Programming, periodizing, and how to continue improving

Welcome back! What part of your health related fitness has improved the most? Have you thought about which components of your skill related fitness you’d like to start focusing on? Is there a sport or activity you would like to start doing that skill training could help you with? Let me know in the comments!

What does good programming accomplish? As you follow a fitness routine your body will change based on the type of exercise you’re performing and how often you’re performing them. Your muscles will grow in response to lifting weights on a regular basis just as your cardiorespiratory performance will improve as a response to aerobic and anaerobic activities. Each time you workout your body will respond by rebuilding the tissues and energy systems involved during the exercise to a core capable level than before. This process is known as supercompensation.

However, if you continue training the same way over and over again, your body will eventually stop adapting and improving. The decreases on improvement results because, at a certain point, your body gets used to the training stimulus. You may have heard of people plateauing in exercise. The diminished return from a familiar routine is what constitutes a performance plateau.

Thankfully, plateauing can be avoided by creating programs that change the training stimulus often enough that your body never has a chance to get acclimated. By changing various parameters of your training like volume intensity, your body will be forced to continually improve, inevitably moving you closer to your goal.

Changing up your training on a regular basis is necessary for consistent improvements and staving off a training plateau. How often you change your training and the ways in which you change it will depend on your fitness goals and your ability. However, there are some general guidelines and best practices that you can follow.

Let’s start by discussing the three components that make up a program; the Macrocycle, mesocycle, and microcycle.

My definition of a macrocycle is the length of time devoted to training in order to achieve a specific goal. So, if you want to run a marathon in August, a macrocycle is the total time you will spend training until the date of the marathon. Typically, a macrocycle will last between 3 months to a year. In fact, the very Accelerator program you’re in right now is a macrocycle. The goal of the Accelerator macrocycle is to improve all areas of your health related fitness while building a solid foundation of knowledge and ability to launch you into the next macrocycle of your fitness journey, the Momentum series of programs.

Mesocycles are smaller windows of time within the macrocycle, usually between 3 to 6 weeks, that are devoted to improving a specific component of your fitness. Remember the various types of fitness we discussed in the previous lesson? Well, during a mesocycle the exercises and training techniques will be selected in order to improve one or more component of your health and skill related fitness. This is accomplished by using different repetition ranges, repetition tempos, increases in intensity or volume of training, inclusion of aerobic or anaerobic training, decreasing the amount of rest between sets, and so on.

A microcycle is the smallest component of your program, usually lasting one week. Changing microcycles doesn’t come into play much when you’re a beginner, but they will become more important as you advance your fitness level. During a mesocycle the training is centered around improving a select number fitness components, such as speed and agility, muscle strength and power production, or muscle endurance and cardiorespiratory capacity. By making slight alterations to each week of training, or microcycle, but still keeping within the confines of the type of training, a more advanced athlete can create the regular stimulus necessary for his or her body to adapt and improve.

For instance, a strength athlete may slightly alter the repetitions from week to week to gradually increase the volume or intensity. A track athlete may undulate between resisted sprints and non resisted sprints from week to week. An endurance athlete may increase the weight performed during a circuit training routine while slightly decreasing the repetitions and sets every other week.

Now, how do you put it all together?

If you’re training for a specific sort or event, then choosing the length of your macrocycle should take the start of the season or the date of the event into account. Creating specific macrocycles like these requires attention to specifics and involves advanced concepts like tapering your training. As such, we will leave sport specific and event training for a future lesson during the Momentum series.

However, simply following a rudimentary macrocycle with regularly changing mesocycles can help the everyday person achieve above average fitness results. You’re very close to finishing the first macrocycle of your fitness journey, so let’s begin to plan for the next phase.

For my clients who have general fitness goals, I typically divide their macrocycles into three mesocycles, each lasting between 4 and 6 weeks. The first mesocycle focuses on hypertrophy, muscle endurance, and aerobic capacity. The second mesocycle focuses on muscle strength and power production. The third mesocycle focuses on anaerobic capacity, speed, agility, reaction and coordination training. This is followed by a week of low intensity, lower volume training to allow the body to recover from the higher intensity of the sprint and speed training.

Once my client completes the three mesocycles, which would have lasted between 12 and 18 weeks, we start all over again. However, my client is more capable than before, so new exercises, higher intensity, more volume, and higher complexity can be added to the program to continue their progress.

By following a simple plan like the one just mentioned, you can ensure you consistently improve, eventually achieving your goals. We have a few more weeks together, but if you feel you would like some extra help moving into the next phase of your training once this one is done, the Momentum series of programs are designed to start where the Accelerator programs leave off.

As always, thank you for joining in on today’s lesson. If you got something out of it or have any questions, please let me know in the comments. If you’re enjoying this fitness program and know of a friend or family member who could also benefit, please feel free to share the sign up link with them. And, as always, the secret to getting ahead is getting started. So go get started!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *