Most of the time, I receive emails from people who are seeking to pass their PFT, and just as many who wish to max out their PFT scores for their age group.
Periodization Training = Longevity
As we age, overuse injuries tend to occur if a never changing exercise routine is done for too long or if you start something new and do too much, too fast, too soon. This can also happen to us in our prime. Whether it is high mileage running, heavy weight lifting, high repetition calisthenics, and anything else for that matter, if we do not change the routine frequently, you have a high chance of getting injured. Also, frequency, intensity, time doing workouts can play an equal part in both properly training you as well as over-training you. Here is what I have done now for nearly 20 years and it has enabled me to be without serious injury from training and keeps me in a condition where I can train with the younger generation in their teens and early 20's.
I use the sun as my indicator of tougher workouts seasons, especially my running workouts. If the days are longer like in the spring and summer then my workouts are longer. This form of periodization enables me to keep the gains from hard seasons of workouts well into the shorter days / shorter workout cycles. During the Fall / Winter months, I tend to taper a bit slowly from running and find more non-impact aerobics and add weight to my calisthenics program - some heavy - some moderate.
For instance, in my "solstice plan" the workout cycle will bell curve to a maximum during the longest day of the year June 20 and will decrease slowly until the shortest day of the year Dec 20. Now, when the New Year arrives and each day is getting longer, so do the workouts until they peak in June. And the cycle continues.
As you see, the easier part of the workout comes in the middle of winter and the toughest part is in the summer. Winter workouts do not mean you do NOTHING - they are just easier in time involvement, mileage, and repetition than the summer season. My book Maximum Fitness is a 52 week workout that demonstrates the cycle into 4 x 13 week periods that include:
1st Quarter - Calisthenics / Cardio Workouts
The goal of this cycle is to build a foundation of moderate to high reps of calisthenics or bodyweight exercises to improve fitness testing scores, but to also burn off some of the bulk you created during the winter weight lifting cycle. Progressing the running each week is critical to this cycle as well and will help prevent over-use running injuries when starting back up again.
2nd Quarter - Calisthenics / Cardio Workout (more advanced)
This phase takes the last cycle and builds upon it further with more maximum effort (high rep / high mileage cardio) workouts. Typically at the end of this cycle you will reach a peak in cardiovascular and bodyweight performance. At this point, you will be ready for a change.
3rd Quarter - Some Calisthenics / Some Weights / Cardio Workouts
So, you change your routine a bit. Decrease reps of calisthenics, but add weights incrementally each week to build up your strength. Cardio options grow by adding more non-impact to your running routine as you taper a bit to prepare for the weight cycle.
4th Quarter - Near 100% weights / less running more non impact cardio
As a former football player and power lifter, I have always enjoyed this cycle and found that within 4-8 weeks, I was back to old max weight (1RM) in several exercises to include bench press, power clean, and dead lifts. Usually weight gain will accompany this cycle and typical results are 10-15 lbs especially if you like to watch football and eat! The legs will feel good on occasional runs after a few weeks of tapering down to more non-impact cardio
When you push your fitness to extremes the way many military people have throughout their teens, 20s, 30s, and now 40s, you need to create a break from all the elements of the above routine. Periodization is required to achieve that level of longevity. The 4 quarter cycle above is a sample model of a periodized program. You can create your own to fit your fitness goals.
When I was in the SEAL teams, we actually did this type of program as winter diving always was tough without extra bulk. So, we bulked up over the winter in order to handle the colder water temperatures. So this style of training does perform a very useful purpose tactically as well as physiologically.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at email@example.com.
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