Flexible Non-Linear Programs

With the host of different periodized programs well established in both theory and practice, flexibility of workouts used became the basis of the approach. Priority of training was important for each mesocycle, no matter the length. Individualization of programs was essential to meet the needs of workout “quality” and “recover)'”. Disruptions in training schedules requiring flexibility can arise from many circumstances including illness, vacations, school priorities, and injuries (Figure 5.2). Each can impact both training frequency, sequences and workout quality. Flexible nonlinear periodization attempted to be corrective in a rapid time to address these issues. As opposed to classical periodization models, flexible non-linear periodization attempts to make up ground on lost workouts by changing training sequences.

Flexible non-linear programs act as a “chameleon” programming model that can fade in and out of workout sequences as needed to achieve a mesocycle training goal. Training goals for rugby have been extensively discussed from the perspectives of the sport (e.g. technical training, speed, change of direction, anaerobic endurance, aerobic demands, strength and power). Furthermore with the use of technology one can be even more aware of, and responsive to, day-to- day disruptions in schedule, training quality on a given day, illness, and other

Disruptions occur in the sequencing of any training program and decisions need to be made as to how to default the workout within the context of the mesocycle goals and training prioritization

FIGURE 5.2 Disruptions occur in the sequencing of any training program and decisions need to be made as to how to default the workout within the context of the mesocycle goals and training prioritization

interferences from sport coaches. In today’s strength and conditioning environment the ability to assess “readiness to train”, workout performance, and recovery with each training session is vital. The ability to get on-track with training sequences for a given cycle or period of time is vital for each athlete to achieve the adaptive potential from the exercise stimuli.

Mesocycle Training Goals

The art of coaching while using science is essential to implement effectively flexible non-linear programs. First, a planned sequence is designed for each mesocycle with the common themes of preparation phases, competition phases, and transition phases making up the macrocycle. The challenge for this modern approach was best framed by a National Football League (NFL) professional strength and conditioning coach, Jon Torine, who looked out at the weight room and said, “Wow, I have 35 players out there and I think they are each using a different workout in their sequencing today.” While a bit daunting, it does point to the fact that individualization becomes challenging with large groups when it is the quality of the workout and optimal sequencing that is the key to achieving mesocycle goals. We know the mesocycle goals can reflect more than one trainable feature keeping in mind the fundamental equation of power as force x distance/velocity, the elements of training for strength and power are noted. Typical mesocycle goals in general would be:

Preparation Cycles: Light to moderate loading. Teaching and allowing initial adaptive changes to occur, cycle length six to eight weeks. Emphasis on moderate workouts and adding in a few heavy and power workouts for exposure and teaching.

Heavy and Very Heavy: Owing to the fact that for men and women, power development is based on strength in the squat for men (2 X body mass) and women (1.85 X body mass), making maximal 1 RM strength essential for a strength fitness base. Emphasis of heavy and very heavy loadings with recovery' days. Cycle length about eight to ten weeks.

Power: Using power exercises, more sets and fewer repetitions (e.g. 6 sets of 3 repetitions) and longer rest periods, using strength with heavy and very' heavy workouts to eliminate detraining of the FORCE component. Six- to eight-week cycle placed in a position prior to competitive phases.

Buffering Capacity Training: It has been long known that anaerobic athletes develop enhanced buffering capacity' with training that stresses the glycolytic energy system. This type of training is needed to assist in the development of buffering capacity' using light to moderate intensities (8-15 RMs 40-80% of 1 RM), with rest from 2.5 minutes to 1 minute between sets and exercises. Care must be taken for maintaining exercise techniques and progress, slowing limiting symptoms and carefully adjusting volume of exercise. Excess use can increase the potential for accumulated stress hormones over day's and with high volume rhabdomy'oly'sis even in trained individuals.

Rest period lengths between sets vary by intensity. Symptoms such as nausea are observed with rest periods of two minutes or less and need proper progression without symptoms.

  • • Very short rest periods - One minute or shorter, used with very light resistances
  • • Short rest periods - One to two minutes, used with light resistances
  • • Moderate rest periods - Two to three minutes used with moderate to heavy resistances
  • • Long rest periods - Three to four minutes used with heavy and power resistances
  • • Very long rest periods - Five minutes or longer and used with heavy and very' heavy' resistances

Transition and Rest Cycles: Here we see the use of active rest periods, complete rest days, light and very' light days with low volume to rest high-threshold motor units. These workouts alone can act as a default workout in a sequence or can be an important phase of One to two weeks as a transition phase or a post-competitive phase. Cycle length varies from a day to two weeks.

A variety of pre-planned sequences can be devised for targeted goals. When needed, “defaults” from the plan or change in workout sequences is what makes it “flexible” non-linear periodization. Ideally, the non-linear aspect allows for recovery of motor units within a training week by varying the workout stimuli.

TABLE 5.2 Various mesocycle training goal examples ((>-8 week cycles) for loading as volume would be associated with levels of training and toleration for total work. Rest periods linked to the loading factor with care for associated symptomology with rest periods of two minutes or less. Three-day-a-week schedules are implemented on alternate days. Four-day-a-week schedules are done with pairs with a rest day between, e.g. M-T—W- Rest—Thu-Fri

General Prep: 3 Day - L-M-VL - M-L-P— L-H-P—H-L-P—L-H-M—H-M-P— H-M- L—H-P-M

Heavy Mesocycle 3 Day -M-H-M -H-P-H—M-L-M-H-M-H—L-P-H—VH-L-H

Power Mesocycle 3 Day - H-P-L—M-P-M—P-M-P— H-M-P—P-L-P—H-P-P--

Light/Moderate Buffering 3 Day - H-L-M—L-H-L—M-L-H—L-VL-H—H-L-H—L- M-M

Loading is highly subjective and variable with the exercise used, e.g. Very Heavy -95—100% of 1 RM or 1-3 RM Zone, Heavy — 85—90% of 1 RM 4—f> RM Zone, Moderate 75-85% of 1 RM, -8-10 RM Zone, Light, 60-70% of 1 RM, 12—15 RM zone, Very Light, 40—50% of 1 RM, 20-25 RM Zone, Power — Variable across the force-velocity curve, 40—85% of 1RM. Use load associated rest periods.

However, this is at times conflicted with the need for targeting a particular training stimulus at a higher frequency. Table 5.2 shows a number of pre-planned sequences for loading and volume with rest between sets automatically associated with the intensity used.

Other training elements, related to technical demands, speed, agility, aerobic endurance and sports training, must be integrated into different mesocycles over time. Well known by 1973, short sprints can improve maximal oxygen consumption comparable to continuous exercise. Thus high-intensity interval training appears to be the primary tool for improving aerobic capacity and limiting incompatibility with strength and power.

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