Making a Plan pt. 2 - Demystifying Periodization

In part 1 of this series we discussed progressive overload. It is one of the key principles towards attaining your goals. To make the most of progressive overload it is important to understand periodization. However, right now that word probably makes as much sense to you as all those creepy clowns walking around.



Periodization is simply a method or variety of methods we may use to organize our training. Whether you are planning for the year, the month, or even the week you are using some form of this. 

One common method of periodization is the block method. This method will organize training according to qualities trying to achieve. An example would be where you spend 4 weeks focusing on hypertrophy, the next 4 weeks focusing on strength, and the final 4 weeks focusing on power.

Another common method is linear where you may do a 12 week program, and in week 1 you do 12 reps, week 2 you do 11 reps and so on and so forth until you get to week 12 where you’d maybe do 1 rep.

Suffice to say, I won't go into much more detail, unless you're looking for that mid afternoon nap. While these two methods are the most common, it really doesn’t matter what method you use for periodization. Rather it’s more crucial to understand why periodization is important and in further posts we will discuss how to use it.

As we learned in the first installment, progressive overload is crucial for our bodies to change and grow. However, our bodies are smarter than we may realize. They adapt. Simply pushing our body the same way all the time, every time is not going to work.

Honestly, there is no formulaic way to know when our bodies will plateau and how long the plateau may last. Everyone is different. The thing is we want to make sure we are proactive as opposed to reactive. This is where periodization enters the equation. It helps us formulate our training in a manner to make sure our bodies don’t reach a point of plateau for a long time.

Through manipulating variables in an organized manner like; deloads, rest, volume, frequency, intensity and etc, we can constantly seek to improve through our training.

More on all this later.


Making a Plan pt. 1 - Understanding Progressive Overload

Pertaining to health and fitness, figuring out what we're supposed to do can be one of the most daunting ventures of our lives.

Take a look at nutrition. Depending on where we go for advice we'll see an expert say carbohydrates are the devil. Next thing you know a study gets released that tells us we need carbohydrates. Pretty soon someone will probably say; the only way to optimize your digestion is by eating while doing a hand stand.

All this to say; I'm not even going to touch the nutrition aspect. Rather, we will spend some time exploring programming design. I simply can't state the importance of having a program in place. As the old adage goes, "Failing to plan, is planning to fail".

The first thing we will discuss is the cornerstone principle of progressive overload.

Progressive overload simply states something needs to change so that our body can keep growing. Many of us do this intuitively without even realizing it. For example, when weight feels easy we make it heavier.

Progressive overload, as a principle, should be one of our key focal points for our training. However, because it is a principle, there are also a variety of methods we can use to implement it. This is important because we do not want to stick to only one method of implementation, otherwise our training will stagnate and we will cease to adapt.

Below are three of the more popular methods for implementing progressive overload.

1.    Increase the weight

2.    Increase the range of motion (think of doing a step-up on a higher box)

3.    Decrease the amount of rest between exercises

There are way more methods than just these three. Renowned trainer, Bret Contreras has a book dedicated to 10 methods of progressive overload. This vast sum of methods is why having a solid understanding of programming is crucial. If we can understand the basics of programming and how it revolves around the principle of progressive overload, we can figure out how we can manipulate our training to ensure we are always improving, and for lack of a better word, progressing.

Throughout this series we will talk about: periodization, weekly layouts, volume/intensity/frequency, progressions/regressions, and even how deloads and recovery come into play. All with the purpose of helping us achieve our goals and using progressive overload to work for us.

- Dave