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How do YOU train for Irish dance? Periodization is key!

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Summer break is coming to an end and fall feiseanna, the All-Ireland Championships and the Oireachtas are right around the corner. So, how do you train for these competitions?

In the past, have you jumped right into dance class, going 100% all the time? Have you been plagued by injuries, been burned out by the time the big competitions come around, peaked at the wrong time or not felt at the top of your game? Then it’s time to introduce training periodization into your plan.

Peaking at the right time and managing fatigue and overuse injuries are essential to an Irish dancer. Periodization is a strategic implementation of specific training phases that optimizes a dancer’s peak performance at the appropriate time of year.1

TARGET TRAINING’s program design follows a classical model of periodization that is broken up by different cycles.

  • macrocycle - extended training period, typically a year

  • mesocycle - 1-4 months

  • microcycle - 5-30 days

With this type of training, there are several microcycles within a mesocycle, and several mesocycles within a macrocycle.

Each cycle is defined to emphasize a specific fitness component and phase of training.

Irish dance training, Irish dance strength and conditioning, training plans for Irish dance
  • Preparatory phase - overall, non-dance-specific, strength and conditioning exercises that are high volume/low intensity and develop a base for subsequent high-intensity training.

  • First transition phase - between preparatory and competition phases that denote a change of training intensity and volume.

  • Competition phase - dance-specific training that is high intensity/low volume. Training at this phase may change slightly depending on a dancer’s goal to peak for one competition (higher intensity) or a competition season/maintenance phase (moderate intensity for an extended period of time).

  • Taper period - the competition phase includes a taper period that is a reduction in workload, prior to a major competition, to maximize performance.

  • Second transition phase - active rest that allows your body to recover from the competition phase.

If you are training for an upcoming Oireachtas, you are currently in the preparatory phase laying the groundwork of total-body strength and conditioning. If you are in the Milwaukee or Chicagoland areas, a great way to train during this phase, and transition into your competition phase, is by participating in TARGET TRAINING’s 10 Week Workout. CLICK HERE for the schedule and to register.


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1. Siff, MC. Supertraining (6th ed.). Denver, CO: Supertraining Institute, 2003.

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