Periodization Training is based upon the concept of splitting your workout routine into a number of different cycles or blocks in order to focus on different aspects of your training and prevent plateaus. Each block or cycle is altered in the form of intensity, volume or frequency to create a pre-planned change to an individuals routine. Each block of training can vary in length, anywhere between 2 weeks and several months before being scheduled for change.
Since this article is aimed towards building muscle I will relate Periodization training specifically towards training for muscle growth. However, it is important to note that Periodization training can also be used for athletes who need to focus on more than just one aspect of their training. For example, an all round athlete may need to focus on strength, muscular endurance, and speed whereas your average person or bodybuilder will only want to focus on building muscle mass. The two goals are different but Periodization training can still be used to help both sets of people.
Probably the best example to use for building muscle would be alternating between low rep (strength) workouts and higher rep (muscle hypertrophy) workouts. Low rep workouts (1-5 reps) may be used for a period of 4-8 weeks before taking a small break and moving on to high rep workouts (6-12 for muscle hypertrophy). The basic principles of progressively adding weight to the bar as you get stronger should still be followed for both types of training and rep ranges.
Implementing Periodization training into your routine is simple. Here is a basic routine that is set out based on the principles of Periodization Training. You should use a traditional bodybuilding split routine for this such as the one below.
Monday: Chest / TricepsTuesday: Back / Biceps
Thursday: Shoulders / Traps
Friday: Legs / Calves / Abs
For your first 4-8 weeks, lift heavy within the 1-7 rep range
For the next 1-2 weeks deload and do some light lifting. Alternatively take 1 week off if you need it.
For the next 4 weeks, lift lighter weight but for higher reps. This should be in the 8-12 rep range. You can then continue this kind of cycle for as long as you want, alternating between low and high reps. Obviously after you finish your first 4-8 weeks of heavy lifting you will need to lower the weight on the bar in order to hit the 8-12 rep range. Try and complete 3 sets of an exercise using the same weight in the 8-12 rep range. Once you can get 3 sets of 10-12 reps it’s probably a good time to add weight to the bar. The 12-20 rep range can also be used as another mini cycle should you choose to do so. However these are not really effective when your aim is to increase muscle mass and may prove a waste of time. Ideally you should perform 3-4 exercises per body part for 2-4 sets. This is not set in stone and can be altered by the individual at any time. Exercises used should be mainly compound movements, performing any isolation exercises after your main compound movements.
Periodization Training – Why Use It?
Although Periodization training can be of great use to athletes it is also popular amongst lifters and bodybuilders. Reasons to use Periodization training:
It’s an organised routine. Once you set out your routine you will always have a plan of action of what you will be doing when you walk into the gym as well as what you will be doing months in advance. Organised routines are always more effective. Combines strength and muscle gains. Their will be periods of time in your training schedule where you will be focusing more on strength, and periods of time where you will be focusing more on muscle size (hypertrophy). By combining the two you should see improved results in both your strength and muscle gains.
You are also working both your fast twitch muscle fibres and your slow twitch muscle fibres. Helps eliminate the possibility of plateaus. The way Periodization training is set out, the different training cycles you will be constantly switching between will greatly reduce the risk of plateaus in your routine. Prevent Overtraining. The Periodization training principles will help prevent overtraining by intelligently combining higher volume with lower intensity and vice versa. The routine also has you perform an alteration/transition phase allowing you time to recuperate and recover between workout cycles. Prevents Boredom and keeps you focused. Following the same routine for weeks and months and even years gets extremely boring, especially if you are not seeing the results you want. Periodization training has you switching up your routine at most, every 2 months in order to milk as much progress as you can on each cycle before moving on to the next. This helps shock the body and prolong progress. Periodization Training – Potential Drawbacks
Although Periodization training can be an effective way of building muscle and preventing plateaus in your training, every routine has its potential drawbacks. Here are a few that you may associate with this training method:
Not ideal for everyone. Although most people will benefit in some way from this training method, not everyone will need to switch routines to promote more muscle growth. Some routines are suited to certain people more than others, that’s just the way it is. If you have a program that you get great results out of which takes the main principles of progressive overload into account then you may not need to alter your program. Instead you may only need to switch round your exercises, drop or increase the weight a little, change up your rep range, take a deload week, have a weeks break to remove overtraining symptoms, you get the picture.
Certain aspects of your training can deteriorate while others improve. If your an athlete working on various aspects of your training such as strength, power, speed, endurance and flexibility through Periodization training, certain areas of your training will slowly deteriorate before your training cycle allows you to work on them again. A similar thing can be said for individuals looking to gain muscle but to a lesser extent. Say you train your fast twitch muscle fibres for 8 weeks before switching to training your slow twitch muscle fibres (using higher reps) for 4 weeks. Within these 4 weeks of training your slow twitch muscle fibres, your strength and power is likely to deteriorate slightly.
Although not such a big issue when progressively adding weight to the bar in both cycles of your training, some people will see this as counter productive when looking to continually add size and mass to their frames. This shouldn’t really be too much of an issue as this routine is a great way to develop both your fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibres and keeps your workouts fresh and interesting, reducing the chances of overtraining and plateaus.