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Thread: Long cycles vs short cycles

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
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    Long cycles vs short cycles

    Hello my friends, isolated across the world.

    WLForums is back, so lets get that wholesome content going again.

    What are the advantages of short cycles and long cycles, in your opinion?

    By short cycles I mean anything of 6-8 weeks, or less in some cases. The Russian Squat Routine would be an example.

    By long cycles I mean 12-16 weeks, LSUS would be an example.

    A further example would be with block periodisation. You traditionally have strength endurance, maximal strength, power/taper. The first two blocks can be 2-4 weeks, the last phase 1-2 weeks. So you could vary that from, say, 10 weeks, right down to about 5-6 weeks. This is a rough description to provide an example.
    Last edited by CNL; 04-24-2020 at 03:06 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Well, I think the term "cycle" is a bit vague. You've got your:

    Microcycle - basic building block of the training program, typically a week long
    Mesocycle - typically 3-6 weeks long, if you think of traditional block periodization as a series of phases, a mesocycle could/would be one phase consisting of multiple microcycles
    Macrocycle - a long-term training plan encompassing multiple/all phases of periodization, typically consisting of perhaps 2-4 mesocycles, that could/would/should culminate in a competition at the end of the macrocycle

    So, by these definitions, the Russian Squat Routine would be a 6 week mesocycle, whereas Smolov or LSUS would be macrocycles with multiple mesocycles within them (introductory/base/switching/intense/taper and something like 10s/5s/3s/competition, respectively). So if you're talking about long vs short cycles and comparing RSR to Smolov/LSUS, you're really comparing apples to oranges.

    To answer the question, the length of any given phase/mesocycle/macrocycle depends on the athlete and the calendar, i.e. what does the athlete need to accomplish in any given phase of the periodization and how does that fit into the competition calendar.

    To your point on block periodization, I think traditionally the phases are referred to as accumulation, intensification/transmutation, and realization (JTS/Max Aita call them general, strength, and peaking, as a point of comparison). I've also seen it delineated as hypertrophy/strength/power/speed, though I think that was more geared towards performance in team ball sports, not barbell strength sports. In any case, the length of any given phase will depend on how long the athlete needs to be in that phase, as a proportion of the macrocycle designed to prepare them for a specific competition on the calendar a given number of weeks/months/years away.

    As an example, say you have a newer lifter and you're designing a training plan for a competition 20 weeks away. Newer lifters typically require more time spent in the general/accumulation phase of training, as they are still developing the athletic qualities required to be able to train effectively and ultimately be successful as a lifter, as well as still building muscle and filling out their frame/weight class. Not all new lifters do; some people coming to weightlifting with a strong background in crossfit, or another sport like wrestling or gymnastics, could already have a strong athletic base. If we assume our hypothetical lifter doesn't have that base, they would benefit from more time spent in the general/accumulation phase, and our 20 week macrocycle could look like two 6 week accumulation mesocycles back-to-back, followed by a 4 week intensification mesocycle, followed by a 4 week realization mesocycle, with appropriate deloads built into the mesocycles.

    As another example, say you have a very experienced lifter and you're designing a training plan for a competition 20 weeks away; notably this competition is to be used as a qualifier for a more important competition down the road, where the qualifying standard is well within the lifter's capabilities. More experienced lifters should have largely developed the athletic qualities they need to be successful and will have largely filled out their weight class, and so need to spend less time in the general/accumulation phase of training. Conversely, the more advanced you get, the more effort and time is required to continue to make progress, so the longer the more important intensification phase can/should be. In this case, the 20 week macrocycle could look something like a 2 week general phase mesocycle, followed by 4, 4 week intensification mesocycles, followed by a 2 week realization cycle leading into the competition. The advanced athlete has less need of general training, and only needs 2 weeks to adequately peak to hit the target qualifying total, so the bulk of the macrocycle can be dedicated to intensification or the development of strength, the benefits of which we would hope to reap in the next macrocycle leading into the larger/more important competition. I used more, shorter intensification mesocycles to represent that the advanced athlete's training requires greater recovery and more frequent deloads, and you typically don't see more than one deload in any given mesocycle. As a caveat, if the athlete doesn't have stable technique at heavier weights, shortening the peaking/realization period can be a gamble. I speak from personal experience here.

    Other factors come into play as well. If the athlete works a full-time physical job, they may build up fatigue more easily, and require shorter mesocycles with more frequent deloads. If the athlete psychologically needs more variety to stay engaged with their training, it might behoove the coach to employ shorter mesocycles with more variety between them. If you have an athlete with a specific need, then lengthening the mesocycle or phase that addresses that need, so long as fatigue is managed appropriately, is a great way of attacking that weakness. In a long-term training plan with set dates for target competitions, it's easier to implement longer mesocycles or periodization phases in order to get more out of them, but on the other hand if you have an athlete with a variable schedule or recovery capacity, it may be beneficial to use shorter mesocycles or phases as they can be a little more versatile and sometimes easier to alter on the fly without screwing up the whole plan. And obviously the length of any given phase can be shortened/lengthened in order to fit into a macrocycle of a set length due to competition calendar restrictions, and which competitions you choose to train for depends on the athlete's qualification and goals and how often the coach and/or athlete feels they need to be competing.

    Hope that all makes sense. I'm going to go back to pretending to work from home now.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    I think the length of a 'cycle' is less important than answering several other questions which make the approach more 'top down' than any sort of compliance to a practice of carefully composed cycles of work.
    * What is my greatest deficiency?
    * What immediate competition commitments do I have?
    * What is the KPI for me as a lifter?

    Do I adhere to a certain view of short or long cycles that I may be able to justify? Or do I prioritize answers to those questions above?

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