Given the duration of the training phases, goals for each are broad and progress on a day-to-day and week-to-week level meaning they can be difficult to assess. To overcome this problem, phases are divided into smaller ‘sub-phases’ (macrocycles) which provide coaches and athletes with more clarity and detail regarding structure and goals. These sub-phases are then divided into a number of smaller periods (usually 2-6 weeks long) entitled mesocycles, with each mesocycle being constructed of a number of smaller units called microcycles.
- Microcycle: The building block of an athlete’s training programme, providing the basis for the planning of a small number of sessions in the immediate future. The content of each microcycle determine the quality of the overall programme, so coaches must have a clear picture of the goals of each microcycle to ensure the appropriate metrics are effectively monitored.
- Mesocycle: A mesocycle consists of a number of microcycles and enables coaches to engage in the advanced planning of training programmes. Generally speaking, mesocycles in the preparatory phase are longer (4-6 weeks) than during the competitive phase (2-4 weeks) to allow for a more sustained focus on specific physical qualities.
- Macrocycle: The macrocycle can be thought of as the annual plan which can be split into clear training phases. Relatively little detail will go into the annual plan, but it allows coaches and athletes to get a generic overview of key dates and periods throughout the year.
When planning a training program for your athletes, it’s important that you structure it according to these common principles. By doing this you will be better able to manage training load, recovery, and progression, thereby giving your athletes the best chance to succeed.