So you’ve figured out the time frame for your macrocycle that will get you to peak performance around competition/event time. Your transition phase will depend on how conditioned you usually are, the intensity of your event(s), and the time frame until your next competitive phase. For instance, I took two weeks at the end of my rugby season to do nothing but rest, foam roll, stretch, and mobilize my ankles and hips. (It was amazing.)
The remaining months are your preparation phase, which is divided into two parts. General preparation refers to overall physical conditioning (you could think of it as general physical preparedness, or GPP) and often initially includes setting a solid aerobic base for future exercise. It can also include general mobility, flexibility, and correction of imbalances that occur over a competitive season. Think of this time as making yourself more of a “Renaissance Man/Woman” at first, with an eye towards your weaknesses and ultimate goals. This is also usually when hypertrophy training would take place. Get a better cardio base, balance out your imbalances, and get bigger muscles. Often these workouts will be higher volume (more reps) and lower intensity.
As you progress through your general preparation, you can change the emphasis of your workouts from endurance and hypertrophy to strength. You got fitter and bigger, now use that size and endurance to lift some heavy sh*t and get stronger. Accordingly, your volume will decrease (less reps) and your intensity will increase (darn heavy). You will also begin to integrate some sport specific activities (certain skills or drills that need work) but will not overdo the volume on those activities.
You’ve gotten fitter, you’ve gotten bigger, and you’ve gotten stronger, now get faster. The last section of the general preparation phase is most often a power phase. These workouts will be very high intensity for low reps to prevent overuse injuries and central nervous system burnout. At this time you will also fully integrate sport specific drills, bringing you into the specific preparation part of the preparation phase. This is when you really focus in on exactly the movements and skills needed for your competition and very little else.
Each focus of the general and specific preparation portions of the preparation phase, in case you haven’t guessed, is a mesocycle. A mesocycle is simply the time frame for whatever you are focusing on in your workouts (ie. endurance, strength, power), and can last anywhere from 2 weeks to months. The number of mesocycles in your preparation phase depends on how many different things you will be focusing on at different times, which will also determine the mesocycle length. Periodization is traditionally linear (high volume/low intensity endurance –> low volume/high intensity power) but can be random as well.
At last, you’ve planned your preparation time frame and decided what you want to work on during that time – whether it’s strength, power, strength-endurance, or all of the above. Now for each mesocycle, planning your microcycles is simply making your weekly workout plan. Pick some exercises you want to work on to do your strength routine, decide whether you want do add some prowler work or burpees for your endurance, determine whether or not you are strong enough for proper box jumps during your power phase, etc; and put down the desired reps/sets/rest scheme.
Of course, you really only need to plan the first portion of your general preparedness because subsequent workouts will depend on your progress during each mesocycle. And don’t be afraid to edit as you go. If you didn’t make it as far as you needed or wanted do during your strength phase, add another week or two or three, or come back to that in a different mesocycle again later if you have the time and feel it is crucial. Lastly, be sure to program in deload time so you can make it to your competition phase in one solid, ass-kicking piece! Happy programming!