Periodization Workouts

August 17th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

If you are not familiar with periodization , it basically teaches you that you must keep your body “guessing” in order to avoid plateaus in strength and muscle gains. If you were simply to do the same workout each week, eventually you will plateau. Periodization is controversial because some don't feel it is necessary to change your routine. Whether you believe in it or not, it's great to do as it keeps you from getting bored of your workouts. You can ready more about periodization and the research backing it, in a previous article of mine: HIT compared to Periodization

Most bodybuilding routines have reps in the medium range(8-10 reps) for workout sets. This primarily works, both fast and slow twitch fibers. In order to follow periodization principles, you will have to change the type of training you do. This will change which muscle fibers you target. Powerlifters do low reps with long rests, to target slow twitch(power muscle fibers) and increase neural capacity. Endurance athletes do high reps with short rests, to target fast twitch(endurance fibers).

How to setup a year long periodization program:

Every few weeks you will do a different phase. In a specific phase you will gear your workouts around a certain type of training. Working on a specific phase that may conflict with bodybuilding, you will give your muscles a well rounded training and to keep them from adapting. You can think of it as a 1 step back to get 2 steps ahead.


There is different ways you could set up the phases and actual workouts. This is only a template to serve as a generic example of how it could be setup year around.

Heavy Phase:The first phase should be your heavy phase. This is your normal bodybuilding routine in the medium rep range. Do this for 8 weeks.

Alteration Phase: This is a transition phase, where you will tone down your training. Do slightly lighter weights and less sets. Do this for one week.

Light Phase: Here you will do a endurance weight training workout. High reps(15+) with rest very short(around 30 seconds). Do this for 4 weeks.

Power Phase: This is where you will do your workout like a powerlifter. Heavy weight around 5 reps, with long rests between sets. You may even setup your workout split like a powerlifter. Do this for 2 weeks. The strength gains will help prepare you for your bodybuilding routine.

After the power phase, you will then go back to your normal heavy phase again. You will continually go through this complete workout cycle, over and over throughout the year. The most important factors to remember, is your main muscle building workout should be the longest of all the phases and to change more than one workout parameter(such as reps or volume) when going into the next phase.

  1. Tim on March 9th, 2010

    You mixed up the fiber types in second paragraph. Slow twitch are the endurance fibers and fast twitch are the power ones.