Training Density in Periodization


My post-collegiate training group just finished up their session. We started at 8:15 and finished at 10. Just under 2 hours of practice time. That’s pretty short by our normal standards. For most of the year our practices last 3+ hours. Today wasn’t some rare exception though. Every practice thus far in our early training cycle has been at or under 2 hours. Yet we’ve done more work today than we’ll likely do for most of the year. That’s possible because our training density right now is very high. We’re getting a lot of work done in a relatively short period of time. This can be done by manipulating work:rest ratios. Generally it necessitates sub-maximal intensities but it is possible to progress to higher intensities with relatively high volumes using escalating density principles. This is great for enhancing general fitness and work capacity.

While volume and intensity are the more well known variables of training design, training density is not something to be overlooked as it has important implications throughout the course of the year. Very early on in the training year, I start with relatively high training density, moderate volumes, and lower intensity work. Over this and the following cycle, we will build volume considerably while while maintaining high density. Intensity of work will increase only slightly. From this point, volume and density will progressively drop while overall program intensity will increase. These trends will continue until the end of the first competitive cycle and then we’ll take a very short rest / transition period and return to an abbreviated version of that cycle for the outdoor season.