Simple Guide of Periodization for Beginners.

Blog By: Kavitha Iyer.

Many people that are new to lifting weights and bodybuilding tend to stick to the same routine for too long. This can lead to unpromising results and plateaus. Leaving you frustrated. Many new lifters also can fall into the trap of changing up their routines too often, not leaving them enough time to create consistency and progress on certain lifts.

To avoid this you should carefully map out your program in order to track progression and continue to make gains. Advanced lifters have already built a strong foundation of strength and muscle growth after 5+ years of training. So they may not need to follow a periodization model. But new lifters can greatly benefit from such a plan.

What is Periodization?

Periodization is simply the organization and planning of training. In sport, this planning is usually based upon achieving maximum physical abilities (strength, speed, and power. Etc.) For a given competition or period of competitions. In bodybuilding, the training might be organized around a specific bodybuilding contest.

Most bodybuilders actually plan or instinctively “periodize” their training in line with specific goals anyway (lose body fat, bring up a lagging body part, etc.) In general, if you have a specific goal for a period of time, then essentially you are using periodization. There are many different ways that someone could use periodization, but we will keep it simple and gear it towards the physique athlete. Here’s a list of the common terms for the different stages and components of modern periodization.

  • Training unit- Refers to the actual “daily” workout
  • Microcycle- Usually refers to a week of training
  • Mesocylce- Usually refers to a period of lasting 2-4 months
  • Macrocylce- The largest unit of time lasting anywhere from 1 to 4 years

The phases of periodization that athletes use are:

  • General Physical Preparedness
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Peaking
  • Active rest or Transition Phase

This model is great for Olympic and professional athletes, but not that useful for the bodybuilder and physique athlete. Many traditional periodization models do not work well for bodybuilders and physique athletes, since they do not focus on hypertrophy (muscle growth) and fat loss as much. So I will focus on a simple bodybuilding time periodization phase.

The Simple Periodization Method For Bodybuilders and Physique Athletes

As a bodybuilder and physique athlete you have a few goals. Get stronger, build muscle, and burn fat. So we need only 3 different set, load and rep schemes to keep or progress going.

  • Hypertrophy
  • Maximal Strength
  • Dynamic Effort


This method is the most commonly used method in bodybuilding training and typically involves the following parameters:

  • Reps: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-5
  • Load: 60-80% 1 rep max
  • Rest Intervals: 1-3 minutes
  • Duration: 4-6 weeks

This type of muscle hypertrophy that comes from this type of training is known as “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This is the period that you will spend most of your time in, but not forever. Your body can’t do the same thing forever and expect different results. So you want to move on to something else. The next phase you want to focus on getting stronger.

Maximal Strength

This method is most commonly used in weightlifting and powerlifting training. The loading parameters are as follows:

  • Reps: 1-5
  • Sets: 5-10
  • Load: 85-100%
  • Rest Intervals: 3-7 minutes
  • Duration: 2-4 weeks

Since building muscle and burning fat is still the main goal as a bodybuilder and physique athlete, the duration of time spent in this part of the training will be short, but long enough to make some gains and adaptations. Improved neuromuslar recruitment will involve muscle fibers, which increase strength. This type of hypertrophy associated with maximal strength training is often referred to as “myofibrillar hypertrophy.”

Dynamic Effort

This method of training will probably be new to most bodybuilders, but can be very beneficial for beginners. This will help new lifters develop a high level of speed when lifting, which can lead to increased tension in the muscles and also teach the nervous system how to recruit muscle fibers more quickly. Here are the common loading parameters for the dynamic effort method of training:

  • Reps: 1-5
  • Sets: 6-10
  • Load: 50-70% of 1 rep max
  • Rest Intervals: 45-90 seconds
  • Duration: 2-4 weeks

The duration of this phase is also not that long. After this phase you will notice increased strength and explosiveness when you return to the typical bodybuilding hypertrophy type of training. Please note that during this phase the weights may feel light, but should be moved very fast to recruit the right muscle fibers and create high levels of muscle tension.


Below is a common periodization for beginner bodybuilders that has worked well for my clients:

Hypertrophy Phase: 6-weeks

Maximal Strength Phase: 2-weeks

Dynamic Effort Phase: 2-weeks


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