Understanding Periodization and Why You Need It

At Styrka, all of our programs—both Group Training and 1-on-1 Online Coaching—use periodization to manage fatigue and keep your progress planned and structured. Periodization isn't a magic trick, and there are many ways to go about it. Strictly speaking, it's not even necessary to make progress; conceivably, you could go to the gym three to five times a week, do fairly random workouts, and still make progress.

The obvious problem with such an approach is that you're essentially leaving your progress to chance. Maybe those random workouts, scattered rest days, and unplanned intensity will pay off; but there's a very good chance you'll shortchange yourself and fail to make anywhere near the progress you could with a more structured program. 

How it works

Periodization has a few aims:

  • Your work and rest days are planned ahead of time. This means that you don't train based on how you feel. Now, sure, you can take an unplanned rest day if you're sick, have a family emergency, etc. But otherwise, you train. You may or may not have the best day ever in the gym, but that's okay; oftentimes, you'll think you're "too tired" or "too sore" to train and surprise yourself at how good you feel and how well you perform. This is designed to keep pushing you so that you get accustomed to training outside of your comfort zone. Progress isn't easy, and learning how to grind is essential for your long-term success.
  • Your intensity is carefully managed. You may have read stories in the news about people who got "rhabdo," also known as rhabdomyolysis, which is a dangerous medical condition brought on by extreme overtraining. When you do long, high-intensity workouts before your body is ready for them or you think you have to go all-out all the time, you're setting yourself up for failure—even if you're not unlucky enough to get rhabdo. With a periodized program, your intensity fluctuates throughout the week, month, and larger (e.g., 3-month) "blocks" of training. Earlier workouts may be higher volume but relatively low intensity to reinforce motor patterns. Mid-cycle may be lower volume, but with increased loads; toward the peak of the cycle, volume is increased again and matched with the heavier loads. This prevents overtraining and allows you to focus on 
  • Your progress isn't an accident. In a periodized program, you don't just add heavier weights or increase the volume when you feel like it, and hope for the best; instead, every increment of progress is carefully planned and measured. If something isn't working, we can identify the problem and address it before it stalls your progress entirely. 

Periodization is essential to making optimal progress regardless of whether you're training in Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Hypertrophy, or Hybrid Training. If you're a member at Styrka, you take take advantage of our periodized programs with Group Programming, which we offer free of charge; for a customized program and daily feedback from a trainer, we also offer 1-on-1 online coaching.