Periodisation and Russian Dolls

I know what you are thinking – Nick has lost the plot again, he’s talking about periodisation and russian dolls! Stick with me though, you may find it helpful.

When you sit down to write a periodised training plan you need some structure and your programmes should be designed with both short and long term objectives in mind. At the core of periodisation is the fact that a training plan can be broken down into sequential logical components. If I’m honest with you, the minute I left University I stopped talking about Macro, Meso and Micro cycles (it confused me!).

Over the years I encountered countless aspiring S&C coaches that, like me, get cought up in terminology and end up confused by something that is really really simple. Recently I’ve found a simple way of getting my point across when explaining the purpose of developing a periodised plan and what each cycle actually means. Here’s what I do…

I liken the components of a periodised plan to Russian Dolls (a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other).

The Russian Doll is a design classic that shows the relationship of an ‘object within a similar object’. The building blocks of a periodised programme are very similar in nature, each step is related to the other and as the programme is developed the layers of information and complexity also increases.

Macrocyle – the complete plan

This is the ‘Mummy’ Russian Doll – the largest one that conceals all of the other layers. The macrocycle is ‘THE BIG PICTURE’ and reflects one complete cycle, and typically lasts a year. However I believe it can be shorter or longer and should essentially be linked to your ultimate training goal.

Mesocyle – several continuous weeks of training

This is the next Russian Doll hidden within the first. A mesocycle is a number of continuous weeks (typically a 4-6) within the macrocyle where the training programme emphasises the same type of physical adaptations. It can be thought of as the ‘monthly plan’. If your needs analysis has identified that you need to improve your relative strength you may spend a mesocyle during the specific preparation phase of the macrocycle focusing your training on developing this physical quality.

Microcycle – typically a 7-day period but can range between 5-10 days.

Once you reveal the next Russian Doll you are looking at the microcycle and this often lasts for seven days and is a training week within the mesocycle and this will be your ‘weekly plan’ providing you with details of specific training sessions that need to be completed that week.


I hope that helps – simple, I know – but hopefully effective. If you’ve got your own suggestions let me know.       

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Nick GranthamPeriodisation and Russian Dolls

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