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The Science Behind The Success; Periodization A Synopsis

Gerli and Coach Tiiu Valgemae as Naomi Andersson looks on
Gerli and Coach Tiiu Valgemae as Naomi Andersson looks on
Tiiu Valgemae and Gerli Liinamae

As you journey into self-education and begin to create your own training programs whether for fitness or maximum sport performance, you should understand the principles that drive my understanding. Take this article as a history lesson on the education of Matt Goreski by his mentor Dr. Tudor Bompa so many years ago.
The Approach;
Periodization as a reference to solid, effectual, performance based programs and program design is a given for those of us in the Strength Coaching world. Dr. Tudor Bompa created Periodization as a principle in the late 1950’s and 1960’s in as a Sport Scientist in Romania.
These principles are at the core of almost every contemporary fitness and sport specific performance training plan. The methodology is a combination of structured cycles of training, which accomplish individual elements of neurological and anatomical adaptation and structural development in specific phases during an athlete’s annual training. These phases span both preparatory and competitive seasons. What sets Periodized training apart is twofold: its simplicity; the base elements of strength training without gimmicks, and its ability to transition an athlete’s strength, speed and power to their sport.
Periodized ideology teaches you to utilize scientific principles, objective measurements, and subjective limits to plan a program where you will peak for your event or season regardless if it is in six weeks or one year. Periodization allows you to sectionalize your off season to maximize gains and recovery and minimize injury and plateaus caused by over training or what I like to call undereducated training. It allows program design which encompasses all aspects of training appropriate for any athlete; Transition, Anatomical Adaptation, Hypertrophy, Maximum Strength, Power, and most importantly Conversion to Power.
Each stage is designed to lead into the next which is the reasoning behind the article topics thus far, and finally into the Conversion to Power section which is the piece de resistance. It takes the achievements in the gym and makes them practical gains on the playing field.
Stage One;
Phase one of the Periodization of Strength is also the core of the article “Prepare your Body to Train”. The objectives of the Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase are to involve the most muscle groups possible and to prepare the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints to endure the subsequent lengthy and strenuous training phases.
Subsequent goals while training within the AA phase are to strengthen core areas first; including spinal column and trunk region. This is especially important in younger athlete’s mainly amateur level, high-school, and even collegiate players. This being said, amateur bodybuilders and recreational athletes will more than benefit from implementing this training prior to any Max Strength or Hypertrophy phase. To become a powerful athlete your body’s core area must be stable enough to compensate for tremendous levels of exerted force. This must occur without conceding in either technical or tactical areas to balance such exertion.
In other words, your strength may be tremendous however without a strong core area the ability to apply that strength is negated.
In short this phase focuses on areas which you are less developed to allow you to apply your already proficient muscle groups in the following phases of training.
Stage Two;
The second but in some cases third phase of training is Hypertrophy. The purpose of this phase is not to gain size in terms of weight, rather to develop large, active, fat-free body mass. Force depends directly on muscle density and diameter, therefore increased active body mass is an asset to strength application, thus more active mass, more potential strength.
During training in this phase an increased number of repetitions cause a relatively light weight to become a sub maximum and then maximum load by the last repetition, thus you will push to failure. Increases in recruitment of muscle fibers and units often directly relate to an increased physiological effect on strength you will learn much more about that during Max Strength training. Training in this phase is based on a 6/12 gradient where a weight which is maximal for 6 repetitions is trained until the athlete adapts to it for as many as 12 repetitions.
To be completely aggressive in this training method you are going to train to exhaustion. Hypertrophy is the cumulative exhaustion created by the total number of sets no only per individual set as in contemporary bodybuilding programs.
Perform the repetitions at low to moderate speed; this is why only select power sports such as Football linemen, heavy class wrestlers/ boxers/ martial artists and some power track and field athletes are advised to complete this phase. The explanation to that is typically sports whose focus is speed and endurance use dynamic repetition speed to train their body, so slow contractions are counterproductive. Bodybuilders will excel at this phase. Also differing from contemporary bodybuilding routines, focus is put on prime movers only during this phase and your total exercises are kept low.
It is essential not to train too many individual body parts during this phase. Overtraining occurs when the livers glycogen stores can’t replenish fully between workouts. This is why Hypertrophy training is only done two to three workouts a micro-cycle with maximal time to recover between. Contemporary bodybuilding theory involves resting individual muscles while continuing to train others, rather than waiting for glycogen recovery. Unless the bodybuilder is a professional with maximum supplemental support for his/her liver support, you will inevitably fail and over-train using that theory. Periodization develops peak cell volume without taxing the liver to dangerous levels of fatigue.
Don’t worry this will be broken down to enable you to create an incredible Hypertrophy program in an upcoming article.

Stage Three;
The objectives of the Maximum Strength (MxS) Phase: Train to eliminate Central Nervous System (CNS) inhibition. A reduction in the inhibition and an overall increase in strength will yield the greatest increased strength potential. Basically if you increase the amount of muscle fibers which come when called, then increase the speed they respond at, the potential to become very strong is great. Therefore the aim is to develop the highest level of force possible.
Every activity has different dominant abilities, for some it’s power, and others muscle endurance, and others speed. The common denominator is that each of these abilities is affected directly by the athlete’s maximum strength.
During MxS training you must strive to achieve peak maximal force and strength. The ability to efficiently recruit FT muscle fibers depends on the content of a training period, this content will include intense (max) loads and explosive, dynamic power. When you create high tension in the muscle, strength increases, thus when utilizing high intensity training loads and technique, the same will occur as one is a precursor to the other.
Your strength does not depend on body weight or size rather on the recruitment of FT (fast twitch or white/type II) muscle fibers and motor units.
Think about fibers as White and Red, the latter is for endurance and the White one is for strength. You can’t build any more so what you have is what you have, all you can do is convert them from Red to White or vice versa, this is the goal of MxS training.
During this phase Eccentric (negative portion of the contraction) and Concentric contractions will be used. This training phase is not performed into or under exhaustive conditions therefore allowing high CNS activation, resulting in improved synchronization and coordination of muscle units both agonistic and antagonistic. Essentially because of the lengthy rest period between sets you will not work to cellular fatigue and will be able to create a peak contraction through most of the duration of training.
Dynamic application of force and explosiveness is performed during the later stages of the preparatory phase, or in the last phase of MxS. Read “Time to Build Some Max Strength” to get a good idea of how to put together a program for this phase, that will compliment your needs and goals.
Combining MxS and Power training enhances speed and explosiveness. Not only are you increasing the amount of FT fibers you are recruiting causing a stronger contraction but you are speeding up the recruitment in general.
The initial part of the routine is performed against a heavier load this stimulates a high recruitment of Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers (FT). The follow up explosive/ quickness movements increase the firing rate of the FT Fibers. This prepares you for the quick, explosive actions required for speed-power sports during the competitive phase.
Stage Four;
This phase exemplifies periodization and its application for peak performance in athletics. During this phase of training the goal is to convert your gains in Maximum Strength in the gym and Speed/Agility on the track into practical sport specific peak performance.
Depending on the sport, position and personal goals, Maximum Strength must be converted into either Power or Muscular Endurance. Whichever the dominant ability is for your specific sport must be the focus of training and especially the focus of the Conversion phase. Triathlon and 100m Hurdles are much different in their physical requirements and thus the training is as well.
Power is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible force in the shortest amount of time. You need only know that Power must be the result of either increased Strength or Speed, or a combination of both.
Neural changes help the individual muscle achieve greater performance. Increasing the speed that fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited and the tolerance of the motor neurons enhances this ability. Neuromuscular adaptation to power training techniques relate to muscular coordination. This type of adaptation leads to the CNS sending or not sending impulses to contract various muscles to more effectively perform a movement.
In short dynamic explosive movements are performed to simulate competitive conditions. This dynamic action, combine with Max Strength exercises creates an outlet for each athlete’s strength to directly affect their practical abilities and overall sport specific performance.
In conclusion, Periodization is backed by almost 70 years of sport science so although it may seem intense and a little overwhelming at times stay the course because it works. Also remember to keep reading as I promise this article will be as technical as it gets unless I’m asked to repeat it. Keep increasing your knowledge and keep training hard.

Yours in Health,


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