The manner in which one approaches a training regime provides a good indication of the results likely to be achieved. More often than not, failure to plan properly will doom a plan to disaster. That is why the concept of periodization is something every serious fitness enthusiast needs to acknowledge and use. Understanding the purpose of periodization and how to benefit from it may well be one of the most influential factors for many people in their journey of physical transformation.
Regardless of one’s overriding goal, a system of periodic programing is essential. In the strength training industry we refer to periodization as a method of breaking down a specific plan into staged sections. These sections are known as macro, meso and micro cycles, which can be translated to yearly, monthly and weekly stages. By incorporating periodic variations throughout these cycles in both training volume and intensity, fitness trainers are able to strongly influence a particular outcome. These variations are not only limited to volume and intensity but can include a number of other factors such as rest, tempo or exercise selection. The result of periodic change is a continued variety in training stimulus, deliberately leading to stress, which the body will recognize, adapt to and overcome.
As most lifters know, the goal of most programs is to generate enough stress to cause adaptation to take place. Once this adaptation has been made the body will then require a new form of stimulus to elicit further change. Periodization is the solution to the prevention of training plateaus and overall efficiency of any specific goal
The general concept of periodization will remain the same regardless of the individual or the application. This is because periods of change will always be occurring, however the specific content and duration of cycles can be made to differ according to the individual and his or her end goal. Three examples of how one may approach the system of periodization in a health & fitness program are explained below:
A standard fat loss protocol aimed at the novice overweight populace will contain an initial phase designed to work on basic strength and conditioning. The next phase will move to a higher complexity of movements and perhaps a greater volume of sets and repetitions. Later, the person being trained will enter a cycle involving higher intensity and density of work in comparison to the total time trained. Workouts will evolve throughout planned period ensuring a continuous change in stimulus from previously executed workouts. By taking the person through each stage in a controlled manner an experienced trainer employing the concept of periodization can create a continued progression in stress and adaptation.
When looking at a muscle gain protocol, the initial micro/meso cycle will be very similar to that of fat loss. The lifter will first go through a basic strength and conditioning period leading into a phase of hypertrophy. The hypertrophy phase will focus on increasing general strength and muscle mass with an emphasis on a specific repetition range generally between 8 to12 reps. The next phase will see a change to strength training, aimed at improving absolute strength and thus the recruitment of those all important higher threshold muscle fibres. Phase three could involve a switch back to volume work at a higher intensity level due to the progression in weight lifted over previous meso cycles. The important factor to grasp is the continued switch from hypertrophy to strength, which must be prevalent throughout the periodised plan for muscle growth.
Diet is a discipline, which should be planned in synchronization with a physical training regime, and periodization has relevance to diet as well as to your training. From the dietary point of view, changes need to be made in a co-ordinated fashion with each phase of the training program. Energy requirements of the body will change according to the type of training that is being applied. The trainer must be aware of the bodies needs during any particular phase. At Definitive Physique we have clients who are competitive athletes needing individualised programs, possibly spanning anywhere from 6 months to a year. In these cases, the planning of diet is broken down in very much the same way as training. Different cycles of calories, macronutrient ratios and supplementation all have their place in the overall plan established for these individuals. The role of periodization is to organise nutrition around the changes in exercise to optimise performance and achieve that end result.
Periodization is paramount to any training program and should be used consistently throughout any well-planned health and fitness goal. We at Definitive Physique incorporate individualised periodization to all of our physical and online training systems. Tried and tested methods are tailored around each individual client’s current ability and goal, they are then constantly modified and adjusted according to that individual’s progress. A well-designed plan will always take note of what has gone before and how that may affect what one intends to do next. With both hindsight and foresight one is able to plan affectively and efficiently, thus optimizing the chance of success. If you are serious about your goals and want to achieve them, periodization is an essential component of the training process.
This article was written by Mike Porter, Director, Definitive Physique