The Training Principle Of Periodization & Cyclization

Nothing polarizes the world of training professionals as much as the topic of periodization. Whilst some believe it’s the basis for any successful training intervention, others regard it as unnecessary or even counter-productive.

Periodization Steve Jobs Don't Be Trapped by dogma

Steve Jobs’ take on Periodization ;-)

I personally believe Steve Jobs was right, when he said, “don’t be trapped by dogma”. I doubt that he spoke about the periodization of training, however, having an open mind and seeing opportunities is a good thing.

Before we get started, this training principle refers to the necessity of ‘cycling’ training or changing the training around, it doesn’t necessarily look at the model of periodization, how it has been established by Matvejew, and then has been further developed by other people.

In this article, you’ll learn

The basic premise of the principle of periodization and cyclization

Athletes can’t display peak performance the entire year, therefore, it’s hypothesized that peak performance or the peak performance state, is a balancing act between just enough and too much.

Athletes can’t display peak performance the entire year, therefore, it’s hypothesized that peak performance or the peak performance state, is a balancing act between just enough and too much.

It’s as simple as that.

The biological basis for the training principle of periodization and cyclization

I have outlined the phasic character of adaptations’ previously, which explains that adaptations go through 3 phases.

The phases are

  • The gain phase
  • The stabilization phase
  • And the reduction phase

These phases align with the time course of adaptations, and that the adaptive response to a stimulus decreases over time. A stimulus that initially invoked an adaptation will over time only maintain the adaptation, and if this stimulus doesn’t change it will lead to no adaptation or de-adaptation.

The stimulus that invokes an adaptation, represents the gain phase, the stimulus that maintains an adaptation represents the stabilization phase, and the stimulus that has no adaptation or a de-adaptation represents the reduction phase.

Phasic character of adaptations and the basis for periodization in sport

Phasic character of adaptations going through a gain phase, stabilization phase, and reduction phase

Kraemer and Zatsiorsky explain these phases in their book Science and Practice of Strength Training, as stimulating, retaining, and detraining.

  • Stimulating: positive adaptations may take place
  • Retaining: the level of fitness is maintained
  • Detraining: a decrease in performance results and or in functional performance capabilities

Consequently stimulating refers to the gain phase, retaining refers to the stabilization phase, and detraining refers to the reduction phase.

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The practical application of the training principle of periodization and cyclization

In the previous article the training principle of continuity & reversibility, I described the so-called residual effects, which refers to how long do training adaptations maintain after the cessation of training before they de-adapt.

The initial effects, when do you see the first adaptations after a certain exposure to a training method or a training stimulus.

And ceiling effects, which literally means when will the stimulus not work anymore, and not elicit any more adaptations.

Understanding these effects can help you to design the optimal training phases and training cycles.

But then, how do you do that?

How to cycle your training

There are multiple examples of how you could potentially structure your training cycles, however, there are a few principles that are vital to understanding, when structuring your training cycles.

One of these is the so-called phase potentiation or sequenced training, which I will discuss in further detail in the training principle of interdependency.

For now, let’s go through one of the examples from my course ‘Strength Training Secrets’ where you can see an example of how to practically apply this information by starting with a training cycle of a maximum strength training phase, followed by a training cycle of power development focused on a plyometric effort and ending this training cycle with an emphasis on speed development.

Phase Potentiation Principle in Periodization Maximum Strength Training followed by Power Training followed by Speed Training

An example of sequenced training (also known as ‘phase potentiation’) based on initial effects and ceiling effects adapted from Issurin’s Block Periodization approach

Taking the information of initial effects and ceiling effects into account, the maximum strength training phase lasts 6 – 9 weeks, the power training phase 3 – 4 weeks, and the speed training phase 6 – 10 days.

This is phase potentiation put into practice.

Rounding up the training principle of periodization in cyclization

First and foremost, the training principle of periodization in cyclization refers to the necessity of cycling the training process based on the hypothesis that an athlete can’t be in the state of peak performance the whole year.

It is not linked to the model of periodization as it has been initially proposed by Matwejew, and then been further develop by many other professionals.

The biological basis for this principle is that different adaptive processes have different time courses, some just go quicker than others.

To practically apply this training principle and design a training program, you need to understand how different training goals work together, as well as initial effects, ceiling effects, and residual effects.