For people who do well with structure, approaching their health and fitness with a periodization approach can be extremely beneficial. Why? Because periodization training, or the process of divvying up your yearly training into set blocks or cycles, can help you safely train different aspects of your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems while at the same time optimizing your recovery and reducing your risk of injury.
Periodization training is also a great way to avoid plateaus and make sure you’re achieving a well-balanced and effective level of fitness. This is especially important if you’re a competitive athlete and want to make sure you reach “peak” performance at a particular time during the year (ideally in-season).
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Plus, knowing that you have different periods of training to look forward to keeps things interesting and helps you safely ramp up the intensity without going overboard or getting burned out…after all, no one can (or at least nobody should) hit it hard as possible at the gym day in and day out. We need varying levels of intensity—ideally structured in a progressive way that allows us to make sustainable gains over time.
Macro-What? Macrocycles, Mesocycles, and Microcycles in Periodization Training
The basic type of periodization asks you to look at your entire year and break it down into three main components: macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles. Each “cycle” or chunk of time has a slightly different perspective on training and may feature different repetitions, sets, loads, frequency, and other variables.
Here’s a look at each of these three cycles:
The Macrocycle: this is the largest “bird’s eye view” cycle which spans the entire year. Think of it as your fitness blueprint. You use this to help you plan your training around major events, such as competitions or even personal circumstances like a holiday or wedding.
The Mesocycle: this is the next largest cycle, typically lasting around three to four weeks. Mesocycles are the main building blocks of the yearly macrocycle. They are designed to help you achieve a specific goal, such as increased strength, power, endurance, aerobic capacity, competitive performance, and so on. Workouts will be designed to reflect the specific goal of that period. Once a mesocycle is complete, there is usually a brief interval of relatively low-intensity exercises to help the body fully recover and adapt.
The Microcycle: this is the smallest periodization block and typically lasts about one week. Usually, three to four microcycles make up one mesocycle. It’s a “zoomed in” week-by-week look at your training.
Essentially, effective periodization training helps your body maximally adapt to the training stimulus. Periodization allows you to safely toe the line between optimal fitness and fatigue by alternating periods of hard training with periods of easier training.
Do you have some specific goals or are working toward preparing for a competitive event in the future? Talk to one of our personal trainers. Our staff has a deep understanding of general adaptation responses, physical preparedness, and peak performance!