The fact that periodization works is no longer in question. Even so, there's an important issue about this futuristic
method of training that I believe has been overlooked by the average bodybuilder. Simply stated, some athletes don't
understand how flexible periodization is. Bodybuilders who feel that periodization is not for them say, "What I've been
using has worked in the past, and I'm not going to start doing something completely different now." The statement may be
made in different ways, but the point is always the same. The most amazing thing to me, however, is that they take this
stance even if they've made no notable training progress in years.
What I'd like to say to those bodybuilders is, you don't have to change. All you have to do is adapt and improve what you've been doing. In other words, periodization can be adapted to many training systems. Look at it this way: All cars are not mechanically the same. There are four-cylinder, six-cylinder and eight-cylinder vehicles; front- wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive; and so on. Yet there are certain mechanical principles that a manufacturer must apply if a car is going to run.
By the same token you can apply the basic principles of periodization to whatever training system you're currently using. The reason for this is quite simple. Periodization follows the human body's natural recovery cycles. The basic principles of periodization are simple as well. Whether you call it periodization, cycling or phase training, this technique allows you to capitalize on your internal systems so you work with them to progress, as opposed to working against them to regress. Working against the internal systems is the cause of many hard-gaining situations.
Most bodybuilding training is linear, which means that it's approached in a straight line-the athletes do everything the same year-round. As most bodybuilders who have used this approach can attest, it works for a time, but after a while they stop making progress. When this happens, they usually take some time off, or they lose their motivation and tend to do more talking than training when they go to the gym. Some time later they fire up and start going heavy with the linear approach again, and the cycle repeats. Unfortunately, they tend to blame themselves for the lack of progress-i.e., "I'm a hardgainer" - instead of blaming the training principles, or lack of principles, they employ.
Periodization is the opposite of the linear approach. It looks at the training year as fragmented and cyclical. The fragments are called phases, and they are arranged throughout the year so that each builds on the results of the one that came before it.
Several factors affect the way phases in a periodization plan are designed. The length of the phase, the weight loads and the sets and reps you use depend on what internal system of the body you're developing. There are several different systems that affect such aspects of training as strength levels, muscle growth, the ability to burn fat to increase muscle definition and the strengthening of the tendons and ligaments to prevent injuries, among others.
Science has proved that the human body can stay on one type of phase, emphasizing one internal system, for only so long before it must change to another. For example, if you're using heavy poundages of, say, 85 to 90 percent of your one- rep max for one to three reps, you're taxing your neuromuscular system big time. That system will only respond positively for about one month before you need to switch your weight load and rep ranges. Regardless of the style of training you're now using, most likely you're pushing the same internal system month after month, and after a few months it becomes worn out because it never gets the chance to recuperate.
Another aspect of dividing your training into phases involves developing all the muscle fiber types, as opposed to developing one to the exclusion of another. In very general terms, there are two types of muscle fiber, slow twitch and fast twitch, and while there is one type of slow- twitch fibers, there are three sub-categories of fast-twitch fibers. Each of the different fiber types is affected by different training activities. Some are called into action when you use a short burst of energy, another may be used when you perform prolonged aerobic activity, and another is affected by a combination of these activities. Here, too, if you don't vary your training, you may be constantly hitting one fiber type at the expense of another.
The problem is, everybody has different proportions of the various muscle fiber types, and some bodybuilders respond better to one form of training over another. Because they usually use the same training loads, sets and reps all the time, however, they may never efficiently work the fiber type that predominates their individual makeup. If, on the other hand, you divide your training into phases, you will not only work your dominant fiber type to its full potential, but you'll also be able to improve the other fiber types proportionately.
Another important principle of periodization that you can adapt to other training systems is the constant need to change your body and then rest it. This may sound simple, but it's not so easy to achieve that delicate balance. Successful bodybuilding training means that you must stress your body to a certain point, let it recover and adapt to that stress and then increase the stress. Depending on what kind of stress you impose, your body will improve in order to protect itself.
The key factor here is that the stress increase must be in direct proportion to the rate of adaptability and the rate of recovery. These factors involve the principles that we call 'overload" and "overcompensation." So again, whatever program you're using, if you take these factors into consideration and learn how to alternate the right amount of work with the right amount of recovery compensation, you'll accelerate your progress.
There are many more periodization principles that would improve your bodybuilding training immensely if you'd study them and adapt them to your current program. Some of these principles you'll use and some you won't, but in your personal battle to improve your physique, it's only common sense to add a proven weapon that can help you win.