Periodization is the logical and systematic process of sequencing and integrating training interventions in order to achieve peak performance at appropriate time points.

In other words, we want you to do perform your best on competition day.  BUT one concern that we have is not only the next competition, but the competition after that and the competition after that.  We believe in long term athletic development.  

We want our athletes to make consistent progress over time in their sport.  We do this by making sure that we understand the theories of how our bodies adapt, the tools at our disposal, aka the variables of programming discussed above, AND by taking into consideration the intervening variables that will impact the ability for our athletes to recover from training interventions.  Intervening variables such as, training age, biological age, chronological age, work stress, life stress, sleep regiment, nutrition, motivation, mental toughness, and any and all outside gym activities that will influence the ability to recover from the stress of training.     



  1. Volume

  2. Intensity

  3. Frequency

  4. Exercise Selection

  5. Exercise Order

  6. Tempo

  7. Interset Rest



  1. Training Age

  2. Biological Age

  3. Chronological Age

  4. Work

  5. Sleep

  6. Nutrition

  7. Motivation

  8. Mental Toughness

  9. Current adaptations

  10. Genetics

    1. Ability to respond to training

    2. Favorable Genetic Traits (fast-twist fibers, etc)

    3. Limb lengths



  1. Intermuscular Coordination

    1. Skill Acquisition

    2. Tactical and Technical mastery of sport

  2. Intramuscular Coordination

  3. Hypertrophy

  4. Anaerobic Conditioning

  5. Aerobic Conditioning

In general, a periodized approach to weightlifting and/or powerlifting will have four major phases of training culminating with a major competition.  In a year time we may have up to four major competitions with four full programming cycles or MACROCYCLES (more on that later) with each macrocycle made up of some if not all phases of programming.  For a more advanced athlete we will only have two full programming cycles in a year, or maybe just one.  The length of time spent in each phase of training will depend on the mediating variables of the athlete as listed above and/or the length of time between competitions for an athlete. 

  • The first general phase is the General Physical Preparedness Phase.  During this phase of training the desired outcome from training is improved overall fitness levels.  Primarily we are looking for improvement in coordination of general athletic movement patterns ANDanaerobic and aerobic conditioning.  The length of time of this phase will be higher for someone lacking in this area, and shorter (or even non-existent) if the person is sufficiently fit for the sport.  

  • The second phase of training is a Hypertrophy Phase.  During this phase we are prioritizing gains in size of the muscles and the intermuscular coordination of the movements we wish to utilize in more sport specific training later.  Again, the time spent in this phase (or if any time at all) is largely determined by the athlete or the competition schedule.  

  • The Preparatory Phase is a general strength phase and is often the longest phase of training.  This is where we are balancing intermuscular coordination and intramuscular coordination.  Average intensity levels are higher than the hypertrophy phase and the volume of training is a little lower.  Movements are more specific to the sport.  Often I will start newer athletes in this phase for weightlifting because it allows for the greatest practice of the full snatch and the full clean and jerk with general strength gains.  Sean on the other hand will often start his brand new athletes in a ‘late’ hypertrophy phase, however, with a slightly lower rep count than is typical for most hypertrophy programming (3x8 reps anyone!).  This really improves the intermuscular coordination of the powerlifting movements.    

  • The Competition Phase prepares the athlete to peak for their competition.  It consists of higher intensity and less volume. The competition movements are favored in training to a higher degree than any other phase.  During this phase the volume is dropping significantly from week to week, and the intensity is going up.  In the week or so before training (length of time will be determined by the needs of the sport and athlete), the intensity drops with the volume to allow for fatigue to be dissipated.  This leads to a short peaking of performance in time for the competition.  IF TRAINING WENT WELL THE ATHLETE WILL BE AT THEIR BEST AT THIS MOMENT.     


The multiyear approach to training is widely used by top strength and conditioning coaches and high level competitive weightlifting and powerlifting coaches.  The most widely utilized multiyear plan is of about four years in duration, which fits the four years of high school, college, or four years between Olympic competition.  In the old Eastern European Countries and the Old Soviet Union the multi-year approach to programming was based on the long term athletic development of children to Olympian.  While USA Weightlifting has attempted to resurrect this long view, the US lacks the institutional continuity to really make it happen.

We try to borrow as much as we can from the insights of the long term athletic development model for programming for an adult, recreational population AND from insights of programming for multiple years.  

The thing to keep in mind with any type of programming is that it is never set in stone.  This is especially the case with multi-year programming.  

  • YEAR 1:  Generally speaking we believe your first year of programming is to learn the movements of the sport.  The program variables we choose are to help you learn the competitive movements and to learn the main accessory exercises of the sport.  We want you to compete frequently and see if you actually enjoy the sport.  We make greatest use of the hypertrophy and preparatory phases.  We largely ignore the GPP phase unless the athlete is seriously lacking in the department.  And we only partially make use of a competitive phase of training to peak an athlete.    

  • YEAR 2:  At this point we attempt to address the overall weaknesses in GPP of the athlete and hypertrophy deficiencies.  The movements are fairly well learned at this point, and we can work on expanding the number of movements employed by the athlete to increase their overall readiness to be competitive in the sport.

  • YEAR 3:  At year three we want to make use of the increased hypertrophy and GPP of Year 2 for sport specific strength.  The number of movements start narrowing gradually on strength movements, while in weightlifting we make sure to include a healthy dose of explosive movements.

  • YEAR 4: The focus is about competing and out performing competitors.  The phases of training are solely determined by the strengths and weaknesses exposed by competition.     

These ‘years’ are not set in stone.  The length of time may be longer or shorter than a year depending on the athlete and their training history and their training commitment.  It is also important to note that with each year the phases of training outline above will still be present.

Next week we will take a closer look at what makes a Macrocycle and Mesocycle in programming!

Kurt Roderick, CSCS, USAW-ASPC L2, CF-L3, AOLC