The sum is always greater than its parts

The sum is always greater than its parts

In the last two blogs we have discussed two periodization models: the block periodization of Verheijen and the acute:chronic ratio of Gabbett. The two models shouldn’t be viewed as opposing theories, rather they are complementary to each other. In today’s blog we will therefore discuss how you can integrate these models into one another, so that they strengthen each other.

The block periodization model of Verheijen is a great starting point for a periodization schedule. Following this approach, the periodization will lead to playing on large field dimensions (high volume, low intensity) in the first and second week of the cycle towards playing on small field dimensions (low volume, high intensity) in the fifth and sixth week of the cycle. As we have discussed previously, Verheijen’s model consists of a stepwise increase in training load after each cycle (by increasing the length of exercises, decreasing the rest duration, or adding an extra interval). However, it is not possible to determine how many steps your team can make at once. To get insight into this, the chronic load of Gabbett can be used as a reference for determining the number and duration of intervals. For which you should aim for an acute load (last 7 days) which is 130% of the chronic load (meaning: 30% more than the average of last 28 days). This way you gradually improve the fitness of the players without increasing the risk of injury.

However, as we have also discussed, the threshold values of Gabbett are no magic numbers; they should only be used as guidelines. So how can you get more insight in whether you can expose your players to more load? For this you can use the subjective data of the players (exertion and recovery forms). Have you increased the training load, and is the AC-ratio around 1.3, but do players not report worse values for recovery (more fatigued, muscle soreness, etc)? You might increase the load further to challenge them! Do players report worse values for recovery, and is the AC-ratio around 1.3 or higher, this might be the first sign that you increased the load too much. Be careful with increasing load further! With this example, it should be clear that integrating the strength of different models, and adding subjective data of the players, leads to the most optimal way of periodization!

There is, however, another limitation of the periodization of Verheijen. By playing on one field dimensions (large, medium or small) each week, the load of that week will be rather one-sided. This means that in a week with small field dimensions there will be a high amount of short explosive actions (accelerations) whereas there won’t be a lot of sprinting actions (sprint meters). The block periodization of Verheijen is therefore going to challenge players on one aspect (needed for gains in fitness) whereas underloading the players on another aspect (leading to detraining effects). As we’ve seen in the theory of Gabbett both overloading and underloading players makes them susceptible for injuries. Following this theory we should therefore balance the program of Verheijen more.

To balance the training program of Verheijen, you can add one session a week with opposite field dimensions: in a week with small field dimensions, there should be one session played with large field dimensions and vice versa. However, in an amateur club this might be hard to implement, since the week might consist of only 2 to 3 training sessions. In that case, it is advised to play one exercise per session with the opposite field dimensions (see image 1). This way the training load will have more variability and therefore the balance will be better.

In short, we have seen that all theories of training periodization have their limitations. Through integrating different theories in your periodization you can overcome these limitations and design the most optimal training schedule. For example, the theory of Gabbett (and using exertion/recovery scores) could help you to decide how many steps your team can make in the stepwise model of Verheijen. Furthermore, based on the theory of Gabbett, it can be concluded that block periodization makes players more susceptible for injuries (through underloading the players). We should therefore balance this periodization schedule more. The sum is always greater than its parts!

JOHAN’s tip of the week

Do you want to balance your training session with a 7v7 or 11v11, to increase sprinting activity, but don’t you have enough players available? You can also increase sprint activity by increasing the field dimensions of, for example, a 4v4(+ 2 goalkeepers). Instead of playing 4v4(+2 goalkeepers) on 40x30m pitch, you might opt for 50x35m!