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Trying to simplify periodization

The word periodization gets thrown around a lot. For some, it means a long structed plan (could be anywhere from 12 weeks to a year in duration) and for others it may be something shorter (5-8 weeks).

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the term periodization, and people tend to generally overthink it and make it harder than it is. To get rid of the confusion, we will simply define periodization as changing variables.

I think for certain populations, there may be a need for a long(er), drawn out and structured programs (mainly the population I am referring to here are athletes getting ready for a competitive season or one specific event). However, for the general population we can make things much easier. I typically look at a program for the general population in short 4-6 week blocks of training.

Without getting facy and throwing around whole bunch of nonsense, lets just put together a simple day of training and walk through an easy 4 week phase of training where we will be altering variables each week (periodizing).

1) Squat- 225/10RM
2) bench press- 185/10RM
3) Chin up- BW + 15/10RM

To make things more "life-like" I have added some hypothetical 10 rep maxes so that we can show progressions.

Now, onto our 4 week block of training. Before plugging everything in, lets establish some sort of direction for our program. Below, I have listed out each of the weeks of training and possible increases that we can make:

Week 1- base week
Week 2- increase either volume or intensity by 2.5-5%
Week 3- increase again either volume or intensity by 2.5-5%
Week 4- increase by 2.5-5%
WEek 5- decrease volume or intensity by 5-10%

Okay, now lets apply this to the squat listed above and see how it will work out:

For the base week, lets start by doing 3 sets of 10 with a 12 rep maximum. To get our 12 rep maximum, we calculate our 1RM from our 10RM (~75% of our 1RM):

225/75% = 300lb 1RM

Then, we take our preceived 1RM and calculate our 12RM (~70% of our 1RM):

300 x 70%= 210lb 12RM

Week 1- Base week- 210/3 sets x 10 repetitions
Week 2- increase intensity by 5%= 220/3 sets x 10 reps
Week 3- increase volume by adding 2 reps(5%) to each set- 220/3 sets x 12 reps
Week 4- increase intensity by 5%- 230/3 sets x 10 reps OR work up to a new 10RM.
Week 5- decrease volume by removing 2 reps from each set, but keep intensity- 230/3x8
Week 6- lots of options here. You could go with your new 10RM, recalculate and then move on from there or you can start your new training cycle with a higher intensity (8 reps) and work up from there over 4 weeks (linear periodization).


Now, how can we simplify periodization even more? What if that was a bit much for you. Some people don't want to sit there and calculate all that stuff out before their workout. They want to keep it even easier.

To make it even easier, just choose a rep zone (12-15, 8-10, 3-6) and work within that zone by increasing one of the variables listed above (sets or reps). Lets take our 225lb 10 rep squat and use it in an example again:

Rep zone = 8-10; 225 = 10RM
Week 1- 225/3 sets x 8 reps
Week 2- 225/4 sets x 8 reps (added a set)
Week 3- 225/3 sets x 10 reps (added reps tp each set, but lower the set number)
Week 4- 225/4 sets x 10 reps (increased the set back up to 4)
etc...

So, even if all we did was track our load/sets x reps, we can gauge how we are progressing. This information is important in helping us know what we need to do to continually make improvements towards our goals.

Hopefully this info will give everyone something to consider when preparing their next phase of training. Hopefully this info will give trainers something to consider when looking at their clients programs and figuring out where to go next.

More later!

Patrick