Tactical Fitness: How Periodization Can Alter Your Fitness Training Schedule

Soldiers bond over push-up challenge.
Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Garcia, left, and 2nd Lt. Jamie Venneman, both assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, flex their muscles after competing in a push-up contest, Oct. 22, 2008, at Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad. (Sgt. David Hodge/1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Hi, Stew!

I know that you do longer workouts in the summer and shorter workouts in the winter by following a bell-curve, cross-training periodization program throughout the year. What do you think of the concept of "deloading," where you systematically increase workout volume over three-week periods and then, on the fourth week, cut the workload by half?  

I do not have access to weights so I train exclusively with calisthenics (pull-ups, push-ups, dips, squats, lunges ... while following your PT pyramid, the PT superset and max-rep PT-workout templates) so I am limited. I was thinking that maybe the concept of "deloading" would be a good way to periodize my own workouts, as it would be easier to track my progress to see if I'm getting stronger each week? How would you approach periodization if you were a guy like me who trains exclusively with calisthenics?  

Kindest regards, Renier

Well, that is a form of periodization, and to be honest, you won't know whether it works if you don't try it out. Short answer: Sure -- see what happens and if you like it.

As you noted, I like high-rep calisthenics workouts on a bell curve through the year, but maybe you can increase the running and/or non-impact cardio options harder when not in high-repetition mode. You also could try a weight-vest session during a "winter lifting" phase or use more TRX and dumbbell workouts during the down cycle of calisthenics.

But the goal is to drop the high-rep workouts for a period of time, as well as the high-mileage running/rucking, and make those reps and miles more moderate for recovery purposes. In other words, take a break from 300-to 400-rep workouts and 10-mile runs for a cycle.

It is up to you how long that "rest" cycle is. And it is not really a "rest cycle," as it is more of a "change-of-focus cycle" and gives the body a rest from high miles and high-rep workouts. 

P.S.: Thanks for the email. Glad to see we have some overseas readers.

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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