by Jim O’MalleyProlonged Preservation of Sporting Form and It’s Connection to the Periodization of Sport Training.(from Managing the Training of Weightlifters by Nikolai Laputin, pp.20-25.)As has already been noted, the process of development ofsporting form represents an alternation of three phases.These phases are alternated again and again over thecourse of many years of training, but, as is correct, to ahigher degree. Let’s look at the characteristics of thesethree phases in detail.The development of sporting form phase consists oftwo sequential phases : formation of the prerequisites ofsporting form and its direct formation. The beginningstages of sporting form are characterized by the mostsignificant changes in the organism as expressed by therise in the general level of its functional capabilities aswell as in the renewed and renovated stock of motorcoordination. Here the foundation of future sportingform is laid down, the quality of which determines thelevel of the athlete’s achievements in a given cycle ofsports perfection.In the second stage ----- direct formation of sportingform, the changes acquire a more specific character asthough concretized. The rise in special trainability, thedevelopment of special motor qualities specific toweightlifting, further perfecting of sport technique andtactics are the basic directions of adaptational changes.The separate components which make up thepreparedness for high sport achievements combine in anintegral, clearly harmonious system ------- sporting form.The phase of relative stabilization or preservation ofsporting form is characterized by an optimalpreparedness for sport achievement (relative to the givendegree of sport perfection) and lasts from 2 to 4 months.There are unavoidable fluctuations in trainability in thesporting form period. They can be caused bypremeditated undulating changes in the training load andmany other reasons (illness, injury etc.). These smallfluctuations are distinguished from the true loss ofsporting form. The phase of brief loss of sporting form isdistinguished by a slump in trainability, extinction ofconnections uniting the individual elements of sportingform and the transference of the organism to a differentlevel of functioning. The character of the athlete’sactivities change. There is reason to believe that thevarious components of sporting form are not lostsimultaneously. All the coordination connections becameextinct earlier. The basic motor skills and the elevatedlevel of the athlete’s functional capabilities are preservedfor a longer period of time. The degree of diminishedtrainability during the loss of sporting form dependsupon the length of this period and the character of thetraining. An athlete is able to preserve trainability at ahigher level than that at which the first phase in thedevelopment of sporting form began if he utilizes themeans of active rest. Passive rest leads to an unwarrantedloss of sporting form. Considerable time is expendedsubsequently compensating for such a loss.The loss of sporting form is not in the life functions ofthe organism. With a rational, organized trainingregimen it occurs as part of the usual life activities.Some positive reconstruction, provoked by the precedingtraining loads, occurs within the organism in this period.Among athletes the question often arises as to whysporting form, which is the athletes optimal state, is notpreserved constantly ? Is it a mistake to ask this whensportsmen take considerable time and energy acquiringsporting form, and then lose it ?This question can be answered so. Sporting formacquired through this or that degree of sport training is anoptimal state for a given stage of training. But, thatwhich is optimal at one degree of sport mastery is not atanother, higher degree. For example, an athlete executedthe norm for class 1 ; but to execute the norm forcandidate for master of sport requires a higher optimalstate and mastery of a new stage of trainability, necessaryto execute the new norm. Therefore, trying to preservethe acquired sporting form "forever" is tantamount toalways striving to remain in the same place. In order tomove forward, one needs to secure further developmentof physical qualities, posses new, more perfected habitsand skills and raise all aspects of sport preparation. Andthus, the old sporting form as a relative stable system ofcertain components will be lost. The new sporting formarises from the foundation of the old "constructedmaterial" but, in itself, includes new acquisitionssupporting a new higher level of the athletesdevelopment. Thus, the brief loss of sporting form is acondition of its further development.As is known, sport training is inseparably linked with theexpenditure of the organism’s working potential andfatigue. Fatigue is not only an unavoidable consequenceof training but an obligatory condition for raising sportwork-capacity. Everyone knows that one of aweightlifters fundamental physical qualities --- strength--- is achieved through fatigue. The growth of an athletesgeneral work capacity is achieved through fatigue.However, this statement is only true when trainingloads and rest are alternated correctly. The athletesignificantly increases the intensity of the load and up toa certain point preserves its volume as he acquiressporting form.When the sportsman is in sporting form andsystematically enters competition, the intensity of theload is not decreased. As a result of the strains of trainingand competition fatigue accumulates and a protectivereaction arises against the overstraining of theaccommodative mechanisms. If, under these conditions,one attempts to improve sporting form, then one canbecome overtrained. Therefore, a transitional period isincluded in the training process where the sportsman isassigned active rest. This period coincides with the briefloss of sporting form.Yet, other circumstances need to be considered. Theorganism’s various functions are in intricate dynamicequilibrium with each other and with the externalenvironment. Maintaining this equilibrium during thesporting form period, when the sportsman is mobilizinghis capabilities to the limit, is a very difficult task and itcan be beyond one’s strength if this is demandedconstantly.Various (provoked by training) biologicalreconstructions within the organism do not occursimultaneously. The long term use of training loads doesnot exclude functional disturbance of the organism’sdifferent systems. For example, cases are known wheresusceptible athletes who were in sporting form catch acold. This leads us to believe that sporting form is not acriterion of health. Of course, this is not to say thatsporting form predisposes one to illness. A lack ofcorrespondence between high work capacity andinsufficient resistance to disease is possible in periodsother than sporting form. They can intensify in thisperiod, by attempts, by means of intense training, to holdsporting form for an excessively long time. For the mostpart, it is well known that athletes posses robust healthand a greater resistance to unfavorable influences thannon-athletes.Thus, we can state that although sporting form is anoptimal state, this state is not constant. The path to theachievement of a new, higher level of sporting form,inevitably proceeds through the loss of the old. Thelength of time necessary for the acquisition andpreservation of sporting form depends on the type ofsport, the competition calendar, method and regimen oftraining, state of the sportsman’s organism, dailyregimen, diet, and the means of restoration. Sportingform can be preserved for a period of 3-5 months only ifone strictly observes the fundamental principles oftraining during this period. According to L.P.Matveyev’s data the length of the phase of sporting formdevelopment depends upon what sort of cyclicalprinciples the construction of the training is based on(yearly or semi-yearly).An example of the length of the development of sportingform phase for the yearly cycle is : creation for theprerequisites for the acquisition of sporting form ---- 5-7months; relative stabilization of sporting form ---- 3-5months; the loss of sporting form ---- up to 1.5 months.The corresponding figures for the semi-yearly cycle are 4months, 1.5-2.5 months, and 3-4 weeks. The semi-yearlycycle is most often used for weightlifters. However,qualified sportsman enter into sporting form 3-4 times ayear, frequently fall and winter. This does not excludethe possibility of achieving high results in the spring andsummer. Some Soviet weightlifters, for example, A.Voronin, D. Rigert, and V. Alexeev successfully heldsporting form over several months in succession andestablished world records in each competition.Consequently, such regularities can be seen inweightlifting : the periods of acquisition and stabilizationof sporting form are shortened somewhat (2-3 months)but repeated several times in the semi-year cycle.As for the question of achievement of sporting form, oneis guided by the competition calendar. One plans athletespreparation taking these dates into consideration. Inaddition to the most important competitions of the year(USSR, World, and European Championships)weightlifters take part in lower scale competitions. Thecompetition calendar is conditioned by the length of thisor that competition period, so the length of sporting formpreservation can vary from 1-2 to 6-7 weeks.Concluding remarks :In my opinion, this excerpt form Laputin’s text presents acompelling argument against the so called (unfortunatelyI think) "Bulgarian" method of training. A moreappropriate term would be training by brute forcemethods. However you wish to classify it, this traininginvolves lifting submax to maximum weights in theclassical exercises (90%+) in virtually every singletraining session. And more often than not, pulls well inexcess of 125% of the maximum lifts and limit squats areadded as well. These assistance movements frequentlybear no resemblance at all to what the athlete canactually snatch or clean & jerk.These methods have been the hallmark of training liftersin the USA for the last 30 years and (amazingly enough)are still enthusiastically advocated today by manycoaches. The implementation of such a trainingphilosophy yields a pattern that can be clearly observedin the long term results of countless numbers of USlifters over the last 30 years.Initially, the lifter usually makes above average progress.This turns out to be misleading. Most lifters then plateauboth sooner and at a lower level than would otherwisehave occurred. The struggle to constantly maintainsporting from often leads to injury and/or illness thatthen forces the lifter to back down some in his efforts.The process then repeats itself over and over again. Andfinally, results then begin to regress both sooner andfaster than one would expect under optimal conditions.To those of you familiar with the mathematical techniqueused to solve two dimensional linear programmingproblems, there is an analogy here. Once you have foundthe "feasible set" of solutions you begin to (one by one)plug them into the objective function to find the optimalsolution. This is known as the "brute force" method. It isinefficient because it is much more time consuming. Ifyou simply plot the objective function first, the optimalsolution will immediately present itself to you.Training by brute force methods is worse than inefficientbecause you will never even reach an optimal solution(i.e. a total the maximizes your own athletic potential).I will close with a comment from Pavel Pervushin who inJune 1973 became the first 110kg lifter (i.e. nonsuperheavy)to total 400kg in the biathlon. He won theEuropean Champioship in Madrid, Spain by a whopping37.5kg over the second place finisher. He then becameWorld Champion in September 1973 and then sadly, hiscareer was ended by a severe hand injury.He was interviewed in the July 1973 issue of Strength &Health magazine. He was asked about what mostcontributed to his great success in the sport. This was hisanswer. "The reason is simple – I developed a sensibleapproach to training. It used to be thus : there was notrainer (he might have gone somewhere or been takenill), and in his absence I would literally swarm aroundheavy weights. At that time I thought that was the onlyway possible to get results. It turned out to be the otherway around : I put on the brakes so to speak ……. Themain thing is regular training and a most strict regimen."That is some good advice from a world class weightlifter.