Have you ever wondered why exercises are structured the way that they are? Trust us when we say, there’s a method to the madness when it comes to rep ranges, intensity, structure, and focus of your training program. These changes are not random, but rather variations that our coaches make intentionally to “periodize” your training to ensure the best big-picture results through the concept known as progressive overload.
What is progressive overload?
Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. The technique is recognized as a fundamental principle for success in various forms of strength training programs including fitness training, weight lifting, high-intensity training, and physical therapy programs.
In simple terms, this occurs when we do the same exercise, but add more weight, reps, time under tension, or speed each week. By challenging your body, it will recognize that you need it to be able to do more, so the muscles will break down and build up each week to increase strength and muscle each week as you continue to challenge it.
What is periodization?
Periodization refers to the systematic manipulation of variables of a training program over a period of time which provides a framework for achieving progressive overload. Simply put, this is the key to avoiding plateau and ensuring continued strength and muscle gains.
Some variables that can be manipulated:
- The number of repetitions per set (increasing or decreasing)
- The number of sets of each exercise (usually increasing)
- The use of specific tempos or pauses in different portions of the lift.
- The amount of resistance used, sometimes a calculated % of your 1RM (usually increasing)
A frequently cited study conducted at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University has shown that a periodized strength training program can produce better results than a non-periodized program.
The purpose of the study, which was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2001, was to determine the long-term training adaptations associated with low-volume, circuit-type training vs. periodized, high-volume resistance training in women (volume = total amount of weight lifted during each session).
The 34 women in the study were divided into those two groups, along with a non-exercising control group. Group 1 performed one set of eight to 12 repetitions to muscle failure three days per week for 12 weeks. Group 2 performed two to four sets of three to 15 repetitions, with periodized volume and intensity, four days per week during the 12- week period.
As the chart shows, the periodized group showed more substantial gains in lean muscle, greater reductions in body fat, and more substantial strength gains than the non-periodized group after 12 weeks.
So— now you know why you need “periodization” in your life and why to prioritize it! The good news is, all you need to do is open your new training plan each month and trust that our coaches have done the work to ensure you’re getting the most out of every training session!
Questions? Comment below! We’d love to hear from you!