Block vs. undulating periodisation: how does this impact on performance?
Your weekly research review
- Background & Objective
- What They Did
- What They Found
- Practical Takeaways
- Reviewer’s Comments
- About the Reviewer
Gavanda, S., Geisler, S., Quittmann, O., & Schiffer, T. (2019). The Effect of Block Versus Daily Undulating Periodization on Strength and Performance in Adolescent Football Players, International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 14(6), 814-821.
Background & Objective
Muscle strength and power are important for many athletic endeavours such as speed, change of direction tasks, tackling ability, and injury prevention. Developing these through a periodised approach, which could be described as a considered and progressive plan is important. This study compared the effects of a block periodised model (BLOCK), where the load is typically increased in a linear manner, versus daily undulating periodisation (DUP), where the load is more sporadic over numerous days, on both anthropometric and physical qualities.
What They Did
Forty-seven subjects (M ± SD age=17 ± 0.8 yr; strength training experience = 0.93 ± 0.99 yr) participated in a 12-week S&C programme. The following assessments were collected before and after this period to examine which model was better:
⇒ Anthropometric: body mass (kg), fat mass (FMkg), body fat percentage (relFM), fat-free mass (FFM), muscle mass (MM), muscle thickness (vastus lateralis (VL), M. rectus femoris (RF) and M. triceps brachii (TB).
⇒ Physical: 1RM (Back squat and bench press), countermovement jump (CMJ), peak power (Wpeak), medicine ball put (MBP), and 40 yd sprint (sec).
Subjects were randomly assigned in either the BLOCK or DUP group prior to the 12-week intervention period consisting of 3 full-body sessions per week.
What They Found
This study found that both the BLOCK and DUP periodised model to be a highly effective training method for adolescent football players over a 12-week period. More specifically, both training models displayed significantly higher BM, relFM, FFM, MM, RF, VL, TB, BS, BP, CMJ, wPeak and significantly lower sprint times. However, DUP was found to be more effective at reducing fat mass and body fat percentage. As such, both a BLOCK and DUP periodised model appear to be highly effective for increasing muscle mass, strength, power and performance in adolescent football players.
This study reported that there may be no clear differences between a BLOCK and DUP model when working with adolescent athletes which can support your coaching practice. Whilst those undertaking the DUP approach benefited from reduced fat mass and body fat percentages compared to BLOCK, this could be attributed to external factors, such as nutrition, which the researchers could not control. Nutrition can be a grey area for S&C coaches, so using external resources (such as the video link below) can be invaluable as an avenue for player/parent education.
With the findings of this study showing that no periodised model holds a distinct advantage over the other, the question is “should we periodise at all?” In the attached article, Grgic et al., (2018) (see article link below) makes a compelling argument for avoiding periodised training all together. As mentioned in the ‘Objective’ part of this study, BLOCK periodisation builds competence through repetition and gradual progression, whereas the theoretical basis for DUP lies in training variety for the stimulation of greater strength development and related characteristics. However, as stated by Grgic and colleagues, it could be argued that so long as strength training is challenging, safe, and progressive, the “what” and “how” of the programme may be irrelevant with regards to development. A balanced approach as seen in the video may prove to be a good starting point for any aspiring youth S&C coach.
“Being a relatively new discipline, S&C coaches can be eager to please and provide evidence-based programmes for optimal development. I am not by any means suggesting that we should avoid such an approach, as conscious and considered practice will elevate our quality and produce more jobs in the future. However, as coaches, it may benefit us to stand back and read the cultural waves of a team to fill in the movement gaps that are left by childhood. An overly structured approach does not always take into account external factors such as school stress, fixtures, or personal issues which should be considered. If players are unpredictable in terms of their energy, competence, and attitude, we may need to get better as coaches at “reading” the social landscape and being pliable enough to move around their needs. At no point should this deter from the fact that they will need regular and progressive strength training to attain higher performance.”
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