By Bob LeFavi, Ph.D.
When I was a student at the University of Florida some years ago, there was a guy who’d come into the gym nearly every day. Man, this guy would do the same routine over and over. What I finally realized by the time I graduated was that despite all his hours of training, he looked exactly the same in his last year as he did in his first year. Four years of workouts and he hadn’t achieved squat.
Still today, every time I teach periodization – or even think about it – I remember this poor guy. His dilemma is precisely what periodization protects against. Interested in how you can maximize your progress and avoid wasting time in the gym? Read on.
The Structure of Periodization
In essence, periodization is a yearlong training schedule whereby an athlete moves from high-volume training (light weight and high reps) to high-intensity training (heavy weight and low reps) in an effort to reach maximal strength and performance at the end of the training year. This is why Olympic-style weightlifters and powerlifters use it on a regular basis when they get ready for a competition. But, other weight trainers who think its fundamentals are not for them are mistaken.
The periodization year is broken down into training schedules that form macrocycles (a “season,” usually months), mesocysles (weeks) that make up macrocycles, and microcylces (daily training schedules). Even though each week, month and season has its own general purpose and training theme (high volume, etc.), all working toward optimizing performance at the end, the beauty of periodization is in what occurs within a macrocycle, mesocycle and microcycle.
The Beauty of Periodization
Periodization is all about variation. That’s the bottom line. Not only throughout the whole year, but even within each cycle there is planned variation – weekly, monthly and within a season!
Think about that. How far in advance do you plan your training? Is your training in any way strategic? Do you know what your workout next week is going to be like? Perhaps not. The problem here is that we often forget a central truth of physiology that other lifters understand and depend upon: The General Adaptation Syndrome. And if you understand this, and how it underscores the importance of variation, a whole new world of lifting opens up to you.