The importance of periodization has become more and more paramount, not just from the perspective of an S&C coach but for the everyday gym-goer as well. Put simply, periodization is the organization of programs into logical, progressive blocks. These blocks are referred to as cycles and are arranged in a hierarchical structure from large-scale yearly cycles (macrocycle) to monthly cycles (mesocycle) and weekly/daily cycles (microcycle). The purpose of periodization is to allow the development of physiological characteristics (peak force, peak power, the rate of force development etc) or training variations (sprint training, agility, strength, power etc) whilst managing stress and recovering. This approach to training has been shown to consistently outperform non periodized training programs for competitive athletes.
Okay great, but how does this apply to the everyday gym goer?
Well, the same principles of targeting characteristics can be applied. Cycling through phases of training is necessary for the holistic development of your training and to ensure continued progression. Many people (myself included) when they start do the same 5 exercises for each body part for the same sets and reps from an online program for months on end. Within the first 2-6 weeks, results come quickly with weekly increases in strength until you plateau and, in some cases, even decrease with time. This is because the body has adapted to the training stimulus and therefore not being challenged enough to elicit a response to training. By changing our training every 2-6 weeks we reduce the likelihood of this adaptation occurring and allow continual development.
How do I start?
These changes don’t have to be excessive. Simply changing the sets and rep schemes or even the order of exercises can be enough. However, as we progress with our training the smart and more specific our changes have to become. By using a periodized approach we can target specific adaptions to work on that can accumulate into a bigger overall development.
Start with using a basic cyclic structure between hypertrophy and strength spending 2-6 weeks on each and then rotating. For the first 4-12 weeks keep the same exercises and manipulate sets and reps, after that change the exercises and repeat.