The Simplicity of Periodicity

written by Frederick C. Hatfield, Ph.D., MSS, International Sports Sciences Association

Ah, the good ol' Soviets! No grass grew under THEIR feet, betcha! Busy, busy, collecting and recording data, more collecting, more analysis. Try this training program, try that one. Analyze, change, analyze, change. Good, good, better, better. Adjust, adjust. Then, POW! Good, better, BEST!

Well! That pretty much sums up the entire HISTORY of the Soviet's much-vaunted sports machine.

This is a story about the most effective philosophy of training ever conceived, one which incorporates the celebrated concept of training periodization. Before getting into the nuts and bolts, let me show you something that'll hit you right between the eyes, that'll set the bias of your mind running toward...(ready?)...something that's relatively rare in these days of mercantilism, marketing hype and flying egos. Cold, uncompromising, objective, data-based SCIENCE!

Say what you will about the Soviets' failed Commie system or its formerly red (now merely blushing) perpetrators. Say what you will about the demise of their empire, and the sad state of affaire therein today. Their athletes are still there! Here it is. Four examples of a pre-competition training protocol for any given explosive type sport. Between the eyes as promised. The point? Simple! Periodization makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE!

									1


						4			2
						1
			4			2
			1
			2
						3			4
			3						3
1234
____________________________________________________________________________

STAGE ONE (6 Weeks)    STAGE TWO (6 Weeks)      STAGE THREE(6 Weeks)

Caption: Four different protocols were tested to determine which produced the superior sport results as measured by improved proficiency in competition: All four employed three 6 week stages (mesocycles):

  1. Plyometrics -- Weight Training -- Depth jumps
  2. Plyometrics Weight Training -- Weight training
  3. Plyometrics -- Plyometrics -- Plyometrics
  4. Complexes -- Complexes -- Complexes (a "complex" is a workout comprised of a highly structured combination of Plyometrics, Weight Training and Depth Jumps)

Clearly, in the short run (over six weeks), Protocol #4 was superior. In the long run (over an entire 18 week mesocycle), Protocol #1 proved superior.

Now, I deemed it appropriate to start off with this example because it is so utterly exemplary of the tremendous value of short-term periodization in your training. Long-term periodization is no less effective. Long-term periodization, according to the Soviet originators of the system (Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky), involves a carefully planned approach to one's entire sports career. You may not be an Olympic weightlifter, a shot putter or a high jumper (for whom the system above was originally designed). Maybe you're a bodybuilder. Let me do something for you along a similar vein. First, the nuts and bolts of periodization, what it is, and how to construct one for your own unique body. Then I'll construct an example of one. (Just one, mind you! Since you're unique in all the universe, you'll have to follow the rules on how to do it for yourself! The one I do may not be thoroughly suited to your needs.)

SHORT-TERM PERIODIZATION

Before beginning, there's a few "unique" words used in periodization training that you should be familiar with. A "macrocycle" is an entire training cycle (for bodybuilders, an entire year). Macrocycles are divided into "mesocycles" because as your training progresses, and you begin to make gains, your training objectives change accordingly. For bodybuilders, a mesocycle would be one training cycle leading up to a contest. Mesocycles are further broken down into "microcycles." Each of your "body parts" -- legs, chest, arms, and so forth -- has its own unique recovery ability, and therefore require unique microcyclic fluctuations in training intensity levels. The entire system is called short-term "periodization." Here's a list of recovery facts to remember when planning your next training cycle using the short-term periodization approach:

And here are some training facts to remember as well:

According to Soviet theory, while speed is King, strength is the basic component of fitness in all sports. It forms the basis for acquiring all other fitness aspects, and the strength requirements of each sport are unique.

Thus, each sport has to be treated differently (i.e., a different periodization scheme). For example, the Soviets taught their coaches that speed depends upon endurance in distance events, but upon strength in anaerobic events.

Eccentric training never caught on in the Soviet Union, according to Dr. Verkoshansky, because it does not force adaptation in ligaments and tendons -- only speed-strength training (lifting the weight fast -- max effort, accelerating the weight with inertia assisting) can do that.

As your competition draws nearer and nearer, your training objectives change, and therefore your training methods change commensurably.

Having listed these recovery and training facts, it's clear as to why you must divide your training into periods. Here then are some of the important basics regarding the theory behind the need to periodize your training:

LONG-TERM PERIODIZATION

Long-term periodization is a bit different in scope but not philosophy according to the Soviet scientists. The scope encompasses an entire career in sports, but the philosophy is still one of planned progression. One's career in sport is segmented approximately this way:

HOW DOES PERIODIZATION STACK UP WHEN SCIENCE IS THE JUDGE?

In another article I discussed the seven laws of weight training from most sport scientists' perspectives. I recommend that you re-read it if this synopsis isn't enough. Here they are again:

The Law of Individual Differences: We all have different abilities and weaknesses, and we all respond differently (to a degree) to any given system of training. These differences should be taken into consideration when designing your training program.

The Overcompensation Principle: Mother Nature overcompensates for training stress by giving you bigger and stronger muscles.

The Overload Principle: To make Mother Nature overcompensate, you must stress your muscles beyond what they're already used to.

The SAID Principle: The acronym for "Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands."

The Use/Disuse Principle: "Use it or lose it" means that your muscles hypertrophy with use and atrophy with disuse.

The GAS Principle: The acronym for General Adaptation Syndrome, this law states that there must be a period of low intensity training or complete rest following periods of high intensity training.

The Specificity Principle: You'll get stronger at squats by doing squats as opposed to leg presses, and you'll get greater endurance for the marathon by running long distances than you will by (say) cycling long distances.

Let's get one thing clear right now. If you periodize your training for maximum efficiency, every one of these laws will be obeyed. There is no other way but the BEST way. On the other hand, I've seen some pretty dismal training garbage in the past that has been referred to as a "periodized" program. It may have been periodized, but it certainly wasn't BEST! In like fashion, if you do NOT periodize your training, there is NO WAY you can ever HOPE to have the BEST training system possible.

The example of contest preparation describe graphically below illustrates how each "mesocycle" is designed to prepare you for the next "mesocycle." Remember, though, your progress must be ever-upward. That's the beauty of this system! It requires that you follow the basic principle of "progressive" resistance body part per body part at the microcyclic level.

____________________________________________________________________________

		Supercompensation (Time To Train Again)
				     *     *
				  *	      *
Train________________________Recovery_______________________________________
	*		       *	         *
	  *		    *			   *
	    *		 *			     *
	      *	      *			          Overreaching
		  *					 *
							   *
							     *  Overtraining

____________________________________________________________________________

Caption: The time between your workouts -- which includes both recovery and supercompensation processes -- will vary anywhere from a day to as many as 6 or 7 days, depending upon 1) individual recuperative ability, 2) efficient use of supplements, diet, rest and other restorative techniques, 3) size and type of muscle, 4) severity of the overload (especially the severity of the eccentric phase of muscle contraction, and 5) gender and age.

If you train again before recovery is complete you will overtrain (microtrauma of each workout accumulates and causes a reduction in the action potential of the muscle cells). If you train again after supercompensation is at maximum, you'll make gains, but nowhere nearly as efficiently. That is because, by that time, atrophy has begun.

AN EXAMPLE OF A PERIODIZED BODYBUILDING TRAINING PROTOCOL

Bodybuilders follow the same laws of training as any other group of athletes, but with a few critical alterations. These differences arise because in all of sport, only bodybuilding places an absolute premium on muscle hypertrophy processes -- it is the entire point of the sport.

					      C
			      C
					  B	  B
	  C	   	 B	  B
						      A
     B	       B		      A

A		   A

___________________________________________________________________________________
Notice:  Intensity -- and PROGRESS -- is ever-upward.



		Days of Rest After	Days of Rest After	Days of Rest After
Body Part	 A Workouts	         B Workouts		 C Workouts
___________________________________________________________________________________

Chest	  	2 Days Rest  		3 Days Rest   		4 Days Rest
Shoulders    	2 Days Rest	 	3 Days Rest   		4 Days Rest
Traps		3 - 4 Days Rest 	(No B Or C Workouts)
Lower Back   	3 Days Rest 		4 Days Rest  		(No C Workouts)
Upper Back  	2 Days Rest		3 Days Rest   		4 Days Rest
Biceps 	    	2 Days Rest  		3 Days Rest   		4 Days Rest
Triceps		2 Days Rest  		3 Days Rest   		4 Days Rest
Midsection  	2 Or 3 Days Rest  	(No B Or C Workouts)
Quads   	3 Days Rest		4 Days Rest  		5 Days Rest
Hams		3 Days Rest		4 Days Rest  		5 Days Rest
Calfs		2 Or 3 Days Rest	(No B Or C Workouts)
Forearms	2 Or 3 Days Rest 	(No B Or C Workouts)

The time between "C" workouts will vary anywhere from 9 days to as many as 16 days. The "A" and "B" workouts between the "C" workouts must be relatively devoid of damaging eccentric contraction in order to allow Type IIb muscle fibers a chance to once again appear. The "C" workout will emphasize eccentric movements, forcing fusion between these fibers and surrounding satellite cells (called "hypertrophy").

Incidentally, the Type IIb fibers are critical to athletes such as powerlifters, weightlifters, shot putters and jumpers. That is why a full 2 weeks or so respite from damaging eccentric movements must be taken before the day of competition. Detraining is easily avoided by weight training with concentric movements only.

As with normal periodization, the time between workouts for bodybuilders will vary depending upon 1) individual recuperative ability, 2) efficient use of supplements, diet, rest and other restorative techniques, 3) size and type of muscle, 4) severity of the overload (especially the severity of the eccentric phase of muscle contraction, and 5) gender and age.

For bodybuilders, as with other athletes, if you train again before recovery is complete you will overtrain (microtrauma of each workout accumulates and causes a reduction in the action potential of the muscle cells). The chief difference is in the way bodybuilders must handle eccentric movements and their damaging effects upon muscle cells (especially the highly fatiguable, easily destroyed IIb fibers).

If you train again after supercompensation is at maximum, you'll make gains, but nowhere nearly as efficiently. That is because, by that time, atrophy from detraining has begun.

PERIODIZATION FOR BODYBUILDING IS AS SIMPLE AS "ABC"

Notice in the above illustration that the progression is C-B-A-B-C-B-A-B-C-B-A and so forth. That's a personal thing. You can adjust it to fit your specific recuperative capabilities as you learn more about how your body responds to the schedule. You may find that you can recover faster, so more frequent C workouts -- or fewer A's and B's -- are called for. Or maybe you Type IIb fibers aren't recovering enough in a specific body part between your C workouts, so you add an A or a B. That's appropriate. The precise pattern is something only personal experience can show you.

"A" WORKOUTS are characterized by ample rest between sets in order to restore ATP, clear lactic acid and restore normal heart rate. This is a very low intensity workout designed primarily to avoid detraining effects while waiting for the "C" workout. Concentrate on training each bodypart according to how Mother Nature intended the muscle(s) involved to contract (e.g., with speed, limit strength or both).

The exercises performed for the larger muscle groups should be devoid of eccentric contractions to the greatest extent possible. If you don't have the technology (e.g., isokinetic equipment) to make this possible, at least de-emphasize the eccentric phase by lowering the weight very rapidly (of course, avoiding the ballistic shock at the end of the range of motion). For forearm, calf and midsection work, this does not apply because they're principally red (Type I) muscle fibers, making them highly resistant to fatigue and microtrauma.

Also, it is not generally feasable to perform midsection, calf or forarm movements explosively, as these muscle groups involve very short ranges of motion. In general, chest, biceps, and hamstrings movements are done explosively (contraction speed is their strong suit), while triceps, delts and quads are built for both speed and strength. Your back, lats and smaller muscle groups should be worked for strength.

"B" WORKOUTS are moderate intensity workouts designed primarily to avoid detraining effects while waiting for the "C" workout. The principal aim of this workout is to ensure that muscle size is not lost from myofibrillar, mitochondrial and sarcoplasmic atrophy. As with "A" workouts, the exercises performed for the larger muscle groups should be devoid of eccentric contractions to the greatest extent possible. If you don't have the technology (e.g., isokinetic equipment) to make this possible, at least de-emphasize the eccentric phase by lowering the weight very rapidly (of course, avoiding the ballistic shock at the end of the range of motion).

"C" WORKOUTS are called "holistic" sets. This is a maximum intensity workout, particularly because it is grueling and because eccentric movements are emphasized maximally. It is performed nonstop, combining 2 or more exercises into one "giant" set. In other words, CONTINUOUS changing back and forth from explosive, heavy movements to slow, continuous tension movements with lighter weights. No rest between 5s, 12s and 40s is allowed. Do a total of about 200 reps nonstop. Repeat this holistic set once if you feel up to it, but no more. It's possible to do this many repetitions because the muscle fibers involved in the explosive movements are not the same ones that are targeted in the slower movements. So, while you're doing slow movements using red (slow-twitch) muscle fibers, for example, the muscle fibers you just got through exercising with explosive reps (white, fast-twitch muscle fibers) are recovering. It is not necessary to perform calf exercises holistically. Instead, "strength shoes" are worn daily in order to keep them sufficiently stressed for long periods of time. Also, holistic sets are not used in forarm, midsection or calf training. Because your low back is so susceptible to injury, you will do well to avoid holistic training there as well.

DAYS OF RECOVERY REQUIRED FOR EACH BODY PART BEFORE TRAINING IT AGAIN, AND THE RECOMMENDED EXERCISES FOR EACH BODY PART


BODY PART       "A" WORKOUTS	"B" WORKOUTS	  "C" WORKOUTS
______________________________________________________________________
CHEST	        2 days rest     3 days rest       4 days rest

		Bench Press     Bench Press	  Bench Press
				Cable Crossovers  Dumbbell Benches
	                                          Cable Crossovers
______________________________________________________________________
SHOULDERS      2 days rest      3 days rest       4 days rest

	       Dumbbell raises 	Same	          Same, but do front,
	       (front, lateral and 	          lateral and inverted
	       inverted)			  separately
______________________________________________________________________
TRAPS		3 or 4 days rest

		Barbell Shrugs (Trapezii I and II)
		Barbell Shrugs while slightly bent forward (Trapezii III and IV
______________________________________________________________________
LOWER BACK      3 days rest 	4 days rest  	  (No "C" workouts
						  recommended -- too
		Back extensions	Back extensions	  much chance of injury)

  (Note: While it's OK to work the lower back on the same day as legs, you
should never do lower back workout the day before or after leg workouts)
______________________________________________________________________
UPPER BACK     2 days rest	3 days rest   	  4 days rest 

Bent over rows Bent over rows Bent over rows
Lat pulldowns Lat pulldowns Long cable pulls
Lat pulldowns
______________________________________________________________________ BICEPS 2 days rest 3 days rest 4 days rest Barbell curls Seated incline Dumbbell curls (straight bar) curls Scott curls (Barbell) (Note: While it's OK to work biceps on the same day as upper back, you should never do biceps the day before or the day following upper back workouts) ______________________________________________________________________ TRICEPS 2 days rest 3 days rest 4 days rest Pushdowns Pushdowns Pushdowns French presses French Presses Nose Crushers
(Note: While it's OK to work triceps on the same day as chest, you should never do triceps the day before or the day following chest workouts) _______________________________________________________________________ MIDSECTION 2 or 3 days rest Weighted Prestretched crunches Russian Twists _______________________________________________________________________ QUADS 3 days rest 4 days rest 5 days rest Safety squats Safety squats Safety squats Leg extensions Leg extensions _______________________________________________________________________ HAMS 3 days rest 4 days rest 5 days rest Keystone Deadlifts Glute/ham raises Glute/ham raises (prestretch ham- Standing leg curls Standing leg curls strings by tilting Keystone Deadlifts pelvis, lower bar to knees)
(Note: Quad and ham workouts typically best if done together) _______________________________________________________________________ CALFS 2 or 3 days rest
Strength shoes (worn daily)












PERIODIZATION REFERENCES

Birsin 'The Basis of Training, 1925;

Bondachuk, A. (1988). Periodization of Sports Training. Soviet Sports Review. 23(4): 164-166.

Bompa, T.O. (1983). Theory and Methodology of Training--The Key to Athletic Performance. Kendall/Hunt Publishing; Dubuque, Ia.

Chernyak, A.V., Karimov, E.S. Butinchinov, Z.T. (1979). Distribution of Load Volume and Intensity Throughout the Year (Weightlifting). Soviet Sports Review. 14(2): 98-101.

Fry, R.W., Morton, A.R., Keast, D. (1992). Periodisation and the Prevention of Overtraining. Canadian Journal of Sport Science. 17(3): 241-248.

Gilliam, G.M. (1981). Effects of Frequency of Weight Training on Muscle Strength Training. Journal of Sports Medicine. 21: 432-436.

Gorinewsky 'Scientific Foundations of Training, 1922

Hakkinen, K., Komi, P.V., Alena, M. (1987). EMG Muscle Fiber and Force Production Characteristics During One Year Training Period in Elite Weightlifters. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 56: 419-427.

Hatfield, F.C. (1989). Power: A Scientific Approach. Contemporary Books; Chicago, IL.

Kopysov, V.S. (1979). Recovery in the Training of Weightlifters. Soviet Sports Review. 14(4): 202-203.

Kotov (Olympic Sport, 1917)

Matveyev 'Fundamentals of Sports Training' (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977),

Medvedew, A.S. (1983). Periodization of Training in Weightlifting (Preparatory Plan For a Base Mesocycle). Soviet Sport Review. 18(4): 157-161.

Minchenko, V.G. (1989). The Distribution of Training Load Throughout the Yearly Training Cycles of Athletes. Soviet Sports Review. 24(1): 1-6.

Letunov (Reflections on the Systematic Formulation of Training: 'Sovietskii Sport', 1950).

Plehjov, V.N. (1991). How to Structure Training. Soviet Sport Review. 26(2): 66-69.

Sale, D.G., MacDougall, D. (1981). Specificity in Strength Training: A Review for the Coach and Athlete. Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Science. 6: 87-92.

Selye, H.(1991). Stress Without Stress. J.R. Lippencott; New York N.Y.

Siff and Verkhoshansky: 'Supertraining - Special Strength Training for Sporting Excellence', 1996).

Sinclair, R.G.(1985). Normalizing the Performances of Athletes in Olympic Weightlifting. Canadian Journal of Sports Science. 10(2): 94-98.

Stone, M.H.,O'Bryant, H.,Garhammer,J. (1981). A Hypothetical Model for Strength Training. Journal of Sports Medicine. 21: 342-350.

Vsorov 'Basic Principles of Training Athletes', Moscow, 1938).



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