Do you want to build lean muscle mass? First, you must create a workout program that reaches your goal. Periodization has been proven time and time again as one of the best ways to increase your strength, endurance, and agility. However, it’s not enough to work out – you have got to have a plan in place! This article will discuss how periodization can help build defined muscle mass in any workout program.
How do you develop a periodization plan to build lean muscle mass? Periodization is the planned manipulation of training variables to produce specific desired results. Thus, periodization is the organization of training into particular periods or cycles to achieve optimal performance and prevent overtraining. In other words, periodization is a plan that you develop on how you will frequently change your workout to keep your muscles from getting used to your training. Muscles grow and get stronger when performing a task they have never achieved. We call it getting into shape! The main goal of periodization is to improve athletic performance and appearance by ensuring that all aspects of training are systematically varied.
There are three main types of periodization plans:
Linear periodization: This type of periodization progresses from low to high intensity over time. Linear periodization is ideal for athletes new to training or coming back from a long layoff.
Block periodization: This periodization involves focusing on increasing lean muscle strength until a strength plateau is reached. Once the strength has peaked, athletes can shift their focus toward hypertrophy training.
Daily undulating periodization involves manipulating intensity, volume, and rest over weeks or months to maximize progress. It is best for intermediate to advanced athletes.
When designing a periodization plan, there are three main variables to consider:
Intensity: Intensity is the amount of weight or resistance an athlete uses in training. You can measure it in terms of the percentage of 1RM (one rep max), the number of reps performed at a specific weight, or the time of resistance at a particular weight.
Volume: Volume is the amount of work an athlete does over a specific time. You can measure it by determining how many sets and reps were completed during that time or distance covered in seconds/minutes/hours (meters or miles)
Frequency: Frequency refers to how often an athlete trains a particular muscle or muscle group. We can measure it by the number of times per week an athlete trains a muscle or muscle group or the number of weeks an athlete trains a given exercise.
The training principles that support and explain why you need a periodization plan to build lean muscle mass:
You use periodization to follow or take advantage of some core weightlifting principles we call the granddaddy training laws. The granddaddy principles have been around for as long or even longer than our granddaddies. Thus we call them the granddaddy principles.
One of the granddaddy principles, the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) principle, plays a significant role in why a periodization plan is needed.
The GAS principle describes the body’s short-term and long-term reactions to resistance training. When a muscle is introduced to resistance training, the body’s fitness decreases for a time until it supercompensates to return to its original state and beyond.
The fitness fatigue principle expands on the GAS principle.
GAS only addresses the workload. The fitness fatigue principle addresses workload and intensity. In addition, the fitness fatigue model explains the aftereffect of resistance training.
For example, heavy squatting causes a gain in thigh muscle mass. Thus the body goes from fatigue to growth in muscles to compensate for the resistance training stressor. Experience trainees use progressive overload to maximize the effect of the fitness fatigue principle.
Progressive overload is a game of cats and mice between resistance training and muscle growth.
You can use this principle to increase the stress of resistance training over time gradually. This forces the body to respond progressively to the stressors of resistance training continuously.
Before the body reaches the finish line and masters the resistance training goal, you slowly and gradually move the finish line further away. This forces the body to continue to chase a finish line that is always just out of reach.
In summary, resistance training thoughtfully breaks down your muscles, and your body supercompensates by growing bigger muscles to prevent future breakdowns.
Once the body eliminates the stressor by adapting to it, it doesn’t have to supercompensate further. Thus the growth of muscles stops.
Therefore, we use progressive overload and periodization to produce more and different types of stress, forcing the body to continue overcompensating for the stress.
Now that we know the basics of periodization let’s develop a periodization plan for building muscle mass.
The first step is to determine your training goals. For example, do you want to increase muscle size, strength, or endurance? Once you’ve determined your goals, you can start designing a plan to help you achieve them.
Next, you must determine your current fitness level and identify your weaknesses. If you’re new to training, you’ll need to start with a basic linear periodization plan and progress slowly over time. If you’re an experienced athlete, you may want to consider using daily undulating periodization or block periodization.
Once you’ve determined your training goals and weaknesses, you can develop a plan to help you reach your goals.
To increase muscle size, aim to do the following:
- Use compound resistance exercises that work a large number of muscles at once,
- Add volume by doing more sets and reps with the same weight over time,
- Increase training frequency from 1-2x/week to 3-4x/ week.
You need the power to build muscle. We define power by how much weight you can lift in a short amount of time. Thus power determines how many reps you can lift at a certain weight.
To increase strength, aim to do the following:
- use heavy resistance with low reps (less than 6),
- decrease volume by doing fewer sets and reps but increasing the amount of weight you lift over time,
- keep training frequency at 2-3x/week.
You need the strength to complete the sets. We define strength by how long you can lift the weight. Thus strength determines how many sets you can lift. For hypertrophy to happen due to muscle adaptation, you must perform 9 – 26 sets a week. Therefore no matter how powerful you are, if you don’t do the sets, you will not build the muscle.
To work on muscle endurance, aim to do the following:
- use light resistance with high reps,
- do multiple sets of the same exercise,
- train frequency at 4-5x/week.
You need endurance to complete the workout. We define endurance as how long you can perform a task. The difference between endurance and strength is strength involves weight endurance does not. Thus endurance determines if you can go the distance. Also, when you don’t have endurance, fatigue sets in, and fatigue will make a coward out of you. Many injuries and workouts have been cut short because of the lack of endurance.
Remember that these are general guidelines, and you may need to adjust your plan depending on your specific goals and needs. The most important thing is to be consistent and track your progress! Notice how each phase (hypertrophy, strength, endurance) was less than six weeks. It takes six weeks to form a habit or for the body to adapt through physiological changes.
An effective periodization plan stays one step ahead of the body’s natural adaptation process. It does this by changing the workout plan just before the body gets comfortable. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “if you want your muscles to grow, you have to keep shocking them with new things.”
Using periodization to build muscle, you can develop a plan to help you reach your goals.
It’s essential to remember that while exercise is necessary for building muscle, diet plays an equally critical role. Eating foods high in protein and calories is the best way to ensure you get the necessary nutrients to build muscle. Consult a dietitian or personal trainer before planning your diet to meet your nutritional needs. Your best bet for building muscle mass is periodization, but don’t forget good old-fashioned hard work! Consistent effort is one of the most critical factors in seeing results when building muscle, and sticking to a plan that fits into your lifestyle is vital.
Here is the last word on how a periodization plan creates the environment for muscle growth.
A good periodization plan allows you to use change to cause even more significant change. The goal of any periodization plan is to change your workout frequently so your muscles stay shocked and don’t have enough time to adapt to the training altogether.
When muscles adapt entirely to a workout, we call that a plateau. If you want your muscle to grow, don’t let them get comfortable with your workout. A workout that causes muscle hypertrophy will introduce the muscle to change within the workout and periodically. Thus the workout causes changes in the micro (7 days), meso (2 weeks – 6 months), and macro (6 months – 1 year).
Periodization is a killer way to build muscle in your workout program. It’s an effective strategy for achieving the best body possible in the shortest time. Why? Doing so prevents you from plateauing and gives you new ways to stimulate your muscles, which leads to better results.
In addition, it enables you to get more out of each exercise because you can change how much weight or reps you are doing without feeling like you’re doing something repetitive every day. You also have a variety with a periodization workout plan by alternating between different exercises that work for similar muscle groups but are different enough that they don’t feel boring. What has been your experience with periodization? Let us know in the comments!