Periodization of the Undulating Type

December 13th, 2009 by

By Erik Ledin

Periodization — a word thrown around all the time, often unnecessarily complicated in its explanation. There seems to be all sorts of definitions floating around for this fancy term, some more complex sounding than others. Here however, we’re going to keep it simple because quite honestly, that should always be the goal — simplifying things whenever possible. To that end, periodization is basically defined as the planned variation of training variables in an exercise program. Consider it a blueprint of sorts. More specifically, it is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time. There are a number of different ways to periodize your training, but suffice it to say it simply involves the manipulation of loading parameters — sets, reps, tempo, rest intervals, etc. — as well as a finely tuned management of training volume.

The application roots of periodization come from the world of sports and more specifically Olympic sports, but going back even further, the theoretical roots stem from Canadian scientist, Hans Selye’s adaptive response model, the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). The GAS is a theory which suggests that the body adapts to stress in three different phases — the alarm stage, the resistance stage and the exhaustion stage. These stages of response represent the scientific rationale for periodization as we know it today. In essence, periodization models were designed with two goals in mind: firstly, to avoid exhaustion and secondly, to bring performance to a peak.

If you look around your gym, more often than not, you probably see the same people doing what appears to be the same routine week in and week out, month in and month out … if they have a program at all. Some people simply go into the gym with no plan whatsoever and just do whatever comes to mind on that day. Is it any coincidence that these same people generally never look any different? They’re no more muscular, they’re no leaner, they’re lifting the same weights they did a year ago. Clearly, their random, unplanned approach to training, simply isn’t working. Hopefully you’re not one of them.

NEXT: Read more about the types of periodization.

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Find out about Erik Ledin, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN), Certified Kinesiologist (CK), Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)