A Personal Trainer’s Guide to Periodisation

This blog is your Personal Trainer’s Guide to Periodisation, teaching you why and how to periodise client programmes without getting overwhelmed or confused.

You’ll discover:

  • What is periodisation?
  • A Guide to Periodisation Terms
  • Why Personal Trainers don’t use periodisation for clients:
  • 4 Reasons WHY you should periodise your client programmes
  • 6-minute video tutorial for your first periodised plan
  • Five simple steps to periodise client programmes without overwhelm or confusion
  • Three Mock questions to test your Periodisation Knowledge
  • How to advance your knowledge and confidence as a FitPro inside 31 days

What is periodisation?

Periodisation divides a long timeframe into smaller more manageable chunks. It allows for greater focus on a specific physiological adaptation at any one point, and helps manage all aspects of training towards peak performance.

Periodisation is used with athletes and professional sports players, to ensure they are ready for a season of competitions, and then use the off-seasons effectively to improve performance and recover.

A Guide to Periodisation Terms

There are some key periodisation terms to know:

Macrocycle = The long term goal or long timeframe (usually between 12 weeks and 1 year)

Mesocycle = A chunk of training with a specific purpose and focus. This is usually 4 weeks in duration.

Microcycle = A one week cycle within the mesocycle

Why Personal Trainers don’t use periodisation for clients:

Although periodisation is included inside the Level 3 Personal Trainer syllabus, it is often seen as a “hoop” to jump through for the casestudy assessment.

As a result many fitness professionals graduate their course without an adequate strategy that allows them to use it with clients to focus training and guarantee results.

Without a strategy to follow periodising a client plan can feel daunting and overwhelming.

As a result, thousands of trainee and qualified personal trainers don’t create a periodised plan for their clients. They end up struggling to plan single PT sessions, and struggle to guarantee results.

4 Reasons WHY you should use periodisation for your clients

1.  It focuses you and your client to GOAL SUCCESS

Your periodised plan will be agreed upon between you and your client before starting, and this is a great time to get the client really excited that their goal will be achieved.

For example, have you ever started planning a wedding or a big event – it feels like a big tangle of things “to-do”, and half of them you don’t even know how to do. Hire the event planner, and at that point, you take a sigh of relief that it is being handled by an expert, and you can enjoy the journey as well as a guarantee on an end result.

It’s the same for your clients. You are their event planner; their coach and mentor, they will be relieved that you want their goal as much as they do

2. It prevents Injury and overtraining.

Using principles like the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) principle will encourage a rest week or a de-loading on the 4th week. This encourages full adaptation and recovery, by forcing a plateau.

This also gives a client something to look forward to rather than each session getting harder and harder. Remember exercise is a stressor, so the most adaptation happens on these rest/ de-load weeks.

3. It is focussing

Periodisation is kindalike writing a book. You have the full book (macrocycle) and then individual chapters (mesocycles) with set outcomes and ahcievements.

Not only is this better at guaranteeing physiological adaptaion without conflict, but the client knows how to prepare for future sessions.  

It can be much more exciting and achievable to achieve small stepping stone goals, for example, you may have:

Mesocycle 1 = Foundation Fitness for 4 weeks – increase endurance and learn basic skills

Mesocycle 2 = Hypertrophy for 8 weeks – increase calories and training routine to increase size

Mesocycle 3 = Fat strip  for 4 weeks – gradual taper of body fat and calorie deficit

Goal achieved – Beach ready in 16 weeks

4. It creates a framework to plan around

This can still be flexible as clients do have a life outside of training. The periodization is completed in advance, predicting what will happen for weeks and months ahead.

This is a great chance for you and your client to discuss barriers that may stop them from complete and find ways to work around this and accommodate the clients “life” into the plan.

6 Minute Video Tutorial: A Personal Trainer’s Guide to Periodisation

Level 3 PT Overview of Progressive Predictive Plan - In 5 Simple Steps

There are 5 clear steps to create your first Periodised plan for a client

STEP 1: Goals

The first of these five steps is to make sure that you are truly aware of what your client’s goal is.

Find out the client’s long-term goal, their aspirations and why they want to achieve this in the next 12 months.

The refine this to a medium term goal that is clearly measurable, and will be achieved by the end of your package (i.e. 8 or 12 weeks)

This goal should also be a performance goal, which means it is super easy to measure that your client has achieved that goal at the end of your plan.

Goals are so important, that I have two more video tutorials to help you craft the perfect goals for your PT casestudy and client:

  1. The goal should be a PERFORMANCE goal that is clearly measurable, learn more about Process and Performance goals HERE
  2. The goal needs to be described in a SMART format, learn how to write this for your case study HERE

STEP 2: Chunks of Adaptation

Now you have a very clear goal, let’s create the mesocycles within this guide to periodisation. Step two is to understand what physiological adaptation you want your client to have by the end of the eight week or twelve-week goal.

The best way to do that is to divide it up in chunks, kinda like how a book is divided up into chapters.

If you’ve got an 8-week goal divide it into two chunks of four if you’ve got a 12-week goal divide it into three chunks of four weeks.

These chunks (or chapters) are called mesocycles

And each mesocycle has a clear outcome or physiological adaptation you would like your client to achieve by the end of each chunk,

These chunks/ mesocycles build-up systematically to achieve their goal at the end.

For example, I could say I want to focus on endurance training and endurance adaptation in this first four weeks and then focus on hypertrophy in the second four weeks.

or I might want to focus on the distance that my client is running in the first four weeks (if they’ve got an event for a running goal) and then I could work on the speed that they’re gonna compete at, in the second mesocycle.

Think about the end outcome after 8-weeks or 12 weeks and consider their starting point.

Create the chunks/ mesocycles that break up the bigger goal, and start to place logical milestones/ outcomes after every 4 weeks.

This will basically allow you to now have an understanding of what you need to aim towards achieving, and the adaptation you expect.

In this example, mesocycle 1 is focused on endurance, I know that I want to focus on type 1 muscle fibers and using aerobic energy system. This helps focus my planning for those first 4 weeks.

If I’m looking for hypertrophy I know I want the type 2a muscle fibers and I also want to be targeting the lactic acid system as much as I possibly can.

It gives you an idea of what physiological adaptation is required in each of the four weeks, within your Level 3 PT Overview of Progressive Predictive Plan.

If you are totally stuck when it comes to physiological adaptation, and knowing how this links to planning then we have an extensive coaching programme that will teach you this with simplicity.

Our FIT-Progressions programme is available now, if you’d like to find out more, CLICK HERE and find out all the details.

STEP 3: The GAS Principle

We’ve got the general progression that we’re looking for across the eight weeks now we’re going to break that down even further to understand the individual progressions.

In order to do that, I definitely advise you use the gas principle so the GAS principle means general adaptation syndrome.

General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is related to building up the progression week on week with your client.

You make it harder each week for three weeks but on the fourth week we drop down which allows the adaptation to happen in the body.

All of the demand we’ve already put on the body causes stress, and the fourth week is an adaptation week to allow that stress to turn into results.

We reduce something in that week to encourage recovery.

Each mesocycle has this same three-up-one-down pattern.

Your step three is to basically draw this gas principle out whereby it’s going up up up and then down, up up up and then down

Do this for the duration of your medium term performance goal/ package

STEP 4: Progression

The next step of this guide to periodisation, is to show the set progression in each week so in order to do this we need to be aware of the FITT principle:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Time
  • Type

We are going to plan the FITT for both CV and for resistance over all weeks. The easiest way to do this is to do it on two separate grids.

Draw one of these for CV and then another one for resistance training and then you want to detail the frequency intensity time and type that your client is gonna do for each of these weeks.

We’re gonna look for a steady progression on the first three weeks and then bring it down a notch on the fourth week to resemble this gas principle that we’ve just drawn a quick example of.

If I only go to the gym and do cardiovascular once a week in the first week, but then I want to go twice a week in the second week and then I’m gonna go twice a week on the third week and then drop down to just once a week on the fourth week.

You can progress the frequency and then drop it back down also you can progress the intensity and progress this along so that something changes in every single week and that’s the main way to show the progression from the beginning all the way across the end.

At least one part of your frequency, intensity, time and type will change inside every single week.

STEP 5: Programme Cards

Once you’ve now detailed all of your FITT for all weeks for CV and resistance training this is your first periodised plan complete … congratulations 🙂

Now create the first one or two programme cards. What will your client specifically do in their sessions this week?

Remember the FITT overview you just created indicates the intensity and time, and even the training systems for that session, all you need to address now is the timings and the exercises.

Doing your periodisation first will stop you from going around and around in circles about what to actually put in your programme card.

It makes it laser-focused on what you need to include on every single program card.

Test your knowledge with 3 Mock Questions

Having read our Personal Trainer’s Guide to periodisation, look at the three Periodisation Mock questions below. Jot down your answer on a scrap paper or as a note on your phone.

Then scroll down to reveal the answers.

1) In periodisation, what does GAS stand for?

A. General Analysis Syndrome
B. General Adaptation Syndrome
C. Global Adaptation Syndrome
D. General Adaptation Science

2) Which of the following is not part of the FITT principle variables?

A. Frequency
B. Intensity
C. Training zone
D. Time

3) Which term is used to express the clients long term training phase?

A. Pericycle
B. Mesocycle
C. Macrocycle
D. Microcycle


Q1: Answer = B
Q2: Answer = C
Q3: Answer = C

If you want more mock questions like this, then you can download more Free Mock Questions: DOWNLOAD NOW

Need more help with your Periodisation?

This blog explored a simple version of one periodisation model, there are many different periodisation models, each allows you to apply the science behind your client planning. Our FIT-Progressions online programme breaks down each of these periodisation models in detail with clear protocol to follow for each one.

Plus you learn how to periodise your planning and achievelogical progressive overload so your client can get their goal every time.

>>>> Join us for FIT-Progressions here

Become a knowledgeable and confident FITPRO, with a clear strategy to get results with your clients every time.

There’s no more self-doubt. There’s no more guessing what to plan or how to get client results. FIT-Progressions has 8 modules and 18 video tutorials that guide you through every stage of your Level 3 Personal Trainer case study, and how to work with clients effectively.

This is for you if you’re…

  • struggling to complete your coursework for PT, Yoga, or Pilates
  • a newly qualified FITPRO that feels stuck or overwhelmed
  • unsure where to start when planning a client session
  • worrying about applying your course knowledge with a real client
  • doubting you could get results and lack structure to client packages
  • anxious and confused about how to get found and get busy

Click the link to find out more and join us:

Dedicated to More

Hayley “Guide to Periodisation” Bergman

Parallel Coaching

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