We’re chasing progress in nearly every aspect of our lives, striving to grow personally and professionally. Here’s a little not-so-secret: progress and growth both require change. When we’re feeling stuck in our personal lives, we need to make a change to further personal growth. When we’ve hit a plateau professionally, change is necessary to continue progressing.
Your fitness regimen is no different. Change up your workout routine with periodization!
What is Periodization?
Periodization is a cyclical method of training that is proven to promote continual progress by introducing various aspects of a training program in cycles at just the right time. Performance athletes worldwide use periodization training to achieve peak performance, often specialized to their sport. It’s how they develop strength, muscle memory, and endurance that allows them to participate at the highest level.
Periodization breaks a goal into three cycles; macro, meso, and micro, each corresponding to a shorter timeframe, respectively. The macrocycle is the big picture - this is the longer-term plan you’ve developed to meet your goals. The mesocycle is typically a four-to-twelve-week period referred to as blocks - this is where you will make your short-term gains toward long-term goals. Finally, the microcycle is a single week within your training plan, guided by the macro and mesocycles. At Fitness Collective, we use the concept of periodization to help our clients meet and exceed their fitness and health goals. Though periodization entails the macro, meso, and micro cycles, when discussing this concept, we typically speak mostly of the mesocycle. A good trainer will adjust the mesocycle often to ensure continued progress and results for the member.
Importance of the Mesocycle and Change in your Workout Routine
At Fitness Collective, our trainers emphasize variety in workouts as we develop the mesocycle plan for our clients. Scientifically, there are good reasons:
- Plateau Breakthrough - The human body is very good at adapting, especially in our muscles. The body and muscles will adapt to repeated movements, becoming more efficient with each workout. This increased efficiency means that over time you will burn fewer calories and build less muscle than you did earlier in the cycle, even with increased resistance or reps. The solution to this adaptation? Challenge your body in new ways! Your body will have to work harder to adjust to the new range of activities, increasing that caloric burn and muscle development.
- Prevent Injuries - There is a reason that many sports have specific injuries named after them, such as ‘tennis elbow.’ Repeating the same motions over and over can cause ‘repetitive strain injuries,’ caused by the overuse of muscles and joints. What is the solution to this overuse? Switch up your workouts! Changing your fitness activities will give those overused muscles, joints, and ligaments time to recover before engaging them again. While it’s essential to approach this proactively, if you have suffered from a repetitive strain injury, switching up your activities will also allow you to continue to stay in shape while providing that part of the body with the rest it needs for recovery.
- Beat Boredom - This is probably one of the most common complaints we hear from new clients before our fitness trainers introduce them to their Fitness Collective routine - “My old workout was boring; I lost motivation. I struggled to force myself to work out, and when I did, I was counting the seconds until I could be done.” Working out should be challenging but also engaging. Our mission at Fitness Collective is to help you reach your fitness goals, and that requires that our trainers provide workouts that keep you engaged, excited, and coming back for more. So how do we overcome boredom? You guessed it - changing up your mesocycle! Introducing new workouts every 90 days (ish) will not only help prevent injuries and accelerate your progress but also challenge your body and keep your brain healthy. A successful workout is not something you can do on autopilot - you want your body and your brain engaged at a high level to reap all the benefits of physical fitness!
Example of a Periodization Training Plan
So what does a periodization training program look like? Well, that depends on your goals. Let’s say you’re a male in his 40s with what you’re affectionately referring to as a ‘dad bod.’ You have a beach vacation in 16 weeks and want to look your best.
Macrocycle: The goal of being beach ready in 16 weeks.
Mesocycle: Just hitting the gym without a real plan isn’t going to be highly effective in hitting your goal; we use the mesocycle to break down the macrocycle goal into bite-sized chunks that deliver effective results.
Mesocycle 1 - Weeks 1-4: The focus is on foundational fitness during this period. You’ll work to learn basic skills, master the movements of your workouts, and increase your endurance. There is great emphasis on form and function to reduce the risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of future activities.
Mesocycle 2-3 - Weeks 5-12: Hypertrophy is introduced after you’ve increased your endurance and mastered your form. During this mesocycle, you’ll increase your healthy caloric intake while simultaneously increasing your workout routine to build muscle. Your workout routine will include progressive overload, or continually increasing the resistance (i.e., adding more weight) for three weeks, then one week of reparative recovery, and repeat. The focus during this period is to increase your muscle mass.
Mesocycle 4 - Week 13-16: You’ve built muscle, and now it’s time to show it off. During the third mesocycle of this microcycle, the focus is on increasing the caloric deficit to shed extra fat and lean your muscle mass. By reducing caloric intake and increasing caloric burn, you’ll gradually taper body fat and see those results!
Microcycle: Within each mesocycle, the microcycle will vary weekly and will depend on your specific goals and the muscle groups you wish to build. Use the microcycle to target the specific areas you want to work on or see improvement.
Periodization training has many benefits and can help you reach your goals! Whether you’re looking to get beach ready for an upcoming vacation or simply increase your overall wellness and physical fitness, Fitness Collective is here to help develop a plan that is right for you!