We've gone through a whole host of training articles together; from how to train muscle groups optimally, tot how en when you set up a deload, tot different stimuli. Today I want to form a whole with you. I advise you to read previous articles for the complete picture. This article is about periodization and how we set it up.
What is periodization?
For this it is first important that we have clear what is meant by periodization.
A periodization is the way in which you make or should make progress in your training, in combination with the structure that you apply in your training with regard to different stimuli and protocols, in order to achieve the fastest possible progress towards your goal.
Why should you periodise and what should you pay attention to?
Of course, the optimal periodization is influenced by a lot of factors. First of all, of course, the goal; someone who wants to become as strong as possible will use a completely different way of training (and lifestyle / nutrition?) than someone who wants to be trained. In addition, there are a lot more or perhaps endlessly other factors that will influence the results. Think of the taxability of someone; someone who is very stressed, sleep poorly, or eats little is likely to be able to handle less volume and strain than someone who is not affected by these factors. In addition, we have already discussed trainability in previous articles.
We can write out a very nice periodization, but if we are not trainable in the stimulus we have in mind, you may get further and further away from your goals with your training. When you're always pushing for progression on strength or pounding neurologically demanding workouts, there will come a time when you hit a plateau. This is a strong hint that the trainability of that stimulus is gone and that it is time for a deload, or rather another phase. Taking a break and rams without scrutinizing the plan will most likely not get you to your goals the fastest.
The other way around, we may see it happen more often, you may know this from your own experience: In the beginning of a cut phase it goes well and you make rapid progression; many sets, many reps, little rest. So metabolic workouts; in itself ideal for fat loss! Your shape improves, you lose fat, your muscles look nice and full during your training.
The famous plateau
But at some point your shape becomes a bit watery, you even gain weight according to the scale, you experience less and less a pump during your workouts.
Many people will intervene now by planning a week of rest, or temporarily lower the intensity and after a week they will continue what they were doing. But perhaps a neuro-phase would be in place here! During this phase you gradually become more sensitive to a metabolic stimulus.
The order you would use for this would therefore be as follows:
- Metabolic, local phase
- Neurological phase
- Optional: Perhaps first a systemic phase to improve carbohydrate metabolism
- Another metabolic local phase.
Tailoring diet to training
With every phase you should adjust your diet; carbohydrates are more important during a metabolic phase than in a neurological phase; after all, carbohydrates (glycogen) provide the fastest ATP of all macro nutrients. Prolonged sets can not only run on ATP and creatine phosphate and so glycolysis will have to take place over time. Neurological sets are too short for this.
A metabolic phase without enough carbohydrates in the diet can cause inflammation because the stress on the system is too high.
From the above text it may become clear that simply varying the number of sets or reps you run from week to week is certainly not the fastest way to Rome.
Change to change
However, what we don't want to do is just change to change. Changing exercise every time because you like it or 'because you've always done it like this' is not a good method. Just randomly dropping down a number of repetitions or sets during exercises and completely reversing everything the following month is not a good method.
Tracking data is important if we want to work accurately; what happens to your weight, your mood and your sleep quality from day to day? Is it different this week than 4 weeks ago? Do you notice less progression in strength or even decline? Have you recently suffered from bloating or flatulence, which was totally out of the question a few weeks ago?
These are all data points that can tell you something about how you are in your current schedule and whether it is now time for a change of stimuli, diet or perhaps a deload.
When it is time for change, it is wise to choose a phase that has little overlap with the phase just completed. If you have trained for a while on muscle damage, the next phase would preferably be a phase where little muscle damage occurs. In that case you would prefer to avoid exercises in the length position and limit training to failure.
You could just put the preference on exercises in the short position; it is very energy inefficient and you are also weakest in this position. This reduces the chance of muscle damage occurring during exercises, so that the previous stimulus can recover towards better trainability.
More than just training muscles
Optimal progression is more than training your muscles as hard as possible and you can train more aspects of your body than just muscles; when you do systemic workouts, the production of lactic acid is so high that the liver has to work hard to process it, without the muscles becoming very locally exhausted or much muscle damage occurring. Such phases can therefore help you with fitness and ensure that in a future phase the cardiovascular system or the liver does not become the limiting factor.
A local metabolic phase can provide better muscle condition, so that your muscles recover faster and need less rest, so that in a future phase you can turn more volume before you hit failure.
As you read, writing a good training periodization is quite tough; there are many different types of stimuli that we can go for and besides, randomly plugging different types of blocks in succession is often not the best method.
Global tips for your periodization
Since there are as many goals as people and previous phases influence what is the best next phase, there is little point to say about what is the best approach for you at the moment, without having any further information.
In any case, I would like to advise you about the articles I have online about different types of stimuli, about different forms of hypertrophy and over to load take a good read. The information you can get from those articles, along with the information you can get from this article, should be a long way off!
If you run into problems, or are unable to resolve them, please let me / us know! We are never afraid to help.