Planning your fitness schedule in advance is a sure sign that you’re taking it seriously. It’s a great way to measure results as well as ensuring that you have a fitness goal — this is where periodization comes in. Periodization is the breaking up of training into phases that is highly specific to the training goal or outcome desired (Bompa & Buzzichelli, 2015). Dividing training into phases can be done in a few different ways — there are several styles of periodization within the sports performance world.
The main premise into dividing training into specific phases is to follow the S.A.I.D. principle, also known as specificity (Baechle & Earle, 2008). Each sport is highly specific and training should be designed around the specific task for each sport. The S.A.I.D. principle is an acronym for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (Baechle & Earle, 2008).
The principle states that you will adapt based on the training that is completed. The demands should be highly specific to the adaptation desired — for example muscular endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power. When planning a periodized program it’s typically done in cycles. For example, a macrocycle is the whole program, typically one year in duration. A mesocycle can vary but we typically program that for 4 weeks or 4 microcycles where each week is one microcycle.
All these cycles are also divided into phases based on specificity. Phases include general conditioning or hypertophy, strength, power, peaking, competition or maintenance, and recovery.
Look at an example below in Figure 1.
In figure 1 we see a 40 week program — this is a typical collegiate sport program done with linear periodization. This program is looking at the four main variables in a strength and conditioning program. The four main variables include resistance volume (reps and sets), resistance intensity (%1RM), conditioning volume (Yds), and Intensity (RPE).
When designing a strength and conditioning program — regardless of the periodization model used — it’s best to analyze the program variables. The four-line graph shows each variable and how they peak and drop in relation to each other. If too many variables are peaking at once then there’s a higher risk of overtraining and injury. The goal is to design a program that doesn’t allow volume and intensity to peak at the same time for the strength or the conditioning. If there are any overuse injuries we can circle the time frame it occurred and look at all four variables to see what our program may have done wrong.
This is a good picture to get you thinking about what should be taken into consideration when designing a strength and conditioning program/exercise program.
Figure 2 shows a 32 week exercise program for a client.
In figure 2 we have a 32 week fat loss and muscle building program for a client — this is less specific to performance and more specific to enhancing appearance. Even though this is less specific to performance, it’s important to watch our programming to keep you progressing towards the goal.
The biggest mistake people make in training is not progressing properly. This will either lead to overtraining or not getting any better by increasing total work — either way the goal won’t be met.
Styles of Periodization
As mentioned before, there are many styles of periodization. Typically we utilize the two main styles — linear and undulating periodization — with many types of variation. Linear periodization manipulates the variables of training in a linear timeline.
A linear periodized program usually has the intensity of exercise progressively increasing as volume decreases, which reduces the risk of overtraining. Depending on the sport, a linear program is broken into phases. For example, the highest volume and lowest intensity will be completed during the general conditioning and hypertrophy phase. Intensity will progressively increase while volume decreases in the strength, power, and peaking phases.
Both intensity and volume will decrease during the competitive/maintenance phase of training. Undulating periodization manipulates the intensity and volume over one phase, for example in the same week you may do a hypertrophy workout, power workout, and strength workout. Each of those styles of periodization manipulates volume and intensity.
There are some styles that manipulate the exercises, for example tier periodization manipulates the exercises themselves. Popular amongst footballers, tier periodization manipulates heavy, medium, and light exercises over upper body, lower body, and full body movements. Check out the table below for an example.
Take Home Message
There are several ways to design exercise programs, so ask questions, experiment and plan ahead until you get it right. Most importantly, however, don’t increase too much at one time and make sure that there’s a safe progression that allows for the body to adapt. Once you’ve got it down, watch the results roll in and enjoy your dream body.