Progression vs Periodisation

When personal training clients first come to me they often ask the question ‘Are we going to be following a periodisation programme?’ More often than not the answer is no and here is why….

First let me start by explaining what periodisation is. It’s a fitness training programme that cycles through various phases depending on the person’s goals. A rugby player for example would have a programme made up of phases of strength training, endurance training, sprint training, motor skill/technique training and each phase would be in blocks of 2-4 weeks and scheduled round the rugby season so the player ends up in peak form for the start of it. It may also include phases of down time in the off season where training is very light or non existent even.

Now, this style of training works great for people who are already fit or who are working out intensely 5-6 days a week e.g. athletes, but what about for the standard Joe/Jane looking to get started in fitness, lose a bit of weight and be healthier?

Well as a personal trainer I tell people the problem with the periodisation model for Joe/Jane is that it does not focus on progression and making improvements enough to start with because you are constantly changing into a different phase and changing your goals.

With my personal training clients I start them on a progressive model of training, this is great to start with because each session we gradually build up on what we are doing, bit by bit making the exercises and workouts progressively harder, but still achievable. This is much more motivating for the client because over a period of 12 weeks for example, they can look back at what they have done and see a massive improvement, like going from 3 minute jog to jogging for an hour non-stop. With periodisation you would have changed what you were doing after 2-4 weeks, thus not seeing the extended progression over time. Plus when you are first starting out in fitness you do do want 2-4 weeks of down time just when you are getting into it!

I’m not saying that personal trainers should not use periodisation, you definitely should with any semi-pro or pro athletes you work with, I’m saying that for people starting out, a progressive model of fitness in the best way to go, after all it’s all about he progress!