What is Periodization?


What is Periodization?


By: Eric Basek


CrossFit is defined as “Constantly Varied, Functional Movements performed at High Intensity“.  The goal is to take functional movements (compound, core to extremity, mirrored in everyday life movements), apply variety (reps, load and time) and perform that with high intensity so as to elicit the most desired aspect of any exercise program, RESULTS.


Ironically, however, apply this method every day without any change at all and you will, in essence, no longer be “varied”. That’s where Periodization comes into play….


Periodization is defined as long term cyclic structuring of training and practice to maximize performance.  In essence, variety.  (Lots of irony in this post).  A “periodized” training plan usually involves a macro cycle (1 yr), Meso Cycles (1-3 months with specific goals), Micro Cycles (1-4 Weeks) and your individual Workout (hours and minutes).


It is based on Hans Seyle’s “General Adaption Syndrome”, which, in short, is a theory that explains how the body reacts to biological stressors (Alarm – Resist – Exhaust).


It is employed by nearly every professional athlete on the planet.  Benefits begin with (ironically again), variety!  They also include management of fatigue, prevention of injury and plateau busting.  In one study performed at Ball State University, those who periodized their training nearly doubled their strength gains when compared to those who did not!


There are multiple types of periodization methods to include linear, block and undulating or non-traditional methods.  An example of linear periodization would be increasing your load as you decrease reps over time in a more traditional “globo-gym” training routine.  This applies in a  much lesser sense to CrossFit.


Block periodization, however, is the method you will see employed within our gym, Blue Titan, and the method most commonly associated with professional athletes.


Take an Olympic Weightlifter for instance.  This lifter has one major goal (The Olympics) which occurs every four years.  Within that four year “Quadrennial” Period, he or she has Macro cycles of a year at a time.  Each Macro cycle prepares the athlete for “Nationals” and the “Competition Season”.  Within each Macro cycle will be 2 or 3 Meso Cycles.  The meso furthest away from competition is likely the deloading cycle (recovery from competition season) followed by a strength building cycle and finally, a skill, conditioning and cutting cycle, where the athlete prepares for competition season once again!


If you consider CrossFitters athletes, which I do, it’s not much different.  For us living in an area of the country with four seasons, the summer usually coincides with competitions.  Which would put the fall as our deloading and skill heavy season, the winter as our strength season, the spring as our cutting and conditioning season and finally back to summer, our competition season (or for all others, a maintenance season where we hope the beer we drink and the hot dogs we eat don’t destroy what we worked so hard to build!).


So, for those students who have noticed a significant emphasis on skill building with lighter workouts and more mobility recently, hopefully this will help those changes in workout structure make more sense!  And if you’ve been hoping for the workouts to get harder again…stay tuned.  Winter is just around the corner 😉

Periodization Pyramid






How to double your gains with daily undulating periodization