Once you have your long-term plan crafted, it is time to begin thinking about the smaller pieces of the training plan. The next important component to planning is to think about monthly planning. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, creating month long training plans help to structure and manage training stress in the short-term. In this article we’ll discuss several useful rules that should be followed when developing a monthly plan.
A monthly (4-week) training plan represents a suitable amount of time for most individuals to impose a specific stress, allow for adequate recovery, and reap the benefit of a positive physical adaptation from their training. A specific stress can be defined as a particular mode of exercise that you are introducing to your body, or the specific focus of training (i.e. muscular endurance, strength, power, speed, etc..). Over the monthly training plan, three consecutive weeks of escalating training intensity and/or volume provides a sufficient training stimulus for the body to begin making the necessary changes for improved performance. However, this escalating training intensity cannot continue indefinitely or else symptoms of overtraining and burnout may surface. This is why it is critical for recovery to be an integral component of your training plan.
The fourth and final week of a month long training plan should be a planned week of rest. Aborting your training for an entire week is unnecessary and possibly counterproductive, but a reduction in training volume or intensity from your current plan is necessary to allow physical adaptation to occur. In the weight room I prefer to curb the training intensity by 20% on a recovery week. If you back squatted 300lbs for 3 x 10 on week 3, then on week 4 you’d shave of 20% from the 300lbs and squat 240 for 3 x 10. This is a great enough reduction in intensity to allow you to get rested over the week, but enough intensity to prevent detraining.
For most other modes exercises, such as sprinting, jumping, or distance running I prefer to maintain training intensity and curb the training volume. A 20% reduction in training volume will allow for enough recovery to hit the ground rolling entering into the next month’s training plan. If you were running 10 x 100m sprints on week 3, then on week 4 a 20% reduction in training volume would entail only performing 8 x 100m sprints.
While there are plenty of scenarios that will necessitate other periodization schemes, the stepwise progression of three intensive training weeks followed by a planned recovery week is an extremely successful monthly planning strategy. Set a base line for each exercise on week 1. Build upon those values in week 2. Make one final intensive push in week 3. Reduce training intensity and/or volume by 20% in week 4 of your monthly training plan.
Next up in the Getting Started Series, Part 4- Weekly Planning