Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission), 14024-15

Prepared by: Jamie Youngson, Senior Strength and Conditioning Coach, Australian Institute of Sport
Evaluated by: Ross Smith, Manager Strength and Conditioning Operations, Australian Institute of Sport
Last Updated: December 2016

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Planning and Periodisation

The delivery of physical training is the primary role of the Strength and Conditioning (S&C) coach. Before any exercise is delivered, the S&C coach must collect evidence on the physical state (primarily) of the athlete, whilst establishing performance goals with the coach, support team and athlete. Importantly, physical training delivered through S&C is only part of the athlete's training programme, and can conflict with other inputs if they are not fully considered. For example, physiological conditioning undertaken as part of skills sessions may result in levels of fatigue, which in turn, can negatively impact other areas of performance preparation. For this reason, thorough discussion of planning and Periodisation should be carried out prior to the delivery of exercise. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of sport's coach to drive execution of planning. However, the formation of plans should be carried out in conjunction with support staff, including the S&C coach, while avoiding unilateral decision making, which lead to fundamental flaws in training prescription. Periodisation is a term used to describe how a season(s) is coordinated into coherent, interconnected and progressive phases: macro, meso and micro cycles, set against clear performance objectives (sport and athlete), and culminating in peak competition performance(s). For this to be successful, the principle of Supercompensation (fig.1), also known as training adaptation, guides how physical training is prescribed (1). The aim is to work from biological homeostasis, or a baseline, while seeking to adapt to new exercise stress (training over-load), leading to improvements in physical and motor ability. Rest and regeneration are critical to this process and must be factored into the plan for outcomes to be realised. Every athlete responds differently to training stimulus and recovery strategies need to be adapted accordingly. Too little recovery and there may be a risk of injury, illness and short-term loss of performance. In extreme cases, over-training may occur. Too much recovery and the reversal principle may apply, where the athlete fails to make adequate gains, i.e., use it or lose it!

Principle of Supercompensation  

Fig 1. Principle of Supercompensation – the importance of rest and regeneration post-exercise in order to develop. 

A key activity for assessing where to start is to carry out a Needs Analysis. This is conducted alongside the coach, athlete and other key support staff, by means of a discussion and the documentation of the following information:

  • Athlete's current training status - has the athlete been exposed to/experience with certain types of training techniques, e.g., free or machine weight strength and/or power training?
  • Establish the athlete's training age - how long have they been training with advanced techniques?
  • What is their injury status and history?
  • What is their medical status and history?
  • What are the key competition dates for the current season and beyond?
  • Establish lifestyle factors, such as: work and/or study commitments, as this can influence the construction of training.

14021-18Evaluation of Physical Abilities

Evaluation is conducted to assess the athlete's status, and therefore, gaps in physical capacities and capabilities. Tests are chosen that reflect physical qualities (e.g., strength, power, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility, mobility and movement ability) required for the sport in question, where the results inform programme direction and content. For example, the S&C coach might carry out a movement-based Competency Test (MCT) on a swimmer, with the view to assessing anatomical structure and function. Alongside the physiotherapist and biomechanist, the S&C coach looks for associations between the MCT results, musclo-skeletal assessment and characteristics found in swimming - starts, turns and free swimming. Using these results and associated observations, the next step is to create a programme, prioritising the athlete's weakest areas first. 

Prescription: overview

The specifications of programming are particular to the needs of the sport and athlete. The S&C coach must design a programme that aims to improve general and specific movement patterning, meuromuscular and energy system qualities. As noted, every athlete is different and should be reflected in programme content. This process is known as individualisation. In training science, it is considered to be one of the fundamental principles of programming.

Again using our swimming example, the role of S&C coach is mostly gym-based, where programming mainly comes in the form of strength and power development, flexibility, mobility and cross-training conditioning. It has been shown that lower body strength and power are important for a strong start, as it can account for up to 30% of a 50m swimming race (2). Therefore, a major objective on dry land is to improve the athlete's ability to deliver effective forces using jumping activities. Jumping activities develop the swimmer's lower body explosiveness, while challenge their body control and alignment. It is important to note that when using explosive activities like jumping, the athlete should be in a non or low-fatigue state for physical and technical performance to be optimised, as well as mitigating injury risk. Although jumping activities benefit swimming performance, the volume (number of sets and repetitions) and intensity (load parameter, e.g., kilograms lifted, box height, etc) will often differ between individuals. Sprint swimmers for example, can normally tolerate higher intensities compared with counterparts taking part in endurance events. However, it is important for the S&C coach to assess each case on its merits and programme accordingly.

In the case of basketball, the S&C coach might have a broader role to play compared with swimming. Other than gym based programming, the SC coach may be responsible for on-court speed and agility training. In such instances, programming for each physical quality requires careful consideration in order to mitigate clashes or conflicts between modalities. 

Monitoring – Tracking and Trending Training Responses

As noted the priority is to create an environment of continuous improvement, where physical and technical gains are achieved concurrently (see fig.2). To better understand this concept, longitudinal tracking and trending of training responses is an important part of the process (3). In some cases, the S&C coaches' might have the role to lead athlete monitoring. However, this depends on time constraints and/or sport science expertise on hand, where responsibility is shared. Monitoring can come in the form of subjective feedback via athlete responses to questions (e.g. RPE, sleep quality and quantity, fatigue responses, readiness to train, muscle soreness) or objective, using performance results (e.g. time trials, power measurements, running metres per session, high intensity running metres per session). Here, the objective is to capture information at regular intervals in order to better understand the ebbs and flows within and between training cycles. More specifically, by identifying physical or psychological trends (up, down and/or homeostatis), the S&C coach and other members of the performance team are able to plan and prepare for subsequent training bouts; and importantly, reduce negative influences on the athlete's wellbeing and performance. 


A series of training blocks or phases in succession with continued development as the result. 

Fig 2. A series of training blocks or phases in succession with continued development as the result.

Monitoring needs to be consistent and standardised, where everyone involved understands the meaning of monitoring questions, interpretation of responses relative to each individual and corresponding action, should it be required. Consequently, these need to be discussed and clarified early in the process.


Graphed trend report on general leg tightness and heaviness.    

Fig 3. Graphed trend report on general leg tightness and heaviness. The green vertical band in the graph represents an event, i.e., competition.

Re-evaluation, Review and refinement

In support of the Periodised plan, programming and monitoring, re-evaluation aims to demonstrate whether physical gaps identified at the start of the season/cycle have been reduced or closed outright. Testing is carried out at agreed stages of the season, e.g., start and end of preseason, and at select points throughout the season (where possible). By the end of preseason, it is expected that physical qualities will be at their greatest levels in that given season. Testing in-season provides an opportunity to show whether physical standards have been maintained or not. Testing is only carried out in-season when it doesn't conflict with competition performances.

Programme reviewing should be carried out at regular intervals throughout the season. The aim is to assess all facets of strength and conditioning and how it relates to performance. If the delivery of programming has been well conceived and administered, outcomes should be effective and realised in sport training and competition. Finally, review findings and corresponding recommendations need to be documented and communicated back to relevant stakeholders, where the aim is to further improve the athlete's physical abilities, and ultimately, future sport performances. In the absence of ready-made solutions, the design of an efficient training process may be considered an exploratory, slowly evolving, meticulously documented, single subject trial-and-refinement experiment (3). 

Further resources and reading


  • Jakowlew, N. 1967. Sports biochemistry. Leipzig: Deutche Hochschule für Körpekultur
  • Lyttle, A. & Benjanuvatra, N. Start Right? A Biomechanical Review of Dive Start Performance. Available at, 2007.
  • Kiely, J. Periodization Paradigms in the 21st Century: Evidence-Led or Tradition-Driven? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2012, 7, pp 242-250


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