Over time the body will adapt to continuously repeated training stressors placed on it and the training will become less effective. It some cases the body’s performance may actually decline. This is known as general adaptation syndrome. By mixing up the training frequently, a lifter is able to continually progress toward a goal, or to take long periods of rest followed by a training season without losing the progress they have made. This is call periodization. In the gym, however, most lifters will refer to periodization as training cycles, or simply “cycling”.
The technique of periodization was invented in the former Eastern Bloc countries in the 1950s as a method to optimize the performance of weightlifting athletes and split their training into seasons. This allowed them to be at peak performance during competition and in active recovery during the off season.
The goal of periodization is to expose the muscles to a particular method of training just long enough to reap the benefits, and then move on to another method to gain more benefits. Having a multitude of training methods and strategically cycling through them will prevent stagnation due to general adaptation syndrome, not to mention preventing boredom, the greatest cause of people quitting fitness training.
Classic periodization emphasizes building large muscles and then working to strengthen them. In the classic form, periodization begins with low resistance training and progresses over time into high intensity, high resistance training. This allows the body to adapt over time without too much stress which causes injury. But it also means that the actual volume of training begins very high and gets shorter over time.
Ultimately, classic periodization is only good for lifters that follow a season training patter. Lifters that need to be prepared at all times throughout the year, such as fire fighters, first-responders, and Soldiers, will gain little benefit from following this type of periodization.
Reverse Linear Periodization
Finally, training cycles can be combined to formulate a customized program that its the needs of the lifter. As relative a fitness training can be, it is important for a lifter with a few years experience to experiment with different periodization techniques in order to edge out extra performance.