It’s inevitable – at some point in your training life, you will hit a plateau. A point where your body either becomes increasingly stubborn to making progress in the gym or on the scale, or it stops responding completely. Even the most experienced athlete can hit a plateau; especially if they continue to train the same way over a long period of time. This is why you need to introduce periodization in your training.
Periodization is organizing your training so that you regularly change variables at designated ‘periods’ in order to continue to push your body hard. It also involves giving your body adequate recovery.
There are many variables that you can manipulate to break through a plateau:
- Types of exercises (changing grips or switching from barbell to dumbbell)
- Number of reps per set
- Number of sets per exercise
- Rest times between sets and exercises (Did you know that your rest time depends on how many reps you perform?)
- Order of exercises – if you typically train a compound movement first, try doing an isolation exercise first to switch it up. **Think squats VS leg extensions
- The speed at which you perform the reps – Tempo reps, pause reps, negative reps… if you haven’t tried any of these you need to!
Periodization doesn’t just apply to weightlifting – it also applies to your cardio. If you are trying to drop body fat, increase your endurance, or increase your speed, you need to vary distances, speeds, and the duration of your workouts. You can use steady-state or HIIT cardio, change the incline, and even use different types like bicycling, running, the stairmill, or the elliptical.. or just sprint outside.
The key to changing up your workout routine is actually still maintaining consistency, as confusing as that may be. While you don’t want to use the same routine forever, you also don’t want to change up all of your variables every workout. You need to maintain some structure in order to be able to track progress. For example, you wouldn’t use training techniques for building power and strength, aka powerlifting, one day, and then use training techniques for increasing endurance and preventing injury during marathon running the next. Think of it as organized chaos for your muscles.
Photo Credit: Bart Cepek Photography – @bartcepekfoto