Block periodization of Verheijen

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Block periodization of Verheijen

High performance in team sports requires different physical capacities: endurance, explosive accelerations, sprinting, and the ability to quickly change direction. As trainer/coach, it is your task to train these factors. There are multiple periodization models that can help you to get your players fit. In the coming blogs we will discuss, among others, the theories of Raymond Verheijen and Tim Gabbett. In the last blog of this series we will discuss how the vision of JOHAN Sports combines these two models!

In exercise physiology literature, difficult terms such as aerobic, anaerobic, and phosphate systems are used to describe the physical capacities of athletes. The aerobic system (endurance) is very important for cyclists, the anaerobic system is important for performance in longer sprinting disciplines such as the 200m freestyle in swimming, whereas the phosphate system (explosiveness) is of utmost importance for the 100m sprint of Usain Bolt. However, the challenge in team sports, such as football and field hockey, lies in the fact that all these systems need to be trained in their own way and therefore are important for the performance in these sports. It is your task as a coach to train the aerobic, anaerobic and phosphate system of the players in your team. But how do you train these systems? And which role do they play in performance?

Raymond Verheijen was one of the first exercise physiologists who was able to translate these difficult and abstract terms into football-specific terms. He described the physical fitness of footballers in the following 4 capacities: explosiveness (acting fast and explosive: starting speed), enduring explosiveness (acting explosive even at the end of the game), fast recovery (recovering fast after an intensive sprint, so that a lot of sprints can be made in a short period of time), and enduring fast recovery (being able to make a lot of sprints, even at the end of the game). By linking these physical capacities to football-specific exercises, Verheijen was able to give guidance to trainers in designing their own training schedule.

Another strength of Verheijen’s model is, is that he uses block periodization: during each time period the focus is on one or two physical capacities1,2.. It is known that the effect of endurance training (enduring fast recovery) suppresses or even eliminates the effects of strength training (explosiveness)1,2. It is therefore important to focus on only one or two aspects at a time, to get the maximal out of training. Furthermore, training more physical capacities at a time could lead to overloading the player. Therefore, the method of Verheijen also makes sure that players do not get overtrained.

The block periodization of Verheijen consists of a cycle of 6 weeks, where after every two weeks the focus is shifted towards another capacity (see image 1). One of the speaking parts of this model is that in every cycle the focus shifts from large field dimensions in the first and second week (high volume, low intensity) towards small field dimensions in the fifth and sixth week (low volume, high intensity). What’s more, is that he has made a stepwise model in which after each cycle the next step in the model is made (this often holds that the duration of the interval is longer, there are more repetitions, or shorter recovery periods). This makes it easy for a coach to determine the starting level for the team, after which he/she can slowly climb up in the stepwise model to increase the fitness of the players.

Several coaches who followed this stepwise model have increased the fitness level of their players over the season. However, the disadvantage of this model is that it does not give you any information on whether the players have reached their maximum, or whether they can handle more load than is prescribed in the model. If you increase the load while players were already at their maximum, or if you make a too steep increase in the stepwise model, you are overloading your players. This in turn increases the risk of injury. However, the model of Verheijen does not give you any information on how much load a player (or team) can handle. This makes it hard to determine the optimal load (and thus training schedule) for your team!

The model of Tim Gabbett, on the other hand, focusses on determining how much load a player (or a team) can handle3. In the next blog, we will therefore discuss this theory in more detail, so that you can make the model of Verheijen more specific for you team!


Raymond Verheijen was one of the first who was able to make difficult physiological processes understandable for coaches, and therafter linking these to football-specific exercises. Furthermore, by implementing a block periodization approach, he makes sure to get the maximum out of the training stimulus. However, with the model of Verheijen it is impossible to determine the optimal load for a player (or team), To get more insight into the optimal load for your team, we will discuss the theory of Tim Gabbett in the next blog.


  1. Issurin, V.B. (2015). Benefits and limitations of block periodized training approaches to athletes’ preparation: A review. Sports Med. 46: 329-338.
  2. Issurin, V.B. (2008). Block periodization versus traditional training theory: a review. The journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 48: 65-75
  3. Hulin, B.T., Gabbett, T.J., Lawson, D.W., Caputi, P. & Sampson, J.A. (2015). The acute:chronic workload ratio predicts injuries: high chronic workload may decrease injury risk in elite rugby league players. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 50: 231-236.