body responds by stimulating central fatigue to prevent irreparable damage from occurring. This causes the athlete to feel generally lethargic, often a little depressed and in some cases completely exhausted. If these signals are ignored and the athlete continues to train hard, over training, illness, and injury may occur.

Peaking should not be attempted by young athletes before or during puberty or by beginner level athletes of any age during introductory or basic training phase. Peaking must be understood as the final stage of long term preparation based on systematic year round training which consists of a preparatory period (accumulation), intensification period (pre-season), transformation period (season), peaking, and transition period.

Transition (post season period) represents the passing stage to the next annual cycle of training. Its main target is to remove the physical and mental fatigue accumulated during the competitive phase and regenerate stores for the accumulation phase. During this time of approximately 2-3 weeks of active rest, a change of environment and fun recreational type activities are recommended.

Zenon Babraj / JG, January, 2000