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Periodization: 3 Ways to Ensure Consistent Muscle Growth


calendar-iconFebruary 15, 2019

Foundational Training Series


By incorporating progressive overload, the macro variables of training, and using the right exercises in the right order, you're sure to have a training regimen that will help you reach your fitness goals. Even with all of these variables tuned in, however, you might still find yourself stalling after sticking to your "perfected" routine.

So what gives? Is it time to start from scratch? Has everything you've learned so far been for nothing? Don't toss out your well thought out training routine just yet- there's a simple concept you can incorporate into your plan to keep the gains coming for as long as you want!

In this post, we'll explain how you can use periodization to make sure you never hit that dreaded plateau and keep your muscle's consistently guessing and growing.

Fig. A


These data indicate that periodized models increased the 1RM squat to a greater extent than a constant repetition scheme, even when the repetitions were equalized (Group 1 vs. Group 2) or when the repetitions were substantially fewer (Group 1 vs. Group 3).

Stone et al.

As we reviewed earlier in this series, progressive overload, or continuously adding stress to your muscles as they adapt to your workout routine, is essential to keep your muscles growing. In any workout routine, however, you'll eventually find your strength and muscle growth stalling. You can't lift any heavier, and your muscles aren't getting the stimulus they need to get stronger. At this point, its time to incorporate periodization into your routine.

Periodization is the systematic process of altering one or more program variable(s) over time, to allow for the training stimulus to remain challenging and effective.1,2 Periodization can be applied in weekly, monthly, or even yearly cycles, and has been shown to be extremely effective for long term progression of muscle growth.1,2

To incorporate periodization into your routine, you simply need to change up the volume (repetitions) and intensity (weight) of your exercises.

Models of Periodization

(The subjects) trained 3 days a week for 12 weeks according to a linear periodization model (n = 8), an undulating periodization model (n = 5), or a nonperiodized control model (n = 9)....Maximal squat, bench press, and LBM all improved significantly in each group, and changes in maximal strength correlated significantly with changes in LBM.

Zourdos et al.

There are various ways you can periodize your training regimen, but it is typically done in one of three ways 3-5:

  • Classic Model of Periodization (Fig A, Graph 1)- In this model of periodization, a resistance training program begins with high initial volume(repetitions) and low intensity(weight) and, over time, shifts to a lower volume and higher intensity workout.
  • Reverse Model of Periodization (Fig A, Graph 2)- In this model of periodization, initial resistance training is performed at high intensity and low volume, and gradually is shifted to a low intensity and high volume workout.
  • Undulating Model of Periodization (Fig A, Graph 3)- This model of periodization utilizes a variety of volume and intensity levels within a given training phase. Instead of focusing on a certain volume or intensity level during a period of time, the undulating model utilizes a range of volume and intensity throughout a workout regimen. Over the course of a year, month, or even a week, you would switch between high volume-low intensity and low volume-high intensity workouts.

Each model of periodization has been shown to be effective when it comes to muscle growth so you can choose whichever model you prefer.3-5 By varying the volume and intensity of your training regimen over time, your muscles are forced to constantly adapt to new stimuli, and therefore, continue to grow!

The Takeaway

Regardless of what type of periodization is used, the important concept here is that you regularly adjust training stimuli in a workout program so that they remain challenging in order to facilitate growth.

Be sure to keep in mind all periodization models should incorporate a period of rest! For more on that, be sure to check out our next post on rest and recovery.


  1. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(3):687-708. Link
  2. Stone MH, Potteiger Ja, Pierce Kc, et al. Comparison of the Effects of Three Different Weight-Training Programs on the One Repetition Maximum Squat. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2000;14(3). jscr/Fulltext/2000/08000/Comparison_of_the_Effects_of_Three_Different.15.aspx. Link
  3. Baker D, Wilson G, Carlyon R. Periodization: The Effect on Strength of Manipulating Volume and Intensity. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 1994;8(4). Link
  4. Jones EJ, Bishop PA, Richardson MT, Smith JF. Stability of a practical measure of recovery from resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2006;20(4):756-9. Link
  5. Zourdos MC, Jo E, Khamoui AV, et al. Modified Daily Undulating Periodization Model Produces Greater Performance Than a Traditional Configuration in Powerlifters. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(3):784-91. Link
Date Created: February 15, 2019

Last Updated: March 29, 2020

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