What periodization is

What periodization is

Before I critically examine the three most common types of periodization, the term “periodization” should first be clarified. Simply, it is the systematic variation of training. This variation does not necessarily happen by changing the repetition numbers or the amount of sets. Other possibilities for a periodization can be to vary the training volume, the exercise choice, the repetition cadence (= duration of the individual movement phases of repetition, i.e. eccentric, stretch, concentric and peak contraction), rest time, the exercise form (cheat curl, half reps, perfect form or different angle) or the training intensity. Do not let the term “intensity” confuse you. This does not mean the perceived intensity or how hard you struggle during the exercise or even the use of intensity techniques. Intensity stands for the amount of training weight used. A heavy weight means a high intensity, a light weight means a low intensity. Usually, intensity is stated as a percentage of a “one repetition maximum” or “1-rep-max”, the highest possible weight for a single repetition. With all these variations, the possibilities for designing the periodization cycles seem almost unlimited.
 

Fig. 1: The classical periodization cycles by repetition range, cadence and form.
  Endurance Hypertrophy Strength
Number of reps 15-50 8-12 1-6
Rest between sets 90 sec. – 2 min. 45-90 sec. 3-5 min.
Form Auxotonic or isotonic Isotonic Auxotonic
Speed Slow to fast and jerk-free Slow and jerk-free Explosive, fast and jerk-free
Definition:

 

Auxotonic = Muscle contraction, where shortening of the muscle is accompanied by an increase in tension. Usually with short breaks at the end of the range of motion or a hold for the peak contraction.

Isotonic = Uniform contraction of the muscle with constant and uniform tension.

 

In the classical sense, however, periodization revolves around a main criteria, the number of repetitions and the execution of the movement. Here one differentiates between strength endurance, trained by many repetitions with rather light weight, hypertrophy in the medium repetition range, as well as maximum strength training with only very few repetitions (figure 1).

 

The reason for this differentiation is that there are anatomically and physiologically different muscle fiber types:

  • The bright (white) muscle fiber type – (fast twitch or FT fiber) can contract quickly and vigorously, but it also tires quickly.
  • The dark (red) muscle fiber type (slow twitch or ST fiber) reacts more slowly, but has longer contraction times and fatigues much slower.
  • The third type of fiber, the intermediate type (FTO), appears to be located between light and dark muscle fibers. Apparently, this type can be influenced by targeted training in one way or another. But there are not too many scientific papers available yet.

This fact should be taken into account when planning your training routine. For this purpose, fast, explosive movements for the FT fibers should be incorporated into your training. The ST fibers, on the other hand, respond to more and higher repetition rates with slower movement speeds. There are also differences in the metabolism of the individual fiber types. While the FT fibers are mainly designed for the anaerobic supply of energy due to the high portion of high-energy phosphates (ATP, Creatine-Phosphate), glycogen and the corresponding enzymes, the ST fibers have predominantly enzymes for aerobic energy generation in addition to large amounts of glycogen. The ST fibers and FT fibers are innervated by rapidly conducting neuronal pathways.

The presented classifications allow for simple periodization concepts. I would like to go in more detail in the following sections. There are, roughly speaking, three different periodization models:

  • Linear periodization model
  • Non-linear periodization model
  • Conjugated model without periodization

The central distinguishing criteria for them is the length of each individual cycle. In linear periodization, they last the longest and are tracked for several weeks, while in the conjugate model they are replaced in favor of a holistic training that considers all aspects of a training session. Non-linear periodization is an intermediate form with shorter cycles up to daily undulating training sessions.

 

Conventional linear periodization