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Periodization Training

stew smith

As we age, overuse injuries tend to occur if a never changing exercise routine is done for too long or if you start something new and do too much, too fast, too soon. Whether it is high mileage running, heavy weight lifting, high repetition calisthenics, and anything else for that matter, if we do not change the routine frequently, you have a high chance of getting injured or just burned out on an endless plateau. Also, frequency, intensity, time doing workouts can play an equal part in both properly training you as well as over-training you. Here is what I have done now for more than 10 years and it has enabled me to be without serious injury from training and keeps me in a condition where I can train with the younger generation in their teens and early 20’s.

I use the sun as my indicator of tougher workouts seasons, especially my running workouts. If the days are longer like in the spring and summer then my workouts are longer. This form of periodization enables me to keep the gains from hard seasons of workouts well into the shorter days / shorter workout cycles. During the Fall / Winter months, I tend to taper a bit slowly from running and find more non-impact aerobics and add weight training to the calisthenics program - some heavy - some moderate.

For instance, in my “solstice plan,” the workout cycle will bell curve to a maximum during the longest day of the year June 20 and will decrease slowly until the shortest day of the year Dec 20. Now, when the New Year arrives and each day is getting longer, so do the workouts until they peak in June. And the cycle continues. As you can see below in the 15 month periodization cycle, my running/high rep PT cycles peak in Jun-Jul and my swimming drops to about 50% of what I do in the winter swim peak. Also during the winter there is a peak in lifting that begins late fall / early winter. Usually the lifting cycle is 12-16 weeks. So arranged like this my running peak for both distance / speed is in June - July, swimming and rucking peak for both speed and distance is Dec-Jan, and lifting peak is late March. This cycle has proved invaluable to my health, fitness, ability to stay active without injury for the past ten years.

Why periodize? Well for athletes it is all about peaking during the season / championship season, but the for tactical athlete there are no off-seasons. The military has an easier schedule to fit this type of program into as you can PEAK prior deployments on the elements you will need for deploying to a combat zone: speed, agility, strength, good foundation of endurance. For the police and fire fighter - finding the "off-season" is harder if not impossible, so the extra stresses of workouts need to be perfectly timed as both stress reliever as well as capability increaser / maintainer.

Red Line = Running / PT
Blue Line = Swimming
Black Line = Lift

As you see, the easier running part of the workout comes in the middle of winter and the toughest part is in the summer. Winter workouts do not mean you do NOTHING - they are just easier in time involvement, mileage, and repetition than the summer season. My book Maximum Fitness is a 52 week workout that demonstrates the cycle into 4 x 13 week periods that include:

1st Quarter - Calisthenics / Cardio Workouts - The goal of this cycle is to build a foundation of moderate to high reps of calisthenics or bodyweight exercises to improve fitness testing scores, but to also burn off some of the bulk you created during the winter weight lifting cycle. Progressing the running each week is critical to this cycle as well and will help prevent over-use running injuries when starting back up again.

2nd Quarter - Calisthenics / Cardio Workout (more advanced) - This phase takes the last cycle and builds upon it further with more maximum effort (high rep / high mileage cardio) workouts. Typically at the end of this cycle you will reach a peak in cardiovascular and bodyweight performance. At this point, you will be ready for a change.

3rd Quarter - Some Calisthenics / Some Weights / Cardio Workouts - So, you change your routine a bit. Decrease reps of calisthenics, but add weights incrementally each week to build up your strength. Cardio options grow by adding more non-impact to your running routine as you taper a bit to prepare for the weight cycle.

4th Quarter - Near 100% weights / less running more non impact cardio - The weight routine in Max Fitness is more of a weight gain cycle - body building like workout. But as a former football player and power lifter, I have always enjoyed this cycle and found that within 4-8 weeks, I was back to old max weight (1RM) in several exercises to include bench press, power clean, and dead lifts. Usually weight gain will accompany this cycle and typical results are 10-15 lbs especially if you like to watch football and eat! The legs will feel good on occasional runs after a few weeks of tapering down to more non-impact cardio. My newer ebooks on winter lifting phases focus on the power lifts as well as the non impact cardio options.

The NEW Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout however is more powerlifting to simulate boat carries, log PT, fireman carries, rucking.

When you push your fitness to extremes the way I have throughout my teens, 20s, 30s, and now 40s, you need to create a break from all the elements of the above routine. Periodization is required to achieve that - it is simply model of a program that logically progresses throughout the year. You can create your own to fit your fitness goals.

When I was in the SEAL teams, we actually did this type of program as winter diving always was tough without extra bulk. So, we bulked up over the winter in order to handle the colder water temperatures. So this style of training does perform a very useful purpose tactically as well as physiologically.

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