Author: Alex Meiliunas (Ba.Sc Human Movement Maj. Ex Physiology)
Periodization refers to the term used by trainers and coaches to describe the breaking up of a training program in to a number of cycles or periods. Studies have demonstrated that using different set, rep and resistance schemes over the course of weeks, months or an entire year results in greater gains than using the same routine repeatedly, workout after workout.

All elite athletes use this system in their training but it can be used very effectively in general resistance and cardio training programs. It is basically setting out a strategic plan for your training year. An in the words of the periodization guru; Tudor Bompa “In training nothing happens by accident, rather by design.”

There are five basic periods in the system. These can be repeated a number of times in the year, but the aim is to peak during the maintenance phase. For example a swimmer may have two major meets during the course of a year say National titles in summer and then the FINA World Championships in winter. The swimmer wants to be in peak strength and performance for both of the events so the cycle may be repeated twice. The Periods are:

General Conditioning: in this phase the idea is to ready your body for the coming program a lot of general body exercise, stretching and “mass muscle” exercise should be included. Focus on joint stability/strength and flexibility is also important.

Strength: This is where exercise starts to get more specific to the goals of the training program. The volume is lower than that of the previous cycle but the intensity is higher.

Power: Exercise should be sport or goal specific. Volume should be low and intensity should be very high (almost maximum). If training for a sport the exercises should be close to “game speed”.

Maintenance: Here is where the plateau is reached and the body has peaked, or the event is soon. Here weight and volume should me moderate. Some cross training could occur to help prevent stress and injury.

Active Recovery: Is where there is new exercise introduced and cross training is recommend here the goal is to take a break through staying active.

There are also a number of training models, used to dictate the weight and vo
olume during the cycle.
Linear: Volume (reps x sets) remains constant during training period. Intensity increases with load progression.

Random Variation: Volume and/or intensity change randomly, with no consideration other than to introduce variation into the program.

Traditional: Volume and intensity are systematically manipulated. Training cycle begins with a high-volume, low-intensity profile, then progresses to low volume, high intensity over time.

Step wise: Like the traditional model, intensity increases and volume decreases during the training period. Volume is decreased during the training period. Volume is decreased in a stepwise fashion: Repetitions are reduced from eight to five, five to three, and so forth, at specific time intervals.

Undulating: Training volume and intensity increase and decrease on a regular basis: but they do not follow the traditional pattern of increasing intensity and decreasing volume as the mesocycle progresses (Fleck 1999).

Overreaching: Volume or intensity is increased for a short period of time (one to two weeks), followed by a return to "normal" training. This method is use primarily with advanced strength trained athletes.

In its most basic form it can be summarized in the following table:
General Conditioning Strength Power Maintenance Active Recovery
Sets 2-3 2-3 2-3 1-2
Reps 8-12 6-8 3-5 6-10 10-12
Intensity Moderate High Very High Moderate Low
“Remember to train smarter and more efficiently rather than longer”

Fleck, S. J. (1999). Periodized strength training: A critical review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13, 82-89.

Tudor O. Bompa (1999) Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training (4th Edition). Human Kinetics,.