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Periodization Is NOT an “Outdated” or “Stupid” Concept.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

By January 10, 2011January 2nd, 2016Guest Blogs

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.

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


  • Shama says:

    very simple take on a complex topic indeed. the problem with the
    Bompa’s type periodization was that it was complicated & read too much in to the future. it didn’t offer a chance to say lay off in case of …… …… etc. unless you are in a government conducted camp etc, you wouldn’t know what the heck is gonna happen to you 3 months down the line. the plan was not flexible enough to add the ever changing dynamics of life. plus instead of developing many physical attributes in a single cycle, too much specialization was emphasized. so the conjugated periodization came in to existence. overall, the term periodization has kept me looking for the true meaning & how it could be applied to just about everyone who goes out to train to achieve something. the latest i am reading is the flexible periodization which promises to include all types of periodization plans ever developed.

  • Trent says:

    Demystifying the concept is exactly what we need more of. I’ve learned over the years that the smarter I try to sound, the less my students learn. Alot of blogging goes on out there, the difference for me is the guy or gal who takes the time to share additional sources or learning, to cite his sources and keep it on topic. Nice links, nicer write up.

  • Rich says:

    Mladen rocks!

  • Rafael says:

    Hey guys, and about cross training? cross periodization?

  • Howard Gray says:

    Sam / Bret – great to see this topic posted upon… for some reason periodization has become unfashionable of late and I have never quite figured out why. As you say, periodization is a form of planning, and should take into account how the body will adapt to the training stimuli.
    Also didn’t know you are at AIC. I nearly played there (a long time ago!). Good luck in the new (or not so new) position.

  • Sam Leahey says:

    Thank you, Howard. Glad you enjoyed it and best of luck to you too my friend.


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