What is periodization? It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but luckily there is a very basic definition. Periodization is “the organization of training into basic workable units. These units are defined as the training session, the micro cycle, the meso cycle, the macro cycle, and the quadrennial” (http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/the_periodization_bible). Don’t worry, it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Don’t let those terms scare you.
The training session is exactly as it sounds: one particular workout. For some athletes, there may be multiple training sessions in a single day. But for the general population of recreational lifters, that’s not something to worry about. Assuming there are no special circumstances, only one session should be performed during a 24-hour span. When your training is seen from a larger standpoint, the training session may seem very miniscule and unimportant. However, this is so very far from the truth. Each and every training session contributes towards the overall goal of the program. That being said, it is extremely crucial not to downplay its importance.
A series of training sessions make up the micro cycle. In other words, the micro cycle makes up a single week of training. This single week may include three, four, or maybe even five training sessions all grouped together. Now you might be starting to understand why the training session is so important, even though it is but a single day of hundreds. Each particular piece of the program builds off of the previous pieces. One particularly poor training session often leads to a number of other bad training sessions. This situation constitutes a poor micro cycle. Perform to the best of your ability during each session to ensure a solid micro cycle.
The next step of periodization brings us to the meso cycle. This meso cycle consists of a series of micro cycles. Starting to see a pattern emerge? The meso cycle may also be deemed the training phase. A training phase is a period of training ranging from two to eight weeks that focuses on a specific component of exercise. The most common training phases include stabilization, conditioning, hypertrophy, strength, power, peak, and recovery. These phases often follow a specific progression as a means of accomplishing a certain goal or set of goals.
Finally, we hit the macro cycle. The big kahuna, so to speak. The macro cycle refers to the entire training program. This training program might last for 12 weeks, or 16 weeks, or possibly even longer. The macro cycle is fundamentally a number of meso cycles, or training phases, put together. This grouping of training phases should be specific to your goals. If you are training specifically for strength and already possess a decent base, it is often unnecessary to include the stabilization, conditioning, and hypertrophy phases. In addition, the peak and recovery phase are often left out of recreational programs, as they are more important to the competitive athlete.
Each of these particular “cycles” contributes equally to the overall training program. One poorly planned training session, micro cycle, or meso cycle has the power to throw off that entire period of training. Just remember that each component of periodization plays off of the others. Pay equal attention to each.