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Everything you always wanted to know about periodisation, but never dared to ask

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Old 03-14-2008, 06:44 AM
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Default Everything you always wanted to know about periodisation, but never dared to ask

disclaimer: i havent read this but a bunch of guys i know seemed to really like it.

This thread is meant as an introduction to periodisation. Too often, I have seen people who didn't understand the foundations of training, so I decided to fix this situation.

Obviously, I will need to keep many details out for sake of simplicity. Periodisation has filled hundreds of thousands of pages, and is the main subject of 3-4 yrs university kinesiology programs. I will try to keep it as simple as possible, and this is why I will use as many graphs as I can to better illustrate concepts.

I have worked for quite a long time to come up with the simplest way to explain and illustrate these concepts. This ended up being much longer than I expected . This is definitely a long read, but I think it is worth reading it. I hope you will enjoy it. I am totally open to comments, suggestions and questions; however, please refrain from sending me PM asking for a training program, as it could quickly get out of control (I wouldn't have the time, and I would have to ask for financial incentives for my work).

I chose to post this thread in the powerlifting section rather than the Exercises or Workout programs sections, as this is more likely to interest elite or wannabe-elite lifters than the average gym-goer.

Finally, I had a previous thread about muscle strength, feel free to read it to refresh your knowledge on what makes a muscle strong:

1. The basic principles of training: Theories of training

The theory of training has defined many theorical principles of training. Most of them do not need to be covered here. I use the word "principle" as a vague term that may not have the same signification as what would normally be taught.

1.1 The principle of overcompensation

When you train, you become weaker, less performant in your sport. You then recover, and eventually become better: that's overcompensation.

Figure A: overcompensation

The middle line represent a state of homeostasis, a state where there is no improvement. After the maximum peak of overcompensation, comes a state of involution, where performance gradually goes back to a state of homeostasis.

In the next picture below, you can see I draw 3 different lines; these reflect the effects 3 different loads of training would have on performance and recovery. Notice how all 3 lines have approximately the same training duration; the difference is in the speed of recovery, and the training effect (depth of load versus height of overcompensation curve).

Figure B: Different training loads

It becomes clear that the best time to train would be at the moment of the highest peak of overcompensation. This is not always possible, but we should be as close as possible to it. Over a longer time period, this would result in this:

Figure C: Gradual increase in performance

As you can see, even though we can't always have totally recovered in time for the next training, the cumulative effect will still result in a gradual increase in performance. Notice how the curve is not a "perfect sequence" of overcompensation. We should still strive for overcompensation, since overlooking this concept would result in the dreaded effect of overtraining:

Figure D: Gradual decrease in performance

1.2 Different ways to stress your body

There are 4 components in training load (3 are often taught, I add a 4th one).
- Duration: how long the training actually lasts. A concept that is also used in strength sports is volume: it would be expressed as number of sets and reps rather than hours.
- Frequency: how often you train during the week;
- Intensity: This is often expressed in % of your max. You would be approximately at 80% of your max when you do sets of 8 reps (RM), and you would be at about 90% when doing sets of 4 reps.
- Density: This one is not usually taught as a load component, but I like to include it: it refers to the amount of time spent resting between sets. It is therefore only applicable to strength sports. If you lift for 60 seconds, then take a 180 sec. rest, your total density would be 25%.

1.3 Different "spheres" of load in training

Not all your body is stressed the same way depending on the type of training you do; the different spheres are:

- endocrinal: a good example is the effect of training on testosterone and cortisol; testosterone is high at the beginning of training, and gradually decreases. The reverse is true for cortisol.
- metabolic/muscular: energy production (ATP synthesis, etc.), muscle recovery. Recovery from this type of stress is quick, except maybe in the case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: where tiny muscle tears appear everywhere in the affected muscle). ATP/CP is replenished in a few minutes, lactic acid is cleared within an hour, and glycogen can be replenished within 24-36 hours.
- CNS (neuro-psychological): this stress is particularly present in competition, where mind games can be played.
- CNS (neuro-muscular): this is the biggest stress when weight training. Neuro-muscular recovery is 7 to 11 times slower than metabolic/muscular recovery. Nervous cells tend to adopt a state of inhibition for quite a few hours after heavy load.
- cardio-pulmonary: this is particularly present in cardio-vascular sports, such as cycling, running, etc.

1.4 Different ways to measure performance

Performance can be measured through 4 criterias: speed, strength, flexibility, endurance.
- In powerlifting, strength is the most important, speed is just a bonus; in olympic lifting, both speed and strength are important. In both case, a minimum level of flexibility is important.
- In cycling, long distance running, xc skiing, endurance is the most important.
- In sprinting sports, speed and strength provide power.
- etc. etc.

1.5 The principle of progressive increase of load in training

This one might appear as a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it is probably the most misunderstood principle of all. In weight training sports, we will naturally have a tendency to increase the load by increasing the weights, as we get stronger. Even though you are stronger, this still result in a higher stress on the neuro-muscular sphere. But, as discussed in section 1.2, you can also increase the load by increasing duration, frequency and density.
Increase your training load too quickly, and your body will not have time to adapt, and you will reach a state of overtraining.

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Old 03-14-2008, 06:45 AM
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2. Methodology of training

2.1 The principle of planning in training

As we saw earlier, recovery is essential for adequate performance. However, complete recovery after a hard day of training may last more than 48 hours, and training every other day is not really an option for elite performance. That's why we must alternate easy days with hard days, as illustrated below:

Figure E: Microcyle

Each rectangle represent one day. H represent hard days, M: medium days, L: easy days, and we plan a day off on the fourth day. There are many ways to alternate harder days with easier days. A harder week would have more hard and medium days, and less easy days, etc. A week like this is usually called a microcycle.

In order to progressively increase the load in training (section 1.5), we have to plan harder and easier weeks; we plan a macrocycle:

Figure F: Macrocycle

This is the typical macrocycle: 3 gradual increases in load, followed by an easier week. As seen in section 1.2, the load of training can be varied with duration, frequency, intensity and density.
Over a longer period, this is how macrocycles would add up:

Figure G: Gradual increase in load and performance

If well planned, then performance would gradually increase.

2.2 Annual Periodisation

You can't use high volume and high intensity at the same time. However, both are important to maximize performance. This is where annual periodisation comes in: we can split the year in different periods with different focuses.

Here is an annual "plan" for a powerlifter with one major competition at the end of the year (MS Paint isn't exactly the best software to build graphs):

Figure H: Annual plan 1

We have a deloading period at the end of the year, which is followed by adaptation training at the beginning of the next year; this period is used to rehabilitate the tendons and all connective tissues into heavy training. The highest volume of the year is then seen during the hypertrophy period, where the athlete will develop myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. The rest of the year will be used for maximum strength training, since this is the main goal of this sport.

An annual "plan" for a powerlifter with 2 major competitions, one mid-season, then one at the end of the year will be similar to the first one, but we would have 2 deloading periods, which would result in two peaks. The primary peak would be at the end of the season.
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Figure I: Annual plan 2

Here is an annual "plan" for a bodybuilder with one major competition at the end of the year:

Figure J: Annual plan 3

For a bodybuilder, a peak represents a peak in conditioning, which is unrelated to lifting performance, so we do not program a peak, and we see a decrease in performance as dieting is used. Notice that hypertrophic training is much more prevalent, but maximum strength training is still used as a mean to promote myofibrillar hypertrophy, etc.
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Old 03-14-2008, 06:46 AM
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3. A second look at overtraining

3.1 Misconceptions
"There is no overtraining, just undereating"
-- Trey Brewer, NPC competitor.

"I'd rather be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained"
-- Michellie Jones, World class triathlete, world champion.

There is a gross misunderstaning of overtraining on this board, and this is why I decided to write a whole section on this subject.

The first quote is attributed to Trey Brewer. Trey is an amazing athlete with tremendous recovery capacities, we can also guess that he is on a lot of "ergogenic aids". Testosterone has often been linked in many studies to increase not only protein synthesis (nitrogen retention), but also improve neural adaptations. Eating properly can also improve recovery, but over-eating has never been linked to improved recovery. An athlete like Trey has such recovery capabilities that he has probably never even come close to overtraining; but make him train 10 hours a day at 80-90% intensity, and you'll obviously see a dramatic decrease in performance. Overtraining still exists: it just takes a whole lot more training for him to get in that state.

The second quote is much smarter. Triathletes, cyclists, xc skiers, runners, etc. are athletes using very high volumes of training. Intensity is usually not used more than 2-3 times a week. These athletes have to constantly monitor their performance and feelings in training to avoid overtraining. If you had to remember only one thing from this text, it would have to be Figure D: gradual decrease in performance from overtraining.

3.2 Overreaching

The definition of overtraining is "A prolonged state where training stimuli exceed the athlete's capacity to recover". Overreaching is about the same thing, but where this state is kept to a much shorter duration.

Only very experienced athlete should ever attempt overreaching. You have to know yourself very well, and be in total control of your training. I would personnally never recommend overreaching to a person with a family, a job, and a regular social life. All these factors can bring stress in one's life, which would go against the idea of total control that is needed to succeed in overreaching.

When the period of CONTROLLED overreaching is ended, a period of similar duration with much lower volume and intensity should be used. Overreaching can be used about a month prior to a major competition, in order to create a peak.

3.3 Signs of overtraining

- sensitive to criticism
- tendency to isolate oneself from coach and teammates
- lack of fighting power
- "fear" of competition
- lack of coordination, technical faults
- slower rate of recovery
- decrease in performance (10% +)
- prone to injuries/infections
- insomnia
- lack of appetite
- sweat very easily

4. A quick analysis of some generic training programs

A lot of "generic" training programs are posted on the Internet. Most of these are used by the average gym-goer as a mean of planning. In most cases, these methods can easily be integrated into a periodized annual training program.

Max-OT: Maximum Overload Training:
High intensity (4-6 reps, 90% of 1RM), low volume, medium frequency (normally 5 days/wk), low density (long rest periods between sets). This can fit very well into a maximum strength training period.

HST: Hypertrophy Specific Training:
Varying intensity, varying volume, varying frequency, medium density. This method applies a lot of periodisation principles. You vary the intensity by not always working to RM. This allows you to have 1 easy week, followed by a medium week, followed by a harder week. You work each muscle much more often than the usual training program. This is more geared towards bodybuilder than powerlifters.

HIT: High Intensity Training:
High intensity, low volume, low frequency, high density (short rests). This can fit well into a maximum strength training period, but it would better be used by a bodybuilder than a powerlifter because weights have to be lower because of the shorter rest periods.

GVT: German Volume Training:
Low intensity, high volume, high frequency, medium density. Described as brutally hard, it would fit well into a hypertrophy training phase; however, it shouldn't be used for extended periods since it may result in too mch stress.

Milos' giant sets:
Milos Sarcev, a retired IFBB pro bodybuilder, has been known to use extreme sets with his athletes. This is very low intensity (50% or less of 1 RM), very high volume, varying frequency, high density. One would use very low weights, and do 10 sets without rest, going from one machine to the next. All the machine used would target the same muscles. According to Milos, this creates a state of hyperenemia, which favorise muscle growth. I can only see this as adaptation training: it could be good for connective tissues.

This is a good example of overreaching. Obviously, noone would do Smolov for extended periods of time, and this is the way it is meant to be used. The warnings I mentionned in section 3.2 apply here: an inexperienced lifter would get more damage than improvement.

5. References and suggested reading

- Tudor O. Bompa, Lorenzo J. Cornacchia, Serious Strength Training, Human Kinetics Pub, 301 pp
- Tudor O. Bompa, Theory and Methodology of Training: The Key to Athletic Performance, Kendall Hunt Pub Co, 381 pp
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Old 03-14-2008, 06:49 AM
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original post: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...hp?t=106416741
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Old 03-14-2008, 10:15 AM
EricT EricT is offline
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I glanced over it. Problem I see is it ignores fatigue and only talks about recovery. So that will confuse people if they read it. If you "recover" in a few minutes to a few hours how could you ever "over-reach"? Of course you don't recover that quickly anyway.

It's a little weird to base it on an old-fashioned single factor model of training and then talk about planned over-reaching which is grounded in a dual factor way of thinking. Just confusing.

Talking about CNS effects in regards to the kind of training this author seems to be talking about is probalby pointless. Untill you get into true CNS intensive training you will only see the effects of fatigue and whether they are longer lasting or shorter lasting. Trying to separate them out is a waste of time because, for the most part, if you are truly doing CNS intensive training your basic symptom will be missed lifts, i.e. weaker. Most people reading these boards do not really do this type of training.

Unless you're dong a crap-load of high intensity stuff as a beginner to beginner intermediate you will rarely have occasion to be able to even guess about "neural fatigue" as opposed to any other type of stress. We all remember when we could pull a max deadlift and then repeat it the next day.

Once you get to the point where if you pull a max deadlfit of say 500 you can't repeat it the next day (as a for instance) you probably damn well already know this. If you haven't figured it out by that time...it's a wonder you can actually pull this much. But even then you can't say "it's neural fatigue". You have to learn to look at results and develop a common sense way of sceduling the hardest efforts. This is a subject that has been blown out of proportion.

The effects of stress from all the other factors will just blend together. Your body can't differentiate between them. The only real symptoms you can expect from "neural fatigue" is a decrease in performance. And you could look at missed meals, outside stressors, inadequate sleep, etc. to explain this. The fact that someone would suffer a decrease in performance and keep plugging away day after day without doing anything about it is a whole nother subject. We have to learn from out own training about our body and not try to go by what another person predicts based on factors that cannot be measured. Be aware and take precautions but don't become paranoid.

What you need to do to periodize very high intesnsity training and to periodize the general volume mind-set training can be quite different. People do need to realize that these principles are not based on the different stressors encountered in weight training. The only way you can use the same general plan of periodization across the board is if you treat every lift the same.

A lot of the comments seem to be geared toward western periodization. Not the best way by any means.

As far as periodization in general people seem to think that it in itself is magical. I can't tell you how many times I've read some forum geek going periodization is always superior and everyone must periodize to be sucessful...as if periodization is some standard thing you can just sum up in a few words. Periodization has as much to do with the realities of the athletes competitive cycle as anything else.

When you are not constrained by competitive seasons then ALL that matters is the end result. I don't know what the hell lifting has to do with charts. Is anyone ever aided by these? Presenting charts and statements about what we MUST do is, quite frankly, a crock of shit, imo. I have never discovered what I MUST do, only what works and doesn't work. What worked once a upon a time no longer works now. That is enough to show that there is no way of saying what is a MUST for everyone.

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If you act sanctimonious I will just list out your logical fallacies until you get pissed off and spew blasphemous remarks.

Last edited by EricT; 03-17-2008 at 09:00 AM.
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