In the last part of this two-part series we laid out a design format template for your exercises, some basic concepts on building a routine, and guidelines for using intensity and volume during your workouts.

Let’s continue with some of the other building blocks essential for building a kick butt exercise routine.


Periodization is a systematic and progressive training method designed to aid planning and organization. This training philosophy helps you organize and customize your goals. It is used by the greatest athletes and by the world’s top strength coaches. The following is a practical primer that you can apply when you are creating your routing and setting goals.

The basis for periodization was the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), developed during the 1930s. It was intended to describe a person’s ability to adapt to stress. The three distinct phases of adaptation, according to GAS, are the following:

Alarm Stage: This relates to the individual’s initial response to training. This could result in a temporary drop in performance because of stiffness and soreness.

Adaptation Stage: This is your target state, when you positively adapt to the training stimulus by making gains in strength, endurance, and appearance.

Overtraining Stage: This occurs when you place too much stress on the body. It means you are overtraining. The following can happen:

• Decreased performance level
• Chronic fatigue
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of body weight and lean body mass
• Increased illness potential
• Increased injury potential
• Decrease motivation and low self-esteem

During this stage, the desired training adaptations will not occur. Outside stresses — for example, social life, nutrition, amount of sleep, work, and so forth — also need to be considered to avoid overtraining.

The goal is to remain in the resistance stage of training, where your body is positively adapting to stress by making fitness gains. Helping you stay in this stage is the goal of periodization.

Thinking in Cycles

After you have defined your goal, the next step is planning. The planning process can be divided into four training phases. Before going into these cycles, you’ll need a definition of the peaking period, which is the goal of all these cycles. These cycles are a precise, fitness-oriented look at goal setting.

The Peaking Period

This is the period in which all your training culminates, bringing out results. This will, of course, be different for everybody, depending on individual goals.


The macrocycle is the longest of the training phases. Its length depends on your goals. In general, the macrocycle lasts from the beginning of one peaking period through the transition period. The macrocycle defines long-term goals and a specific time frame in which you want to peak: six weeks, six months, or one year. The macrocycle contains four components: mesocycles, macrocycles, peaking, and transition.


The next-largest phase is the mesocycle. Mesocycles make up a macrocycle. The number, length, and purpose of your mesocycles will depend on the goals of our macrocycle. Each mesocycle has specific goals. If you were on a four-month macrocycle, each mesocycle might last one month.

The first month’s mesocycle may be that of preparation, which might include high volume and fairly low-intensity training to build a base of strength. The second month’s mesocycles might include an increase in intensity (more difficult exercises, shorter rest periods, and so forth) while maintaining volume requirements to build endurance. The third month’s mesocycle might be geared toward high-intensity strength gains.

The fourth and final mesocycle, moving toward your peaking period, might require more intensive evaluation:

• What areas are weak and need extra work?
• What areas are strong?
• What has worked best in the past?
• What considerations need to be made regarding nutrition?


Within each mesocycle are smaller units, called “microcycles.” Microcycles further refine the objectives by manipulating training variables on a weekly and daily basis. One day you might train at high volume (lots of reps), while the next day you might train at a high intensity (fewer reps). This leads to the peaking phase, the goal of the macrocycle, which we defined earlier.


Unfortunately, maintaining a peak anything for a long period of time is impossible. A transition phase needs to follow a peaking period. This allows for regeneration and recuperation, both mentally and physically. The transition phase allows you to move to a higher training level in the next macrocycle.

Without a transition phase, the rigors of peaking will ultimately lead to overtraining. The body needs time off after a peaking phase. The transition phase allows you to jump right back to a growth phase in your next macrocycle.

Recuperation doesn’t mean you become a couch potato. You continue to train, but at lower volumes and intensities. This could be something as simple as taking four or five days off, then cutting back on your training days for a few weeks. This is also a good time to explore a new class or fitness interest, take a break from your normal routine, and have fun!

Using the Design Model

You can choose a handful of exercises and by following the natural cycles of periodization, you can create a series of progressive routines to achieve your goals.

These training principles and this design model will allow you to customize our routines. The applications of these principles will lead to ultimate success and longevity in training.

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