Anthony Donskov

Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.

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Advanced Periodization & Team Sports

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Advanced Periodization & Team Sports


Block Practice: Concentrating on a limited (1-2) number of motor abilities.  Ex:  practicing your backhand tennis stroke for an hour. 

Random/Concurrent Practice: Focusing on many motor abilities at once.  Ex:  practicing your forehand, backhand, serve and overhead slam during the hour.

The purpose of this article is to solicit constructive dialogue regarding the art of Block periodization for team sports.  During the past few years, I have been immersed in Eastern Block literature regarding methodologies from the likes of Issurin, Medvedyev, Laputin, Roman, Verkoshansky, Zatsiorsky, Siff and Yesis.  I have learned a great deal about the Soviet System, their classification of athletic populations (Class 3, Class 2, Class 1, Master of Sport, Honorary Master of Sport), techno-tactical philosophies, various loading schemes, and how detail oriented they were regarding program design coupled with cutting edge science. 

Eastern Block: Stages of Mastery

  • First Stage  (Class III and Class II): 2.5 years.  Technical proficiency.
  • Second Stage  (Class I and MS): largest volume of loading.
  • Third Stage (MSIC): Reduce volume, increase intensity.

With advanced learning comes questions, and although this information has helped me grow as a Strength Coach, I still struggle with application of the Block Training System in a team sport environment.  It is my hope that this article can seek to uncover the answers to the following:

1)   How applicable is the block model for team sports that play upwards of 60+ games/year (not including practice)? 

2)   Are “planning theories” similar with different terminologies and concepts? Is the major determinant time and training age? 


1.) Application

During my studies on the art of periodization, a conversation (translated by Dr. Mel Siff) with Yuri Verkoshansky stuck out in my mind.  Coach Verkoshansky states (translation):

“Mechanical divisions of training into periods and mesocycles has been based on short-term experience of preparation of athletes during the early stage of formulating the Soviet system of training (1950’s) and mainly on the example of three sports, namely swimming, weight lifting and track and field athletics, and therefore cannot be universally applied in its basic form.  It is emphasized, that any system of training should be based not so much on logic and empirical experience, but much more on physiology.” 

I certainly understand that this conversation took place many years ago, but I did find it interesting during my research that early periodization was heavily influenced by communism and planning focused on three sports that have profoundly different competition schedules than team sports such as hockey, soccer and baseball.  I took it upon myself to look into the yearly schedule for these events.  Here is the schedule breakdown for the 2013 USA National Teams’ respectively:

USA Swimming:  Three National Events (2013 National Championships, 2013 US Open, AT&T Winter National Championships) and twoInternational events (Short Corse World Championship, World Championship).  Five total competitions. 

USA Weightlifting:  Two events scheduled for 2013: National Championships (July 26-28), and the American Open Championships (December 6-8). 

USA T&F:  Three In-Door meets scheduled (New Balance Grand Prix, Millrose Games, In-Door Championships). 

When looking at the information above the stress of competition (physical) is much different for team sports with a larger volume of games.  For example, National Hockey League players play 82 games/year (not including playoffs), Major League Soccer plays 34 games/season (not including playoffs), Major League Baseball plays 162 games/season (not including playoffs).  The only “light” schedule would fall in the hands of the National Football League where they play 16 games/season (not including playoffs), but the stress of small pick-up trucks colliding on a daily basis must have considerable impact on programming.  A direct result of the large volume of competition is the minimal time spent in the off-season.  Most Coaches have limited time with their athletes.  Hockey for example may be broken down into the following periods where at best the off –season strength and conditioning plan may run from 9-16 weeks.   This is not a lot of time for coaches to work with their athletes and harness results.    

Annual Hockey Schedule


  • Time Frame: April (+/- 2 weeks)
  • Bio-Motor Abilities Trained: Active Recovery, circuit training, aerobic capacity.

General Preparation (Off-Season):

  • Time Frame: May/June
  • Bio-Motor Abilities Trained: General accumulation of strength, aerobic capacity with conversion to aerobic power, alactic capacity, with conversion to alactic power, flexibility.  Increase general physical preparation. 

Specific Preparation (Off-Season):

  • Time Frame: July/August
  • Bio-Motor Abilities Trained: Max strength with conversion to strength endurance or power, lactate capacity with a conversion to lactate power, and short-term aerobic mini blocks. 

Competition (In-Season):

  • Time Frame: September-March
  • Bio-Motor Abilities Trained:  Reduced volumestrength maintenance, max strength, flexibility. 

2.) Concepts

Many of the periodization models are similar in concept with different verbiage.  The goal is to build adequate levels of general preparation and slowly shift to specific work that carries direct transfer onto the ice/field.


General-Specific Continuum for Bio Motor Abilities

General <-----------------------------------------------------------------------------> Specific

Strength Training                     Speed Training                                Endurance Training



General-Specific: ESD for Ice Hockey                                                                                

Transition/ General Prep                   Specific Prep.                               Competition

General <----------------------------------------------------------------------------> Specific                            

            Aerobic                             Aerobic/Alactic                               Lactate


The major difference being how many qualities are trained at once, and the loading parameters (linear vs. non-linear) based on lifting experience and training age.  Block training focuses on a limited number (usually no more than 2) bio-motor abilities, this may pose problems for team sport coaches with minimal time.   Another issue I see is that the majority of hockey players are not elite lifters.  In fact, most would be considered class I athletes in the Soviet system.  This is a period where training volume can maintain high frequency and gains are made without advanced programming means.

I truly believe that we as coaches are all using hybrid models of periodization whether we use concurrent or sequential models. Team sport athletes need more than just strength and power.  Endurance, capacity, resiliency and change of direction are all elements that must be exploited during the training process.  I have used the Block model for single sport athletes, but struggle to find its application in a team environment.  It certainly could be my lack of contextual understanding, or the fact that the majority of the hockey players I train are far from Master of Sport weight lifters.


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