I learned a lot about periodization this last semester in my Strength Training 2 class. One of our big assignments was to create a year long periodized training plan for a fictional client of our choice. Needless to say, it was overwhelming to start, but once I got started, I could see how it would be incredibly useful for both me as a trainer and the client.
One of the first things my prof told us was that periodization is planned results. If you have a specific goal in mind, you have to take a specific path to achieve it. For example, if you're training for a marathon, you're not going to be in the weight room and bench pressing three times a week. Instead, you'll be spending the majority of your time doing cardio, specifically running.
When creating a periodized plan, it's usually broken up into three parts: a macrocycle, mesoycles, and microcycles. A macrocycle covers the entire periodization time. For a university level soccer player, it's a year long, which includes the pre-season, competitive season, and the off-season.THe macrocycle should have one overarching big goal.
The macrocycle is broken up into mesocycles. Mesocycles are usually four to six week long periods, each of which have specific goals. For the university soccer player, the mesocycle before the soccer season starts would be getting into top shape to start the season strong.
Each mesocycle is broken up into microcycles, which are seven to ten days long. Microcycles are the actual workouts with the specific exercises for each day.
The macrocycle is the big picture, the big goal. Mesocycles are the smaller steps that get you towards the big goal. And microcycles are the smallest pieces that build to each mesocycle.
If you're working with a personal trainer, or thinking of working with one, make sure that they've created a periodized training program for you. Even if you're not an athlete or working towards a specific event like a half marathon or a powerlifting competition, you should still have a periodized training program to get you to your goals.
One last thing that I want to share is an important one. The prof in my strength training class always said that periodization = planned results. Without a plan to get to your goals, it's unlikely that you'll achieve them. Periodization allows you (or your trainer) to plan the small steps that lead to the big goal that you want to accomplish.