In my years working in the fitness industry I have had the pleasure of working with many excellent trainers. In my interactions, conversations and experiences with these trainers it became very evident that Periodization was becoming less and less used when working with clients. What’s more, training programs have become more and more randomized with very little purpose or programming other than making the client tired.
This shift in the industry has very little to do with the science and more to do with the “sexy”. For those of you who know me or have read previous blogs or posts have heard me use the term “sexy” before. “Sexy” is what looks cool. “Sexy” is what you see in the fitness magazines or in the commercials hocking athletic gear. “Sexy” is the ultra-intense, crazy, work through pain and injury, blood, guts and glory way of training. It seems the only standard that the “sexy” has is the harder it is the better it is for you. The “sexy” takes no regard to progressions or client’s needs, goals and restrictions. If the client can’t do it, it’s not a failure of the program, it’s a failure of the client. If they get injured doing it they are just weak willed!
My assumption of this shift stems from popular workout programs that have glorified and mutated the term “muscle confusion”. Muscle confusion was coined by the late great Joe Weider in the 60’s and this principle stated that if you changed the variables of your training program such as reps, sets, rest, order and exercises it would stall stagnation and maximize results. The heart of this principle is that small progressive changes and manipulations in program design would give the body a stimulus that it would continually adapt to. The operative word is progressive. The modern day version of muscle confusion has become a random approach to the manipulation of these variables to the extent that the variables are vastly different every single workout session. With a random application comes random results.
Periodization is what muscle confusion is meant to be. Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time. Periodization has been used greatly in the sports performance world, but when it comes to personal training it seems to get neglected. It is basically a program that is designed to have an athlete peak a certain time through manipulation of training variables such as intensity, volume and volume load. Even if a personal training client doesn’t have a time that they need to peak, they will certainly benefit from the periodization of training. The key here is that they are being progressed properly. They are not asked to do impossible tasks, or the “sexy”, unless they have gone through the proper steps to assure that they are ready to do so. It will help the client from both a physical and mental standpoint because the program will change through the duration of the program, but the changes will be small and systematically progressive.
Putting a periodized program together can be complex, which may be another reason why some shy away from it. In my next blog I will try and simplify this approach so that there will be at least some outline to follow when designing a program. In any event, as it has been said, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.