What is this article about?
Introduce the Limiter - Bridge - Performance model for periodization
Contrast the LBP model with previous training systems
Provide example training sessions for each of the phases
The more training literature you read the more patterns and and norms start to emerge. One specific example is the discussion of a supercompensation model of adaptation which is used as justification for progressive training, periodization, and planning schemes. Since the genesis of this theory concepts from stress physiology literature have been used as a justification for many of the assumptions strength and conditioning professionals make when creating their training structures. Namely, how the body adapts in such an organized manner in the face of imposed stressors. However, the field of stress physiology has shifted dramatically in the past thirty years, but despite it is evolution the same outdated theories from years past remain firmly rooted in training culture.
In a recent ask TTT video titled, “Dynamic vs. Block Periodization: A Case For Training All Things at All Times” I discussed contemporary models of adaptation based upon dynamic systems theory and how it differs from the traditional, outdated, supercompensation model of adaptation as well as my thoughts on block periodization versus dynamic programming. Because all training models are created with the goal of adaptation in mind it stands to reason that those constructed on the foundation of supercompensation theory are flawed, namely in that they do not account for how our bodies actually adapt to training and they lack dynamic flexibility based on an inter-individual variations in training response.
As a result of that Kyle Ruth and I created the Limiter Bridge Performance Model of training which is designed to drive biological adaptations, and raise the ceiling for performance, as well as allow for future structural adaptations. In this article I am going to tie those concepts together and present a more expansive model for phasing and periodizing training based on the principles of athlete centric coaching, dynamic periodization, and the limiter bridge performance model. But, before delving into the details of the LBP model it is important to first acknowledge why we created it.
Prior to the genesis of the LBP model the traditional paradigm we ascribed to attempted to improve performance in a sporting event by analyzing the demands of the event and reducing it to a series of time trials. In this system training was based on intervals targeting specific training zones assuming that events fit discreetly into said zones. However, sport does not fit nicely into these boxes. While these training protocols may improve an athletes potential they seldom maximize performance thus leaving athletes unprepared for competition; and while sport maximizes an athletes current potential it seldom raises which results in poorly conditioned athletes. The limiter-bridge-performance model phases training tools to prevent both of these scenarios by touching on all training qualities throughout the year with different degrees of emphasis based on the priority at any given point in time.
The purpose of limiter training is to drive biological adaptations that are specific to an athletes priorities; and raise the ceiling for performance as well as allow for future adaptation instead of directly improving performance in the short term. As such, limiter protocols are targeted toward changing an athletes physiology rather than performance variables and as a result they are less stressful than bridge or performance training protocols. Examples of this would be blended energy system protocols aimed at improving respiratory muscle endurance or those aimed at improving delivery, which are explained in depth in the Training Think Tank Energy System 2.0 course and book.
Bridge protocols function to tie limiter and performance based protocols together, or as the name implies, to bridge the gap between an athletes individual needs and the sport demands. As such there is less intention to drive specific physiological adaptations than limiter training and a larger focus on preparing the body for performance training. This is an important, and often missed, step that is needed to transfer biological changes into sporting performance. Bridge training is more stressful than limiter training, but less so than performance training. Examples of bridge training include broken intervals, fast twitch fatigue intervals, and more.
The last type of training phase, and protocol, in the LBP model is performance. The goal of the performance phase, and performance based protocols, are to develop the specific physiological and psychological qualities needed to maximize sport performance. The key to doing so lies in taking a multi-faceted biopsychosocial approach meaning that training needs to mimic the demands of the sport in all regards - the environment, feeling of psychological stimulative or threat, and intensity, density, and volume of work. These types of protocols are the most stressful and while they may potentially create less physiological adaptation in a given system they will create more holistic adaptation. Example performance sessions include time trials, testers, competition simulations, scrimmages, and small sided games.
It should be noted though that the limiter bridge performance model is not periodization - it is a key principal in our model of periodization and a tool used to phase training methods and protocols while building and maintaining adaptations. However, the limiter bridge model does not fully constitute our periodization model. That is where the concept of dynamic programming comes in, which is a means of weaving athlete centric coaching based principles into a progressive training scheme. Dynamic programming means that the next training week or cycle depends on the response to the prior week, or cycle and that the second cycle is not statically programmed beforehand. So, the main principal becomes clear: the periodization depends on and gets it is feedback form the actual status of the athlete. In an ideal situation this can even be done on a daily basis. This method known as dynamic programming, or fluid periodization, is in contrast to the usual static programming or rigid periodization models that are often used. When combining this approach with the principles of the limiter bridge performance model we avoid many common pitfalls associated with traditional training schemes such as those mentioned earlier in this article.
A common flaw when periodization training is to create too much polarization between training phases. For example, a traditional block periodization model for an endurance athlete may start with an accumulation phase consisting of a large base of easy aerobic training, followed by an intensification phase consisting of sport specific training and special endurance work, and then it will finish with a realization phase where the focus is integrative preparedness and event specific tactics. While this approach has been shown to work in the past, I do not believe it is optimal as it does not coincide with how our bodies build, maintain, and regulate adaptation. For example, block periodization structures are concerned with building a given training quality, like an aerobic base for a handful of weeks, then switching the focus to something like speed in hopes that the athlete will end up in a better position then when they started. I believe a better approach is to never drop off any given training quality entirely - instead I keep touches on everything at all times and the relative contribution of each training quality, in terms of volume and time spent on it, will be dictated by an athlete’s priority at that moment. That is to say, that even though the LPB model is split into phases, we do not advocate only prioritizing limitation based training in the limiter phase, bridge training protocols in the bridge phase, and so forth. Instead we advocate that limitation based protocols are prioritized in the limiter phase while the rest of training is spent either using bridge and performance protocols to drive adaptation, or as maintenance training; and the same concept holds true in both the bridge and performance phases.
I believe a better approach is to never drop off any given training quality entirely - instead I keep touches on everything at all times and the relative contribution of each training quality, in terms of volume and time spent on it, will be dictated by an athlete’ priority at that moment as well as their response to training That is to say, that even though our overarching periodization model, consisting of the LBP model and dynamic programming principles, is split into phases we do not advocate only prioritizing limitation based training in the limiter phase, bridge training protocols in the bridge phase, and so forth. Instead we advocate that limitation based protocols are prioritized in the limiter phase while the rest of training is spent either using bridge and performance protocols to drive adaptation, or as maintenance training; and the same concept holds true in both the bridge and performance phases. I also advocate programming in shorter than average cycles with micro adjustments from cycle to cycle based on athlete feedback. Often times these cycles will be as short as one week, and no longer than three weeks. This allows for more dynamic adjustments and allows me to build things up and then maintain them versus the classic block style of training where we build things up then move on potentially letting supportive qualities degrade. From a 1-3 week to 1-3 week cycle it probably looks like nothing changes in the split, as the adjustments are minor, but over the course of months there becomes a clear distinction in training splits/ overall design. I liken it to the iPhone... from the first generation iPhone to the second or #the fifth generation iPhone to the sixth it appears that nothing has really changed, but when you compare the first to the sixth there's a massive distinction. The changes occur gradually and you can't point to an exact time or place where it occurred or everything switched over.
I think this is more reflective of contemporary models of adaptation, and in practice it simply works better. Plans are great, but adaptation isn't that predictable. In an athlete centric model the next 'cycle' just depends on the response to the prior 'cycle' and isn't planned beforehand. The periodization depends on and get it feedback from the status of the athlete. Then I'll keep track of objective benchmarks and 'guide posts' to make sure this fluid plan makes sense in the context of the competitive year.
Written by Evan Peikon & Kyle Ruth