Creating An Annual Plan

by Steve Bamel

 I’ve said this before, but you are going to hear it again. All exercise works, but unless you’ve been getting results, with the same people, for years, do not tell me that your haphazard, instinctual training program is the best thing since bacon. Only a properly structured plan will work and produce continued results over time. With that being said, I am now going to teach you how to get these results, not for the first day, not for the first week, not for the first year, but continual results for years to come. These results all start with the Annual Plan. The Annual Plan is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN PRODUCING RESULTS. Have a goal, set up an Annual Plan and follow through. It is the overall game plan that takes you to the promised land of championships, greatness, jackedness, rippedness, and beastmodeness. Yes, those are all words. (View the Annual Plan table at end of article)

What you are looking at is an Annual Plan that I set up for a Track and Field athlete that completed in throwing, sprinting and jumping events. Where did the template come from? It is a combination of, the best parts of, a few coaches’ templates that I have come across during my career. These were all great coaches, all taught me a thing or two, and now I’m passing their knowledge, along with a bit of my own on to you.

I build out an annual plan from top to bottom, from the most basic details of the year, to more specific details, while keeping in mind that it’s still just a plan to follow, it never gets too specific (sets, reps, weights, exercises, etc.), and that the actual workouts will be built off this, but that this is not the actual workout card.

The first category that I fill out is the number of training weeks the athlete has leading up to their most important competition. It could be the Superbowl, World Series, Olympic Final, etc., etc. In the plan I have above, we had 47 weeks, so I labeled them 1-47 in the category labeled Weeks. Complex, I know.

The next category I fill out is Dates. The dates correspond to the first day of each training week for the athlete. Usually I start training weeks on Mondays, but in some cases they may start on a different day, so I use that category as a guide.

After Dates, I fill out Stage. The Stage category refers to the stage of training that will be taking place during those weeks. Each stage will typically have a different number of weeks in it, so this helps me to lay out how each one will transition into the next. The stages I have above are pretty typical for one of my training programs. I begin all training programs with the General Physical Preparedness phase (GPP). It is during this phase that we prepare the athletes’ bodies for the workouts, as well as practices, and the competitive season. I won’t go any deeper into what happens during the GPP Phase, as I wrote an article for the PM a few months back titled, GPP for Athletes: The Lost Training Phase, so if you want more info on that, go read it.

Quick note: You will see a sub category called Program under the Stage category. This is just a quick reference I use for any notes that I will need when programming out the Stage. In this category, you will start to see where I program in the active rest and unload weeks. Remember, you are setting up an Annual Plan to give you a guide for your athlete and where to take their training. It’s your guide. Make any changes you need to the template to make it work better for you. Put categories in, and take them out. I’ve seen way more and way less detailed annual plans. The important thing here is that you find the plan that works best for you.

After the GPP Phase, the athlete should be prepared for the heart of the Off-Season Training Program, which I call the Developmental Stage. This is the time where the athlete is going to make the most strides in raising their ceiling of potential. What I mean by ceiling of potential is they are going to raise the ceiling of their physical capabilities. Power, speed, strength, etc., all going to increase. So the potential for success in their sport is going to increase. However, it is only their potential ceiling because without specific sport preparation, it will mean nothing. Think of the strongest offensive lineman on a football team who doesn’t start or even see the field because their blocking techniques are terrible. Because they are really strong, their potential is high, but because they are terrible at their sport, it means nothing.

During the Developmental Phase, we can do the most amount of work with the athlete, and have the least amount of distractions from travel, family, and competitions. You will see that my developmental period was 13 weeks, with an active rest week coming only five weeks into the stage. If you look up to the Dates category, you will see why I programmed active rest that week. That week corresponded with New Year’s. In this case, the athlete decided to train through Christmas and to rest and see family the week of New Year’s. I gave him the choice of what week he wanted to train and what week he wanted to rest, but I gave him that choice while sitting down and looking at the Annual Plan. I showed him that his previous active rest week was for Thanksgiving and that if he took off for Christmas, then he would have only gotten in 3 weeks of training before another rest week and how 4 weeks would be a more ideal situation for his training. By laying out the Annual Plan in front of him, it allowed him to make a better decision for his career. Without the visual aid to show him, I’m sure it would have been a way tougher argument for me to get him to train through Christmas.

After programming the Stage and Program phases, we come to the most important category: the Competition Stage. Barring any unforeseen last-minute changes, this schedule must be set in stone. In the case of a track and field athlete, you need to know which meets they will be training through and which meets to peak them for. For team sports, you will need to know when to start pulling the reigns in because conference tournaments, playoffs, etc. will be coming up.

The next Category is the Microcycle. This describes, more specifically, what will be happening during that week of training. A base week is a week that I am introducing something new. A load week is a week that we are getting after it. An active rest week is a week that the athlete will perform non-weight room workouts. An unload week is a light week in the weight room, and a maintenance week is a week that the athletes training percentages will be something that I know they can hit without a problem.

After the Microcyles, I then punch in the priority of training for that week, listed in order. Looking at the chart, for the first 5 weeks, we were in our GPP phase. That is our only focus. After the active rest week that followed the GPP Phase, we moved to a period where ME (Max Effort) training was the primary priority, RE (Repetitive Effort) work was the secondary priority, and DE (Dynamic Effort) was the tertiary priority. As the weeks progress, you will see the priorities of training switched, depending on what is most important during that time. DE will moved up, ME will moved down, and as we got into the most important part of the season, RE fell off to reduce the amount of volume on the athletes bodies.

I include Holidays as a separate section as we will train right through them, but we may need to adjust training schedules. As far as Uncontrollable Factors goes, these are things we can’t plan for and 95% of the time it’s something to do with the airlines. I include this only because if we get really twisted around and I have to make changes in the plan because of this, I will make a note of it in the plan so that after the season when I go back and look over the entire body of work, I can see why changes were made. The last three sections are all the actual working percentages that I will use for training during each Microcycle. 

This is the exact plan that I will set up and review with the athletes and sport coaches prior to beginning training. During the offseason, everything is meticulously planned out as we cross our t’s and dot our lower case j’s (bonus if you know what movie that’s from). As we get into season, I plan out the training percentages prior to the next week. I do this so that I can take into account any and all factors that may affect the workouts for that upcoming week. Travel days, fatigue, poor nutrition on the road, etc. Everything that is not recovery is something that is breaking the body down, which in turn is something that will affect training. It would be impossible to account for that, months in advance.

This article is solely about setting up training plans for athletes. However, the principles are the same no matter who you are, and what you are training for. Figure out your goals, set up your plan and then work that plan. Once you’ve completed your plan, look back at it, see where you could’ve gotten better results from, make the changes and work that plan again. By doing this, you will ensure continued results for as long as you are willing to put in the effort.


Annual Plan

Steve Bamel is currently the Director of Sports Performance at the College of Charleston. Prior to the College of Charleston, he was the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. He has a Master’s Degree in Exercise and Sports Sciences from Florida International University and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS) and the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (SCCC).

The views expressed in this article may not be that of USA Weightlifting. Publication of all articles is to share different opinions and viewpoints. For instruction on the lifts from USA Weightlifting visit



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