If you’ve never heard of periodization, it is a strategic method of breaking your training year into smaller phases in order to maximize your training benefits. While this concept was developed for sport, it is also important to consider when developing a program for getting into shape, building muscle, or losing weight. Here are five reasons that you should consider taking the time to periodize your training. Now is a great time to develop your plan and put it into action!
Reduce Overuse Injuries
Many of the most common injuries such as tendonitis, patellofemoral syndrome, IT band syndrome, and shin splints are caused by a combination of improper movement mechanics and overuse of the affected joint or muscle group. Periodizing your training can help these injuries for two main reasons. The first of these reasons is simple: rotating through phases with different goals gives overworked muscle groups a break. Second: including a pre-habilitation phase each year brings attention to any muscle imbalances or improper mechanics that have been developed during more intense phases. This keeps you in the game longer.
Maximize Sport Performance
If you’re an athlete, periodizing your training based on your sport’s in-season, post-season, off-season, and pre-season will help you maximize your potential when you need it most. There are three important variables to consider in any training program: frequency (number of workouts per week), volume (the amount of work done per workout) and intensity (percentage of your one-rep max or max heart rate). These variables should be adjusted throughout the year. For example, in the off-season, you can workout at an increased frequency as you don’t have as many practices and technique workouts. A common goal of the off-season for contact sport athletes is to increase lean body mass, which is achieved with high volumes and moderate intensities. As the off-season progresses to in-season, volume and frequency are reduced and intensity increases to “peak” the training effect for the athlete. Even if you don’t play sports, you can peak with your training before a holiday to reduce the damage.
Keep Workouts Fresh and Avoid Monotony
This benefit is purely psychological. Changing our main training focus, exercises, and set/rep schemes throughout the year keep workouts interesting so that we come to the gym excited and ready to pursue our goals.
Focus Your Training
Trying to focus on all aspects of fitness – strength, muscle gain, endurance, and power –at the same time can be counterproductive. By breaking your training year down into smaller cycles, you can focus on the component that is most important at that time of year while putting other components into maintenance mode. For example, focusing on muscular endurance during snowboard season, strength during football pre-season, power and mobility during golf season, or fat burning for beach season.
Minimize Training Plateaus
We all know the feeling of spinning our tires during training without being able to increase the weight, amount of reps, or running speed. While this can sometimes be due to lack of proper nutrition or sleep, often this is a sign that our bodies are ready for a new stimulus to adapt to. You don’t want to change phases as soon as you start to plateau, as this is often when we can get some great results in terms of muscle building, but spending too much time here can lead to overuse injury or lack of motivation. For example, if your strength stops increasing after a 12-week program, you could move to a power phase and convert your strength into speed strength.
Article written by Mike Larocque