Macrocycle, mesocycle and microcycle

In order to achieve a sporting objective during the course of a season, there must be a correct progression, i.e. there must be an adequate organisation of training through a logic of control. In the event that some stages of training are eliminated or are not carried out regularly, the athlete may suffer an injury or stagnation problems.

This sporting objective, whether short, medium or long term, must be achieved according to established principles. If, on the other hand, training is done intuitively and without any kind of control, the training will not fulfil its function correctly. Therefore, any training must be fully controlled, individually established and previously organised by an expert in the field.

The athlete must be familiar with the basic concepts of macrocycle, mesocycle and microcycle in order to perfect his training routine, which is based on prior and rational control. These concepts refer to the periods that form part of training.

Each of the guidelines that are recommended to be followed during the training planning process have their advantages, disadvantages and differences, but they all have one characteristic in common: the units of organisation and periodisation. It is also necessary to indicate that each one contains the next one, that is, any planning is made up of one or more macrocycles, which at the same time are made up of multiple mesocycles, and which in turn contain several microcycles.

The macrocycle

This is the most general of the three organisational units in training planning. Its duration can be a trimester, a semester or a whole season. If the training is carried out during a complete season, it usually consists of one, two or three macrocycles at the most. Within the macrocycle, three distinct parts can be distinguished:

1.The preparatory period
In this period, the athlete will try to achieve the physical capacities necessary to face the competition, i.e. he/she must do all the exercises required to achieve the optimal physical form to achieve his/her objective. The preparatory period is further divided into two sub-periods:

  • General preparation: this period is characterised by the large amount of work the athlete will have to do. However, the intensity will be medium. In the general preparation, the athlete will try to increase his basic physical capacities.
  • The specific preparation: the physical capacities achieved in the previous period will be directed towards more complex ones in order to achieve a better performance in competition. In this period there will be less volume of work, but the intensity will increase considerably.

2.The competitive period
In this period the athlete will have to maintain the level of performance previously achieved to the maximum, as it is during this stage that the competitions will take place. The competitive period must be very organised due to the great demands it will place on the athlete. All the work carried out here is geared towards competitions.

3.The transition period
This period is usually very short, lasting only three to five weeks. During this period, the preparation work is progressively reduced but does not disappear completely. The aim is to avoid the loss of physical capacities, i.e. the athlete must take an active rest but without overtraining. This period is the transition period between the end of one season and the beginning of the next.

The mesocycle

It is a period that can last a couple of weeks, a month or a couple of months. The objective previously set in the macrocycle will be better organised during this stage. The types of mesocycles that exist are:

  1. The base mesocycle: these mesocycles are normally used at the beginning of each period. They are based on the creation of a physical base on which to work later. Although this period is characterised by a lower intensity, it is also characterised by the high volume of work that the athlete will have to do.
  2. The development mesocycle: in this phase the athlete will experience an increase in his physical performance level, as well as in his abilities. As in the basic mesocycle, the development mesocycle will be not very intense but with a high volume of work.
  3. The stabilisation or pre-competition mesocycle: the physical capacities achieved in the previous mesocycles will give way to work focused on other more specific capacities, which the athlete needs for the competition to be carried out. Here the volume of work decreases, but the intensity increases considerably.
  4. The competition mesocycle: as its name suggests, this is the work done during and between competitions.

The microcycle

  • It is the smallest of the three organisational units and consists of multiple training sessions. Its duration can vary considerably, ranging from two sessions to two weeks. All the training carried out in the microcycle will always be oriented towards the same objective. There are several types of microcycles:
  • The adjustment microcycle: thanks to these, the athlete can prepare for training that requires greater intensity in later phases. Therefore, it can be said that it is an introductory stage with a low level of load.
  • The loading microcycle: through the medium training loads, the aim is to develop the athlete’s performance capabilities.
  • The shock or impact microcycle: through this period, the aim is to get the organism to adapt to these processes. It can be achieved by increasing the volume of load during the preparatory periods or by increasing the intensity of the load during the competitive period.
  • The approach microcycle: the work carried out in this microcycle is already more focused on facing the competition, so loads very similar to those that will be used in the competition are used.
  • The competition microcycle: in this phase the competitions take place. In order for the athlete to be able to face them in perfect conditions, it is necessary to ration the breaks that take place within the microcycles.
  • The recovery microcycle: in this period, the athlete continues to work to continue his or her development, but at the same time increases the rest periods. This is the only way to avoid overtraining. These microcycles are usually used after the shock or competition microcycles, as they have a lower level of training load.


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