In a nutshell periodization is a critical part of any training program. You are probably thinking, “If it is so critical then why do I not hear more about it?” That is a good question.
Periodization is also known as cycling or phase training. The basic concept behind it is that you can build your body up for a peak point and then ease back a bit before building up to the next peak. Imagine a person who runs up a hill where the journey gets harder until you reach the top; then you start running back down but before you get to the bottom you start back up again but this time the mountain is slightly higher.
This concept how been around for decades and it routinely used by athletes like football players, powerlifters, and really anyone who trains for a specific peak point goal where they need to give their absolute all. Have you ever heard someone say that they are in a, “Bulk Phase’?
But don’t people always try and give their ‘all’ during workouts and at events? Yes they do but there is a difference in trying and achieving!
Even if you train all out all the time you won’t be able to obtain continual gains. At first your body can get stronger and faster but over time gains diminish as your body nears its natural peak ability. So how do people push past that? Usually they end up doing things like periodization training to systematically and logically push themselves to a higher peak level each year.
Football players are a very common type of athlete that uses periodization. After the regular season is over most players take a few weeks or even a month off from rigorous workouts. Hopefully they do some very light training with weights and maybe some jogging. Some don’t do anything to maximize rest and recovery from injury.
Then they start an off-season program. For most players this involves a lot of heavy weight lifting as they attempt to add more muscle to their frames. Depending on the position it might also include explosive style exercises to gain more critical power. This cycle might last another 6 to 8 weeks. You hear about players adding size in the off-season.
From there they move into the pre-season program which might be anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. Now there is still heavy lifting going on but also more cardiovascular work and lot of specific drills to incorporate agility, speed, and power as well as slim down any excess weight. Finally there is the season where workouts shift to maintenance and recovery from injuries. They have to rely on the strength, speed, size, and endurance they gained in the offseason.
Other athletes like runners or weightlifters might use smaller cycles and instead of maintaining for a season, they train to peak 2 or 3 times a year for races or events. For them the periodization cycles are a little different but still they gradually work up to a higher level of performance and then back off a bit to rest and recover before starting over again.
Does it work?
Yes periodization is a well proven technique to help with continual gains. One reason is because it ensures the body has rest periods. Next the variety in training routines keeps things fresh. Finally it works because you are very calculated and focused, so much more so then just doing your same program every week without really monitoring things so closely.
Usually it is only serious athletes that use periodization because it does involve a lot of work. You need to be rather meticulous and really plan out the entire cycle from point A to point B to ensure that your new point will be where you want or need it to be. That level of dedication and commitment can be hard to muster up unless you are really serious about what you are doing.