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Basics of Periodization

What is Periodization?

  • Periodization is an exercise design technique that promotes long-term performance improvements. Coaches implement this technique by modifying variations of exercise intensity, volume, frequency, and specificity within certain training periods or cycles. Typically using linear or nonlinear programming, modifying these variables can help optimize performance gains, decrease risk of injury, prevent overtraining.
  • Periodization is commonly seen in athletics and designed around competition seasons, with performance peaking at the most competitive times in the season (i.e. meet, playoffs, and/or championships).

Periodization Cycles

  • Microcycle – training period/cycle lasting 1 to 4 weeks
    • The shortest training cycle where most of the exercise variation takes place. Focus is on daily or weekly training variations.
  • Mesocycle – training period/cycle lasting 2 weeks to 4 months
    • Usually depends on goals, but programming goals and vary each mesocycle to help optimize performance.
  • Macrocycle – Training period/cycle lasting 6 months up to 4 years,
    • Typically one competition season, the end goal is to peak around the end for optimal performance for competition.

Periodization Phases or Goals

  • Hypertrophy/Muscular Endurance Phase
    • Hypertrophy (muscle fiber growth) and Muscular Endurance (sustained long-term repetitions) occurs when exercising at a low to moderate intensity ranging from 50-75% of your 1 repetition maximum (of a certain exercise). Volume should be moderate to high ranging from 3-6 sets of 10-20 repetitions per exercise.
  • Basic Strength Phase
    • Basic Strength (ability to move weight) occurs when exercising at high intensities ranging from 80-90% of your 1 repetition maximum (of a certain exercise). Volume should be moderate ranging from 3-5 sets of 4-8 repetitions per exercise.
  • Strength/Power Phase
    • Strength and Power (ability to quickly and efficiently move weight) occurs when exercising at a high intensity ranging from 75-95% of your 1 repetition maximum (of a certain exercise). Volume should be low ranging from 3-5 sets of 2-5 repetitions per exercise.
  • Performance Peaking Phase
    • To reach peak performance, you exercise programming should be focusing on very high intensity, higher than 93% of your 1 repetition maximum with very low volume of 1-4 sets of 1-3 repetitions per exercises
  • Maintenance Phase
    • If you wish to maintain any strength and muscle gains that you have accomplished, exercising at moderate intensities of 75-85% of your 1 repetition maximum and at moderate volumes of 2-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions per exercise.

How to incorporate it into your programming?

  • First, figure out what your goal is. Are you planning on competing in a competition? Are you just trying to hit some exercise personal records? Or do you just want to be able to run around with your kids? There are multiple ways of designing a program but periodization is perfect for achieving exercise goals. Second, once you find your goal, apply the specific intensity and volume ranges to your current exercise program and try it for a month. Soon, you’ll see obvious changes in the weight you’re moving, distance you’re moving, and the speed you’re moving. You’ll also decrease your risk of injury by gradually improving. And third, after trying these ranges for one month, slightly modify the volume and intensities to avoid performance plateauing and overtraining.

By Christopher Manzano MPS, ATC, CSCS, TSAC-F