The problem with weight training workouts is your body adapts to whatever strength challenge you give it, and you stop seeing results. That’s why you have to increase the weight when an exercise becomes less of a challenge or change the exercises you do to work the muscles in a different way. One way to do that is to use the principle of periodization for your strength training routine like we do in my STS strength training program.
Periodization simply means changing the style or intensity of your strength training workout at intervals to maximize the results you get. You can do this by changing the types of exercises, by altering the number of repetitions, the rest period between reps, the weight you’re using or the number of sets you do. You can also alter the speed with which you do a set.
Some people approach strength training with the goal of pushing themselves as hard as possible every time they lift. It’s true that muscles grow when they’re progressively overloaded, but maxing out every time you work out can lead to overtraining and injuries. With periodization, you can alternate high-intensity strength training sessions with lower intensity ones where you use lighter weights and do higher reps. It’s a way to maximize conditioning without overtraining.
There are a variety of benefits to periodizing your workout. It keeps your muscles “guessing”, so they’re less likely to adapt and lead to a strength training plateau. It also adds variety and reduces boredom. This helps to keep you motivated. It also reduces the risk of injury since you’re not maxing out every time you lift.
You can also periodize your cardiovascular workouts to reduce the risk of overtraining. If you work out on a treadmill, periodize by varying the speed, incline or length of your workout. If you always run for speed, you run the risk of an overuse injury, and your body will eventually become more efficient, and you’ll stop seeing results. With periodization, you can alternate high-intensity speed workouts with days that you leisurely jog or walk at an incline. You can also periodize by cycle between pieces of equipment, working out one day on the elliptical machine and another on the bicycle or treadmill.
When using my cardio workouts to prevent injuries I don’t recommend doing high intensity interval workouts more than twice per week. This is why you should also mix my steady state cardio or my low impact workouts with your high intensity workouts. Just one injury can wipe out months of hard work!
Does Periodization Give Better Results?
According to a study carried out at Ball State University, periodized strength training gives gains that are superior to traditional strength training. A group of 34 women who did a periodized strength training workout lost more body fat and had greater increases in strength than women who worked out in a non-periodized manner. That’s good news for people who like variety in their routine.
The Bottom Line?
Periodization is a technique you can use for strength or cardiovascular training. It’s a way to add variety to your workout and maximize gains while reducing the risk of overtraining. It’s also a good way to break out of a plateau.
ACE Fitness. “Periodized Training and Why It Is Important”
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33, 635-643.