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Confused About Periodization

Can someone explain to me in the simplest way what periodization is and how to apply it to my training? Im having a hard time understanding it.

What exactly are you training for?

Right now I’m training for general strength but would like to shift to powerlifting.

Volume decreases as intensity increases.

Reps are relatively higher at the beginning of a cycle while weight is relatively lower. As you add weight, you take away reps. Complete the cycle and begin a new cycle with a higher weight than you started the previous cycle with.

Cycles last anywhere from a week to months to years for some. Those different cycles work together as part of the overall plan.


That’s not “exactly what you’re training for.” That’s just a general idea of what you’re doing.

Periodization requires specifics - a specific starting point and, more importantly, a specific goal.

Let’s say you currently squat 225x7 and you want to squat 275 in a meet on Feb 1. You could then periodize your training over the next 24 weeks to gradually manipulate your training volume (sets and reps) and intensity (%1RM) so that you end up where you want to be.

Check out Dave Tate’s Periodization Bible Part 1, Jack Reape’s Periodization Nuts and Bolts, and Charles Staley’s Periodization That Works for more info that hopefully doesn’t get too confusing.

Maybe the most succinct summary of periodization is how the legend Ed Coan described his usual 12-week plan leading up to a meet. “10s, 8s, 5s, triples, doubles.” Ha, sounds almost too easy. :wink:


In the simplest sense, “periodization” just means a training plan that builds on itself to achieve specific desired outcomes. Just like a skyscraper or house isn’t just randomly flung together, a lifting program needs “direction”. That’s what periodization supplies. A building plan is layered step by step on top of itself: foundation dug, foundation laid, exterior framework, individual floor support, then interior…etc right down to the finish.

Periodization describes various ways of doing that with sports or strength goals. It is a way to try to relate the different variables so they build on each other rather than being randomly thrown together.

General elements in a training plan are:

maximum strength
hypertrophy/size (can be broken down into both overall and specific muscle group goals or needs)

Each of these has different training needs depending on your goals and sport. Obviously, you can’t train for a marathon the same way you would train for a sprint right? Well neither can you train for a sprint the same way you would train for powerlifting or bodybuilding. Or an mma fight to a sprint. They’re all different–“endurance” for powerlifting means something ENTIRELY different than for half marathon running, or even fighting or sprinting.

In the powerlifting example, a powerlifter’s “endurance” would mean something along the lines of: 1 - their ability to continue straining for seconds on end in a lift (complete a grinding squat that stalls or nearly stalls), or 2 - the amount of muscular endurance they have THAT IS RELEVANT TO THEIR GOALS. So in a very basic example, “endurance” for powerlifting would be lifting in the 8-15 rep zone whereas that would be a “strength” zone for a marathoner…because their definition of endurance is running for hours on end.

So Periodization is a way to try to make a lego-style building plan for your strength goals or your sport. Basically, look at what is required for your sport–or goal, if it’s something like a bench press goal–and look at what you are doing and not doing, and build a plan of attack. It looks different for different goals AND for different weak points (periodization should always address your biggest weaknesses and shore them up to keep you healthy)

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