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Periodization Training Program
Periodization refers to the planned manipulation of training volume and intensity throughout a series of specific training phases or cycles. Periodization is an application of the principles of progressive training - you vary your repetitions, sets, weight and intensity during each cycle - and is a method used to make continual improvements in performance throughout the year, thus avoiding reaching plateaux. If you follow the same workout for any length of time, the body soon adapts to the constant load and your gains diminish. However, by structuring your long-term training goals in a number of training cycles, you will be able to make gains in strength, mass and definition all year round, and will also avoid overtraining and injuries.
Proof that periodization works better than sticking to the same routine week after week comes from a study at Apalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and the USA Weightlifting Development Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. The experienced weight trainers who followed a periodized program made significant improvements in strength (as measured by their 1RM (one-rep max) for the squat), whereas those who followed a standard program did not show any improvement.
A periodization programme is divided into a number of distinct cycles. The longest cycle is called a macrocycle and usually spans a period of one year, although shorter macrocycles can be used - for example, two macrocycles per year are used in a double periodization program. This would suit those who cannot commit themselves to a year-round program or those who want greater variety in their training.
The year is then broken down into 2-6 shorter training cycles (mesocycles), each spanning several weeks. Each mesocycle emphasises a particular training goal (e.g. muscle size or muscular endurance) and involves a gradual increase in training intensity. The aim is to peak at the end of your mesocycle. For strength trainers, this may be gauged by the amount of weight that can be lifted.
Each mesocycle is then followed by a short period (1-2 weeks) of relative rest, which is important to allow your body to recover and recuperate before beginning the next mesocycle. Provided this rest phase lasts no longer than four weeks, you will not experience a detraining effect (see also here). During this time, you should do only very light training, or a completely different activity such as golf or recreational swimming that does not tax your energy systems or central nervous system in the same way.
Each mesocycle is then divided into weeklong microcycles, around which you plan your day-to-day workouts.
There are many variations on periodization program, dependent on your goals, training experience and lifestyle. The example programs given below may be used as a basis for designing your own program. You may commence training at any time during the year - simply change the month headings. Also you may change the timing of the rest periods to fit around holidays and other lifestyle commitments. The important point is to follow the mesocycles in the given order, and to gradually increase your training intensity within each mesocycle.
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