BACKGROUND: Reverse periodization is commonly touted as a salient planning strategy to improve sport performance in athletes, but benefits have not been clearly described.
OBJECTIVES: We sought to identify the main characteristics of reverse periodization, and the influence of training volume and periodization models on enhancing physiological measures and sports performance.
DESIGN: Systematic review.
METHODS: The electronic databases Scopus, PubMed and Web of Science were searched using a comprehensive list of relevant terms.
RESULTS: A total of 925 studies were identified, and after removal of duplicates and studies based on title and abstract screening, 17 studies remained, and 11 finally included in the systematic review. There was a total of 200 athletes in the included studies. Reverse periodization does not provide superior performance improvements in swimming, running, muscular endurance, maximum strength, or maximal oxygen uptake, compared to traditional or block periodization. The quality of evidence levels for the reverse periodization studies was 1b (individual randomized controlled trial) for two investigations, 2b (individual cohort study) for the remaining studies and a mean of 4.9 points in the PEDro scale (range 0-7).
CONCLUSIONS: It appears that reverse periodization is no more effective than other forms of periodization in improving sports performance. More comparative studies on this alternative version of periodization are required to verify its effectiveness and utility across a range of endurance sports.