Posted by: Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes | October 12, 2009

A Periodization Primer: Macrocycles, Mesocycles & Microcycles

In my last two posts, I described the two steps cyclists need to take to develop an annual training plan and discussed the first of these steps, developing SMART goals.  Before I describe the second step, (drafting your training program), it is important to understand the structure upon which periodized training programs are built.  This structure includes the three cycles: macrocyles, mesocycles and microcycles.

  1. The macrocycle consists of all 52 weeks of your annual plan and therefore includes all four stages of a periodized training program (endurance, intensity, competition and recovery).  Because of its length, you will almost certainly make changes to it throughout the year.  Think of the macrocycle as a “birds-eye” view of your annual training plan. 
  2. The mesocycle represents a specific block of training that is designed to accomplish a particular goal.  For example, during the endurance phase, you might develop a mesocycle that is specifically designed to enhance your muscular endurance (the ability to pedal relatively big gears at a moderate cadence).  This mesocycle might consist of 3 weeks of strength training and big gear spinning, and one week of recovery.  Mesocycles are typically 3 to 4 weeks in length but can be a bit longer.  Two very common mesocycles are 21 and 28-day training blocks.  I will provide an example of a training plan with 21-day mesocycles in my next post.
  3. A microcycle is the shortest training cycle, typically consisting of a single week or two with the goal of facilitating a focused block of training.  An example of this is an endurance block where a cyclist strings three or four long rides together within one week to progressively overload training volume (with the objective of improving aerobic endurance).  Generally speaking, two or three microcycles are tied together to create a mesocycle.  

Click here to download an issue of my Performance Cycling newsletter that provides a more detailed description of macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles.  In my next post, I will describe how to create your annual training plan by providing you with the Endurance Phase of my 2010 Training Plan!

NEXT POST – October 19, 2009

Creating Your Periodized Training Program

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  1. Hello,
    I am currently trying to plan a microcycle for endurance event runners (concentrating mainly on 800-1500m) and i am really stuck!
    The time of year i am thinking of doing is pre competition, so involving both speed and stamina activities.
    Please if you could share some knowledge ??
    Much Much Appreciated.

    • Hi Azhar,

      I hope this note finds you well. Thank you for your comment/question on my Fitness Corner blog. I would love to be able to assist you, but I need a great deal of additional information. For example, you state that you’re trying to plan a microcycle for endurance runners. You really don’t want to plan a microcycle in a vacuum, but as part of a larger periodized training program (i.e., a macrocycle). What are the goals of this program for each athlete? Who are the athletes in terms of their age, experience, strengths, weaknesses, and previous results. The answer to those questions will dictate the specific workouts that will be used for each athlete (i.e., the development of mesocycles and microcycles). You mentioned the pre-competition phase, but how close to actual competition are you considering? Generally speaking, the closer to competition, the greater the focus on speed/intensity, the further from competition, the greater the focus on endurance. You might want to take a look at some of the other articles I have on this blog that discuss periodization and the development of a periodized training program (e.g., Developing Your SMART Goals, and Developing Your Annual Plan). I hope this helps!


  2. Hi,

    I’m trying to construct a mircocycle for a rock climbing sport, under the classification of sport climbing. Mainly I want to improve all-round fittness for general purposes. Though I am struggling to construct one full stop really. Do you have any advice? All advice is greatly appreciated.


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