Periodization Demystified

December 11, 2018 | Author: amk786 | Category: Muscle Hypertrophy, Physical Exercise, Management Of Obesity, Self Care, Sports
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DEMYSTIFIED Comrade, can you tell periodization from perestroika and Leonid Matveyev from Leonid Brezhnev? If not, it’s time to incorporate this Soviet breakthrough into your training! Periodization is defined as planned—according to certain principles!—variation of the training variables such as intensity and volume within a specified period of time, culminating in peak performance. Although its origins can be traced to Russia, periodization did not come alive until L.P. Matveyev published his milestone, The Problems of Periodization in Sports Training (1964). Comrade Matveyev even applied this revolutionary concept to his own quest for a 100-kilogram or 225-pound, clean and press. In the process, the “father of periodization” changed the face of athletic training, as we know it.

By Pavel Tsatsouline, Master of Sports Photography by Dennis Lane




Understanding periodization ■

looking to increase muscle size should take

Union have offered many esoteric theories.

In the West, periodization has either been

this idea a step further. I will teach you how

It could be systemic neurological or

overdone with yawn-drawing charts and alien

to strip periodization down to its funda-

endocrine exhaustion. Perhaps the hypo-

Russian terminology or dubbed down to “do

mental principles, namely cycling, sequential

thalamus, the part of the brain in charge

high reps, then switch to heavy weights.”

development, the optimal volume/intensity

of adaptation, calls it quits. Or maybe the

Here is the real thing. Most lifters are free

relationship and delayed adaptation, and

local genetic apparatus in your muscles has

spirits who rebel against structured power-

then superimpose them into your workout,

had it for a while. It could be some

lifting style cycles. “Over-reliance on numer-

freestyle! Bruce Lee said it best, “Look at the

unknown regulatory mechanism, which for-

ical computations in preparing a periodiza-

moon, not the finger.”

bids continuous unidirectional adaptation … who knows. The point is it happens, and

tion chart is a major reason why some coaches tend to dismiss their relevance,” says

“Cycle” your weight ■

you cannot hide your head in the sand if

Drs. Verkhoshansky and Siff, authors of

According to the physiological Law of

Supertraining (old-fashioned instinctive

Accommodation, after a short period of

Russian scientists concluded that peri-

training plugged into a periodization master

time the body stops responding to a given

odic gain and loss of sporting form is a

plan). Many variables, from sunlight to your

stimulus. It takes a greater load to get it

law of physiology, and it dictates a cycli-

recent argument with your boss, affect your

to improve again. The bummer is, you can-

cal organization of the training process.

performance, and it is unrealistic to map out

not increase the load indefinitely—it just

“Human life can be considered one big

a rigid 20-week plan and follow it rep for rep.

doesn’t work that way.

wave with its climbing, peaking and

you expect to keep on getting bigger!

Bulgarian weightlifters, scientific as they are,

Why can’t you train hard full time and

declining phase,” writes one Eastern

use their judgment in determining the opti-

progress forever? Estonian Dr. Atko Viru

European specialist. “Several smaller

mal training weight for every set. People

and other big brains from the former Soviet

waves are superimposed on our life wave.

74 MUSCLE MEDIA August 2002




Some last years, some days, some hours

smaller loading volume.”

ple method is quite acceptable: After three

and some even less than a second.

Instead of increasing your bench num-

weeks of powerful, shock overloads, spend

Rational athletic training should take this

bers—within one workout or in consecutive

one week training with half the sets in

cyclical character of life into an account.”

sessions—in a linear fashion (e.g., 225-230-

every exercise.” Cycling implies that the

Thus, cycling of loads was born. This rad-

235-240-245-250), try something wild like

difficulty of your training will vary greatly.

ical concept is simple: If your muscles have

225-240-215-235-220-250. The overall pat-

Soviet research data is clear: Easy work-

stopped responding to a training stimulus

tern of increasing the intensity is still

outs restore your strength and brawn much

and rebel against a further load increase,

observed, but irregular jumps back and forth

faster than channel surfing. “The best con-

back off to resensitize them! “Soften them

will bring you to your goal faster. Do the same

ditions for anabolic processes are when

up” for future gains as some lifters put it.

step with the volume, or the total number of

small (2- to 4-ton) loads with low inten-

reps in your muscle-building session.

sity follow large loads,” stated Arkady

The cycling principle applies to your training months and weeks and repeats

Say you work each muscle group once

Vorobyev, a champion, scientist and coach.

itself even within a workout. Multiple sets

a week. The total reps you ever do is 100

Another reason to have an easy work-

with a static weight (e.g., 200 kilograms

per muscle group. The volume is calculated

out on days when you feel like hanging up

for five sets of five reps) are frowned upon

by adding all the reps minus the warm-ups

your belt is what Russian textbooks refer

by Russian weightlifters. They have the

(e.g., military press 5x10 = 50, upright

to as “the continuity of the training

habit of following up a heavy triple or dou-

rows 5x10 = 50, the workout volume for

process.” Think of it this way: If you

ble with a double or a single with a weight

the shoulders is 50+50 = 100 reps).

include the squat into your leg workout

reduced by 5 percent to 10 percent before

Every fourth week, cut your volume to

only once in a blue moon, your squatting

making another heavy lift. Their Bulgarian

60 percent of your peak load. Your deltoid

gains will be nonexistent. Your body does

colleagues follow a similar pattern that

workout would chill out by 40 percent:

not adapt to a stimulus immediately

they call “segments”: Work up to a heavy

(3x10) + (3x10) = 60 reps. Your weekly vol-

because it does not want to go to all the

single, then back off some, then push

ume distribution in one month might look

trouble if the stressor is a fluke. The more

again, etc. In addition to being more

like this: 90-70-100-60, 70-85-60-100,

often you squat, the stronger you get.

effective for obscure motor-learning rea-

60-80-100-65, etc. Variations are endless.

Eastern European weightlifters squat daily

sons, a “wavy” workout is a lot less monotonous and more enjoyable. More important, according to Matveyev, nonstop variation of volume and intensity reduces the possibility




enhances the performance peaks. Many Western proponents of periodization are under the impression that the load should change gradually. While this may often be true for the overall months-long pattern,

but rarely to their 700- to 800-pound

“After three weeks of powerful shock overloads, spend one week training with half the sets in every exercise.”

taking baby steps in workouts and

limit. Constantly exposed to the deep knee bends and unable to get out of touch with their purpose, these athletes’ legs transform into super squatting machines. So don’t be afraid to have easy workouts or sets here and there. While the simple approach of sticking to the same exercises and only cycling the load works for powerlifters and bodybuilders, the advanced ones need more variety in

playing with quarter-pound Malibu Ken

Just don’t fall for slick sequences like 60-

their training. The periodization model

and Barbie plates is far from being your

70-80-90 or 95-85-75-65. Dr. Matveyev

takes your needs into account. According

best choice. Prof. Vorobyev explains,

states point blank: Sharp changes in train-

to the data from the scientific experiment

“Although not excluding the principle of

ing volume and intensity are more effec-

conducted in Moscow by V.S. Avanesov, a

gradual overload, we propose sudden, yet

tive than smooth ones!

complex of weight-training exercises pro-

fitting the given athlete’s functional abil-

If the above is going over your head, fol-

vides good results for one to one and a half

ities, changes in load ‘jumps’. This princi-

low the no-brainer cycling procedure rec-

months (no more than that), then it

ple of organizing the training loads allows

ommended by Russian powerlifting coach

should be changed. Dorian Yates warned

one to achieve higher results with a

and author Leonid Ostapenko, “A very sim-

against excessive muscle confusion. The 75




bodybuilding legend explained that vari-

immediately back off! Doggedly attempting

with sets of four to 12 repetitions on your

ety for variety’s sake is just a distraction

to maintain the strength peak dooms the

third trip to your iron pit. If you follow a



iron rat to failure. The volatility of the gains

four-on/one-off split, the whole sequence

According to Y. Verkhoshansky and M. Siff,



can be maintained for five to 10 days at

will take you 15 days. This approach is known

when exercises are switched more often

best, according to Dr. Arkady Vorobyev, and

as sequential development in contrast with

than once every four to six weeks, the

a higher risk of injuries and overtraining are

the antiquated parallel development with

body goes into what is known as a tran-

not the only problems of high-intensity


sient accumulation process. Meaning it

training. Russian scientists warn that

Unlike a track and field athlete, a body-

doesn’t have time to catch on to what it’s

attempting to maintain top condition is

builder does not need to sequence differ-

supposed to adapt to and in the end, it

detrimental to future progress—another

ent workouts in a particular order, he

hardly adapts at all. Either changing your

reason why volume rules most of the time.

should follow one rule: Spend most of his

workout too often or never changing it is

training time in the four- to 12-rep range. Sequential development ■

a raw deal.

I’ll explain.

Soviet scientists such as Y. V.

Scientist T. Hettinger discovered that

Volume/Intensity relationship ■

Verkhoshansky observed that the athlete’s

strength built quickly is lost quickly and

Generally there is an inverse relation-

body adapts much better if it is presented

vice versa. Soviet scientists such as V.

ship between the loading volume and

with a focused and limited training objec-

Platonov added that different training ben-


tive rather than a host of often conflict-

efits are acquired and lost at various rates.

Load variation is critically important to

ing demands—get big and strong and fast,

For instance, myofibrilllar hypertrophy

bodybuilding success, but it must follow

and run a marathon. Since different rep

(four to 12 reps) is developed and lost

one rigid rule: Concentrate on volume and

ranges have a specific effect on the mus-

slower than sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (up

do not abuse high-intensity training

cles—low reps increase muscle density,

to 100 reps) or muscle density (one to three

(HIT). Whether you interpret intensity as

medium reps build the contractile proteins

reps). This means two things: Your hard-

a percentage of one-rep max (the Russian

and high reps develop mitochondria, sar-

earned beef will not shrink away if you

definition) or of momentary ability (the

coplasm and capillaries—the obvious

switch your focus to power or endurance

American definition), you will not build

implication of this discovery on body-

training for a session or two; and gains in

much beef if you regularly HIT. Short-lived

building is not to spread your workout over

max strength and muscular endurance come

strength gains are all you can hope for,

a large rep range. Say good-bye to pyra-

so quick, all you need is an occasional ses-

which is why high intensity should be a

mids and light back-off sets. Instead,

sion or two to bring them up to a

rare visitor to your regimen. “When one is after long-term adaptation and aims at significant structural and not just functional changes (muscle mass versus strength), the volume of loading is increased first and foremost,” states Leonid Matveyev. “When, on the other hand, one aims to realize the acquired ability as a sudden increase in athletic performance, the training intensity gets top importance.”

respectable level.

“Bench a mindboggling weight and get the whole gym talking once in awhile and immediately back off!”

In other words, build beef with a lot

Bottom line: Two out of three workouts should be dedicated to building mass with medium reps. Other workouts can zero in on ultrahigh or ultra-low repetitions. Let your instinct determine the optimal order of these sessions. Delayed training effect ■ Renegade Russian scientist Prof. Zatsiorsky explains the delayed training effect, “During periods of

of sets and reps, then get as strong as you

pump up your sarcoplasm, the muscle cell

strenuous training, athletes cannot

look by occasionally pushing the pedal to

filler, with burning 100-rep sets in one

achieve the best performance results for

the metal.

workout; up your density with singles, dou-

two main reasons. First, it takes time to

Bench a mind-boggling weight and get

bles and triples in your next session for the

adapt to the training stimulus. Second,

the whole gym talking once in awhile and

given body part; and build the myofibrils

hard training work induces fatigue that

76 MUSCLE MEDIA August 2002







accumulates over time. So a period of rela-

The 10 Commandments of Free-

9. Relatively easy sessions are more effec-

tively easy exercise is needed to realize the

Style Bodybuilding Periodization

tive than complete rest. Active recov-

effect of the previous hard sessions to reveal

ery workouts may be planned or taken

the delayed training effect. Adaptation

1. Vary your volume and intensity every

occurs mainly when a retaining or detrain-

workout. Make sudden jumps rather

ing load is used after a stimulating load.”

than gradual changes. If you do not

10. Controlled short-term volume over-

mind the math, employ the 60 percent

training followed by low-volume/low

rule to your volume planning.

intensity taper is a very powerful

The adaptation lag has a tremendous impact on bodybuilding. Once you appreciate its power, you will be freed of the religious fear of overtraining which plagues the gyms. Indeed, intelligent


training anabolic. You may plan for 2. Change your exercises every four to six weeks.

short-term overtraining is one of the most

concentrated loading or simply take advantage of accidental over-training every ambitious trainer is prone to.

powerful tools in the bodybuilding arse-

3. High-intensity training should be

nal. While a novice or intermediate body-

employed infrequently. It is only mar-

Here you have it, the blueprints of a

builder should allow for complete recov-

ginally effective for hypertrophy, and

secret Russian weapon that will bomb

ery between his workouts, for an advanced

primarily causes short-lived strength

your competition back to the Stone Age!

athlete such distributed loading is what

gains. Frequent use of heavy weights

Do not think because periodization has

Estonian sports science mastermind Dr.

and training to failure are also detri-

been around for decades and volumes

Atko Viru calls “a waste of time.”

mental to future gains.

have been written about it, Westerners

Concentrated loading, Prof. Verkhoshansky’s

understand it better than alien technol-

baby, is an advanced alternative. In essence,

4. High volume is the key to bodybuild-

ogy in Area 51! The Russkies constantly

it is short-term over-training which is fol-

ing success. An advanced bodybuilder’s

make corrections and improvements on-

lowed by an unusually high supercompen-

high-load workout should include up to

the-go that are impossible to keep up

sation peak if the athlete is smart enough

150 repetitions per body part.

with unless you are an insider. It is like

to back off before acute overtraining sets

the old Russian joke about an American

in. Aaron Baker, David Dearth and other

5. Generally there is an inverse relation-

spy who got hold of the blueprints of the

bodybuilders who reported sensational gains

ship between the loading volume and

newest Soviet missile. When a military

when they gave Mike Mentzer’s workout a

intensity, but it’s meant to be occa-

contractor built it, it turned out to be a

shot after doing high-volume training for

sionally broken by elite bodybuilders.

steam engine. The irate intelligence offi-

awhile are the poster children of concentrated loading followed by a taper. “The more extensive and longer the exhaustion of the body’s energy resources

cer went back to his source at the Russian 6. Limit each workout to a narrow rep

defense installation and confronted him.

range: 1-3, 4-7, 8-12 and 12+. Limit

The traitor slapped himself on the fore-

your use of pyramids.

head, “You mean I forgot to give you the

by concentrated loading … (obviously

19 volumes of upgrades?!”

within reasonable limits), the higher their

7. Vary the intensity (both the poundage

Let others ride the steam engine. You

subsequent super-restoration and the

and the proximity to muscle failure)

have the missile plans and upgrades.

longer the new functional level is main-

within each workout while staying in

Study them. Use them. Dominate.

tained,” explain Prof. Verkhoshansky and

the specified rep range. For example:

his colleague Dr. Siff. The scientists warn

275x3, 300x3RM, 285x2, 250x3, 295x2

to keep against going overboard on train-

and 315x1RM instead of 285x5x3.

ing intensity when employing concentrated loading; the means are already very pow-

8. Four to 12 repetitions are the meat of

erful and court excessive over-training. You

a scientific bodybuilding regimen. No

should save this thermonuclear weapon

more than one out of three workouts

until your physique gets startled looks

should be dedicated to very low (one

instead of “Been working out?” comments.

to three) or high (12 and over) reps.

78 MUSCLE MEDIA August 2002

Pavel Tsatsouline, Master of Sports, is the author of Power to the People!: Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American available from (800) 899-5111 and

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