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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Block Periodization for Wrestlers

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We have had the unique experience of training multiple populations at DSC.  Although hockey is our niche, we have had the opportunity to train a diverse number of field sport athletes, motor sport athletes, and most recently Olympic caliber freestyle wrestlers.  Our goal for all populations, regardless of sport, is to provide a safe working environment and deliver tangible RESULTS!  Bottom line, we are not “married” to one-way of doing things.  We are “married” to best practice. 

Any time an individual walks in looking to perform better, we as coaches ask the following questions:

  • How long do we have to work with the athlete?
  • What is the training age of the athlete?
  • Are there any orthopedic issues that need to be considered when programming? (Screening etc.)
  • What are the demands of the sport?
  • What are the “performance limiting factors”? (Performance testing)
  • What does the competition calendar look like?

Based on the above criteria, a very large demographic of our athletes are trained using a concurrent model (the programming of multiple motor abilities at once).  In other words, speed, power, strength, and endurance (aerobic/anaerobic) etc. are trained each session.  This model has served our hockey populations and youth athletes extremely well.  Quite frankly, I don’t see this changing anytime soon.  Here’s why:

  • Program length:  We are expected to provide maximal results in minimal time.  Our ADP programs are 12 weeks in length (minus vacation, Holidays, sickness).  We don’t get a lot of time with our athletes. 
  • Training Age:  The majority of our population is youth athletes with minimal training age.  In fact we have found that even our “elite level” hockey players would be considered novices in the weight room (3-4 years training age). 
  • Competition Calendar:  Hockey players have a 50+ game competition calendar running from late August-April.  Not including practice time, this is a ton of cumulative stress.  In addition, the law of competing demands makes it extremely difficult to use a Block periodization approach in team sports. 

What is Block Periodization and why do we use it?

Block periodization is characterized by a high concentration of workloads on a minimal number of targeted abilities!  In other words, multiple motor abilities are not programmed all at once.  They are sequenced separately based on the understanding of training residuals.  Here are the principals of Block Periodization



High concentration of Workloads

It assumes that a high concentration of workloads provides sufficient stimuli to enhance targeted abilities in high-performance athletes.

Minimal Number of Target abilities within a training block

Usually not more than two physical abilities and one technique or techno-tactical component can be developed within a training block.

Consecutive development of targeted abilities

In most sports, the number of needed abilities exceeds the number of targeted abilities that can be developed simultaneously.

Structure and use of specialized mesocycles-blocks

The optimal time span in which desired changes in the athletes’ state can be attained corresponds to a training mesocycle.

The general principles of Block Periodization (adapted from Issurin, 2008)

We have not used a Block approach in the past because of training age and time.  However, with the addition of our Olympic freestyle wrestlers, this has changed.  We currently train four US Champion freestyle wrestlers that would be considered “advanced/elite” in terms of training age and world ranking.  We have recently instituted the Block model to fit this demographic.  Here’s why:

  • Time:  Our wrestlers are currently preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.  We see them 3/week consistently.  Consistency, coupled with a drastically shorter competition schedule allows us to be more creative in exercise design.
  • Training Age:  These athletes’ have a training age of 10+ years.
  • Competition Calendar:  5-6 competitions each year.  Half of these would be considered “major” (US Open, World Team). 

“Concurrent training for advanced lifters can disrupt physiological adaptation, provoke excessive fatigue, and ultimately decrease the cumulative training effect.” –Issurin.  In other words, young athletes can use a shotgun approach; advanced athletes need the use of a sniper rifle. 


The Funnel Effect: Photo Courtesy of: Block Periodization 2 (Issurin) 

Funnel Effect:  “the targeted abilities of elite athletes are less accessible to training stimuli than less qualified athletes.  Two consequences emerge from this: 1.) The quantity of effective exercise is reduced with an increase in athletic level, 2.) Event specific expertise and developmental exercises should increase.” (Issurin)

Block Periodization for Wrestlers

Below is an example of how we program for our wrestlers.  Each concentrated block is based on the idea of training residuals.  This simply means how long the motor ability can be retained after the cessation of its use. 

Training Residuals

Motor Ability


Aerobic Endurance

30 +/- 5 Days

Max Strength

30 +/- 5 Days

Glycolytic Endurance

18 +/-4 Days

Strength Endurance

15 +/- 5 Days

Max Speed

5 +/- 3 Days

Issurin, Block Periodization 

Accumulation Block



  • Basic Strength/Sub-Max effort Method, Repeated Effort Method
  • Rep Range: 8-10
  • Minimal Rest
  • Cardiac Output
  • HICT
  • Tempo Method

The goal of this phase is to build a solid foundation of general strength and aerobic capacity.  The exercises selected have a lower transfer of training.

Transmutation Block (aka. Max Strength)



  • Max Strength/Max Effort Method
  • Rep Range: 3-5
  • Increase sets on main lift
  • Increase rest (3-5 min) on main lift
  • Cardiac Power
  • Threshold Training
  • Alactic Power

The goal of this phase is to increase max strength. We increase the sets of the main lift and spread volume accordingly.  An increase in rest is programmed coupled with a pairing of restorative work (mobs, dynamic stretches etc.)

Realization Block (aka. Power)



  • Dynamic Effort Method/Accommodating Resistance
  • Rep Range: 1-3
  • Explosive
  • Rest (3-5 min) on main lift
  • Lactate Power Intervals
  • Lactate Capacity Intervals

The goal of this phase is to get specific and prepare the wrestler for competition.  Be fast, be explosive!  We are focusing on explosive power and energy system demands that mimic competition on the mat.  One of the reasons that we hold off on taxing the lactate system too early is because of the competing demands of skill practice and matches.  These athletes bath in lactate and we are more privy as Coaches to increase capacity before further taxing a system that already gets plenty of work.  In addition, this conditioning is grueling and non-sustainable for long periods of time without maladaptation and overtraining.  

In conclusion, the goal is still the goal…safety and results.  I must admit that I have been pushed by these athletes to become a better coach.  Stepping away from my comfort zone to experiment with new means and methods to solicit results driven gains on the mat.  I’m sure there will be plenty of tweaking and adjusting as I continue my quest in finding the perfect program.  Although I know it doesn’t truly exist, it is my goal to find it. 


(1.)         Issurin, V., Block Periodization 2, Ultimate Athlete Concepts, 2008. 

(2.)         Robertson, M., Elite Athletic Development Seminar Notes, 2014. 

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