What Is Periodization? Part 2 - The Muscle PhD

What Is Periodization? Part 2

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet in our previous article where we talked all about periodization, as well as all the terms you need to keep in mind when building your ideal varied routine, you might be wondering: how do you actually go about implementing it in your training?

Well here’s the thing. Remember how we spoke about how periodization has two integral components? Those are variation and rest.

There’s a lot more to unpack when it comes to actually implementing periodization in your workouts. You might be changing your reps, your orders, your routine, your sets, and still see no gains.

And you’re about to find out why!

Comfort Isn’t Bliss

Last article we spoke about how periodization in essence is a planned or programmed variation and rest in your exercise routine that enables you to reach a peak goal.


  • That goal can be to gain mass, or get shredded, or get powerful
  • The only way to make consistent gains is to never get too comfortable with your routine
  • The only thing you should be comfortable in, is being uncomfortable

But how often should you switch up your routine? Is there science behind it? There actually is.

The More You Advance, the More Periodization You Need

Bodybuilder using periodization

The more you advance, the more you’ll need to switch up your exercises. You might’ve been training for a year or so–at that point you’d probably want to switch up your routine every month or so.

So if you’ve been training at an 8-12 rep range, next month try switching it up to 8-10 reps. If you’re at that stage in your bodybuilding lifestyle, switching every month will help maximize your gains.

However, say you’ve been at it for 3 years. At this point, you’d probably need to switch it up every 1-2 weeks. That way you can force your body to stay in that uncomfortable state where it needs to be constantly adapting.

Remember the law of accommodation, where you’ll never grow if you’re constantly doing the same thing. What if you’ve been training for 5-10 years? You’d need to change up your exercise every workout.

Some of the most advanced lifters in the world admit to literally changing up their routine in every single workout. The more you’ve advanced, the more you’ll need to challenge your body.

Listen to Your Body to Fine-Tune Your Periodization

However, would you ever find yourself in a situation where you shouldn’t switch up your workouts? Definitely.

If you’ve stopped working out for a period of time, say you took a few months off because of an injury or just a lifestyle choice–when you come back, you would want to maintain your routine for a while. In fact, in this case if you do your regular routine, your body would respond to it as if you’re untrained.

In this type of case, don’t try to overdraft your body. We recommend focusing more on the basics for the first 1-3 months after a break, then you can go back to switching it up more often.

Change Is Key to Periodization

Now that you’ve set a solid foundation for when you should and shouldn’t periodize in your exercise, how do you actually do it? Well there are a few points of focus.

Intensity, or how heavy you lift, can be a focus point when you’re trying to switch it up. If you’re lifting heavy one day, (5-8 reps if you’re a powerlifter, 8-10 reps if you’re a bodybuilder), you could try to lift a little bit moderately the next time. Focus more on your pumps and conditioning that day.

Your repetitions themselves could be a point of focus. For instance, you could do a super high rep day where you’re doing more than 20 reps per set, and then switch up your reps per day to always keep your body on its toes.

Remember, periodization isn’t all about variation in your exercise; rest is also super important. You could try switching up your rest period length. If you’re on a metabolic training day, you might rest anywhere between 30 to 90 seconds. Up that number up to anywhere between 2 to 5 minutes on a particularly heavy training day.

Never Exercise Like a Broken Record

If you’ve been doing all of the above and you’re still not seeing any results, then perhaps you need to look a little bit further. Studies have shown that one of the most important ways to change up your routine is your exercise selection.

So if you’ve been changing your number of reps, sets, and all of the above without changing your main exercise, your body probably wouldn’t see many gains. If you’re logging your progress and tracking your exercises for the past 6 months, we recommend going back and taking a deep look at all of the exercises you’ve been doing.

Now delete all that. For the next 3 months, you should try exercises that you haven’t done within the last 6-12 months. This way you’ll have to get creative with your workout and creativity will force growth.

We hope you’re now able to implement periodizations in your workouts. Never forget to always be switching it up!

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