Periodization - Here's What You Need to Know About Periodization

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If you've every lifted weights, you've probably heard about strength training plateaus, adaptation and changing your workouts on a regular basis.

One way to do this is with periodization, a method of dividing your training routine into segments of different intensities.

So, you might work on heavy weights and strength for one cycle, lighter weights and endurance for another cycle or recovery during another cycle.

  Many athletes divide their training season into different types of workouts to focus on certain aspects of their sport, but regular exercisers can also use this technique to change their workouts and focus or even to progress your workouts.

Using Periodization

The way athletes use periodization often looks like some version of calculus, but for the rest of us, it's a bit simpler.  The idea is to use periodization to introduce variety and to progress in our training volume and intensity.

Linear Periodization

For this kind of periodization, you might start with basic beginner exercises for your first cycle and, every few workouts or weeks progress to more challenging exercise.

An Example of Periodization

Let's say you're a beginner and we want to set up a periodization routine for you.  Here's where I would start:

Cycle 1 - Building a Strong Foundation

  • Cardio - At least 3 days of moderate cardio for 20-30 minutes
  • Every week, I might increase reps, sets, intensity and/or duration of your cardio and strength workouts.

Cycle 2 - Building Strength and Endurance

Now that you've built a strong foundation and we've worked on any weak areas you may have, I'd like to start working more on strength and endurance.

  I'm going to take you away from total body workouts and now we'll split your routine so that we're able to do more work on each muscle group.

  • Strength Workouts - Upper and Lower Body Workouts about 4 times a week with a focus on compound exercises and working to lift a heavy enough weight for about 10-12 reps for each exercise.
  • Cardio - For cardio, I would start to introduce interval training to build endurance and help you burn more calories during and after each workout
  • Every week, I would also progress in weights, reps, sets, intensity, etc. for each workout.

Cycle 3 - Burning Calories and Getting Fit

At this point, some exercisers might want to go to the next level and lift even heavier weights.  Most of my clients aren't into that, so I take them more into the conditioning area of fitness where we start to add even more intensity to workouts by using tools like circuit training and high intensity interval training.  This section is all about intensity.

    Of course, these are just examples and each cycle might last anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 weeks, depending the level of adaptation and boredom.

    But, you can set up a periodization schedule any way you like.  The idea is to change some aspect of what you're doing so that you're working your body in a different way.  Maybe more weight, maybe less weight.  Maybe more workouts, maybe fewer workouts.  Maybe you change focus to an entirely different sport or race.

    Any changes you make will help your body avoid overuse injuries and weight loss plateaus.

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