Using Periodization To Increase The Effectiveness Of One’s Workouts. Find out what periodization is and what you need to do to keep your workouts interesting and the results coming!
Just about everyone has experienced a training plateau in the weight room. If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. Hitting a plateau in your training regimen can be extremely frustrating and if you don’t know enough about plateau’s and training variations, you may be stuck in that rut for a long period of time. Let’s first define a plateau: a plateau is what one experiences when they are no longer progressing in their training. Everything that once worked to build muscle and/or lose weight no longer seems to be working, and no new progress is being made. It is quite simple to reach a plateau because people often get comfortable in their daily routines. Going to the gym and finding that something that “works for you” or doing a training routine that makes you comfortable is easy to maintain without any variation. Unfortunately, that is where the problem lies. There may be many reasons for reaching a plateau in your training, but one very common reason originates from the lack of variation in training programs.
Working out is a science, and working out properly is a deeper subset of that science. In order to maximize your gains, you must understand the basics of the science of working out. One basic principle to master is periodization. This is a preplanned, systematic variation in training with respect to (a) intensity, (b) volume, (c) type of workout. In order to promote long-term training benefits (i.e. strength, muscle, endurance, or power) it is important to implement periodization into your training regimen.
The human body has the ability to adapt to physical stress, and that is the premise for training plateaus; however, it is also the reason for increased gains following training variations. Once a new stress has applied to the body, the initial response is the “shock” or “alarm” phase. During this phase, an athlete may experience excessive soreness and even a decrease in performance for a period of a few days. The next stage is the “resistance” phase. In this phase, the body has become familiarized with the new training regimen and has begun adapting to the new stimulus. Here is where performance improves. If however, the physical stress continues for an extended period of time, the body may reach the “exhaustion” phase, which accounts for the plateau in training. In the exhaustion phase, no gains will be made, but muscular fatigue will persist. Avoiding the exhaustion phase is crucial throughout training and the best way to do that is through periodization training.
Periodizing training is done in three cycles (macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles):
- Macrocycles (as the name implies) is the largest division of the periodization model. In a macrocycle, training typically occurs in a year, but depending on the type of athlete a macrocycle may extend from many months to several years.
- Mesocycles are the middle phase of periodization training. A mesocycle occurs within a macrocycle and lasts from several weeks to several months.
- Microcycles are the smallest phase. This is where training variations occur within one week to one month of the mesocycle.
Planned training variations of the meso- and microcycles within a macrocycle is the basis for avoiding fitness plateaus and increases gains. Training variation typically occurs as a result of implementing changes in training volume and intensity, however, variations in types of training may also be appropriate.
- Phases of periodization:
- Preparatory period
- Hypertrophy/endurance phase
- Basic strength phase
- Strength/power phase
- Peaking OR
- Active rest
Using these phases of periodization, we know that the entire plan from the preparatory period to active rest is a macrocycle, which means that each subunit (preparatory, competition, active rest) are the mesocycles, and the phases of the preparatory period are the microcycles. Depending on the type of activity you are participating in, determines how long each phase lasts and what types of training variations you should implement.
*Active rest: may include involvement in a recreational activity, not specifically resistance training; however, resistance training may still be implemented at a lower load/intensity.
While periodization may seem complicated, the basics are quite simple. Changing your trial load every few weeks is imperative to maximizing performance. Planning how you’re going to go about varying your training regimen will be more beneficial in the outcome of your performance than simply going into each microcycle blind. Simple ways to change your training regimen include modifying the rep range accompanied by variations in training intensity and sets. If you are predominately a resistance training athlete, you may also decide to include circuit training, calisthenics, or plyometric training to break up the monotony and to implement variation to increase gains and performance.