Periodization in strength training leads to maximum gains from workouts

A June 13, 2016 Science of Us article is entitled: “Steph Curry Literally Sees the World Differently Than You Do.”

The article notes:

“In short, Curry is something of poster boy for an new era in sports, where superior neural circuitry is regarded as just as much of an advantage as a higher vertical or a sweeter jump shot.

“It’s ‘the cutting edge of sport performance,’ says University of Central Florida sports scientist Jay Hoffman. ‘It’s being able to look at multiple stimuli on a court,’ he says: seeing not just where your teammates and their defenders are, but, like a judo master, recognizing where your defender’s body is in space and using it against him. Curry ‘has the ability to see {all that stimuli}, and get somebody into a position that’s favorable for him,’ Hoffman says. ‘This is what separates great players from good players.’ In other words, Curry’s brain is able to read his defender’s positioning — a foot set at an odd angle, a nose edging his weight too far to one side — and use the right ball movement — a head fake, a crossover — to create open looks out of thin air.”

[End of excerpt]

What a great article!  The story underlines that athletics is as much about “neural circuitry” as it is about physical prowess.

Strength training benefits from a knowledge of the evidence

The cerebral element in sports and fitness is of interest. In a previous post I’ve spoken about how valuable I’ve found a strength training guidebook by Anita Bean:

The Complete Guide to Strength Training (2015): An A-1 resource for evidence-based practice in strength training

The role of periodization in strength training has really hit home for me during the past year. The routine that I’m currently following begins with several weeks of anatomical adaptation followed by increasingly more intensive work. The routine takes 12 weeks, followed by one or two weeks of rest, after which you embark upon a more intensive intermediate-level routine based upon similar periodization principles.

Anita Bean in the above-noted text cites research that indicates that a periodization schedule, such as the simple one described above, provides greater strength gains than a schedule where a person goes through the same exercises week after week, month after month.


A typical passage from The Complete Guide to Strength Training, Fifth Edition (2015) reads:

“HOW SLOWLY DO I NEED TO GO? Count 2 seconds up, 3 seconds down. Lifting weights too fast lets momentum, gravity and other muscles help out, preventing the target muscles from getting the full benefit. The lowering (eccentric) phase of the lift is just as impor­tant for building strength and size as the raising (concentric) phase.”

[End of excerpt]

That is: The weight that works the best is not the heaviest weight you can swing through the air; what you want, instead, is a weight that you can handle while performing the exercise at a slow rate of speed – 2 seconds up, 3 seconds down – while maintaining perfect form.

In the past I’ve followed a periodization routine, but not one that is as finely-tuned as the one that I’ve learned to follow since coming across the above-noted guidebook by Anita Bean.

Although intensive, the workouts are easy to do. There’s no following of a “No pain, no gain” philosophy. The latter philosophy, which has no evidence to back it up, is a recipe for overtraining. It leads nowhere. Overtraining can destroy a person’s health. In extreme cases, it can destroy a person’s life.

I also do a lot of walking, every day. I take care around cars. A percentage of drivers (I’m a driver myself) are out to lunch, when they drive. They can kill a pedestrian, and in Toronto they often do. It’s not just the drivers, and the pedestrians: the evidence indicates that many things are required, such as reduction in speed limits, to enable pedestrians, cyclists, and cars to travel together safely – that is, with zero fatalities.

Along with the walking, I also do some high-intensity interval training – again, going with the evidence. All of the work – the strength training, the walking, and the high-intensity interval training – has a sense of effortlessness associated with it. These are part of my daily routines.

Life has taught me the value of evidence; that’s what I follow. It’s taken me a while to figure these things out. I like to go with the evidence because life has taught me that evidence is a good friend, a great source of inspiration when a person is seeking a way forward.

Gus Ryder Health Club

I work out at the Gus Ryder Health Club in southern Etobicoke. I often walk there instead of driving. I avoid leaving valuables in my locker, at the health club, as I’ve learned over the years that lockers at fitness centres are at times broken into:

Thefts at Gus Ryder Health Club in southern Etobicoke


A March 9, 2017 CBC article is entitled: ‘Get out of your comfort zone:’ Interval training benefits extend to aging: U.S. study indicates mixing speeds of aerobic exercise is ‘good from an aging perspective'”.

A March 24, 2021 New York Times article is entitled: “Too Much High-Intensity Exercise May Be Bad for Your Health: A new study hints that excessive HIIT may harm your mitochondria, the energy generators found in every cell of your body.”

1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    In the periodization routine that I follow, after six weeks of high-intensity workouts, I have a two-week period where my workouts are much lighter. This rest period is very satisfying. I’m taking a vacation from heavy workouts. After the two weeks of lighter workouts I resume the heavier routine for another six weeks, before another two weeks of “vacation.”

    The research indicates that this kind of a periodization approach to strength training yields more strength gains, more progress, than a routine where a person engages in heavy workouts all through the year, without any breaks at all.


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