September 24, 2008 posted by


This word still doesn’t show up in the dictionary, yet, it’s probably the most important technical term in physical training. Lack of adherence to the principles of periodizational training means that your training program ends in one of two ways: plateau or injury.

Periodizational training is simply breaking up a training program into targeted blocks of time where you focus on one aspect of training. It can be fairly straight forward when training for one sport. When training for multiple sports at one time it becomes tricky. This, hopefully, is my forte. At least it should be by now. The aim of this cycle is to put my theories to the test.

A cycle of training can be as short as two weeks and of an indefinite length. Most do not exceed one year, though coaches will make up loose programs for athletes to progress over the years. Over the last decade all of my cycles have been short. In the 90s, when I was climbing pretty much full time, I’d often set up cycles that took up most of a year. That’s what I’m attempting to do here. This will be a loose format–so it can be amended based on how real life is going–but it provides a structure so that my training has a purpose. The end of this cycle will be November, 2009, to target my birthday challenge next year.

Sticking to a training program is hard for any weekend warrior that likes to do various sports. This is because with limited time, and many activities, it’s so much easier just to do whatever sounds fun at the moment. In general, this is how I roll. However, in order to remain passionate about any endeavor it’s good to make some amount of progress. I’m not one who cares much about results. But I do care about experience. Increasing your level at an activity provides you with the ability to create new experiences. For example, I’ve always wanted to climb the Eiger. I could do this now but if I’m going to spend the time, effort, and money it will take I’d like to make an attempt that will be meaningful. The list of routes that would fit this bill will require me to climb hard 5.12 in an alpine environment over and over, quickly. I’m not up to that at the moment, and only some focused training will get me there. So, while that’s not the end goal of this training program, it’s one of the carrots that will help me stick to it. I’m not getting any younger. Some of the things on the “always wanted to do” list need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Here is an overview of my training blocks. I’ll go into more depth about what these mean later. For those of you who’ve read the 90x book, some of this will look familiar. We designed the X on strict periodizational principles. These often mean that you get worse before you get better. During our initial test group I had to fight for this because people were doing worse at various points. I got my way when Tony backed me up, and we were pretty happy with ourselves when performance began to skyrocket during the third block.

These are macro cycles. There will be shorter more targeted cycles within them. Each shorter block consists of an adaptive phase, a growth phase, and a recovery phase.

Oct, Nov – Foundation – Improving the base

This will be a mini cycle, with short hypertrophy and power segments. The base aerobic foundation is strong but certain aspects are weak. I need to train these in order to train them, if that makes sense. There will be some big days during this period as well.

Dec, Jan, Feb – Hypertrophy/Power – Increasing absolute strength

What limits most weekend warriors is their inability to step away from their sport and train. Only increases in absolute strength lead to dramatic increases in performance (provided technique is already sound). These increases in strength can then be molded into performance.

late Feb to early April – Power-endurance

Teaches the body how to use its newly developed strength over time.

April – May – Performance Round 1

We’re traveling in April, so this period will be all playing. This reprogram engrams (neuromuscular patterns) to be efficient.

June – October – The Weekend Warrior Cycle

With the foundation solid, this period will feature short training cycles towards targeted goals. It will mix energy systems trained and targeted to be sports specific. For example, training power for climbing while training aerobically for the bike. The idea is to peak at different times for different things based on the calendar.

pic: The Eiger, dangling on a stick


  • This is such an important and interesting topic – you should write a book! (or maybe you already have ;). To me it’s also what separates p90x and makes it so special – you’ve tapped into the cycles somehow and fit things together so they work almost against each other. It’s like contrarian or something … OK stock market analogies aside – good stuff!

  • Thanks! I’ve got a lot of work already done on a couple of books. I just haven’t gotten around to finishing them. If you saw my challenge for next year, you’ll see that one of those is on the agenda.

  • (Soliloquy alert)Ah, lackaday. Another article – the fourth? The fifth? I’ve read about periodization in as many weeks (sighs, and then, emboldened) I loathe planning, record-keeping, sharpening the pencil’s point, and such dross (paces, knits brow). So daily I go into the fray, no plan, no devise, no structure, allegro con brio, because it feels so damnably good! (stops,scratches head) I wonder why? (strokes chin) Is it possible that I’d be faster, stronger, better – if I only I would…PERIODIZE? (exuent)

  • Awesome. Hey, I feel you quandry. In fact, mainly I do exactly what you do. Not only that, I’d admire those who do. For example, there’s no doubt Valverde would win every Tour de France if he’d adapt the Texans work ethic. But, I guess, he’d rather race every race all season and try and win them all. He’d rather play “sprint to the next telephone pole” than hole up in the snow and memorize passes. He’d rather stop and make sure his teammate is okay when he crashed then make sure he keeps his place amongst the GC contenders in the Tour. I love the guy for it. But he, and you, and I, would all be better if we periodized. As for myself, I’m willing to sacrifice that performance most of the time. Every now and then, however, I’d like to check in with my potential. I’m sure Valverde will give this a whirl sometime himself.

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