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Theories Of Training Periodisation

Change in stimulation is what will change your body. This is a well known theory amongst coaching leaders and training researchers in the Fitness and Health industry; if we focus on individualised program adaptation along with enforcing protocols that increase Intensity, while also consuming a progressive and individualised diet, we change our bodies. Ok. But How can we do this properly?

There is still a lot of ambiguity as to what this actually means, and what details are important to take note of, i.e. How long do we stay on a program before muscular adaptations cease? How do we change our program? What approaches are needed during each phase in terms of Intensity? Can we employ a sense of flexibility into our training and diet? How do training protocols change depending on body composition/ body fat levels?

NOTE: In this case the adaptation is specifically Muscle Growth - we are not talking specifically about PERFORMANCE of muscle e.g. muscular strength, power, endurance - although of course these things may be a by-product of our training.

1. New Stimulation And Adaptation

Remember the first time you ever worked out? The pain you felt the next day (and during) was tremendous right? For a lot of people, the first workout they perform was by no means 'Intense', BUT it was for their bodies at the time. You see, you might have only been performing the exercises with your own body weight, or indeed with very light weights as you learn the proper technique of the movements. Even if you were only learning the exercises with minimal resistance, the training didn't have to be excruciatingly Intense (forced reps, drop sets, heavy resistance, short rest periods), to have a positive effect on your muscles. The fact your muscles experienced something 'new' was enough to solicit muscle breakdown ready for re-growth. This 'New' Stimulation is a potent factor to employ in training long term.

2. Repeated Stimulation And Adaption

It just so happens that for continued change those same exercises you did last session must be done in an ever increasingly Intense fashion - in order to keep the stimulation 'new' each week. Hence the slow increment in resistance and inclusion of more advanced set protocols over time. However, the problem is that the more Intense an exercise gets, the harder it is to make it more Intense next time. So what happens is eventually we can only employ tiny increases of Intensity, which makes the stimulation you apply to your body too similar from week to week. You are effectively repeating the stimulation each session, which leads to a muscle growth plateau. We can usually use training plateaus as a marker for a much needed change to our plan. This usually equates to a complete overhaul of our approaches and style of training.

3. Repeated Stimulation And Diminishing Returns

The longer we stick to a training style the less and less stimulation it will provide. This isn't to say that adaptations stop completely, but they do slow dramatically. This means that given enough Intensity and dedication, you could still continue to change your body long term but it would be very slow progress. There are much more effective ways to go about your training.

Over time your muscles become accustomed to the same exercises, movements, contraction times and pathways, so much so that training has stopped becoming that stressful, giving your muscles absolutely no reason to change. People who train this way are normally just maintaining their physique, while every now and they have a 'really good session', where enough variables are in place that they manage a small increase in Intensity compared to their usual training. We want to stay away from this mentality if we want to progress as quickly as possible. Almost every session should be a 'really good session'.

4. Phased Stimulation And Adaptation

The 3 phases of traditional periodisation (Strength, Power, Hypertrophy) are the bases of an adaptive and progressive program. That is to stay, it's better than just doing the same thing over and over, month after month, year after year. With each phase the idea is to improve on the last rotation of that phase, due to the progression you've made in the other phases, e.g. increased Hypertrophy in the muscle means potential increases in the Strength phase, and therefore Power and so on. However, while this program has you advancing in PERFORMANCE, it is paying less attention to visual adaptation of Muscle Growth throughout the entire body which may improve the aesthetic of your physique. For example, during a Power phase you might not train smaller muscle groups like you would during a Hypertrophy Bodybuilding phase.

NOTE: Power Lifters who have switched from bodybuilding to Power Lifting have recognised the Atrophy of smaller muscle groups such as biceps, triceps and calves over time. Other parts of the physique rarely stimulated can also reduce in size. How long this takes to occur is highly individual and it can be argued that 3 months might not be enough time to notice any Atrophy. These muscles still act as major auxiliary movers in many Power Lifting movements, potentially stimulating more adaptions (high genetic dependance).

5. Dual Stimulation And Adaptation

Usually, a traditionally periodised training program involves phases where training styles completely change and previous training protocols are not revisited until the phases rotate back to them, e.g. Strength Training Phase - Power Training Phase - Hypertrophy Phase. However, there is a trend slowly coming forwards that involves all training styles at the same time within a program. This comes from the observation of a lot of crossover benefits from different styles of training, e.g. Power Lifting helping with muscular activation in Bodybuilding etc. Of course, this is the perfect way to approach training, but it still needs to be properly programmed. After all, there is no point doing everything if the amount of stimulation is just going to cause us to burn out constantly.

6. Multi-Stimulation And Adaptation Maintenance

The best thing we can do as trainees is make sure we are doing the maximum we need to do to create change in our physiques - but sometimes Maintenance is better than Atrophy. The body reacts to training Stress with Growth, Endurance, Strength or Power. It also reacts to lack of training Stress with Muscle Loss, Endurance Loss, Strength Loss and Power Loss. This means that during a traditional 3 phase periodised program we can assume we will have to spend some of that time 're-gaining' lost adaptations before new adaptions can occur. Wouldn't it be better if we could just maintain those adaptations?

Here's where 'Multi-Stimulation' comes in - both for continued Hypertrophy/ Adaptation or Maintenance - so to prevent Atrophy. Plus, any potential Overtraining is prevented through the use of Intra-Phased Periodisation: All protocols used at all times, but only one is favoured for higher volume at any one time while others are 'Maintained'.


Follow a program that constantly changes in order to solicit consistent adaptation, as well as prevents the neglect of any one training phase - which could lead to unnecessary loss of adaptations.

Happy Lifting!


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