Periodization: The Key to an Effective Workout Program

Periodization: The Key to an Effective Workout Program

Have you ever experienced stagnation or boredom with your workout routine? Have you hit a plateau where no matter what you do, you just feel like you’re not making progress? Have you experienced long term exhaustion physically, mentally, or even sickness? These are all symptoms of a manotineous workout program  that is not well planned or a program that you have stuck to for too long. With strategic periodization, you can avoid training plateaus and overtraining. Here’s how to break free and take your training and your results to the next level.

What is periodization?

Strength and conditioning programs cause an alarm phase that provokes our bodies to respond to external stimulus (strength training or cardiovascular training). Our bodies responds by adapting the stimulus so the next time it encounters the same stressor, we will be able to better deal with the stress. This is referred to as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). Homeostasis is our bodies baseline or equilibrium, so anytime we encounter a stress whether physical or psychological we experience a physiological adaptation. This is why it is important to constantly adjust variables of stress (workout routine) through periodization.

To promote long term training and performance improvements, a good training program should include preplanned, systematic variations in training specificity, intensity, volume, and load organized in periods or cycles within the overall program. This allows you to optimize adaptations made from training either from strength training or cardiovascular training.

Periodization for Strength

So, you have to disrupt homeostasis with a progressive overload to cause the body to adapt.  Here are three key training parameters that will drive gains in strength and muscle. 

  1. Mechanical tension: external forces put on the muscles by the weights, resulting in muscle contraction. Lifting a heavy load in big compound exercises (squats, chins, rows, bench presses etc.).
  2. Metabolic stress: the accumulation of metabolic byproducts, referred to as metabolites (e.g., lactate, hydrogen ions, and inorganic phosphate) during and following resistance exercise, which indirectly mediate cell and muscle swelling. Using higher rep sets with shorter rest periods and intensification techniques such as, drop sets, supersets, rest pause and occlusion training.
  3. Muscle damage: referring to micro tears accrued from deliberately lifting weights, usually accompanied by DOMS. Exercises which place a big stretch on the muscle like Romanian Deadlifts, are great at achieving this. Eccentric overload training is also excellent. So, using a weight heavier than you can lift and just doing the lowering phase (you will need a spotter for this). 

Periodization for Cardio

You should also periodize your cardiovascular training for the same reasons—to further challenge your body while still allowing for adequate recovery time.

If, for example, you’re a recreational runner, running for fitness, fun and the occasional short race, you’ll want to allow for flat, easy runs, as well as some that incorporate hills and others that focus on speed and strength.

What you don’t want to do is complete the same run every time. If you run too easily, and don’t push yourself, you won’t progress. And chances are you’ll get bored. Conversely, too much speed or high-intensity training will lead to injury or burnout, and most likely, disappointing race results.

Training Variables to Consider

Here are 5 key variables to consider that will impact your workouts. Now that you know the importance of altering your training program, here is how periodization manipulates these variables. A change in your program doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change all of the exercises, sets, reps, and weight periodically. In some instances, that may be the case, but a change in your program can be as subtle as increasing or decreasing the volume. Or maybe you increase the weight in your strength training routine. Maybe, you increase the weight and decrease the volume respectively. There are many ways that you can alter a program, the most important thing is that your program is adjusted periodically with the end goal in mind so that you get results.

Here are 5 key training variables:

Volume: The number of repetitions per set, or the number of sets of each exercise 

Load: The amount of resistance used and cumulative effective of stress from your workout physically and psychologically.

Frequency:  How many days a week you train a muscle group, movement pattern, or energy system.

Intensity: Rest period between sets or bouts,  exercise type, order of the exercises, types of exercises, weight used for the exercise, and speed at which you complete each exercise.

Specificity: exercise selection that is specific or non specific to your goals

How Frequently should you switch up workouts?

Macrocycle: Traditional periodization models divide the overall program into specific time periods. The largest division is a macrocycle, typically (6-12 months)

Mesocycle: Within macrocycle are two or more mesocycles, each lasting several weeks to several months. The number depends on goal and peak time periods. (2 weeks – 6 months)

Microcycle: Each mesocycle is divided into two or more microcycles that are typically one week long but could last for up to four weeks, depending on the program. This short cycle focuses on daily and weekly training variations. (1-4 weeks)

With this in mind. It is recommended that you adjust your training program at least every 4 weeks to avoid plateaus and negative effects of overtraining.

Types of Periodization

Here are 3 types of periodization methods.

Linear: Most frequently used. Best for beginners. training plan that gradually increases volume, intensity, and work by mesocycles in an annual plan. Progressive overload is a major key to success here.

Non-Liner/Undulated: Relies on constant change in stimuli throughout training cycles. As opposed to a linear periodization that focuses on gradual increase of one variable, this style manipulates multiple variables like exercises, volume, intensity, and training adaptation on a frequent basis. The time frame for these manipulations can be daily, weekly, or even bi-weekly. Non-linear periodization is more advanced than linear and incorporates multiple types of stimuli into a training program.

Block Periodization: Block periodization is arguably the “newest” periodization style. The concept of block periodization focuses on breaking down specific training periods into 2-4 week periods. Each block encompasses three different stages: accumulation (50-75% intensity), transmutation (75-90% intensity), and realization (90%> intensity). The goal behind these smaller, specific blocks is to allow an athlete to stay at their peak level longer.

Periodized training will ensure that you continue to make measurable progress, which will keep you energized and interested in reaching your goals

As you incorporate periodization into your fitness program, keep in mind your body will need adequate rest as well. It’s important to track your workouts and record sets, reps along with the amount of resistance you used. This long-term plan will allow you to stay focused on different goals throughout the year and will support continued and measurable progress.

 


What’s Better, High Intensity or Low Intensity Training?

What’s Better, High Intensity or Low Intensity Training?

What type of exercise is better for your body—high intensity or low intensity training? The answer is not that simple. It comes down to individual goals and how your body responds to exercise on a given day. Is your goal to decrease your body fat percentage, increase your VO2 max, recover faster, or have more power for anaerobic work? Different energy systems are used when performing high and low intensity workouts as well as a different ratio of carbs vs. fats burned within the body.

Low intensity exercise is aerobic work where your heart rate stays within 60-80% of your max heart rate. Working on your endurance boosts your heart’s left ventricle that pushes blood out to the rest of the body to increase in capacity. That means that more oxygen gets delivered to nourish crucial tissues and organs which support better overall health. Not only does more oxygen reach crucial parts of the body, but your circulatory system gets better at transferring it from blood to tissue. That’s because low intensity exercise increases capillary density, so more channels are on hand to deliver oxygen to the tissue’s cells. This in turn increases base oxygen intake leading to enhanced endurance.

High intensity exercise, often referred to as HIIT (high intensity interval training) or SIT (sprint interval training), burns more calories in a shorter period of time compared to the time put in for low intensity training. However, high intensity exercise escalates your resting metabolism so you burn more calories post exercise. The high intensity nature provides improved athletic capacity and condition as well as improved glucose metabolism. High intensity may not be as effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity, but has been shown to build more lean body mass and increase recovery time which is more applicable to sports performance athletes.

You get more bang for the buck when muscles burn fat because fat has more than twice the number of calories (nine calories vs. four calories per gram from carbs). Fat is the high-test fuel. Less oxygen reaches the muscle when you exercise hard, or fast, and get out of breath. The term “sucking wind” means that you are working hard to get more oxygen in. When less oxygen reaches the muscles, known as oxygen debt, carbohydrates become the preferred fuel because they burn completely with less oxygen.

With the information above, can we now narrow down what type of exercise is right for you? The simple answer is to combine both high and low intensity exercise into your routine. Where it gets confusing is when we ask ourselves, “what ratio of each should I do? 50/50?”. This is where it becomes individualized. The most popular ratio, and what I use for metabolic workouts, is based on Olympic programming. This breaks down low, moderate, and high intensity workouts into a ratio of 80% low, 12% moderate, and 8% high intensity throughout the week. After looking at these numbers, doesn’t the ratio of high intensity workouts seem very low?

The reason is that low intensity exercise promotes longevity and muscle recovery when done correctly. An overdose of high intensity exercise has its downsides. Although it is a great way to increase resting metabolism, crush carb stores in the body, and increase VO2 max, it is a sympathetic stressor and can lead to adrenal fatigue. In large doses, high intensity puts an incredible strain on your nervous system, joints and muscles; especially if you are overweight and unfit. It also puts you at a high risk of overtraining, which is a real danger as it can ruin your immune system, cause insomnia, affect your appetite, and release cortisol, which in turn can make you more likely to put on fat.

I would love to see more individuals build an excellent oxidative system base through low intensity exercise while slowly adding in high intensity training one day per week so their bodies can adapt appropriately. Work your way up to the 80%, 12%, and 8% and then get creative with your workouts. So long as you’re in the correct energy system, you may do CrossFit, Tabata, 5K’s, marathons, sprints, lifting—take your pick!


10 Minute Bodyweight Core Circuit

10 Minute Bodyweight Core Circuit

A strong core enhances balance, stability, and energy transfer. Thus, it can help prevent injuries during day-to-day activities and sports injuries. Core strength directly correlates to exercise and sport activities like walking, jogging, sprinting, throwing, squatting, jumping, and swinging motions. The stronger your core is, the more efficient you will be at these activities. Through strengthening your core, you will see an increase in your fitness, performance, as well as minimize your risk for injuries.

When doing a core routine you want to incorporate exercises that target all of the muscles in your core musculature (see table below).

Core Muscle Groups

Pelvic floor muscles

Tansversus abdominis

Multifidus

Internal and external obliques

Rectus abdominis

Erector spinae (sacrospinalis)

Erector spinae (sacrospinalis)

Longissimus thoracis

Diaphragm

Latissimus dorsi

Gluteus maximus

Trapezius

Gluteus medius

Psoas major

Serratus anterior

Try this 10 minute bodyweight core circuit at home or at the gym

Perform 1 round of each exercise for 1 minute before moving onto the next. Take minimal rest between exercises. Complete

Plank  – 1 minute

Side Plank – 30 seconds each side

Dead Bug – 1 minute

Glute Bridge– 1 minute

Bird Dog– 1 minute

Half Kneeling Wood Chop – 30 seconds each side

Alternating Leg Lowers – 1 minute

Penguin – 1 minute

Russian Twist– 1 minute

Clams – 30 seconds each side


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