Periodization is generally employed for strength and performance goals. Its use for strict hypertrophy or bodybuilding is not known widely. Most bodybuilders do not employ any systematically planned progression; instead, they use different intensification techniques to increase stimulation time to time. A seasoned bodybuilder who’s in synch with his physiology knows instinctively when to go full throttle and when to back down a little on intensity. But to those who lack experience, it all appears haphazard.
A pro does things in a way which he had optimized over the course of a long period. You can’t just copy-cat and expect great results. And do NOT discount the fact that most pros are using PED’s and stuff to stay on the top of their game. It gives them a plenty of wiggle room to play with certain things. You as a natural can’t recreate the same physiology as a pro on Vitamin S.
Here we’re presenting a simple basic periodization scheme for muscle building to optimize things for a natural bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding Periodization 101
In the periodization article, we had defined periodization as, “Planning of training systematically over a period of time to increase performance”. For a bodybuilder, performance is muscle gain. So you’ll be planning your training parameters to optimize the hypertrophic response from your body.
You can do it by fluctuating volume (sets & reps), intensity (load), frequency (number of training sessions per muscle), and intensification techniques (drop sets, extended sets etc.). The important thing is that you keep progressing in one way or the other. Not only this keeps you motivated, but it’s an actual key to muscle growth and gains in long term.
You need to intelligently plan out the duration and the level of difficulty in the progression plan. If you go overly gung-ho in the first week, you’re bound to burn out by week 3. So always start on a lighter side, and keep making it difficult from session to session. This way muscle gaining process will be sustainable and a better learning experience for you. Remember that the hypertrophic response is your body’s adaption to the stress imposed, but the imposition of super high stresses won’t increase hypertrophic response. You can’t force your body to hypertrophy in that manner. That’s why a sustainable and expanded approach is better.
Linear Volume Intensification
This is a very effective approach for muscle building. Many lifters had used it successfully with stellar results. In this method, the volume is linearly increased with intensification methods over the course of mesocycle.
Here’s an example of a 4-week cycle to illustrate it further.
4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 in classic pyramid set up. Intensity (load) increases set to set as the reps decrease.
4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 with pyramid method, but when you finish the last set of 6 immediately remove about 15% of weight and perform another set of 6 in Drop Set fashion.
3 sets of 12, 10, 8 pyramid method; on the 3rd set drop about 15% weight and perform a drop set of 8 reps.
Finally, perform the 4th set of 6 reps with increased intensity, and as soon as you finish it drop weight by 15% and perform a set of 6. After this set Drop another 15% and perform one more set of as many reps as you can.
Perform 4 sets with the same intensity as your set 4 in the previous week which includes two Drop Sets every set.
6 reps => drop 15% => 6 reps => drop 15% => max reps
After 4 weeks, take a de-load week by halving the total volume and dropping the drop sets altogether. You can repeat it as per your wish.
Note that this is an example of periodization for a single exercise. It can be applied to any good muscle building program. You can use it on barbell, dumbbell or machine exercises, it will be a great method nonetheless.