You can get a good workout if you just show up to the gym with no real plan and a few enjoyable lifts in mind. In your initial lifting years, your body is like a sponge, soaking up every last drop of iron, and you should see the greatest gains.
But at some point in every lifter's career, they will hit a wall.
The solution is to make a sweeping change, or maybe it's your approach, or the worst-case scenario is that it will take more time. At this point, your planning level should reflect your goals' significance.
If you've already broken through your initial gains, periodization is the key to keeping your momentum. Creating a planned training program that follows the concepts of periodization has been proven to be an effective way to remove doubt about advancement.
In this article, we will discuss what Periodization Training is and whether it can benefit you in achieving your goals.
What is Periodization Training?
Periodization Training employs phase changes and cycles to elicit physiological and metabolic adaptations to enhance performance and prevent injury.
Leo Matveyev, a Russian physiologist, coined the term in the 1960s after studying Soviet athletes at the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1956. This methodical strategy has since been refined and applied to pursue sport-specific objectives to maximize performance and expand athletic potential.
Vladimir Platonov, a Ukraine's Lviv National University professor, received the Olympic Order from the International Olympic Committee in 2001 for his groundbreaking work in creating a holistic theory of sports training. The foundation of this theory is found in Matveyev's writings, which were then built upon to highlight key ideas.
Training is periodized when it is divided into phases designed to produce a specific result, such as increased strength, muscle mass, or power. The power of periodization lies in accumulating several productive training "blocks" or "phases," which may span anywhere from a few weeks to an entire year.
Related Article: The Science of Muscle Recovery: How Much Rest Between Workouts for Muscle Growth?
Phases of Periodization Training
When you've already gotten all the "beginner" gains out of the way, the most effective way to keep progressing over the long term is to focus your efforts on successive, synergistic, and progressively-overload cycles.
Periodization training can be viewed in terms of cycles or phases; these are:
A microcycle is the lowest possible time frame, generally lasting only one week, and designed to help you get in a concentrated workout.
One such method is the "endurance block," when athletes steadily increase their training volume by stringing together three or four lengthy sessions in a week.
To further illustrate, consider block training, which entails intense sessions over two or three consecutive days, followed by the same amount of rest and recuperation time (days off or very easy rides).
This would be an intensity microcycle, the purpose of which is to raise a certain physiological variable, such as the lactate threshold or the aerobic capacity.
A mesocycle consists of three or four interconnected microcycles.
The mesocycle denotes a period of focused training to achieve a certain objective. A mesocycle tailored toward improving muscle endurance may be developed during the endurance phase, i.e., the ability for a cyclist to pedal relatively big gears, at a moderate pace, for an extended period.
Over three weeks, you may complete six sessions dedicated to pushing your threshold by progressive overload with the same time for recovery.
Alternatively, you may create an intensity phase mesocycle that targets your functional threshold power (FTP) specifically. Three weeks of threshold intervals followed by a week of rehabilitation might make up this mesocycle.
Neuromuscular power may be increased by training with a mesocycle during the competitive phase.
The average duration of a mesocycle is between three and four weeks. Common training phases last either 21 or 28 days.
The macrocycle encompasses the whole periodized training process and is the longest of the three cycles (e.g., endurance, intensity, competition, and recovery).
Including all 52 weeks in one macrocycle gives you a bird's-eye perspective of your training program and enables you to plan.
If you have a national championship event a year from now that you want to peak for, you may set that date on your calendar and work backward to devise a training schedule that will get you there.
The same method may be used to track important dates spread out over the year and prepare for some fitness plateaus.
Despite the duration of your macrocycle, you can expect to adjust it throughout the year.
To maximize your training, you must have a firm grasp of the three cycles of periodization and use this knowledge to design a schedule that will have you performing at your top for the year's most crucial competitions.
Types of Periodization Training
Although there is more than one way to do Periodization Training, most of the numerous forms of program periodization may be categorized under one of three broad categories.
Linear Periodization Training
The linear periodization method is rather easy, just like its name suggests. The basics of periodization in this technique are that as you increase your workout's absolute load or intensity, you must decrease the volume of sets and repetitions you can complete.
Here's what linear periodization for the dumbbell bench press may look like for four weeks:
- Week 1: 40lbs×10
- Week 2: 50lbs×8
- Week 3: 60lbs×6
- Week 4: 70lbs×4
Note that the example does not consider any warm-up or cool-down sets.
Undulating Periodization Training
Undulating periodization uses adjusting more than one variable over the mesocycle, as opposed to linear periodization's reliance on rising intensity and decreasing volume as the program's core. This may take the shape of either a weekly undulating or a daily-undulating time frame.
The total volume increased at a given load from week to week is a simple metric for comparing weekly linear and undulating or nonlinear periodization. Nonlinear periodization allows you to work with the same load but a greater number of sets or repetitions.
Daily undulating periodization may have you doing the same exercise (squat, bench press, or deadlift, for example) many times each week, emphasizing changing sets, repetitions, or loading parameters. Increasing your workout volume over time by accumulating little increases (during a weekly or daily undulating periodization) is another viable option.
Using the squat and your one-rep max as an example, below is a sample of daily undulating periodization.
- Monday (Hypertrophy): 3×8 at 80% 1 repetition max.
- Wednesday (Power): 3×1 at 85-90% 1 repetition max.
- Friday (Strength): 3x as many repetitions as possible at 85% 1 repetition max.
Related Article: What 'Training to Failure' Means & is Training to Failure Good for Hypertrophy?
Block Periodization Training
Each mesocycle is divided into an accumulation, transmutation, and realization phase via the use of block periodization , which schedules training over many weeks. Typically, a block lasts between two and four weeks, with the first phase being very light and the latter two gradually increasing in intensity.
- Increased volume and lower intensities (50–75% repetition max) characterize the accumulation phase.
- Increased strength and intensity (75–90% repetition max) characterize the transmutation phase.
- The realization phase facilitates peak performance at maximum strength or power output (90+% repetition max).
Prilepin's chart is widely used as a standard in Olympic lifting (and to a lesser degree in powerlifting).
When to Use Periodization
Periodization will do wonders for your development, but understanding when to utilize any of the three alternatives will take you much further.
Gains for newcomers are possible even if they don't employ advanced techniques. To build a solid strength base in your primary workouts, linear periodization is typically recommended. When the goal is to simply increase muscle mass or total strength, the linear periodization approach works best for beginners, who recover quicker and experience greater gains than more advanced lifters.
Now that you've got a few months under your belt (or maybe a few years), a nonlinear or undulating periodization method better suits your development. However, the violent leaps common in linear periodization models become more difficult to recover from as athletes gain strength. If you want to make faster and more noticeable gains, experimenting with nonlinear or undulating patterns will help you find the sweet spot for volume and intensity.
Nonlinear or block-type periodization is probably preferable after you've reached your "advanced athletics" phase, whether you're a typical sports athlete or a strong competitor. These approaches allow you to modify your training volume and intensity (and sometimes even your choice of exercises) to break through resistance and meet your specific recuperation requirements.
Once you've reached a certain level of strength or power, executing your major exercises or variants on them numerous times per week can help you maintain your gains under maximal stress.
Benefits of Periodization
As a potent tool for overcoming stalemates, periodization always ensures superior long-term results. It streamlines the idea of progressive overload and has the potential to have a profound effect on boosting your strength for major barbell exercises.
Additionally, it may aid in ensuring a more rounded strategy regarding the numerous facets of resistance training.
Lack of structure is only one of several factors that might lead to a plateau. Periodization is widely acknowledged as helpful regardless of the model you like since it introduces a more methodical structure to the training process. Periodization aids in breaking through plateaus by directing efforts on certain issues over a sustained period.
Increased Absolute Strength
Increases in strength across a variety of workouts characterize periodization. The need to reach one's peak performance in many barbell lifts simultaneously is well shown by the sports of powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Any strength athlete hoping to excel on the platform should adhere to a periodized training regimen.
Once you've exhausted the "low-hanging fruit" approach of just going to the gym and pushing hard, the concept of progressive overload might seem murky. Increasing the bar's weight, decreasing rest, or increasing the volume of your workouts may work for a time, but ultimately you'll need to become strategic with these factors if you want to continue making gains.
All periodization approaches aid in automatically incorporating progressive overload into your program at the appropriate times and in the appropriate amounts, allowing you to maintain achieving your fitness objectives.
It's not uncommon to simultaneously seek improvements in many areas of physical fitness. Indeed, there is no shame in aspiring to excel in everything. Periodization ensures you never overwork yourself, even if there may come a point when you need to put a lot more effort into one or two aspects.
Therefore, you may advance toward numerous athletic goals simultaneously with the correct program.
1. How often should I change my workout routine?
The frequency with which you change your routine depends on your goals. If you're trying to build muscle, switch up your routine every 4-6 weeks. If you're trying to lose fat, you should change things up more frequently, perhaps every 2-4 weeks. Of course, this is just a general guideline — ultimately, you'll need to experiment to see what works best for you.
2. What are the benefits of periodization training?
Periodization training has several benefits. First, it helps prevent boredom by keeping your workouts fresh and interesting. Second, it keeps your body guessing — by constantly changing your exercises and the weight you're lifting, your body never has a chance to adapt too much and plateau. Finally, it can help you maximize your results by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts over time.
3. How long should each phase last?
The length of each phase will depend on your individual goals and schedule. However, most people find that 4-6 weeks is an ideal length for each phase. This gives you enough time to make meaningful progress without getting burned out or overtrained.
4. How often should I change phases?
Again, this will depend on your individual goals and schedule. However, most experts recommend changing phases every 4-6 weeks. This allows you to challenge your body and consistently avoid plateaus in your progress.
5. What if I do not see results?
If you do not see results, it's important to reassess your goals and make sure you're on the right track. You may also need to adjust the length or frequency of your phases. Consult a qualified coach or trainer to troubleshoot any issues you may have.
Although it was a lovely experience to just stroll into the gym, ready to go god mode and make all the gains, you will soon realize that nothing works perfectly forever. Your exercises may get a much-needed revitalization simply by coming to grips with the fact that the genuine route to longevity lies in incorporating structure into their design.
When periodization is prioritized, uncertainty is removed, and you can apply effort in the most effective methods, allowing you to break through plateaus and simultaneously increase your performance. There is, without a doubt, an answer to each one of your training issues, and it may be found anywhere between linear, nonlinear/undulating, and block periodization. Gather your thoughts in your journal, and start the grind today.
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