Periodization Is NOT an “Outdated” or “Stupid” Concept. You’re Doing It Whether You Know It or Not!

By Sam Leahey

In light of a great discussion we were all having last week on my facebook wall, my colleague Bret Contreras asked me to compose a guest blog for his new website. Of course I will, Bret! The problem is this: as usual, we’ve swung the pendulum too far and refuse to “embrace the grey”. Things are hardly ever black and white in this field and “periodization” is no exception. The words “planning” and “periodization” are essentially synonyms. Any form of organization you do in planning the training process in any way, shape, or form, is “periodization”. Heck, even Gray Cook believes in periodization. He’s said often “go after mobility before stability”. Sounds like periodization to me! If I had to pick one I’d say it’s closest to Block Periodization which is basically prioritizing one quality over another and making it the main focus for a period of time before switching to a different emphasis.

Say you’re collegiate strength coach and you look over the calendar to see when spring break is for your teams so you can adjust the logistics of your training. Guess what, you just “planned/periodized”. Say you’re a personal trainer and a client just bought a 3 month package with you. If you sat down and wrote even a loose templated program with any type of progression or regression, you just “periodized”. Say you’re a physical therapist and you prioritized a particular movement pattern for restoration over another. Yup, you just periodized.periodization-300x170

Reading about the topic of periodization can leave you lost in cyberspace for hours and days at a time. So, I recommend the following “cliff note” reads which in my opinion offer some of the best full perspectives and big picture views on periodization in a short article form. Relative to blogs and articles, they offer foundational principles that help you understand plenty about periodization of training. Read these in order:

What the Heck is Periodization Anyway?

Fix Your Periodization Knowledge

Periodization Confusion?

I think where most people get an argument from is when the assumption is using complex loading schemes with beginners. No one’s saying to do that. In fact if you see the big picture in those articles above you’ll also be able to see how it even applies to beginners. When dogmatic coaches say “beginners don’t need periodization, they just need to get stronger!” Guess what, you just contradicted yourself again. Essentially they are saying prioritize absolute strength over other qualities. Surprise, surprise, that’s planning, or “periodization”! If you want “deeper” reads that are meant more for advanced athletes with predetermined logistics then there’s plenty of good ebooks and research out there.

In conclusion, “periodization” is merely “planning”. They’re synonyms, and semantically it’s all the same.

Sam Leahey

Strength&Conditioning Coach

American International College