Periodization For Gym Rats

Here's a question you may have at this point: What the hell does this have to do with me? And it's a fair question. After all, if you've been training for a few years, you probably haven't periodized anything—you simply go to the gym three or four or five or six days a week, and lift the best way you know how. You change your workouts when you learn something new.

And if you've never lifted before, or tried but failed to stick with a program, you may wonder how you can commit to a year-long program when the first month usually presents challenge enough.

Without knowing it, you've presented the best possible arguments for periodiz-ing your programs.

The consistent lifter probably hasn't made consistent gains—it's all been startstop. Ask me if you can name this tune:

1. You start off great guns and make gains for a month or two.

2. You stop making gains but continue for a few more weeks on the same program, perhaps adding sets or exercises to get things moving forward again.

3. You don't make the gains, and your motivation wavers. You start to backslide a bit.

4. You discover a new workout technique, or some new exercises, and suddenly you're motivated again and making new gains.

5. Repeat as necessary.

Periodization (and yes, I find the word kind of annoying, too) gets you out of this cycle by figuring out in advance when you'll need to shake up your program. A well-designed workout program will start you off with higher-volume, lower-intensity, lower-skill workouts, then gradually push you toward heavier weights, lower repetitions, and exercises that require more skill. In other words, the fun stuff.

Now, about that beginner or constant re-starter: My guess is that you'll find it easier to stick with a program that regularly changes, as opposed to one that offers the same stuff week after week, stuff that you find boring after the first few workouts. Speaking as a lifelong lifter, I know I get a little extra adrenaline surge when I know I'm going to try something different in that day's workout. You may think I'm nuts, but my guess is that you'll soon find yourself charged up by the new, too.

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