The search for the best training program is never ending. Everyone wants to reach their fitness goal in the shortest amount of time possible. Whether that goal is to gain muscle, strength, or just get into better shape.
Whatever your goal may be, it is always good to have a plan of attack but with all of the different opinions and myths about training out there today it can be hard to develop that plan.
When you really sit down and think about it, it makes the most sense to go with training methods that are proven and have the data to back up their claims.
The one sure-fire way to ensure quality and consistent gains is to have a goal, develop a plan to reach that goal, and track your progress.
A lot of people get caught up in doing the latest & greatest program just because it’s popular and their favorite muscle magazine told them to do it. I was once one of these people trying everything I saw in magazines. Most of the time these programs are not backed by any research and there has been no specific data to suggest that they are superior to any other training method. This is not to say they’re not good workouts or programs, just that they are not proven to work.
In comes periodization. An example of a non-periodized hypertrophy program would be a workout that prescribes 10 repetitions for each exercise of each set throughout the workout. If this repetition range is repeated day to day for each lift for an extended period of time, it is a non-periodized program.
Periodization is a training method that has been extensively researched by Dr. Mike Zourdos. He defines periodization as “Varying training variables, such as volume and intensity, over the course of time”.
A non-periodized program is not the best way to progress towards your goals. As you may guess, it will be hard to make optimal gains when you are always completing the same number of reps.
Although there are many different ways to periodize a workout program, for today we are going to discuss Linear Periodization.
To organize a linear periodized program would be to split the program up into separate blocks, or meso-cycles, of a certain amount of time with each block focusing on achieving a different goal. For this example we will use a 12 week program, separating the 12 weeks into 3 meso-cycles, each consisting of 4 weeks.
Meso-cylce one will be characterized by sets of 10 - 12, focusing on muscle hypertrophy.
Meso-cycle two will be sets of 6 focusing on strength.
Meso-cycle three focusing on power, consisting of sets of 6 as well.
The amount of weight to be used can be determined from taking a percentage of your one rep max and then varying that percentage as you progress through your program.
Block 1 will use 65% - 70% of your 1RM focusing on muscle hypertrophy and really squeezing the weight.
Block 2 will use 75% - 85% of your 1RM focusing mainly on pushing heavy weight with the goal of increasing your strength.
Block 3 will use 55% - 60% of your 1RM with the majority of your focus on moving a moderate amount of weight as quickly as you can thus generating your maximum explosive power during the lift.
When you have completed your program, you can retest your 1 rep maxes and apply the appropriate percentage to each meso-cycle to reach your new goals. If your program has been a success, you will find that you are using more weight at the same percentages as you used last time due to the fact that your 1RM is higher. As always, accessory lifts such as dumbbell curls, flys, lateral dumbbell raises, ETC can be added in to your routine to supplement your main lifts. (Zourdos 2014)
The Linear periodization described is a very basic way to add some structure into your lifting schedule and allow you to easily track your progress, though we are just scratching the surface of periodization.
Through research, it has been proven that this linear periodization approach yields better results than a non-periodized approach. Is there perhaps a better approach than linear periodization? More on this in the next paper in the Periodization Series!
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Zourdos, Michael C. "Optimizing Periodization and Program Design Muscle Performance Adaptations." (2014): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.