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What is periodisation?

You may have heard the term getting thrown around at the AG gym, or you may have been asked if your own workouts are periodised… but what does it even mean?

Periodisation is simply the organisation and planning of training. In sport, this planning is usually based upon achieving maximum physical abilities (strength, speed, and power, etc.) for a given competition or period of competitions. In bodybuilding, the training might be organized around a specific bodybuilding contest, for powerlifting this may focus on a particular meet.

Most bodybuilders actually plan or instinctively “periodize” their training in line with specific goals anyway (lose body fat, bring up a lagging body part, etc.) Similarly, powerlifters will may focus on one of their weaker lifts whilst maintaining other lifts. In general, if you have a specific goal for a period of time, then essentially you are using periodisation. There are many different ways that someone could use periodisation, but we will keep it simple and gear it towards an individual wanting to gain muscle, such as a bodybuilder of physique competitor. Here’s a list of the common terms for the different stages and components of modern periodization:

1. Microcycle - A single week of training 2. Mesocycle - A period relating to a specific goal, often anywhere between 1-4 months 3. Macrocycle - This is the largest unit of time, and can last from a single year and upwards.

Phases of Periodisation

  • General Preparation

  • Strength

  • Power

  • Peak

  • Active rest/transition phase

This model is great for Olympic and professional athletes, but not that useful for the bodybuilder and physique competitor. Many traditional periodisation models do not work well for bodybuilders and physique athletes, since they do not focus on hypertrophy (muscle growth) and fat loss as much. So I will focus on a simple bodybuilding time periodisation phase.

  • Hypertrophy

  • Maximal Strength

  • Dynamic Effort


This method is the most commonly used method in bodybuilding training and typically involves the following parameters:

  • Reps: 8-15

  • Sets: 3-5

  • Load: 60-80% 1 rep max

  • Rest Intervals: 1-3 minutes

  • Duration: 4-6 weeks

This type of muscle hypertrophy that comes from this type of training is known as “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”. This is the period that these individuals will spend most of their time in to gain muscle. The only issue with this style of training is that few strength gains are made, so the next phase is a strength gaining phase.


This method is most commonly used in weightlifting and powerlifting training. The loading parameters are as follows:

  • Reps: 1-5

  • Sets: 5-10

  • Load: 85-100%

  • Rest Intervals: 3-6 minutes

  • Duration: 2-4 weeks

Since building muscle and burning fat is still the main goal as a bodybuilder and physique athlete, the duration of time spent in this part of the training will be short, but long enough to make some strength gains and adaptations. Improved neuromuscular recruitment will involve muscle fibers, which increase strength. This type of hypertrophy associated with maximal strength training is often referred to as “myofibrillar hypertrophy.”

Dynamic Effort

This may be one of the more unknown phases, but can be very beneficial for beginners. This will help new lifters develop a high level of speed when lifting, which can lead to increased tension in the muscles and also teach the nervous system how to recruit muscle fibers more quickly. Here are the common loading parameters for the dynamic effort method of training:

  • Reps: 1-5

  • Sets: 6-10

  • Load: 50-70% of 1 rep max

  • Rest Intervals: 45-90 seconds

  • Duration: 2-4 weeks

The duration of this phase is also not that long. After this phase you should notice increased strength and explosiveness when you return to the typical hypertrophy type of training, or at least the theory says so! Please note that during this phase the weights may feel light, but should be moved very fast to recruit the right muscle fibers and create high levels of muscle tension. “Explosiveness” is the key word here!

Following this phase, a week of deloading should commence which basically allows your muscles to “actively rest”. Exercise volume or intensity should be cut by approximately 50% so allow your body to recover from the beating you’ve just been giving it.

This was a very simple idea of what a block of training might look like for your average joe bodybuilder or physique competitor - if you’re all nice to me I might show you an example of a powerlifting block of training next!

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