Sticking to Your Year-Long Workout Plan

Periodization is sort of a funny part of the fitness world. It’s incredibly useful and effective. But it can also be pretty intimidating at first. And, perhaps for that reason, periodization is seldom used outside of the professional scope of fitness practice.

In reality, though, periodization doesn’t have to be that complicated. And, more importantly, it could have a huge impact on the overall quality of your training routine. How? What even is periodization?

Defining Periodization

Let’s start there. What is periodization? Besides–frankly–an ugly-sounding word.

Essentially, periodization describes the practice of breaking down the entire year into various smaller training periods. Each of these smaller cycles is designed to accomplish a particular part of your larger goal.

So, take American football players for example. These athletes usually begin their focused training in late July so that they peak just in time for the play-offs in November. Once the season is over, the players will lower the intensity of their workouts and use non-football-specific training methods until the spring. At that point, they start getting back into football shape to be ready for training to pick up again in July.

A huge range of patterns are used by other athletes depending on their exact needs. Occasionally, the periods are designed to focus on specific aspects of fitness or demands of the sport – like strength, speed, and endurance.

Benefits For All!

But…why? Periodization accomplishes two things that everyone can benefit from. First, it allows you to tailor your training style to achieve a specific goal. This will give you much more noticeable results in a shorter time.

Dividing your training up like this also allows your body to recover completely and therefore make better progress. The workouts that you’re going to use to get faster, for example, are totally different than those that will build your strength. So, when your focus shifts from one to the other, your muscles are allowed to rest from one type of stress instead of being overworked.

How can periodization help the more casual athletes and exercisers out there? Even if you don’t play any sport professionally, you likely have some seasonal activity that you love, look forward to, and regularly participate in. A well-designed periodization program will help you be better prepared, so that you can perform your best and avoid injuries.

It’s possible, though, that you don’t have any particular activity in mind. You just like being fit. Or, more specifically: looking fit. Periodization can help you develop specific aspects of your physique while improving the quality and effectiveness of your workouts.

How To Do It

How can you use this principle practically in your own routine, though?

Again, the exact application will depend entirely on your needs, schedule and goal. What follows, though, is a general outline meant to give you some ideas to build off of.

January–or February, in case you have fallen off your resolutions wagon–to March:

  • Use a bodybuilding-style workout to increase muscle mass and definition or
  • Prepare for spring sports

April to June:

  • Switch to high-volume training to maximize muscle growth or
  • Use a conditioning program to peak at your given sport

July to September:

  • Use HIIT to maintain your results

October to December:

  • Recover with lower-intensity workouts
  • Focus on balance, flexibility, and efficiency of movement