HIT compared to Periodization

August 16th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

Plateaus is something all bodybuilders dread and will go through eventually. The main reason we stop progressing in bodybuilding. Unfortunately, not everyone is even 100% sure on how to get past plateaus. The two schools of workout science in the bodybuilding community, are contrasted between principles of HIT and Periodization routines.

Differences between HIT & Periodization principles:

Periodization believes that the only way to get past a plateau, is to radically change your workout. By working out the muscle in a different way you allow your body to surpass it's plateau. For example, instead of lifting heavy they would do high reps and short rest times. Your muscles would then be getting stimulated more for endurance instead of strength. Periodization has been used for a long time by strength coaches, starting in eastern europe.

HIT in contrast, believes in the principle of progressive overload. This principle says that adding weights to the same routine will cause long term muscle gain. HIT believes at just keep doing the same thing and eventually you will get ahead. Periodization sees what they do as taking 1 step back temporarily, in order to get 2 steps ahead.

Research Studies on periodization

Both workout camps feel very strongly about their principles. There have been bodybuilders who have become big and follow the same routine for many years. Likewise there are some who are constantly changing their routine who continue to grow. Therefore I believe it's not a question of whether each one works, but which one works the best. There seems to be more scientific evidence to support periodization in producing better long term gains. Most of the studies aren't as ideal as I would like, but it is something to work with at least.

A study was published in J Strength Cond Res. 2002 May;16(2):250-5. done on 20 men in their early 20's, comparing periodization for every workout compared to every 4 weeks. They did 3 sets of bench press and leg press 3 times a week for 12 weeks. The group that constantly changed their routine was called the DUP (Daily undulating periodization) did 8 RM on mondays, 6 RM on wednesdays, and 4 RM on fridays. They found that the DUP group made significant more strength gains through all the phases over the other group.

Another study done by Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Apr;33(4):635-43 was done on 34 untrained women. One group did low volume circuit training. The other group did high volume and periodization, with changes in volume and intensity of their workouts. Muscular strength and hormonal concentrations were determined pretraining (T1), after 12 wk (T2), and after 24 wk of training (T3). The periodization group was the only group that had muscular power and speed increases at 12 weeks(T2) and 24weeks(T3). They also were the only group that had testosterone increases at T3. Researches concluded from this study, that during the first 12 weeks the low volume and the high volume periodization both worked well in untrained women, but beyond that periodization only caused dramatic training adaptions.

A study published in Am J Sports Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;28(5):626 33 was done on 24 college female tennis athletes. One group did no resistance excercise, another did single set circuit, and the other did multiple set periodization program. The periodized group lost fat and increased muscle significantly after the 4,6, and 9th months of training. They were also the only group to have increased one rep max even after 4,6, and 9 months of training, wheareas the single set group only after the 4th month.

One way of setting up a year around periodization program, can be found in a previous article of mine: periodization workouts