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“Periodization for Bodybuilders”

If you’re a bodybuilder and you spend the next twelve to twenty-four (pick a number) weeks performing sets of four to six repetitions, you will be utilizing a block of training time to work your ‘white fast-twitch muscle fibers.’ If you follow that up with a block of time in which you perform sets of eight to twelve repetitions (red fast/slow twitch fibers), you’ll be engaging, knowingly or not, in ‘periodization for bodybuilding.’

As someone after the possible benefits of ‘periodization for bodybuilders’, you might follow that training cycle with another one that utilizes plyometric training in the low-repetition range of sets in order to hit the fast-twitch fibers with even more intensity.

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'Periodization for Bodybuilders': Can this athletic training technique help you build a better body?

‘Periodization’: What is it?

‘Periodization’ is the organized cycling of training methods in order to obtain synergistic results from the resultant scheduled routines. It’s been utilized by athletes (mostly through their coaches) for decades. In the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s, European coaches began subjecting their athletes to this systematic alternation of weight training sets, reps, and intensity levels in order to prevent overtraining plateaus and improve overall strength and athletic performance. It appeared effective; these countries produced some of the best performances of the top athletes in the world during that time. Much of this has been attributed to the utilization of the technique of periodization.

Periodization: Two types for weight training

In weight training, volume and intensity are inversely related. In order for intensity to be increased, volume must be decreased. Likewise, an increase in the volume of weight moved usually demands a decrease of intensity. Alternating between higher volume with lower intensity and low volume with high intensity is an effective and commonly used technique in employing ‘periodization for bodybuilders.’

This method’s effectiveness is likely due to its allowance of adequate rest for each respective muscle fiber type as the other ones are being targeted. If we hit the heavy/low reps sets for a few weeks, we push the fast-twitch tissue for awhile as we allow the slow/fast-twitch red fibers some time off. When we return to hitting the slow/fast-twitch red fibers for a few weeks, the fast-twitch fibers get some rest.

This type of ‘periodization for bodybuilders’, whereby sets, reps, and intensity are unique to each training block of a specific number of weeks, is referred to as “undulating periodization.” This method lies in contrast to “stepwise periodization”, whereby the sets and intensity are cycled within the training block – typically getting higher in intensity with a corresponding drop in volume as the weeks progress.

‘Periodization for Bodybuilders’: Effectiveness depends on other factors

So, the question: Should you incorporate periodization into your bodybuilding routine?

That depends! You see, experiencing success in natural physique enhancement is a matter of combining a bunch of important elements into a nearly perfect mixture, or formula. If the practice of ‘periodization for bodybuilders’ is utilized while some equally important (or even more important) elements of successful bodybuilding are missing, results will likely leave a lot to be desired.

That said, it’s worth noting that I’m currently combining the principles of HardBody Success with the practice of bodybuilding periodization and getting phenomenal results. So in this case, periodization for bodybuilders seems to be enhancing a unique bodybuilding system that is highly effective in and of itself.

I’ll have more on all of this at another time.



once again a great article here i like your style of writing keep it up



Jack Jones

Great article periodization has always been important in my training. I always find that if I train extremely hard for a few weeks to the point that I'm starting to feel really fatigued then I back off on my volume for a few lbs of muscle in that time and make quite a jump in my strength.

Jack Jones


Hi Sean,

I use the "undulating" method. I do not recommend switching very often. I've found the best results by going at least twelve weeks with each fiber type/rep counts - and as long as six months. This allows some substantial development within each fiber type that actually feeds the other ones. There's definitely some overlap that occurs.

Thank you for posting.


Sean Sullivan

You've piqued my interest. Which method of periodization are you using? If undulating, how often do you switch. Would you recommend switching every other workout on a specific muscle group?

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