Periodization: How to Get the Most From Your Training Program
Yesterday’s article described the 3 mechanisms involved in muscle growth.HERE
Today’s article is about how to incorporate all of these mechanisms into you’re your fitness program. It’s called Periodization.
Periodization is taking a long term fitness plan and splitting it into distinct time periods (cycles) to take advantage of all the mechanisms available to reach the long term goal. There are an infinite variety of ways to set up a periodization plan. But I’ll give you a couple of examples at the end.
The 3 mechanisms involved in growing muscle, whether for strength, aesthetics, fat loss or endurance are:
1. Muscle (or Mechanical) Tension
2. Breakdown of Muscle Tissue
3. Metabolic Stress
You want to take advantage of all 3 mechanisms. The problem is that all 3 require slightly different training methods.
Before we get into how to best train for all 3 mechanisms, I need to address one more point that becomes very relevant; Muscle fiber types. You see, the different types of muscle fibers also require different training methods. And it just so happens, those training methods are closely related to the methods for the 3 mechanisms.
I’ll make this brief. You can learn more about muscle fiber types at HEREl if you are interested.
There are several types of muscle fibers: Type I, Type II. Type IIa and Hybrid. But let keep this discussion to the main 2 types.
· Type I or “slow -twitch”- More efficient at continuous muscle contraction for a long time period before fatigue.
· Type II or “fast -twitch”- Generate short bursts of strength but fatigue quickly.
The main take-away I want you to understand is that all muscle is not alike. They have different purposes, require different methods of training and that no single muscle is made up of ALL fast -twitch fibers or ALL slow- twitch fibers!
There are one or two muscles with ratios of 90%/10% but most are more like 60%/40% on average.
So, if you are always training one way with the same set/rep scheme, even though you may be adding weight, you may be neglecting as much 60% of your muscle fibers!
Also think about this; if you get stronger you can do more weight for more reps for hypertrophy and thus burn more fat. If you get more muscle on your skinny frame you get stronger and lift more weight to build strength and still burn more fat.
So which mechanism goes with which muscle fiber type and which type of training and how do they work together?
Muscle Tension=Type II (fast twitch) fiber= Heavy weight (75-90% of 1RM)= Low Rep(3-6 reps max)=Longer rest periods( up to 5 minutes or more)=Strength as main goal.
Metabolic Stress=Type I (slow twitch) fiber=Lighter weight (60-70% of 1 RM) =Higher Reps (8-15 reps or more)=Shorter rest periods(45 sec to 2 minutes depending on body part)=Hypertrophy (muscle size) as main goal.
Muscle Damage=Emphasis on Type I fiber=Light to Medium weight= high reps+ Slow eccentrics (lowering the weight with a 3-5 second tempo)+ added time under tension(TUT) using drop sets or Rest Pause sets.= 2 minute rest periods= Hypertrophy and strength with most emphasis on hypertrophy.
If your main goal is strength you’ll obviously want to spend more time and effort on Muscle Tension (heavy loads-low reps). If you main goal is gaining muscle or losing fat you’ll spend more time on Muscle Damage and Metabolic Stress.( Lower loads-higher reps) But don’t neglect the other 40-60% of your muscle fibers!
The periods or cycles have to fit your long term goals. The cycles can be weeks or even months in length (Macro Cycles) or as short as days (Micro Cycle) or some combination. Cycles for a beginner will be very different from an intermediate or experienced lifter.
Here are some examples for Hypertrophy as the main goal:
Macro cycle: Emphasis on hypertrophy for a period of 4 to 12 weeks. (Or until progress starts to slow) then emphasis on strength for 2 to 4 weeks
Monday-Lower Body Strength
Tuesday-Upper Body Hypertrophy
Thursday-Upper Body Strength
Friday-Lower Body Hypertrophy
Intraday-This is one I’ve used recently. It’s tougher than it looks on paper.
You’ll want to use only about 5 exercises per day. The split can be about any way you want it. But you will only use 1 exercise per body part per day.
Set 1 and 2-Weight at about 10 RM shooting for 8 reps per set.
Use slow eccentrics with 3-5 second eccentric movement + a weighted stretch for 10 seconds on the last rep (Muscle damage)
Set 3 Weight at 6 RM for 6 reps-normal tempo
Set 4 Immediate Drop set back to 10 RM -normal tempo-Rep to failure
Set 5 Immediate Drop set at 12 RM (or just drop the load by 20%) rep to failure-normal tempo.
Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Just find what works best for you and your goals. And take advantage of all the mechanisms to gain muscle