Periodization for Mountain Sport

Periodization for Mountain Sport

When it comes to training and performance periodization is a key piece of a successful year in sport. Whether or not you are using an athlete training center like the Ripple Effect to guide you through your strength conditioning, following a coaches program, or creating your own routine periodization is a key element. It is big part of staying injury free, healthy, and feeling solid year round. For all sports, athletes, and athletics, periodization looks different. You might be peaking for an event, want to generally be ready for out door recreation like trail running and mountain biking or getting ready for a climbing trip to the mountains in Nepal.

Since there are so many variables, I’d like to just briefly touch on the concept of strength training periodization in the gym setting. One definition applying to the gym setting is ~”Periodization is a form or resistance training that may be defined as strategic implementation of specific training phases.”

My first introduction to such a thing was off season training for road bike racing back in college. It wasn’t until I was older and dove deep into self education through reading books by the likes of Tudor Bompa’s, “Periodization Theory and Methodology for Training”; then decades of applied knowledge gained from training through seasons bike racing, winters back country tele skiing, trail running, climbing performance for alpinism, ice and traditional climbing, and then finally as a generalist over the age of 50. I have gained a knowledge base and sculpted an approach for periodization of strength training for all levels and types of mountain athletes.

What is most important of course is that all strength training is lain on a solid base of mobility and alignment and additionally a history of base level strength training. Once we have this we can take advantage of programming phases of training in the gym.

The first phase one wants to go through is a basic “strength” phase. The set and rep structure looks different based on the sport and the athlete’s experience in the gym, however these are generally deliberate and controlled weighted movements such as a deadlift or pull up for example that load the entire kinetic chain of the body relative to an individuals body weight. Strength phases are often eight weeks in length however they are also often modified based on goals and season.

After a dedicated strength phase we want to transition an athlete through a power phase. These gym based movements are faster and more powerful, like a box jump, kb swing or power clean. For the majority of mountain athletes, I keep this phase a bit shorter, around four to six weeks. We need power, however mountain athletes are not typically short burst high intensity athletes like a 400m sprinter or basketball player. Power based movements need to be lain on top of a strength foundation, you can be strong and not be powerful however you cannot be powerful with out being strong.

Lastly, we throw in a bit of power endurance or strength endurance, this is a dedicated time of higher rep, sustained load, and increased HR to the training mix, using all appropriate gym movements and body weight training. Then we can restart the cycle or send an athlete off to perform their sport if the time and training is right.

There’s a lot of information not included in here. Every sport and each athlete in a given sport could need a slightly different cycle of periodization, both in the gym and in the practice and application of their sport. To be well trained takes time, is a process that should start many many months in advance and that it’s always best to have a plan.

This was just a little intro to get you thinking and excited about how periodization might fit into your future training. It is how we approach all programming for our classes and athletes at the Ripple Effect. If you ever have questions about training cycles, training programs, periodization and the like. You can contact me at: