Part 1 – High Performance: Progressive Overload and Periodisation

Are you an athlete trying to build strength or fitness in preparation for the season? Or are you finding it too difficult to find the balance between training and managing your energy levels for competition?

Today, Nate and the team of Longevity Exercise Physiologists across our Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwick, PymbleBalmain and Neutral Bay locations discuss the key factors of exercise programs they use to maximise performance when training for a competition.


The fundamental programming principles of PERIODISATION, and PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD build strength and fitness in the safest, most efficient manner.



Progressive overload refers to the gradual, and constant increase of training stimulus to a level of work the body is not accustomed to, forcing the body to adapt and grow (1).

Phillips, M.B., Lockert, J.A., Rosemond, L.D. and Lockert, J., 2016. Tools and Benefits of Periodization: Developing an Annual Training Plan and Promoting Performance Improvements in Athletes. The Sport Journal.

This increase of stimulus can come from changes in exercise:

  • Intensity
  • Sets/Reps
  • Duration
  • Tempo
  • Frequency
  • Complexity

Without overload there is no significant adaptation to the body, and without adaptation there is no significant improvement in performance.

This overload needs to occur at a bit of a sweet spot. Progressing too slowly or easily means there will be minimal, or no adaptation. Progressing too quickly increases the risk of poor technique and improper movement patterns, leading to decreased performance and increased risk of injury.

Along with appropriate recovery periods for worked muscles, individuals need to maintain a balanced diet including proper hydration, a healthy mix of carbohydrates and proteins before, during, and after exercise to improve performance and enhance muscle recovery. Additionally, appropriate sleep of approximately 8 hours is essential for muscle recovery, repair and for adaptations to occur (2).



Periodisation is the systematic, evidence-based planning of training schedules to optimise performance at the desired time.

Periodisation breaks a long-term plan into smaller training blocks to target adaptations specific to the individual’s goals, avoid dips or plateaus in performance and manage recovery to reduce risk of overtraining or injury (3).

This breakdown of training comes in three phases:

  1. Macrocycle: the long-term training program showing the desired peak performance times across a season or year.
  2. Mesocycle: the moderate length (approximately 3-6 weeks) cycles that target specific adaptations for an individual’s goals to build the physiological base for improved performance.
  3. Micro cycle: the short-term (1-2 weeks) plans that make up a mesocycle. Viewing micro cycles consecutively will show progressive overload in practice.

Garett Reid, C., 2022. 2 Progressive Overload Training Programs for Muscle & Strength (Gym. [online] Dr. Muscle. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 January 2022].

Periodised training schedules are the most effective method for maximising strength and/or conditioning, alongside the fatiguing demands of competition, culminating in peak performance at the desired time (3).


While initially designed for athletes regarding competitions, the principles of progressive overload and periodisation are implemented by the entire team of Longevity Exercise Physiologists with a wide range of clients of varying abilities.


Call Longevity Exercise Physiology Edgecliff, Pymble, Marrickville, Randwick, Drummoyne, Balmain, Bella Vista and Neutral Bay on 1300 964 002 to enquire today!


Written by Nate Sutton


  1. Sands, W.A., Wurth, J.J. and Hewit, J.K., 2012. Basics of strength and conditioning manual. Colorado Springs, CO: National Strength and Conditioning Association.
  2. Halson, S.L., 2008. Nutrition, sleep and recovery. European Journal of sport science8(2), pp.119-126.
  3. Fry, R.W., Morton, A.R. and Keast, D., 1992. Periodisation and the prevention of overtraining. Canadian journal of sport sciences= Journal canadien des sciences du sport17(3), pp.241-248.

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