Livekick Team | Feb. 1, 2018

Why do we boast science-backed fitness training here at Livekick? Because we can.

Stop us if this sounds familiar: You’ve been hitting the gym for a while. You saw some results in the first month, the second month, and maybe even the third, but now nothing’s changing. No matter how hard you push yourself or how often you get to the gym, you can’t seem to progress any further.

Welcome to the plateau.

Plateaus-- stalls in continued fitness progress-- happen because the body eventually adapts to whatever it’s doing. Awesome for life in general but slightly irritating in terms of fitness goals. In order to see continual change and improvement, the body needs continual challenges.

This process of continually challenging the body is known as periodization and this is the science behind Livekick.

Periodization is key for both strength and cardio training. Instead of doing the same repetitive training program each and every week, changing up your routine at regular intervals will keep the body working hard while still providing sufficient recovery time. 

Furthermore, if you do full-body lifts with your trainer, you’re activating your fast-twitch muscle fibers. This helps you develop power and speed. But in the spirit of never allowing your body to get used to anything, you also want to learn to activate your slow-twitch muscle fibers. What’s one easy way to begin that activation? Incorporating yoga into your routine. By doing movements slowly and holding poses during yoga, you activate the slow-twitch fibers, in turn developing more stamina. Doing a hybrid training routine like this is extremely useful in maintaining a balanced body.

Knowing when to change up your fitness program, though, can feel quite elusive, and that's where a fitness professional comes in. Here's some more info about the specific variables a personal trainer can manipulate for you in order to prevent plateau.

Strength Training Periodization

A trainer (or you, once you have the knowledge!) can alter a strength-training program by adjusting the following variables:

  • Number of sets of each exercise
  • Number of repetitions per set
  • Amount of resistance or load used
  • Tempo of each exercise
  • Rest period between sets, exercises, and/or workouts
  • Order of exercises

There are many types of periodized strength-training programs. One of the most commonly used periodization is switching from low load (weight or resistance) and high volume (number of repetitions) to higher load and lower volume. This allows the muscles to strengthen gradually and it’s appropriate for anyone interested in improving their fitness level.

The Research Doesn’t Lie

The Human Performance Lab at Ball State University conducted a study in 2001 and it is often cited when discussing periodization in fitness. The purpose of the study, which was published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, was to determine the long-term training adaptations associated with low-load (light lifting), circuit-type training vs. periodized, high-load (heavy lifting) resistance training in women. 

The 34 women in the study were divided into those two groups, along with a non-exercising control group. 
Group 1 performed 1 set of 8-12 reps to muscle failure 3x/week for 12 weeks
Group 2 performed 2-4 sets of 3-15 reps with periodized volume and intensity 4x/week for 12 weeks

These are the results:

As the chart shows, the periodized group showed more substantial gains in lean muscle, greater reductions in body fat and more significant strength gains than the non-periodized group after 12 weeks.

Cardio Training Periodization

Many think periodization is only for strength-training but it can be used in cardio training as well allow for further challenge while allowing for sufficient rest. To run three miles three times a week for a month won’t inspire continued progression. It will create a great habit of exercise but that’s about it. It’s a prime formula for boredom. In contrast, too much speed or high-intensity training can lead to injury, burnout or adrenal fatigue and, quite possibly, disappointing results.

As a recreational runner who runs for fun, fitness and the occasional 5K, incorporate flat, easy runs as well as runs that include inclines and others that focus on speed and strength. If the goal is to get faster or to race a half or full  (maybe the ultra?) marathon, try our Speed program. It incorporates a periodization program geared towards the race of your choice as well as lots of ankle, hip and other joint mobility work.

Plateaus are inevitable in fitness training if periodization is not applied. Incorporating change at regular intervals will ensure ongoing, measurable progress and keep motivation and interest high on the way to achieving your goals.

Want to give Livekick and its science-backed fitness a try? Sign up here and get started.

Additional Resources
Marx, J.O et al. (2001). Low-volume circuit versus high-volume periodized resistance training in women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33, 635–643. 
ACE Fitness (2009). “Periodized Training and Why It Is Important.”