By CEO Robert Forster, PT
To kick your fitness up several notches and keep it there year round, you have to train in a way that is good for your body, building it up methodically while limiting the potential for disruptive injuries and permanent metabolic damage. One only needs to revisit the Biggest Loser debacle to understand why.
A safe training strategy is multilateral in that it combines workouts that progress your fitness with rest days and rest weeks in an effort to train, as well as protect your metabolism.
Over weeks and months, this hard/easy training schedule is the paradigm that gives your body time to recover and get stronger, more flexible and leaner.
The four training phases of Periodization ultimately help you avoid the pit fall of lifelong fitness: Overtraining, which leaves you burned out, sick, injured, and unable to control your weight.
Sequence is key.
Training science shows that you have to properly sequence your training to develop one aspect of fitness at a time and then use that as a foundation to build the next. In fact, to achieve your best fitness levels you must be incredibly patient. You will spend a long time building a broad base of aerobic infrastructure and musculoskeletal resiliency before adding more intense workouts. This strategy is virtually foolproof, used by the world’s best athletes in every sport, and it’ll work for you if you have the discipline to follow it. It’s called Periodization.
The foundation of all modern sports training, Periodization was developed in the Eastern Bloc countries during the cold war in an attempt to dominate the world of sport. It proved so effective that now athletes all over the world, and across all sports, use it routinely to achieve the highest levels of fitness while avoiding burnout and injury.
The reason this approach to fitness is so effective and has replaced of all other approaches is because it is on based research showing how the body best responds to exercise. It's all about human adaptation and it provides predictable outcomes when exercise is orchestrated in a scientifically rational sequence.
Basically, the Periodization model builds your fitness up with a stair step series of methodical, progressive challenges and recoveries that strengthen your body and keep brain and brawn fresh.
Periodization plays out like this:
• Phase 1: “Base Building.” An 8 week training cycle of gradually ramping up your workouts with the dual goal of building up your metabolic and structural foundation. The low intensity "aerobic" training teaches your body to rely on fueling itself using fat, which all bodies have a huge supply of, and hardens your body against injury for the tougher workouts to come. Similarly, your weight training is done with light weights to isolate and strengthen all the little "helper" muscles that act to stabilize each joint and perfect your running mechanics.
• Phase 2: “Strength Development” A 4-8 week training cycle of increasingly challenging aerobic workouts and weight training designed to increase the strength of the bigger muscles that will help you perform better in your life activities and sport.
• Phase 3: “Power Conversion” A 4 week training cycle where intensity is increased to build anaerobic fitness with interval training and harder gym workouts designed to convert strength into power. The training loads are decreased in the gym to teach your muscles to contract faster and harder!
• Phase 4: "Peak Fitness and Speed Development" An 8 week cycle of bringing your fitness to a peak with shorter, harder workouts designed to peak your metabolic fitness while working with super light loads in the gym for high rep sets that make your muscles more fatigue resistant.
• Phase 5: “Transition.” After achieving peak fitness you chill out a bit with easy workouts designed for recovery. Then get ready to start all over again.
In a nutshell, Periodization keeps you fresh physically and mentally because the exercise stimulus is constantly changing. It proves that development of substantial physiological infrastructure must precede the hard work of the later phases as you approach peak condition. Without developing the necessary infrastructure first through Base Training, and progressed in Strength Development, the hard work needed to prepare for the highest levels of fitness will not be as effective and also may not be tolerated, leading to injury or illness. The four training phases of Periodization ultimately help you avoid the pit fall of lifelong fitness: Overtraining, which leaves you burned out, sick, injured, and with sub-optimal health.
Stay tuned next week's for Periodization Training: Part Two