So you've been working out for a while. You've made some great progress. And then the gains stop. Not only that, but you're feeling bored and stale with your workouts. On top of that, you may even be getting some aches and pains. What if I told you that there's a way to make great progress, keep your enthusiasm high, and help avoid aches and pains? The answer is periodization. This also goes hand in hand with exercise rotation and not doing the same thing over and over again. I've seen people doing the exact same workout for years with no change whatsoever. Maybe they don't know how to change it. But whatever the case may be, it's quite clear that if you do the same routine for 3 years you're going to go stale! Not only that, but because you're doing the same exact motions over and over again, week in, week out, you're going to suffer from overuse injuries. Take a look at Tennis Elbow. Why does it happen. It's the same motion over and over with the same arm. Unless you want to switch to being a southpaw or quit, you're not going to have much of a choice. However for your fitness workouts, there are hundreds of exercises that you can use. There should be no reason to have to suffer from overuse problems. Sometimes it's just a matter of changing the angle of your body or twisting your wrist a bit and it can make a HUGE difference!
More important than the specific exercise selection is the way the workouts are structured. There are two ways to design a periodization program. The first is with cycles. Each cycle lasts 12 weeks and within each cycle are 4 sub-cycles which last 3 weeks. The goal is to hit a different element of fitness with each sub-cycle so that at the end of the 12 weeks, you've gone through 4 different workout plans, made some great gains, and are ready to go onto the next cycle! Here's an example of how you could structure your cycles.
WEEKS 1 TO 3: BODY BLAST - These workouts will focus on basic movements with both bodyweight and equipment. Also a particular emphases is placed on core training.
WEEKS 4 TO 6: STRENGTH - These will focus on slightly lower reps and basic movements. But we'll still be doing some exercises for higher reps as well.
WEEKS 7 TO 9: STRENGTH ENDURANCE - Here's where we'll get to some of the more unconventional things like hammers, macebells, farmer's walking, etc. The core work is done mainly as a by-product of the primary training here.
WEEKS 10 TO 12 - CONDITIONING - Mostly bodyweight exercises. Some plyometrics can be done here, but it can be modified for people who want zero or low-impact workouts.
Of course you can assign the cycles any way you want, but this is one of my favourite ways of how I like to structure them. The second method to design a periodization cycle is with rotating workouts. This means that you'll do a BODY BLAST workout on Monday, a STRENGTH WORKOUT on Wednesday, a STRENGTH ENDURANCE workout on Friday, and a CONDITIONING workout on the following Monday. You would then repeat them for the remainder of the 12 weeks. So you can see that with this much variety, boredom or staleness should never be an issue. And because of the variety, overuse injuries won't be either. They say "Variety is the spice of life". I couldn't agree more!
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