August 14, 2013

Periodic and Interval Training: What's The Difference

As the science of fitness advances and expands the terminology expands as well. As with most sciences, the technical terminology can sometimes be confusing. There are two terms that have been around for quite a while now, but they are often times confused. The terms in question are “periodic training” and “interval training”. To a lay person the similarity is the words “interval” and periodic” may give the impression that these two training concepts are synonymous.

Actually there is a distinct difference between the two. While both have an immense impact on the effectiveness of any fitness or exercise program, they are approached from two distinctive unique ways. This article will briefly lay out the distinction between these two concepts while revealing their unique benefits.

Something to note however is that before you begin a training plan or exercise regimen you should always set aside time to develop a nutrition plan. Interval training can be very taxing on your body and so you should be looking to take some supplements. Supplements such a tribulus, which is a natural testosterone booster when consumed two or more times a week, or a whey protein shake are good places to start. Also you may want to consider adding in glutamine and glucosamine for your glycogen levels and improved joint health.

Interval Training

Starting with the most common and simplest to explain, interval training is simply the performance of a particular exercise (for cardiovascular purposes), in which the exercise is performed at one level for a certain set time, and then the subject is allowed to rest or lower the intensity of the workout.

The types of exercises that can be executed with the interval training concept are multitudinous. Almost any cardio exercise can be performed at intervals. To name a few, you could do treadmill work, rowing, cycling, jogging, and more. It is normally good to implement interval training into your training program at least two times a week.

The manner at which interval training can be carried out is quite versatile. You can perform what is recognized as basic interval training which would be executed by performing a particular cardiovascular exercise for a given period, and then taking a static rest period. Conversely, you can also do what is known as Fartlek interval training, which is often used as a part of athletic training concepts. Farlek training calls for the athlete to train at a certain level, but the rest period is dynamic, meaning that the athlete is moving (performing an exercise at a different intensity) during the entire rest period. This is also known as active recovery.

Interval training is a great way to stoke your metabolism to burn more calories.

Periodic Training

Whereas interval training is a concept that is applied during a specific workout, periodic training is a philosophy that is revealed in the progression of an entire workout program. Period training is also known as periodization. Periodization is an approach that integrates the concept of progressive cycling of different elements into a training program over a specified period of time. The concept of period training is not new. It was introduced to the training world in the late 1950’s. It was originally introduced by Hans Selye as the General Adaption Syndrome.

Selye was able to identify two separate issues with training that necessitated periodic training. The first issue was the fact that continuous training at high intensity levels for extending periods of time eventually led to stresses of a biological nature that Selye called eustresses. These biological stresses led to tissue damage, death and disease.

The second issue was the fact that the body had a unique and uncanny ability to adjust to workouts that were common in intensity: limiting the effect of the workout over time. Basically, after doing the same workout for a certain period of time, the body would adapt to the workout and would subsequently reach a plateau.

The solution to both of these issues was periodic training which cycled high intensity workouts with lower intensity workouts in a manner that allowed the body to recover, as well as preventing it from adapting.

Whereas interval training is a concept used mostly in cardiovascular training, periodization is used primarily for resistance training. Period training will often break down intense training periods in three week segments, but in can be micromanaged by having a low intensity workout interpolated into your intense training at least 2 times a week.

As you can see, though both of these training concepts have great benefits, they are distinctly different.


Bryan Moore offers personal fitness training and coaching and is a novice stand up comedian. You can reach him at RXGym in Pittsburgh, PA.



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