We have all either been or seen a person on a treadmill doing the same routine over and over again for 6 months or a year and as they step off that treadmill they comment that nothing has changed. They have been working very hard at trying to lose weight and they are stuck. There must be something wrong with them. The reality is there is nothing wrong with them but something wrong with their workout routine and therefore they have reached a plateau.
When we learn, our brains have the amazing capacity to remember things after repeated exposure. Well, our bodies are not much different. After doing the same exercise routine over and over, our bodies have muscle memory and we adapt to the exercise and therefore reach a plateau. So although we may be putting in the same amount of energy in our workouts, we are not getting the maximum benefit for our efforts.
Periodization is a methodical approach to training that involves progressive cycling of a training program during a specified time period. Periodization has been in practice since the 1950’s.
Because the body adapts to training, exercise programs needs to change in order for growth to continue. It was found that this happens in three different stages. The first phase is characterized as the alarm phase and is the introduction of the resistance training. This phase generates muscle soreness and stiffness, which results in shocking of the muscles. The second phase is the resistance phase where the body adapts to the exercise and becomes stronger. The third phase is the exhaustion phase that is characterized by fatigue that is caused by training too hard or too long without sufficient recovery time. To avoid exhaustion, there needs to be a change in intensity to prevent this from happening.
There are three cycles of periodization, which are macrocycle, mesocycle, and microcycle. A macrocycle indicates a specified period of time that defines the time till competition or till reaching a certain goal. A mesocycle is around 4-8 weeks in duration and has a specific objective. The microcycle is the shortest training cycle that is about 7-10 days and is detailed on the intensity, frequency, duration and sequence of training sessions.
The best laid out time frame for a periodization program is roughly 90 days which is considered a macrocycle. Every 4-5 weeks, the exercise routine will be changed. This time frame is what is referred to as the mesocycle. Within each week of the periodization program, known as the microcycle, the exercises will focus on specific muscle groups or training. So the exercise program is different for 5 to 6 days of the week and then for the next three to four weeks, the same weekly routine is done. The first couple weeks of the program your body is being introduced to the exercises and muscles will be shocked as there isn’t memory of this program. After four weeks, there should be a week break where light training is done so that the body goes into a state of recovery and is not overtrained.
The next 30 days area an introduction to a different routine where yet again, the muscles are awaken to a new program hence avoiding muscle memory and will continue to move toward your goal rather than plateau. Again, at the end of 30 days, a week of recovery of light training is warranted.
Lastly, the remaining 30 days of the program enters in another set of exercises not familiar to the body. After these 30 days, it is important for the body to fully recover after this full periodization program and to take a week off of full recovery where there is no exercise.
Periodization can benefit everyone. However, because of inherent differences in individuals, periodization is not a one size fits all program and can and should be tweaked for the specific person and their needs. It is a great way to continually progress forward to your goal and never hit that dreaded plateau.
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