Periodized training - the basics

It is widely accepted that Periodized training is possibly the most effective method of training for strength, size and performance. It is a very versatile training method that can be adapted for all needs and goals.


Periodized training has been around for quite some time and is widely used by the worlds top trainers and athletes. There are many top trainers who use periodized training in their own way. Neil Hill for example uses Periodized training and calls it Y3T.


Periodized training is basically a training routine that is broken down into 3 cycles of different time periods.


Macrocycle – This generally refers to the long term goal of training. Usually a year but could be longer or shorter. In competitive sport it would work around the competitive calendar. For bodybuilders it would usually be broken down into off season and dieting season.


Mesocycle – The mesocycle is generally a 4-6 week period made up of smaller microcycles. The mesocycle can be used to work towards shorter term goals or a number of goals to help achieve the macrocycle goal.


Microcycle – The microcycle is the weekly training plan that makes up the mesocycles.


With periodized training there is usually an annual plan that is made up of macrocycles. The annual plan is different for any sport will be different. For bodybuilding it will consist of a preparation phase or off season (usually broken down into general preparation and specific preparation), a competitive phase (in bodybuilding this will be the dieting phase or contest prep phase), and finally the transition phase. The transition phase is basically a deload and rest phase to allow for psychological and physical recovery. In bodybuilding this will be the period after the final competition of the year, before the offseason mass building cycle begins again. This is the shortest of the periods.


So lets break down the bodybuilding macrocycles. If you take the off season for example, It will probably be broken down into a number of mesocycles, consisting of 6 microcycles. In between each mesocycle there will usually be a deload or rest week to allow for overall physiological rest and recovery.


In the bodybuilding off season the goal is to gain muscle mass and strength. The way this is done is determined by the microcycles and the way they are structured. Every person will do this differently. I personally do 3 cycles, each lasting 2 weeks. I will start with relatively light weights, high reps and lots of volume. The second cycle will be heavier weights and aiming for strength training rep ranges. The final cycle is about developing maximum power through fast contractions. In general bodybuilders will usually stick to the first 2 cycles as they have little need for power. However if you are an athlete who needs strength, size and power (like a rugby player for example) then this method will be great for you. In my next article I will show you my 3 cycle microcycles.


In each mesocycle you should aim to progress from the last one. So in your first mesocycle you will do the microcycles and record your weight. The next mesocycle may be the same as the first but you will aim to improve on the weights and reps used in the first one. This is, in my opinion, the best way to progress and keep constant progression with your training.


The deload week will either be total rest or will be light and easy exercise. This week is needed as the power week or maximum exertion week is very taxing on the central nervous system.


So if you are looking to make your training more focused and planned, try giving periodized training a go. I guarantee you will wonder how you managed without it.



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