[GUIDE] Training Program Design: Part 2 – Mesocycle

by | Jul 20, 2020 | Training

Are you still not convinced your coach does more than just draw exercises out of a hat before your workout?

Are you still wondering if your coach just picks the rep or time scheme, they KNOW you hate just to get to you?

Well, before I have you totally questioning whether or not your coach is a spawn of Satan, let me remind you that as discussed in Part 1 (CLICK HERE FOR PART 1 – MACROCYCLE) that programming requires careful consideration and planning for best results.

Like we talked about in the last blog, a well-organized training plan starts with identification of the goal and its timeframe, so a macrocycle can be created for an outline of the long-term training program.

Okay, so what happens once the macrocycle is created?

Do we just stop?

Is that where us coaches just throw things together?

Still no!

That’s where the mesocycle comes in!

What Is a Mesocycle?

A mesocycle is a 4 to 6-week phase within a macrocycle.

Macrocycles are great for outlining the path to our long-term goal, but it presents one big problem…

We have NO idea what the future holds.

Life changes.

Goals change.

A mesocycle doesn’t hold us to a rigid yearly plan, and allows us to work together in the coach-client relationship to build off the future and make adjustments to keep you on target.

Mesocycle refers to a specific block of training that is designed to accomplish a particular goal. A mesocycle is designed to accomplish 3 things:

  1. Improve a specific movement.
  2. Target an energy system.
  3. Push results in a specific area.

For example, The Complete Guide to Female Resistance Training is broken into three 4-week mesocycles each with a focus on a specific upper and lower body movement.

Once, we identify what it is we’re trying to accomplish, we reverse engineer the weeks and days of the training cycle to narrow in the microcycle.

What Is It Made Of?

There are a few different ways to structure a mesocycle, but most of my clients benefit from a mesocycles prioritizing an energy system, a movement, or a competition prep.

Energy System

Did you know that not all energy is the same?

How about the fact that your body uses different types of energy and energy systems for different activities?

A mesocycle focused on energy systems takes a focus on a different energy system with each mesocycle block.

Let’s talk about your different energy systems.

They’re broken down into 2 systems – the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems.

The anaerobic system is utilized for types of exercise that breaks down glucose in the absence of oxygen. Typically, these are shorter bursts of exercise but of greater intensity.

There are also two divisions of the anaerobic system:

  • The Anaerobic-Alactic System – responsible for fueling the first 10 to 20 seconds of exercise.
  • The Anaerobic-Lactic System – responsible for fueling the first 60 seconds of exercise.

On the other hand, the aerobic system is utilized for types of exercise performed in the presence of oxygen. Typically, these are forms of cardiovascular conditioning longer in duration but still elevate the breathing and heart rate.

But what does this look like in training?

Typically broken down into the following 3 phases:

Endurance – Prioritization of building muscular endurance through volume, cardiovascular training, and the utilization of the aerobic and anaerobic-lactic system. This mesocycle would focus on movement patterns through high-rep (~12-15) and light-load workouts.

Hypertrophy – Prioritization of muscular building, growth, and volume through the utilization of the anaerobic-lactic system. This mesocycle focuses on adding load and advancements to exercises, and workouts are structured for moderate rep ranges (~10-12) and moderate-loads.

Strength & Power – Prioritization of strength and power within specific muscles and movements through the use of the anaerobic alactic and lactic energy systems. This mesocycle focuses on adding load to build strength through workouts structured to progress to higher loads and lower rep ranges (~3-8).


This type of mesocycle focuses on a specific movement pattern in a certain block.

Mesocycles based on a movement structure workouts so the movement of focus is performed frequently and early on in the workout. Assistance exercises are selected to support and strengthen this movement.

Let’s take The Complete Guide to Female Resistance Training for example.

Phase 1 is focused on squats and rows.

Phase 2 is focused on hip thrusts and bench press.

Phase 3 is focused on deadlifts and chin ups.

Obviously, this type of mesocycle is great for strengthening a specific movement.

However, it’s also great for learning proper technique and to direct the focus away from the scale and toward a metric-based lift.

Competition Prep

Now, while you may read this and think this doesn’t apply to you since you are not a competitor, I’d challenge you to read through this section as it could be adjusted to fit a fat loss or muscle building phase.

Basic Mesocycle

If I’m being honest, this would be more appropriately named as the Pre-Preparatory Mesocycle.

This phase is designed for reacclimating your body to training as it’s used after long periods without training or following an injury or illness.

Training load is purposefully kept low, and the only increase in load comes as a result of an increase in training volume.

For most of my clients, this is the shortest of all mesocycles at 2 to 4 weeks long.

Preparatory Mesocycle

The preparatory mesocycle is the most common and longest phase.

During this phase, programs are designed to promote change and adaptation within the body. This is where you put in the most work and get the most results.

For many of my clients, we’ll tag team with another type of mesocycle. This promotes consistent change and assures variation to maintain engagement.

Pre-Competition Mesocycle

Now, for those who compete (weightlifting, physique, or running competitions) this is the last phase before your competition.

In fat loss or muscle building phases, this is the final phase or last push before reaching your goal.

The length of this mesocycle differs for each type of competition, goal, and individual’s status leading into competition, but typically lasts 4 to 8 weeks.

For my sport competitors, we dial in the microcycles (stay tuned for next week!) to further improve the sport specific condition of the athletes.

For my general body composition clients, we dial in the intensity to further push fat loss.

Competition Mesocycle

The Competition Mesocycle is the most varying.

A marathon runner might run once per year; therefore, the mesocycle is very short.

A powerlifter might compete 2 to 4 times in a year, but competitions last a single day.

Then there are cyclical or long-term seasons like baseball/softball, basketball, or football, wherein the competitive season lasts a LONG time and requires a long competitive mesocycle.

Again, what about a fat loss or muscle building phase?

Well, this also depends on how long you want to keep your best physique.

Obviously, you’d love to say forever, BUT you and I both know that your physique will eb and flow.

So how long do you want to keep it for?

The one wedding?

The 10-Day vacation?

The milestone birthday?

You name it, and that’s how long your Competition Mesocycle lasts.

Recovery Mesocycle

This phase is all focused on recovery and transitioning into normal day-to-day life.

The training volume and intensity is purposefully kept low to allow the body systems to recover and return to homeostasis.

Personally and as a coach, I like to keep these workouts fun and nonspecific. I find it makes returning to training or competitive training much more enjoyable.

How Do We Apply It?

Just as I said with macrocycles, my biggest recommendation is to strategically plan out your year and work with a coach.

Think of mesocycles as adding muscles and organs to the skeleton or filling in the gaps.

We want these to fit into the annual plan in a practical and methodical way to promote the best results in the right timeframe.

The length and needs of each mesocycle vary greatly, which is why I recommend working with a coach to be sure everything is recommended for YOUR best results.

About The Author

Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.

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