Periodization of Strength:

Wow, that is quite a mouth full isn’t it? Periodization of strength, in simple terms, describes the division of an exercise or fitness program into various periods of time or better yet, into phases of training. Periodization techniques are incredibly important in sports training because it is imperative that an athlete be in the greatest possible shape for the main competition(s) of the year. Periodization covers many aspects of athletic conditioning, such as training for speed, endurance training, nutritional guidelines and of course, strength training.

Strength Training
Why is strength training so important to sports? Strength training or the consistent use of weights is the foundation from which athletic development progresses. An athlete cannot physically mature and develop the strength and power required for a sport without following a progressive and challenging form of strength training that constantly forces the body to adapt to higher levels of fitness. So, how does periodization fit into all this?

Have you ever heard the sayings, “you must walk before you can run,” and “you cannot be fast until you are strong”? Strength training for sports must be methodical and planned in accordance to the goals of the sport. For instance, a hockey player who follows a volleyball player’s strength-training program will not develop the necessary level of strength that is required to play hockey. Similarly, a rower could not improve his strength for a rowing event by following the strength program of a football lineman.

The periodization of strength uses various phases of training that are modified and individually planned to meet the goals of the sport. Furthermore, because certain phases are more difficult than others, it is important that the training program meets the physiological characteristics of an athlete. In other words, even though a high level of strength is important to a sport, if an athlete is not physically ready to handle the stresses of lifting heavy weights, shorter, less intense sessions that focus on lighter weights will be more productive to the athlete’s development of fitness and strength. In due time, the athlete will adapt to a more intense program and be ready to challenge his/her body with a higher level of strength development and use heavy weights.

Is the Periodization of Strength Only Used in Sports Training?
Ironically, when designing the Exercise Section of Truestar’s website, I decided to use the periodization of strength for all fitness training programs. Experience has taught me that our bodies are all built and engineered the same way, yet with a few minor genetic differences. The only difference between high-performance athletes and you is that they push themselves physically to higher levels of adaptations and thus improve their level of conditioning beyond what you can achieve. You see, they are not built any different, they just push themselves harder. In other words, you and I could also follow a periodization of strength program and achieve good results.

The Periodization of Strength is Not Only For Athletes
The phases involved in the periodization of strength slowly progress the body to adapt and improve without pushing it to the point of fatigue and possible injury. Strength training should be methodical, not just something we do because we feel like it. If we invest our money with proper investment methodology, why not do the same with our bodies? Everything in life occurs in phases and steps. The way our bodies build muscle and strength is no different. What do I mean by this? Well, think about the last time you went to a gym and had someone give you a strength training program. The first thing they probably asked you about is your goals. If you told them that you were interested in building muscle, they probably gave you 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions for each exercise. If you told them that you were interested in building strength, they probably gave you 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions for each exercise. If you told them you were interested in improving definition or leanness, they probably prescribed 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions for each exercise. Of course, I am generalizing, but believe it or not, this happens in gyms across North America on a daily basis!

We are all at different levels of fitness and conditioning, so where we want to go really depends on where we currently are. Sometimes you have to take a step back and improve the general fitness of your body before you can optimize the results you really want, such as building muscle or strength and defining your body. Our bodies are willing to co-operate with our wishes, but we have to slowly progress them to that level. Think about the student who studies an hour a day for 5 or 6 days over the course of a week versus the student that crams everything in the night before a exam. The crammer may receive the same results as the other student on paper, but which student is more likely to recall the information days after the exam? The answer is the student who took the time to study in phases. You don’t want your results to be short-lived, but rather chronic changes that can last a lifetime. Whether training for a sport or for improved fitness, periodization of strength is the key to fitness success.

What Are the Phases Involved in The Periodization of Strength?
The 5 major strength training phases include: anatomical adaptation, hypertrophy, maximum strength, conversion to power and the conversion to muscular endurance. Depending on the type of strength needed for the sport and the fitness level of the athlete, these phases can be planned in numerous ways.

On another thought, the muscular development and leanness you notice when looking at an athlete is a secondary result to following a strength training program. Athletes don’t train to look good, they train to perform. So, if you remove the performance issue that athletes face, you are left with a program that can help you achieve an athlete’s body without the added stress and hours of competition. Here’s the good part: sports involve so much more than mere strength development training that in reality, most athletes probably don’t train for more than 1 hour a day, 3 to 5 times a week with weights. Most of their time is spent perfecting the skills of the sport. In a short amount of time, you too can train like an athlete and successfully follow the periodization of strength.

Final Seal of Approval
The periodization of strength is the best form of training for athletes of any age who want to optimize their strength development for a particular sport. If you are not an athlete, but want to strength train like one, then give the periodization of strength a try. It really is a lot of fun when you exercise and train with a purpose.