Developing a Strength and Conditioning Program – Part 1

Home / Strength Program Design / Developing a Strength and Conditioning Program – Part 1

Developing a Strength & Conditioning training program (Part 1)

The basis of this article is laying the foundation of a strength and conditioning program. This involves the goals, the time frame, and the planning that goes into athletic development prior to specificity of  sport,  the athlete’scurrent training level, and ability of each athlete. The gold standard for developing the base of a program is periodization. Periodization is defined as preplanned, systematic variations in training specifity, intensity, and volume organized in periods or cycles within an overall program. (1CSCS)

General adaptation syndrome is the manner by which the human body reacts to stress. This is broken down into three phases. Shock and Alarm; this is the excessive soreness an athlete will feel in the days or weeks following the beginning of a new workout phase. Then we move on to the resistance phase. This is where true strength and power gains are made and the body is able to withstand the stress (i.e. heavy weights) placed upon it. However if the stress persists for too long or too much (which depends on the experience of the athlete) the third phase, the exhaustive phase is reached. This is often referred to as overtraining and is why programs are designed in different phases so that the types of stressors on the body will differ.


The traditional periodization model partitions the overall program into specific time periods. The largest division is the macro cycle, followed by the Mesocycle and Microcycle. Easy to remember right? The Macrocycle is the big picture, which generally is a “training year”. This can be from several months all the way up to 4 years. Think Olympic athletes…they have the big competition every four years, so they will generally follow a 4 year macrocycle that is planned out with meso and micro cycles that fill the full 4 years. Sounds crazy to follow one program for 4 years huh?

Every Macrocycle I have been on was only 1 year, based on playing football dand having 1 season PER YEAR.  Take a step down and you are at the MesoCycle. These can last several weeks, up to several months.  The key Mesocycle you will see are preparation, first transition, competition, and second transition, or active rest. The Mesocycle can last from several weeks to several months depending on the goal of the athlete and the number of sports seasons to apply the program to. Lastly we have the microcycle. This is day-to-day or week-to-week activity and is the most visible part of the training program. The general microcycles are hypertrophy, endurance, basic strength, strength and power, peaking or maintenance (competition time), and active rest. As one progresses through each cycle the intensity increases and the volume decreases. Basically this means more stress or heavier weights and fewer reps, but very high intensity.

The cycles are an easy way to quantify a workload, but in order to achieve goals they must be accompanied by qualitative criteria regarding sport specific learning and training.  In the next article we will explore these qualitative measures(i.e. exercise interval, exercise order, relief, frequency, and intensity) as well as examine an athlete’s ability and goals to make an individualized, sport specific, program.



1.Earl, Roger & Baechle, Thomas: Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition



Related Posts

Leave a Comment