Have you been following the same workout program, the same exercises month after month, year after year, using the same combination of sets and repetitions? This may be the reason that you no longer see gains (or losses if weight loss is your goal) toward your fitness goals.

What Is Periodization Training?

To make consistent gains and keep your workout progressive you must understand and use periodization training to help prevent plateaus, stress injuries and overtraining. In its simplest form, periodization involves dividing or “splitting” your training program into shorter “periods” or “cycles” where each period has specific goals and specific stressors. The variety of these different periods will keep you on track toward your personal fitness goals.

While periodization is most often used in weight training, strength training and bodybuilding, it can be adapted and used to improve any training for fitness or athletics. Periodization is not a new concept in sports training or athletics, many Eastern Bloc countries developed the program for their Olympic athletes as early as 1960. The periodization process has been tested and proven for its effectiveness in exercise and athletic programming.

The science behind periodization prevents overstimulation of the neuromuscular system and overtraining of your muscle fibers allowing them to repair and rebuild while still promoting progression resistance and progressive overload. Progressive resistance and overload gradually increase the amount of stress (resistance) placed on the body during your training sessions. By increasing the demands on your musculoskeletal system you stimulate gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance. You must use progressive resistance and overload for your strength, endurance and muscles to grow, but the proper cycling or periodization allows for the necessary rest, recovery and variety to prevent plateaus and overtraining.

You can also incorporate variety and short-term periodization within your training workout by altering the amount of resistance (weight) used, the order of your exercises, or the types of exercises used, the number of sets and repetitions, the speed at which you perform each exercise, and the length of the rest periods between sets, between exercises or between each training session.

There are many approaches to periodized training programs, most are geared to the strength, power and sport specific skills training. The most frequently used program is one that will alternate between low resistance and a high number of repetitions to high resistance and a lower number of repetitions.

Periodization is designed to help you break your training into phases or cycles where you focus on specific training goals. Periodization is designed to help you achieve peak performance and is used by athletes of all ages to assist them in reaching new fitness and training goals in a safe, organized fashion and reduce the potential for program plateau or risk of overtraining injury.