T Nation

Musings Over Advanced Periodization

Dear Christian (and others willing to chime in)

I recently got back into training after 4 years of absence, and have been trying to wrap my head around fully comprehending periodization. I get the basic gist of it, and why it is so important, but I’m stuck with the practical implementation.

If you don’t mind, I could use some expertise to help me understand;

  • Many strength and BB cycles range from 1-2 months, followed by a week of deload or deconditioning. Rep ranges usually fluctuate from high, in the beginning of the cycle, to low, at the end. Sets are usually the opposite. It is my understanding that higher rep ranges tax the body less, and that the body has a much easier time gradually adapting to increasingly taxing stimuli. Is that the main arguement for doing it in this order, rather than beginning your cycle in an opposite way?

  • There seems to be many variables to adjust when periodizing your training. There’s intensity, volume, density, frequence, movement pattern and probably more. But the majority of the time I look at peoples programmes, I rarely see more than intensity and sometimes movement patterns. It’s probably the easiest one to tamper with, but is there any validity to adjust the other parametres instead? I recently spoke with a knowledgeable man who told me that once beginner gains started to end, periodizing your training and adjusting a single parametre (i.e intensity) throughout a cycle was needed. But as the beginner went to intermediate and elite, several parametres had to be tampered with simultaneously. My question is - when is enough enough? When is it too confusing for the body to adapt?

  • At the end of a cycle, some form of detraining is needed. My understanding is that the body is quick to shed it’s acquired work capacity and adaptation to heavier weights, so that lighter weights can once again stimulate the body (a step back in order to take three steps forward) without losing much mass or neural adaptation. But what about more longterm adaptations? For example, if I was to rotate bb bench and bb incline bench every cycle, would that be as efficient as rotating between, say, 5 different kind of presses rather than the above?

  • I often see many BB programmes, especially split programmes, having many different exercises for one muscle group. Taking the chest, I often see bb bench, incline bench, flyes and pec deck all in one session, sometimes totalling 20 or more sets. But i’m having trouble understanding how that is more effective than doing 20 sets of bench press alone, and after 2 weeks rotate the exercise to incline bench. It seems more easy for the body to adapt to, and rotating 4 different exercises every 2 weeks seems to demand some level of creativity. I understand the need to work the muscle from as many movement patterns as possible, but isn’t there a chance that the body get’s confused which direction to adapt to, and in the end you end up doing more harm than good?

  • The workload seems to be an important factor to consider, especially for hypertrophy, but when inspecting other peoples programmes, the workload liftet in the beginning is often much higher than in the end of the cycle - especially where people periodize their intensity. Thoughts about this?

I’m currently reading Kraemer and Flecks book, Designing Resistance Training, and it’s great stuff, but also very heavy on the science side. If you have any other books going indepth with advanced periodization worth reading, I’d be grateful.