This is a common term used in the strength and conditioning field, there is much discussion about which way to periodize and how. But your average trainee vary rarely has a program, let alone one with progressive (and variable) resistance, let alone one that periodizes different variables into an orderly fashion. This could speak to the small percentage of gains that periodization might actually add to your total goals given that many people get great results without such, or it could be that people actually are periodizing their workouts, but going on feel rather than any strict formulation. Before going further lets actually look at what periodization is:
Periodization training allows for the use of many different types of workouts, trianing programs, and modalities. In essence, it calls for varying the training stimulus (intensity or volume) over determined periods of time to allow for proper progression in the exercise stress and planned periods of rest. (Kramer et al, 2007, p. 53)
And that’s it really, its a structured, systemized plan, that takes into account, and focuses on different variables, to further develop the overall goal (be it strength, athletic performance, aesthetics etc). The history of periodization, Kramer et al. state comes from the principle of progressive resistance training or overload developed in the 1940’s by an army physician working with soldiers, which in turn developed from an older principle; the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle, which essentially is: “the need to gradually increase the amount of physical stress placed on the body in order to continually stimulate adaptations.” (p. 53) Adaptations that can be manipulated are generally volume, intensity, frequency and duration, with rest periods in there too.
The most popular way to periodize variables is known as linear periodization and was the traditional way programs were ordered in the Eastern Bloc in the 1950’s. Kramer et al. notes the coaches found that by decreasing volume and increasing intensity (expressed as percentage of 1RM) their strength and power athlete’s performances increased leading up to competition.
These early periodization models were built around one competitive season broken into four phases: preparation, first transition (end of preseason), competition, and season transition (off-season). The length of time of each phase depended on the length of the competition season, the mode of training, and individual differences of the athletes. (Kramer et al, 2007, p. 54)
To further elaborate, Kramer notes that the preparation phase focused heavily on increasing muscle mass and strength, volume was a priority while intensity was low. As they moved into the first transition phase volume was lowered to allow for an increase in intensity (as the two are inversely related), with the goals being muscular power (defined in the physics fashion as work over time/ P= W/t) and increased skill. The competition phase, also known as the peaking phase were different for each sport, but training for everyone was sports specific, designed around the demands of competition. Finally the off-season was spent recovering and rehabilitation without completely detraining. (p. 54)
Linear periodization takes quite literally and simply the concept of progressive overload, in the sense that usually it increases load or volume gradually and week to week. While this may be the best way for beginners to increase their size of strength it actually becomes problematic over a long period of time with plateaus being quite common as the lifter progresses.
In linear periodization, the aim in each mesocycle is to attempt to increase the body’s muscle hypertrophy and strength toward the theoretical genetic maximum. Thus, the theoretical basis for a linear method of periodization consists of developing muscle hypertrophy followed by improved nerve function and strength. This is repeated again and again with each mesocycle, and within each phase, loading would progressively increase from workout to workout. (Kramer et al, 2007, p. 55)
The authors note: people new to training should commence with 6 to 12 weeks of a general preparation phase to get ready for a more formalized plan. This plan should focus on light weights, learning new exercises and progressing to the starting RM percentage used in the program. (p. 57)
An example of a linear periodized program would be:
|Microcycle||Repetition Training Zones|
|1||3-5 sets of 12-15RM|
|2||4-5 sets of 8-10RM|
|3||3-4 sets of 4-6RM|
|4||3-5 sets of 1-3RM|
(Microcycles here represented as 4 weeks long) (p. 56)
A more complicated example would be as follows:
|Preparation phase (4wks)||First Transition (4wks)||Competition Phase (4wks)||2nd Transition (Off season 4wks)|
|Goal||Muscle Growth||Maximal Strenth & Growth||Peak||Muscle Growth|
Kramer, W.J., Hatfield, D. L., Fleck, S.J. (2007). Strength Training (edited by Lee Brown). Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.