What is Periodization in Strength Training and How it Helps Optimize the Results of Your Workout

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Whether your main goal is to strengthen your muscles, to lose weight, or both, periodization can help you optimize the results of your workout and reach your fitness aspirations.

Losing weight,especially among overweight people, is easy because at first, your body gets the shock of a stimulus. So you maintain a routine, kill it and notice signs of changes in your body. Your arms get more defined, you get a chiseled butt and you are starting to see the beginnings of six-pack abs. It’s no myth that the hardest part of fitness is in maintaining your peak and avoiding plateau. It’s getting rid of the stubborn 5 pounds excess weight and increasing the last few kilograms of muscle that are usually hardest to reach.

Variety, as with most things, is the key to a successful fitness regime that will keep producing results in the long run. Mixing your workouts such as strength training paired with cardio are just some of the fitness tactics that will ensure you remain committed to your routine while reaping the same amount of results. The evolution of fitness programs throughout the years have always been focused on addressing that problem. One of the best ways to do that is through strength training periodization.  

 Periodization is a form of resistance training that employs a strategic implementation of specific training phases. In simple terms, it means that your long-term training plan should be divided into different phases that focus on a specific set of skills (strength, power, weight loss, endurance) that varies in intensity and duration. The body goes through 3 phases when encountering a new stimulus namely: alarm, the shock of the body during the beginning of the program such as a sore muscle; resistance, when the body adapts to the routine and gets better at handling the program and showing results; and exhaustion, where the body becomes over trained. Periodization training aims to prolong the resistance stage to optimize the effects of your workout. Your training should vary depending on your fitness level and goals and take place within a period classified into three different cycles namely your annual training plan timeline (macro), duration of weeks to months (meso) and the number of workouts in a day or a week (micro).  

The United States Sports Academy has shown that mixing weight training with cardio activity has resulted in an increase in gained muscle and a decrease in fat. This study was done among sedentary men who are beginners to the exercise program and therefore could incur results faster. Optimizing results in the long run requires a variable-focused training through periodization.

There are different types of periodization training, the widely used approach being linear periodization starting from high training volume at low intensity (such as 2 sets of 20 reps increased to 25) to low training volume to high intensity (3 sets of 10 reps) for a period of several months. This approach is great for beginners and while it may constitute a slow-paced program, it is ideal for building a strong foundation without experiencing burnout. This is great for those who are training for marathons and athletes who have competitions that are almost the same season.

A more advanced approach to periodization is undulated or non-linear periodization, which utilizes multiple variables in training such as intensity, volume, exercise and instead of focusing on one variable alone. You can switch from focusing on strength on the first week and then change to power training on the next duration. This means changing your set and rep program on a daily or weekly basis. Basing your strength training around “heavy” lifts such as squat, deadlift and bench press works effectively when using this method. This is best if you’ve been hitting the gym for a long time and for increasing strength and most importantly eliminating the monotony of a long-term training program. Tactical fitness recommends cross-training and breaking up your routine according to the season such as lifting during the winter, stamina and endurance cycle during spring and summer and a transition period throughout the fall season.

The newest periodization style is called block periodization, which breaks down different training periods into various stages according to the intensity of the program. This periodization method is intended to let an individual stay at their peak level for a long period. For the athlete, this means focusing on a single variable when necessary to avoid burnout, especially during a competition with an extensive season composed of multiple games. If the athlete is not required to train for strength, it won’t be part of the program.

Mixing and adding variety to your routine is definitely a foolproof way of continuously pushing your body out of the comfort zone and preventing it from encountering plateau. That way, you stay in control of your fitness goals and continue to reap the same results even for a long time. 

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