periodization explained

Periodization Explained – How To Double Your Results In The Gym

There are only three ingredients to a great, results-based workout program.

They are:

  1. Consistency
  2. Effort
  3. Structure

People often over-complicate it by focusing on individual exercises or fancy techniques, but the bottom line is if you can take care of the three points above, you’re golden in terms of fat loss and muscle building results.

Today I’d like to talk about the third item on the list; structure.

This is the item which causes the most confusion, and throws people off the most..

Because we all know we need to go to the gym regularly if we are to get in shape. And we can all read endless fitness motivation memes about “how much you want it”.

But very few people know how to structure their workout routine to give them the best results.

Today, I’ll show you how I do this for my clients and in my online training plans.


What Is Periodization?

Periodization is the term used to describe the structuring of a weight training program.

There are typically three types of guys at the gym:

  1. Guys who have done the same routine for years
  2. Guys who blast themselves into oblivion every time they train

I know, that’s only two. I’ll get to it…

See, the guys who have been doing the same old routine for years are stuck in a very easy cycle to fall into.

Something perhaps worked once, so it gained their trust. But weeks turned into months, months turned into years, and they continued to do the exact same thing over and over again, despite the fact that results stopped coming long ago.

Likewise, there’s a group of guys who smash the gym like a nuclear warhead every time they train.

They’ll jump from one exercise to the next; dropset, superset, 100 reps, burn-out, burn-out, burn-out!

It sure looks impressive. And these folks have so much intensity, the “same old” guys probably either look over in envy at the madness, or get really stressed out by it.

But these two groups of guys have one thing in common – they’re unhappy with their results!

Yes, even the second group! They may be training harder, which is a good start, but they still aren’t unlocking the kind of results they feel their maximum effort in the gym deserves.


Well, allow me to introduce you to the third group…

  1. Guys who have done the same routine for years
  2. Guys who blast themselves into oblivion every time they train
  3. Guys who understand proper workout structure
best workout plan to build muscle

I want you to become part of the third group, a.k.a. the annoying people at the gym who seem to progress from one goal to another without much fuss.

I’m always preaching to you guys that if you want to look like an athlete, you need to train like an athlete.

Well, there isn’t one top tier athlete on the planet who a) follows a routine that just isn’t working anymore, and b) trains at 100mp/h all the time. It’d be like Eddie Hall trying to set a new max deadlift in a regular gym session, or like Usain Bolt trying to break his world record 100 meter sprint after warming up at his local running track.

Instead, they hire a coach to structure a routine which will allow them to get the best results from their body.

They’ll still be training hard, but variables of the program will be changed including target rep ranges, the amount of weight used, the amount of rest per set, etc.

Using this approach, they can stay away from injury much more easily, and they can take a more systematic approach to annihilating their targets, as opposed to training blindly and hoping for the best!

best workout plan to lose weight
Actor Adam Baroni and Team GB athlete Amanda Lightfoot during a HIIT session in the gym.

Whenever I’m working with a client, periodization is the utmost priority.

Some clients will find this familiar, as they like to get in on the scientific side of things with me. Others don’t even realize they’re doing it, because they like the concept of simply turning up at the gym and having everything laid out for them to do.

(Another huge benefit of hiring a great coach!)

But the one thing they all have in common is that they’re all using periodization to maximize the bang for their buck in the gym.

Rather than doing the same old thing every time, periodization enables you to use one particular training style for just long enough to reap the results it offers, then quickly getting out of the there before any negative adaptations can occur.

This keeps things fresh in terms of variety, and the constant change will be very refreshing for people who’ve followed the same old routine for years to no avail.

Likewise, guys who train with randomized routines will benefit from the fact they are forced to stick with one particular approach for long enough to get actual results from it, rather than just doing whatever they feel like doing.

You’ll still be training hard. You’ll still be going to muscle failure and feeling the burn of horrible sets. But you’ll be doing it with a purpose!

how to structure a workout routine to build muscle

As most of my clients are primarily training to lose fat, build muscle, and generally look better naked, one thing I love to apply periodization to is rep ranges.

There are many different kinds of periodization you can use, but I typically stick to the four shown below because they are very flexible, they will work with a variety of training goals.

Ready to break a mental sweat?

classic linear periodization

Classic Linear Periodization Explained

A classic linear approach is the most commonly used style of periodization.

With this protocol, each phase of your workout plan sees a change in the rep ranges being used.

With classic linear periodization, these changes appear in a (you guessed it!) linear fashion. This is sometimes referred to as “pyramidding”. This is a classic bodybuilding approach, and is great for building muscle.

Each phase typically lasts 2-3 weeks, although this can be longer if results are still coming on strong. As your reps get lower, the weights you use get heavier. By the end of the program, the goal here is to be strong as f**k.

TIP: Classic linear periodization is best suited to programs for increasing strength.

  • Linear Periodization Demo

Here’s how to set up a workout routine based on the classic linear periodization method:

  • Week 1: 8-12 reps
  • Week 2: 4-6 reps
  • Week 3: 3-5 reps
  • Week 4: 1-3 reps
how to periodize a workout program
best periodization to build muscle

Reverse Linear Periodization

As the name suggests, reverse linear periodization is the exact opposite of the method shown above.

Instead of our rep range decreasing, it climbs.

This method works nicely with high rep training, making it useful if your training goal is muscular endurance.

TIP: Apply reverse linear periodization to higher rep programs where your goal is improving muscular endurance.

Here’s how to set up a workout routine using reverse linear periodization:

  • Reverse Linear Periodization Demo
  • Week 1: 4-6 reps
  • Week 2: 8-12 reps
  • Week 3: 12-15 reps
  • Week 4: 20-30 reps
workout plan to build muscle and lose fat

Pendulum Periodization

Pendulum periodization combines the two methods shown above.

It’s best suited to longer training programs, where the end goal is to achieve “the best og both worlds”.

We’d work through phases of classic linear periodization, then immediately switch to reverse linear periodization.

This works particularly well if you’re structuring a workout routine to last a few months, or even a full year, as it will enable you to take advantage of both training styles.

TIP: Apply pendulum periodization to longer training plans designed to increase both strength and endurance.

Here’s how to set up a training program using pendulum periodization:

  • Pendulum Periodization Demo
  • Week 1: 8-12 reps
  • Week 2: 4-6 reps
  • Week 3: 3-5 reps
  • Week 4: 1-3 reps
  • Week 5: 4-6 reps
  • Week 6: 8-12 reps
  • Week 7: 12-15 reps
  • Week 8: 20-30 reps
best workout program for women to build muscle

Undulating Periodization

This is perhaps my favourite.

Undulating periodization (a.k.a. “muscle confusion”) works well with plans designed to shock the body, or break a plateau.

It’s perfectly suited to those who enjoy randomized training routines, because you will be moving in and out of higher rep and lower rep phases quickly.

This could see you switch things up as often as daily (daily undulating periodiation – DUP for short).

And it’s very productive, too.

I don’t consider it quite as effective as linear periofdization for building strength, or reverse linear for muscular endurance, but the differences are offset by the fact that it tends to be the method most clients prefer, leading to greater long-term results.

TIP: Undulating periodization is best suited to plans where variety is of utmost importance, in order to create greater adherence.

  • Undulating Periodization Demo
  • Week 1: 6-8 reps
  • Week 2: 12-15 reps
  • Week 3: 9-11 reps
  • Week 4: 20-30 reps

My Beach Bum training plan uses undulating periodization to maximum effect, with over 80,000 women experiencing great results from applying the techniques within that plan. Click here to check it out in the store.

periodization explained

And there you have it!

Think of periodization as variety with a purpose. Structured mayhem. Controlled chaos.

When it comes to unlocking an extra level of results in the gym, periodization is your best friend – and barely anyone else is using it.

If you’ve enjoyed my round-up of how to use periodization in your training program, share it. If you enjoyed it, others will too.

(Plus, dropping such knowledge bombs makes you look like a boss..)

Get on my free email list below so you never miss a tip, and I’ll see you next time.

Yours in training,


Leave a Reply