Position Your Business to offer Long term packages with Principles of Periodization

“Will you paint my picture?” the lady said.

“Absolutely,” Picasso answered.

Thirty seconds later the picture was complete.

“That will be 5000 dollars,” Picasso said.

“Five thousand dollars?! It took you 30 seconds!” The lady was shocked.

“It took 30 years to learn to paint the picture in 30 seconds.”

How many hours, months and years of education are behind your ability to do what you do as a trainer? If Picasso had been the average personal trainer he would have charged the lady based on 30 seconds, not 30 years.

It is about HOW you are using periodization to improve your business.

Way too many of us (strength coaches and personal trainers) are only financially compensated for the time we spend with our athletes or fitness clients. That is problematic because we all know that good program design takes time. If this preparation time is not in our business model, it is simply not possible to execute individualized, high-level program designs when we are booked with back-to-back training sessions in order to ensure a viable business.

You should be financially compensated for the program designs you create in addition to the time spent with your clients. The first step in creating this scenario is to deliver exceptionally targeted and result-producing training programs.

There are many aspects of delivering exceptionally result-producing training programs. One such aspect is to focus your packages on the client’s goal rather than a random number of sessions.

If a client has a goal that requires more than 4 weeks of systematic training then you need to apply principles of periodization in order to create an exceptionally result-producing, long-term training plan.

Packages based on a particular number of sessions have never made sense to me.

An athlete or fitness client comes to you to help him/her prepare for a kettlebell competition that is four months away. You suggest a training package that is based on the particular number of sessions – high or low.

How do you know that the number of sessions you suggested is appropriate to help the athlete/client with the stated goal? How do you know that you are not trying to sell the client sessions that they really don’t need? OR vice versa, how do you know that the number of sessions is enough to do a good job helping the client?

The more logical approach is to offer tailor-made packages that specifically focus on helping the athlete client achieve their stated goal.

If we stay with the above example – offering a package based on the client’s goal requires that you have the skill to create an exceptionally result-producing, 4-month plan that results in maximizing muscular endurance at the end of the four months.

“I have a plan”

During my childhood in my native country, Denmark, I watched a series of comedy style movies featuring a three-man gang. Every movie began with the leader coming out of prison and meeting with the two other members of the gang. In every movie, his first sentence was always “I have a plan” (Incidentally, these movies supposedly were very popular also in former East Germany, because the gang always robbed the rich capitalists).

Each movie ended with the leader of the gang going to prison. So maybe his plans were not the best.

If an athlete comes to you for help with a goal that is four months away, do you have a plan? How good is your plan? Do you have the skills to create a plan?

To create a result-producing, 4-month (or longer) plan you need to apply principles of periodization.

Why is it a must to apply principles of periodization in order to create a long-term plan?

It is about HOW you are using periodization to improve your business.

Studies on long-term training generally show that in order to avoid plateaus and see more consistent fitness gains principles of periodization must be applied when training programs are more than four weeks in duration.  

Since most goals take more than four weeks of training to accomplish, it follows that periodization –in almost any case – must be applied.

Additionally, the accomplishment of most fitness or sports goals involves multiple physical abilities that are developed in a sequential fashion, however, with some overlap in the training of different qualities. In other words, the physical ability that is expressed in the final goal builds on a series of other qualities.

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the specifics of training. However, a brief look at the Kettlebell Snatch reveals that expressing maximal muscular endurance in a kettlebell snatch builds on the flexibility, stability, structural strength, maximal strength and muscular endurance.

Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4 Phase 5
Flexibility Stability Structural Strength Maximal Strength Muscular endurance

 

Table 1: Expressing muscular endurance in a KB Snatch builds on several factors

Many of the trainers I have met over the last seven years shy away from periodization, largely because they think that periodization is a complicated Eastern European concept for “people in lab coats.”

If you take a look in the dictionary you will learn that, fundamentally, periodization means
a division into periods.

When we take periodization into the training context the definition becomes slightly longer:

Periodization is a division of a longer training cycle, into periods with different goals, structure, and content of the training program. These periods are sequenced in such a way that selected physical abilities are maximized at a pre-determined date. (See Table 1)

It is about HOW you are using periodization to improve your business.

Thus, Periodization is a strategy or principle for organizing long-term training. The strategy is simply to organize the long-term cycle by dividing it into periods with different goals, structures, and content of the training program.

Note that the above discussion neither implies nor mentions any of the known systems of periodization – linear, daily undulating, block or conjugate. The known systems are all examples of an application of periodization as a strategy.

Do you think that you could (would) train the particular client for four months without making any changes to the training program? Probably not.

Thus, whenever you create a change in a program, there is a new period that has new content and maybe a new structure and a new goal. Therefore, while you can avoid any of the well-known examples of periodization it is virtually impossible to avoid periodization as a strategy.

Please refer to any respected source to learn the principles of periodization in detail, should you choose to do so.

“ But my clients only want to sign up for 3 sessions.”

“I hear what you say, but my clients only want to sign up for three sessions.” That is the first standard objection I hear during my periodization workshops.

The misconception behind this objection (maybe the instructor’s fault!) is that applying periodization requires a long-term plan. A long-term plan needs periodization, but periodization does not need a long-term plan.

No matter what the goal is and how many sessions the client wants to sign up for, you can’t circumvent the fact that physical abilities should be developed in a particular order (See Table 1).

Additionally, you cannot circumvent the fact that any one program is only effective for a certain period of time (please read about the Principle of Accommodation in “Science and Practice of Strength Training by Wladimir Zatsiorsky).

So, how do you apply periodization to the situation where the client insists on only signing up for three sessions?

  1. Get clear on the goal that the client wants to achieve. For example, competing in a Kettlebell competition.
  2. Perform an assessment of the client’s current physical status. Example: The athlete has great flexibility and core, shoulder and hip stability.
  3. Create a program that focuses on the quality that they need to develop now in order to move forward towards their goal. Example: This client can then start in the structural strength phase.
  4. Explain how long the current program will be effective and what they should be working on next. Explain that when s/he feels that s/he starts hitting a plateau, s/he should progress to a maximal strength program.

With this 4-step approach, you educate the client on what they really need to develop to achieve their goals. You help them where they are now and you demonstrate that you know the long-term perspective.

Do you think there is a greater chance that the client will come back to you when s/he needs the next program?

Periodization does not work in personal training because the clients miss too many sessions

Another common objection in personal training is that “periodization does not work because the (average fitness client) misses too many sessions.”

This misconception is based on what personal trainers see in periodization texts. For example,  they might see that the structural strength cycle should last six weeks (see above).

The trainer then plans a 6-week structural strength cycle, but the client misses so many workouts that s/he has not gained structural strength (for example increased muscle) after the six weeks.

The scenario is real, but the conclusion that “periodization does not work” is misguided.

Let’s get back to basics here:

The structural strength cycle was planned because it was the next step in the hierarchy of physical abilities towards the client’s goal (See table 1 and the previous example).

The foundation of the sequence of periods is that the training adaptations in one training period create optimal conditions for the training in the next period. When you build a house, when do you place the next layer of bricks on the wall? You place the next layer of bricks on the wall when the current layer of bricks are in place and are solid.

Thus, you educate the client that s/he is not ready to move into the next cycle until the sufficient structural strength is achieved. You educate the client on the General Adaption Syndrome and explain that if the number of days between sessions significantly exceeds the time to recover and super compensate, the client will repeatedly revert to their baseline.

The fact that the client is missing sessions does not mean that periodization does not work. It means that they have to stay in the same type of cycle for a longer period of time.

Take a word from a strength coach (me) who has made the mistake: If you try to force the progression, you will slow down the long-term progress, because the client will end up practicing various aspects incorrectly and the likelihood of injuries increases.

Conclusion

The principles of periodization can strengthen your business by allowing to you offer tailor-made long-term packages. The common objectives of periodization are not valid. In fact, periodization as a strategy is virtually unavoidable. Thus, it is not about IF you are using periodization. It is about HOW you are using periodization to improve your business.

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Karsten Jensen

Karsten Jensen, MSc, is the founder of Yes To Strength, an organisation dedicated to sharing the secrets of creating individualized training programs with strength coaches and personal trainers. Yes to Strength offers The Flexible Periodization Method – the FIRST complete method of periodization, dedicated to MAXIMIZING results through a PROVEN 9-Step sequence to create truly INDIVIDUALIZED training programs. Yes To Strength also offers an extensive portifolio of workshops, one on one consulting with strength coaches and personal trainers as well as one-on-one training with high level athletes.

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