The Elite Athlete

A discussion of the strategies and training theories which, when correctly employed, result in the athlete experiencing maximum conditioning and peak performance timed to coincide with an athletic competition.


The science and understanding of the physiological adaptations that occur in the human body in response to a specific training stimuli, have given rise to a refinement in the training program athletes employ. A progressively structured system, referred to as periodization, is used with professional athletes to achieve maximal, speed, power, endurance and agility.

The actual components of the system will vary depending on the physical requirements of the sport, but the general structures are very similar. When determining how to structure a periodized training system, it’s important to understand:

  1. The demands of the sport
  2. The season’s duration
  3. The pre-season duration
  4. The off-season duration
  5. Playoff or competition timing and duration

Taking these issues into account will help you have your football team peak at playoff time, or have your marathon runner reach maximal endurance and maximum skeletal integrity on the day of the event.

Assuming, as an athlete, you commit to an athletic baseline of fitness throughout the year, a minimum of 2 months is usually required to effectively reach game-ready status. The human body needs time to rest, time to grow and time to adapt.

Period 1 (Mesocycle 1) Preparatory Period

Stage one is the time to establish a baseline of fitness and strength in both muscle and soft tissues (i.e. tendons and ligaments), which will be adapted to provide the athlete with a strong body poised to perform the demands of the sport. The athlete will work on endurance, strength, and flexibility. This mesocycle will also be divided into the following macrocycles which will begin to task the body in ways the sport demands.

  • Hypertrophy/Endurance Phase
  • Basic Strength Phase
  • Strength/Power Phase

Period 2: Transition Period

During this period we implement sport specific movement, reactions to visual and situational triggers, and perfecting skill-related techniques. During this period athlete should have already established his physical conditioning and now his/her objective should be sharpening technique, reflexes, and game specific talents.

Period 3: Competition

The objective for this period is to peak the strength and power of the athlete through additional decreases in training volume but increases in training intensity. Also, game strategy and increases in skill technique training will begin to replace physical conditioning. The physical strength and training status will be maintained through competition as well as exercises which are technique and game specific.

Rest and Recovery

The process of rest and recovery are as important as the exercise program and an integral component in allowing the athlete to reach his/her physical potential. The science of how the body heals is much better understood these days and is seen from the way physical therapists now begin to rehab an injury, to the way professional sports teams schedule athletes’ time in the trainer’s recovery facility. Rest, active rest, heat, stretching, ice are the tools employed that allow the athlete to recover quickly, and continue to train and improve.

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©2010 Patrick LoSasso, Certified Personal Trainer, CSCS

( Material may be reprinted or published with permission & credit of authorship. Excerpts up to 200 words may be used without permission if authorship is credited.

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