Are you just exercising and wondering why you are not making gains? Periodization: What is it and why you should know!

Periodization is a concept that can be viewed in a very simple fashion or at very complex level.  In theory it is the management of work, stress, volume, intensity versus rest in a systematic fashion.    The objective is to create a strategy for the training that produces the maximum amount of improvement allowing athletes and non athletes to reap the greatest benefit from training.  It also integrates training into the competitive calendar of athlete during the competitive season.  

As mentioned before one of the most important parts of a successful training program is the strategy developed around the training to reach a particular goal.  Most fitness programs today are all heavy on tactics and low on strategy.  The tactics do not take much thinking.  Just push someone hard and people believe it is a better workout.  Strategy would evaluate the athlete and identify areas that need to be addressed like mobility, stability etc. to insure that tactics can be properly executed.    The tactics are the day to day training modalities that support this strategy.  If the strategy is weak then the tactics do not have as much of the intended effect and the athlete’s progression is slowed or reversed. 

Therefore, periodization should be a large part of the strategy for an athlete.   From my experience you see endurance athletes or cyclic sports paying more attention to periodization.  I think that is because the volume of training time is typically greater.  Also with cyclic sports the training and the sport are often times the same.  Think of cycling.  In other sports or non cyclic sports the strength and conditioning is usually much different than the sport itself.  Think tennis.  However, non cyclic sports would be well served to look closer at periodization to maximize training results. At Sirens and Titans Fitness we utilize periodization principles in the training of our athletes in both cyclic and non cyclic sports as well as with personal training clients. 

So in principal periodization is a well-planned, systematic, methodical training plan that maximizes the concept of overload and adaptation.  This periodization should address the neuromuscular requirements of a sport, the metabolic requirements, and the cardio respiratory requirements. 

I have found the most effective method to creating an effective periodization is to work backwards.  The training should be based on an evaluation of the current fitness level of the athlete and how these relate to the goal of training.  The eastern bloc countries during the 1960s and 70s were structuring 10 year periodization.  I think the periodization should be long.  Today’s fast food mentality makes this difficult for many and increases the risk for overloads that are too great and subsequently injure or over train the athlete.  It is important that the long term perspective is evaluated even though many would state that 10 years from now is not that important today.  That is a naïve perspective that will hurt the progression of the athlete in the long run.   By working backward and understanding the starting point, coupled withlong, medium and short term goalsa periodization can be developed.

Overloads and regeneration must be monitored and managed through the periodization.  This progression and regeneration both in the short run and long run must be monitored and measured.  This also allows the strength coach to better understand total stress on the body, plus how athletes and individuals adapt and respond to training stress.  Training stress is cumulative and must be measured both on a macro basis and a micro basis. 

The periodization is usually broken into micro cycles and macro cycles.  The coach must understand the energy systems utilized by the athlete for a particular sport and the time it takes for the athlete to recover.  Without this understanding training becomes a patchwork of stresses and recovery that does not maximize training time.    The goal should be both physical and psychological.  The psychological aspect is of even greater importance from  an athlete’s perspective. 

I will be addressing the different approaches to periodization in future posts.  The two most common approaches to periodization are linear       ( small incremental progressions in volume and intensity) or undulating ( regular changes in both volume and intensity). 


Truth in Fitness,