What is periodization?

Brandon Hahn April 16, 2013 Training Articles
What is periodization?

You want to grow, right? Who doesn’t! Bodybuilding is a world like no other. Mass appeals to us, and it’s the reason we down meal after meal. Someone who is built like a tank obviously has done their homework on how to get big and strong. The road to gaining strength is quite complex, so do not be fooled into thinking it’s simply about piling on plates. When focusing on gaining strength, it is a must to get directions to reach the right destination. Without proper planning comes failure.

What is periodization?

Periodization is the breakdown of a progressive workout program within a specified period of time. It is most often designed by a yearly basis and broken down from there. No matter the sport, the plan begins with a macrocycle. This is generally the span of one year. Athletes break their macrocycles into three main phases; pre-season, in-season, and off-season, and each are considered a mesocycle. These can obviously be broken down even further and have varying names. The key is that there is a different focus in each phase of training. The intensity of training is going to be heavy during the pre- and off- season phases. In-season this would be drastically reduced to ensure the athlete is not too fatigued or limited in recovery for upcoming events.

Macrocycle is the outer shell of the periodization setup. Within a macrocycle comes a mesocycle, which was somewhat described above. The mesocycle needs to be developed properly to ensure that the phase covers all specific goals. The athlete should be fully ready to transition into the next mesocycle. The mesocycle does not need to be a full three to four months of training progression. This is where the microcycle comes into play. A few microcycles will make up one mesocycle. Each microcycle is where the detail of each portion is defined. Sets, reps, rest, intensity, etc., are all defined in each microcycle.

How do I design a periodization chart?

It is best to break down each year rather than multiple years. This allows you to move directly to your mesocycles. Within your mesocycles you need to determine where you intend to peak, and how long that peak must be sustained. An athlete would want to reach their peak just prior to their season, and then maintain throughout the season. From that point, you can move toward your microcycles. Everyone should focus on bettering themselves during the off-season. This is not the time to simply maintain. Focus on building up your training. You should not be aiming on hitting your a new PR (Personal Record) two weeks after the season is over. The goal is to transition to the off-season, and then begin to build.

Example periodization chart for a bodybuilder

Off-Season Mesocycle (6-8 Months)
The focus here depends on your weak areas. Be sure to focus on improving these areas.

Competition Mesocycle (3-5 Months)
The focus here is to maintain as much muscle as possible while getting absolutely shredded.

Transition Mesocycle (1-2 Months)
The focus here is to slowly transition your diet and training prior to the off-season mesocycle. This will be the shortest mesocycle, especially for bodybuilders.

Does this guarantee strength?

When it comes to exercise, it’s hard to offer a guarantee without someone offering a return on your investment. The key is to make sure you keep a solid progression toward whatever your goal(s) may be. Bodybuilders have a big focus on size, which makes their training styles more hypertrophy specific. Powerlifters are generally massive, but their goal is strength. They prefer the most strength gains in the shortest period of time. Powerlifters rarely train to failure, and bodybuilders often train to failure. It is best to find what works best for your body. A lot of people find that a hybrid works best.

Your microcycles allow you to create various hybrids and transitions. One micorcycle can be purely focused on strength gains. The next can move toward hypertrophy. The rest can cycle back and forth. You can even setup training to have the first part of each week geared towards strength. The second portion is geared towards hypertrophy. Unfortunately, an example is hard to develop, as there are so many details that relate to each specific person. If you have any questions on setting up a periodization chart, please email me at [email protected].

About The Author

Brandon has been in the fitness industry for over seven years and has trained over 1,000 clients. He has competed in several bodybuilding competitions and continues to improve his physique with hardwork and dedication. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, Brandon has the knowledge and skills to get you on the fast track to fitness.