Periodization – what’s really behind your Coach

Ever wondered how the Coach actually works? Why he assigns you the workouts he does and in the volume and intensity he does? There’s a profound reason behind it. That reason is called periodization. Everyone who’s serious about their training, aims to improve in their specific field. To achieve this, not only do you have to be very efficient and smart about your training, but it’s also extremely important that you avoid overtraining. This is where periodization comes into play. In this article, we want to explain what is meant by periodization, why it’s such an underlying factor when it comes to becoming your best version and the reason we’ve integrated it into the latest Freeletics Bodyweight update.

What is periodization?

Periodization is defined as “Sequences of periods whose content, load and cyclic form aims at the development of ideal sports performance for a defined time period within a training cycle.” Hold on…what do all these complex terms mean and what is this definition actually trying to tell me? Allow us to simplify this for you…

To give you a better understanding of periodization, we first have to go back to your high school years: Be it in maths, history or biology class, throughout one school year, your teacher followed a certain plan of different periods, with the aim of preparing you well for the upcoming exams. These different periods always consisted of certain thematic blocks.  You probably didn’t even notice, but in order to teach you efficiently, and so that you learned precisely within the given timeframe, your teacher followed a structure – or at least tried to do so.

Returning to sports, it’s the same kind of thing. Within a training cycle, you’ll find different training periods, all consisting of different topics. They differ in content, load and cyclic form.

Now, let’s rewind the clock again. This time to 1957, so we can see how periodization evolved.

The history of periodization

In 1957 Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian scientist, came up with the so-called “General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)”, which explains the different stages of how your body reacts to stress. 3 stages were defined. The first being the Alarm stage, the second being the Resistance stage and the third being the Exhaustion stage.

In the Alarm stage, a certain stimulus creates an initial shock to the system. In other words, starting Freeletics (stimulus) will most probably result in sore muscles (initial shock) throughout your whole body (system). In the Resistance stage, the system will adapt to the certain stimulus. In our context, your body will get used to doing Freeletics. The third stage, Exhaustion stage, marks a turning point. Here, the systems function will decrease. By putting too much stress on your body, namely overtraining, your body will await consequences from declining performance to serious injuries. You’re basically placing negative stress on your body, defined as “distress” by Hans Selye. Instead, what should be done is to put positive stress, namely “eustress”, on the body to enhance sports performance. And this is exactly what periodization is aiming at. By constantly varying the training intensity and volume, it will step by step enhance your physical abilities, and at the same time avoid overtraining.

It might sound easier said than done, but the key to enhanced performance is to keep your training within the resistance stage in order to have the ideal development of your sports performance. Periodization therefore, aims at keeping you within a stage where your body is facing beneficial stress (eustress) within different periods to develop strength, strength-conditioning, endurance etc.

Theory of planned periodization

Depending on the sports discipline and the competition you’re working towards, the periodization cycles differ in length as well as volume and intensity. Still, we want to show you what a training cycle consists of.

Let’s start with the macrocycle. This basically represents the entire period of preparation before a competition. Within the macrocycle, an athlete will have many mesocycles. These mesocycles can last from 1 to 12 weeks depending on the specific periodization scheme and the goal of this particular mesocycle. Mesocycles either consist of strength, strength-conditioning, skill, endurance training or any other subject the athlete has to work on. The mesocycle, yet again, is divided by microcycles (1 week) that consist of many training sessions.

Here comes the next question: How does the Coach apply all this given information to your training week?

This is where Freeletics Bodyweight 4.0 comes into play

With our latest update and new Coach, your training weeks (microcycles) and training sessions are based on all the scientific findings mentioned above. You may wonder why some of your Coach weeks seem “easier”, whereby easy is the wrong term to use here.

Before and after your Hell Week you will get a tapering and deloading week. The tapering week is characterized by short (low volume) workouts with few repetitions that are high in intensity. This week aims at maintaining the fitness level that you’ve built over the last weeks. The aim here is to experience a peak in performance and be fully regenerated when it comes to facing your Hell Week. After Hell Week the Coach will assign you with a deloading week that consists of exercises or workouts, low in volume and also low in intensity.

Let’s recap

By keeping your body within the resistance stage, you will constantly improve your strength, conditioning, endurance and so on and so forth. So instead of questioning “Why do I get partial workouts?”, stick to your training plan, give them everything you’ve got, and overtime, you will be rewarded with huge progress in your fitness level.


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