How Can Periodization Be Used To Increase The Effectiveness Of One's Workouts?

How Can Periodization Increase Effectiveness Of One's Workouts? Find out what periodization is and exactly what you need to keep your training interesting and the gains coming! Periodization workouts and more included.

TOPIC: How Can Periodization Be Used To Increase The Effectiveness Of One's Workouts?

The Question:

Bodybuilders using the periodization method are gaining much success. It's a method that has gained much recognition in the bodybuilding community.

Explain the periodization method.

How can periodization be used to increase the effectiveness of one's workouts? Be specific.

What are the benefits to periodization?

What are some of the downfalls?

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1st Place - Blink41
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Introduction To Periodization

The periodization method has gained much respect as of late, and rightfully so. The periodization method has been used by bodybuilders for decades and is starting to become increasingly popular. It's a method that claims to minimize the duration of plateaus or even eliminate them altogether. Keep on reading to find out what this method is, how it works, the benefits of periodization and even some of the downfalls of this method.

Explain The Periodization Method

The Periodization method, or cycling method, is commonly used by many athletes and bodybuilders alike. It is basically dynamic routine that forces you to work on both the fast-twitch fibers and the slow-twitch fibers.

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Fast-twitch fibers are the muscle fibers you use when attempting heavy lifts of relatively low reps. For instance, if I were to do 3 sets of 5 repetitions for bicep curls, I would be using the fast-twitch fibers of the bicep.

Slow-twitch fibers are the muscle fibers being used when doing high repetitions with relatively lower reps. For instance, if I were to do 3 sets of 12 repetitions for bicep curls, I would be using the slow-twitch fibers of the bicep.

Our bicep is actually composed of forty percent slow twitch fiber and 60 percent fast-twitch fiber. People often tend to neglect the slow-twitch fibers, but with the periodization method, you will grow both equally to the max. Just imagine what forty additional percent of bicep could mean for you arms.

How Does It Work?

    To understand the concept of periodization, one must understand the concept of muscle growth. Muscle grows when excessive strain is being put on it. For example, if I were to do 7-12 repetitions of dumbbell curls, then I would be putting excessive strain on my biceps. Therefore, my body would try to adapt to this demand and make my biceps bigger.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Dumbbell Curl.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

    In order to continue growing bigger and bigger muscles, one must continue to increase the demand on that muscle. Eventually, your body will stop building additional muscle because it already predicted what you are going to do.

    The body wants the least amount of muscle possible because more muscle mass equals more energy. When you have reached the point where your body stops building muscles, you have reached a plateau. Plateaus can take weeks, months or even years to get out of, depending on your knowledge and determination towards bodybuilding. The good news is that it's breakable and even avoidable with the help of the periodization method.

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Sample Periodization Method Workout Routine

First 4-8 Weeks:

The Next 1-2 Weeks, Alteration Phase:

    What is an alteration phase, also called transition phase? Basically, it's a duration in which you give your body a little bit of time to recuperate from the tremendous amount of stress you have just undergone during the heavy phase. During this phase, focus on cardio, abs and flexibility while stimulating each muscle group only once a week lightly.

    Cardio includes treadmill, sprinting, running the stairs, jump rope and/or plyometrics. This phase will help you fully recover so you are ready for the next level of this method.

The Next 4 Weeks, Light Period:

Increasing Workout Effectiveness
How Can Periodization Be Used To Increase The Effectiveness Of One's Workouts? Be Specific.

By using this method, one has the ability to prevent staleness from workouts. Instead of a normal training routine, the periodization method is dynamic. Therefore, the body will never know what's coming. If the body can anticipate your next move, chances are that you're not going to grow much muscle mass or even strength for that matter. The body prefers to stay the way it is, but YOU want to grow in muscle mass. To do so, you must incorporate the periodization method into your routine.

never know
Click Image To Enlarge.
The Body Will Never Know What's Coming.

Can I prove this? Well, remember the time when you first started lifting weights. Your muscles virtually exploded and everybody started complementing you on your improved physique. Then about 3-or-4 months later, you start to notice that you haven't gained mass or strength as fast as you use to.

After another three or four months, you start to notice absolutely no increase in mass or strength. This is called a plateau. The reason why plateaus occur is because the body can already guess what you're going to do in the gym. It knows that you are going to flat bench press 185 pounds for 5 reps or deadlift 225 pounds for 6 reps and thus refuses to change.

In order to beat this, you must have a more dynamic routine. You need a non-linear routine that will give you a sudden jolt to your body. The periodization method is a progressive routine that will always keep your body guessing.

What Are The Benefits To Periodization?

Some of the benefits of periodization include:

  • Rapid Increase in both strength and muscle mass
  • Gives you a vivid outline of what you should be doing everyday, every week and every month in the gym
  • Maximize muscle gains in minimum time
  • Increased recovery potential
  • Prevent overtraining
  • Increase raw power
  • Combines goals of strength training as well as maximum hypotrophy all-in-one

Periodization training is a very progressive method that will give you maximum results in a minimum amount of time. Unlike linear routines, this method is actually really fun and exciting. You will never get bored of your workouts and you will prevent plateaus from occurring.

Click Image To Enlarge.
You Will Never Get Bored.

By following this method, you will never have to worry about changing your routine every three months or so because it is all outlined for you already. You never have to worry about additional strength training because it is all included in your workout regiment.

Periodization can indirectly prevent overtraining. Think about it, if you have a clear outline of what you're suppose to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, you'll always give your muscles enough recovery time to prevent overtraining (providing that you have drawn up a good routine).

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By pre-planning your workouts, you'll save lots of time in the gym. You'll walk out of the gym happy knowing that you have done the best that you could and all you have to do now is rest.

We want the best of everything don't we? We want strength, mass, endurance, power ... However, each of those qualities requires different training methods. For instance, if I wanted mass I would have to train for maximum hypotrophy.

If I wanted strength, I would have to train higher repetitions with lower reps. If I wanted power, I would have to perform power moves such as power cleans. Each of these requires a separate training method. However, the periodization method includes all these aspects and synchronizes it into perfect harmony.

Click Image To Enlarge.
Power Clean.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

What Are Some Of The Downfalls?

Like every workout routine, there are a few downfalls. The main downfall of this training method is that when you start to develop maximum hypotrophy, your strength and endurance will start to descend. When you start to increase stamina, your max strength will start to decrease. If your strength goes up, hypotrophy will start to go down. I think you get the picture.

Another bad thing about periodization is that it might not work for everybody. Everybody has a unique body type so there's no perfect training regimen for everybody. However, if you have not tried the periodization method yet, I strongly recommend you do. Some people might benefit from a linear routine but many others will benefit more from using the periodization method.

The pros far outweigh the cons


The periodization method is a progressive training method that allows athletes and bodybuilders to improve all areas of training, from speed to mass. It is the perfect method that focuses on building the fast-twitch muscles fibers and the often neglected slow-twitch muscle fibers.

It gives you a clear outline for what you should be doing in the gym everyday and thus prevents both overtraining as well as boredom. By changing up your routine constantly with the periodization method, your body will be in constant shock, never anticipating on your next move and therefore allowing you to build more muscle mass than you thought possible.

In my opinion, using the periodization method with good nutrition and adequate sleep will give you fantastic results.

Thank you for reading my article. Contact me at forum if you have any questions. Blink41

Good luck to everybody!

2nd Place - Mtguy8787
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What Is The Periodization Method?

Periodization is the process of splitting the training process into set blocks of time. In other words, it is simply pre-planned change in the training schedule. The blocks of time vary anywhere from two weeks, to a few months, all the way up to a year.

Each block can vary from the others in terms of intensity, volume, frequency and training methods. Each periodization cycle can be further broken down into blocks consisting of a few days, all with the same purpose i.e. muscular endurance.

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    "Periodization is an important concept to any workout program. You can't always be working towards the same goal because your body needs time to both recover from training a certain aspect after so long and your mind needs a change of pace in order to keep you motivated to keep going."
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Each of these blocks is designed to elicit a specific adaptation from the body. For example, the first cycle may focus on building strength and lean mass. The next may focus on muscular endurance, while another may focus on building power and speed needed for a particular sport. Periodization is especially useful when training athletes who require improvement in many different aspects of fitness.

Increasing Workout Effectiveness
How Can Periodization Be Used To Increase The Effectiveness Of One's Workout?

There are many cases in which periodizing a workout schedule can prove useful. An athlete who requires fitness in several areas besides pure strength can benefit from periodization. Someone simply looking to get into great all-around shape for summertime next year would benefit from a periodized plan. A bodybuilder who just want to add some variety to prevent stagnation and boredom could also benefit.

football beach variety
Click Image To Enlarge.
Periodization Is Useful For Many Cases.

Periodizing for sports training typically involves several longer cycles during the beginning. These cycles focus on the areas in which the athlete needs to improve. This could be strength, size, endurance, speed or flexibility. When the season of competition, whether it be a team sport, or an individual sport like bodybuilding, the training shifts to a fine-tuning stage.

Several weeks before the peaking point, the athlete will generally touch up on all the areas of their fitness with high intensity workouts. After this, the intensity of the workouts will usually be tapered down to give the athlete time to recover and achieve top condition.

Getting Into Peak Shape
How An Athlete Might Use Periodization To Get Into Peak Shape For Competition

Periodization is useful for athletes to improve in many areas and to peak at a certain time of the year. An athlete involved in a sport such as wrestling has much different fitness requirements than a bodybuilder simply looking to put on sheer mass.

A wrestler needs muscular strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance. Flexibility is important as well. Such an athlete as this would greatly be able to benefit from a periodized plan.

A program starting 16 weeks before a wrestling season would incorporate strength training, endurance training, cardiovascular conditioning and flexibility training.

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Muscular Strength and Bulk:

    The first several weeks would be devoted entirely to building strength and a desired level of muscular mass. During this cycle, high-intensity/low-volume workouts would be the weapon of choice.

Muscular & Cardiovascular Endurance:

    Another cycle, lasting 3-6 weeks would focus entirely on muscular and cardiovascular endurance. During this cycle, the athlete would focus on lower intensity and very high volume workouts. Workouts would alternate between weight training sessions and cardiovascular workouts done in a sport specific fashion, i.e. running and sprints for soccer or floor based exercises for wrestling. Flexibility training could also be included in this cycle.

Speed and Power:

    The athlete may want to build speed and power in addition to his muscular strength. This type of training will focus on high intensity, lower volume workouts. Methods such as ballistic lifting, sprints, plyometrics, and speed drills will be used. A block of time, several weeks long, may be devoted specifically.

Fine Tuning & Tapering Off:

    In the few weeks before competition starts, workouts will be ultra intense and brief. The athlete will touch up on all the areas of previous training in order maximize performance. Extra training specific to the sport or activity will also be touched upon.

    For a wrestler, this may be neck strength or hand strength. For a bodybuilder this may involve getting extra lean and improving vascularity. After this, athletes will spend 1-2 weeks doing active recovery training such as low-intensity cardio exercises or flexibility training. This tapering down will help their body to be fully recovered for the beginning of competition.

    For an athlete who's competition begins in the winter season, the periodization may look like this.

    • June 1st - July 15th: High intensity weight training to build strength and muscle mass.
    • July 16th - August 30th: Low-moderate intensity, high volume training to build muscular endurance.
    • September 1st - 15th: High intensity, short duration workouts to build speed and power.
    • September 16th - 30th: A short cycle of heavy weight training to maximize strength.
    • October 1st - 15th: A brief cycle to touch up on muscular endurance.
    • October 16th - 23rd: High intensity conditioning and fine tuning to prepare for competition.
    • October 24th - Nov 1st: Period of active recovery just before competition starts.

Periodization can also be useful when there is only a single goal such as building size & strength.

In the realm of bodybuilding, there are many different style of workouts, all which have their benefits and drawbacks. People use a variety of approaches such as high volume training, high intensity training, static training, and many others. For a bodybuilder looking to maximize results and prevent stagnation and boredom, periodization offers a practical solution.

I personally like to alternate my training style every 2-3 weeks. This works well for me, as I get bored of the same training routine rather quickly. For a few weeks, I may choose to do high volume, moderate intensity workouts. I also do cycles of HIIT training and occasionally a cycle which focuses on muscular endurance and conditioning.

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Sometimes I will focus exclusively on heavy eccentric training or strong range partials. This has worked very well for me in the past. Periodized workouts can be custom fitted to each persons specific needs and preferences.

The Benefits Of Periodization

  1. Periodizing one's training can be used to focus on several aspects of fitness, such as in the case of an athlete. By focusing specifically on a particular aspect of fitness, rather than trying to focus on several at once, results can be greatly improved.

  2. Focus
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Periodization Can Build Focus.

  3. Periodization can help to prevent stagnation, boredom, and overtraining. Some people, such as myself, tire of a single workout routine quickly. Pre-planning workout routines adds variety which can help to maximize results. It can also help to prevent overtraining.

    Many people who follow the same routine endlessly fail to give their body enough time to recover. The result of this is plateaus, and even negative strength gains. Occasionally varying intensity and volume levels can help to prevent this.

Have You Ever Had To Break A Plateau?


In general, periodization works best when there are several fitness goals, rather than just one. Periodizing allows one to focus on, and tackle, each goal one at a time. Specifically focusing on one goal at a time will yield better results than trying to accomplish several at once. Imagine trying to build strength, size, endurance and flexibility all at once. They are all different, and require different training methods to improve.

The Down Sides Of Periodization

  1. Not ideal for someone who wants to spend as little time as possible in the gym. For someone who wants to get maximum results with the least amount of time, high intensity training, done 3 times or so per week may be the best option. Some people may not have the time to periodize their routine with high volume, long duration workouts.

  2. Periodization may not be at all necessary; many people get fantastic results without ever changing their training style. Many people who are simply looking to build lean mass and strength get great results with a single type of training. I know people who have used the exact same routine for years, and have made amazing gains. The only change in their workout was the amount of weight used.

    So if you are someone who enjoys their current routine, but thinks they must change to get better results, that may not be the case. You may simply need to allow your body to recover, or you may need to just use heavier weights.

    I have seen many cases where a person ran into a plateau and tried to break through by frequently 'switching it up.' They liked their old routine best, but it had suddenly stopped working. However, they did not get any better results, because the problem was not in their workout. They were simply overtrained. Once they allowed their body to recover, they began making steady gains again.


Periodization can be a useful method of approaching a workout routine. It is especially useful when there are many fitness goals to achieve, such as with an athlete. Dividing the workout up into many parts allows one to focus on each specific goal, one at a time.

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Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that periodized workouts are 'the only way' or 'the best' way to go. Periodization is simply one of many methods of designing a workout routine. In regards to strength and muscle gains, remember that all effective routines still fall back onto the same core fundamentals. Changing your routine every so often can yield great results, but so can using the same program for years at a time.

If you enjoy variety and get bored easily, then changing your routine regularly may be beneficial for you. But if you enjoy your current program, do not be fooled into thinking that you must absolutely change it in order to continue making gains. Remember that all programs, at their core, work the exact same way.

Have You Ever Used Periodization To Design A Workout Routine?

No, But I Will.

Good Luck Training!

Referenced Materials

  1. ACSM's resource manual for guidelines for exercise testing and prescription.
  2. The Periodization Bible
  3. Periodization Principles