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12-Week Periodized Strength Training & Aerobics Program

by 
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
12-Week Periodized Strength Training & Aerobics Program
12-Week Periodized Strength Training & Aerobics Program Photo Credit: american911/iStock/GettyImages

Setting up a training program will help keep your workouts on track and make it easier to progress. It's easy to skip a workout if you don't have anything planned, but when you know what you have to do in advance there's more accountability. A 12-week periodized strength training and aerobics program doesn't have to be complicated to be effective, but it helps to have some sort of plan.

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Periodizing Training Programs

Periodization means splitting up your training into parts where you have a specific focus for each part. As noted in an article from the International Sports Science Association, the entire plan is called the macrocycle. Large chunks of the program, usually split into months of time, are called mesocycles. The smallest parts, usually a week in length, are called microcycles.

In each mesocycle the focus on training changes slightly. The goal of periodization is to keep progressing in your training program. If you do the same workouts all the time your body will adapt and it will be hard to make progress.

That's why each mesocycle changes slightly. You might lift weights in every mesocycle of your training plan, but the focus might change from high reps to low reps. This gives your body something new to adapt to and keeps your progress going.

Read more: Never Hit a Strength Plateau Again

Linear Periodization

The model of periodization that's been around the longest is linear periodization. Linear programs progress steadily over time. An example would be adding five pounds of weight to each resistance exercise that you do per week. In that scenario, progress is steady each week.

Deloading

It sounds good in theory, but you can't progress in a straight line week in and week out. Eventually, the weights will be too heavy and your aerobic workouts will be too long or intense. That's why many training programs have built-in deload weeks.

A deload is when you take a week to do less intense workouts to allow your body to recover. You can use less weight, cut your aerobic workouts short or simply rest.

Plan Your Program

The exercises you choose to use are up to you. For cardio, swimming, running and cycling are among the best. They're relatively accessible and easy to track. You can measure how long you run in a workout, how many laps you swim and how many miles you bike — as well as monitor speed and intensity.

For weightlifting exercises, pick two to three exercises for your lower body and two or three for the upper body. The barbell squat, barbell or kettlebell deadlift and dumbbell lunge are all exercises that you can use to build leg strength.

The bench press, pull-up and dumbbell row are exercises that you can use to build up your upper body strength.

In each week, do two upper body workouts and one lower-body workout. Your upper body muscles are smaller and take less energy to work. Lower-body exercises tend to use more energy because your leg muscles are so large, so you should limit lower body workouts.

Slowly increasing the difficulty of your workouts forces your body to keep adapting.
Slowly increasing the difficulty of your workouts forces your body to keep adapting. Photo Credit: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

First Mesocycle

As you begin your periodized workout routine, your goal is to build up a base of fitness. For the first four weeks you're going to focus on muscular endurance in the weight room and light aerobic workouts.

Aerobic Workouts

During weeks 1 through 3, do three aerobic workouts per week on non-consecutive days. Make each one last 20 minutes per workout with no rest.

On week 4, perform two aerobic workouts that last 20 minutes each. During each, alternate a minute of work and a minute of rest.

Muscular Endurance Workouts

During weeks 1 through 3, also do three workouts per week on non-consecutive days. At each, do three sets of each exercise consisting of 10 to 15 reps at 65 percent of your one-rep maximum (the most weight you can lift one time.) Wait 30 seconds between sets.

On week 4, still do three workouts on non-consecutive days, but do just one set of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise at 65 percent of your one-rep maximum.

Read more: Strength & Conditioning Workouts

Second Mesocycle

Now the focus of the weightlifting workouts shifts to increasing muscle mass with the repetitions dropping to between eight and 12. Aerobic sessions double in the amount of time per workout, from 20 minutes to 40.

Aerobic Workouts

Weeks five through seven, do three aerobic workouts per week on non-consecutive days. Each workout lasts 40 minutes, with no rest.

On week eight, still perform three aerobic workouts on non-consecutive days. Alternate four minutes of work with one minute of rest for the duration.

Muscular Hypertrophy Workouts

Weeks five through seven, do three workouts per week on non-consecutive days. At each, perform three sets of eight to 12 reps per exercise using 70 to 80 percent of your one-rep maximum. Rest 30 to 90 seconds between sets.

On week eight, do the three workouts on non-consecutive days, but perform only one set per exercise of eight to 12 repetitions using 70 to 80 percent of your one-rep max.

Third Mesocycle

As your aerobic workouts hit their peak difficulty, lasting 60 minutes per session, weight training shifts to a low-rep strength-focused regimen.

Aerobic Workouts

During weeks nine through 11, do two aerobic workouts per week on non-consecutive days. Each workout lasts for 60 minutes with no rest.

On week 12, do your two aerobic workouts on non-consecutive days, but work for nine minutes and rest for one minute until 60 minutes is up.

Muscular Strength Workouts

In weeks nine through 11, do three strength workouts per week on non-consecutive days. Make each workout consist of three sets of one to five reps per set at 80 to 100 percent of your one-rep max. Rest two to five minutes between these sets.

During week 12, do just one set of six reps of each exercise at 70 percent of your one-rep max.

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