Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Micro and Macro Cycles

In a previous post, I mentioned the idea of structuring a workout based on micro and macro cycles. In this post, I will go more in depth and explain the motivation behind structuring my workout like so.

To start things off, I'll give the definitions of a micro and macro cycle. A micro cycle can be thought of as the day to day structure of a workout routine. For example, the workout regimen I am following right now implements a seven day micro cycle with the following structure:
  • Day 1: Back
  • Day 2: Chest
  • Day 3: Biceps
  • Day 4: Triceps
  • Day 5: Shoulders
  • Day 6: Rest
  • Day 7: Rest
 In the past I have also implemented a workout structure like so:
  • Day 1: Pull
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Lower Body
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Push
  • Day 6: Rest
  • Day 7: Rest
(If you have not noticed, my workouts tend to structure themselves around the seven day week, with the weekends off. There is no particular reason I do this other than that it fits my schedule right now. You can have micro cycles that span over a few days to a couple of weeks, it all boils down to how you can fit your workouts into your schedule.)

A macro cycle is essentially a series of micro cycles performed back to back (my current routine uses six micro cycles) with an additional period (usually lasting from half a week to a week) of rest added to the end.

There are two main reasons why I follow such a structure for my workout routines:
  1. I like organization in my workouts and this is easier for me to set goals for myself.
  2. I want to steadily increase my strength throughout my lifetime, minimizing the consequences of overtraining and plateaus.
Having a workout with the "mechanics" worked out allows me to set realistic goals for myself as well as track my progress. For example, if I am able to curl 35 pounds right now, I will be able to predict what I should be able to curl in a week, a month, a year, etc... (Of course the accuracy of the predication decreases as I try to make predictions farther and farther into the future.) I will also be able to tell in what areas I am falling behind in and what areas need more effort. One final benefit of being so meticulous about my workout structure is that I am able to diagnose symptoms of overtraining. Usually, when I am continuously not able to reach the desired number of reps per set, I know that it is probably a good idea to take a few days off and let my muscles recover.

Speaking of overtraining, the built-in rest period in each macro cycle is used as a preventative method to minimize the effects of overtraining. I know that sometimes it is hard to get into the mentality that working out too much will hinder muscle growth (this was especially prevalent when I just started to workout...sometimes I would go months without taking a break or perform too many exercises during a workout session), but keep in mind that if adequate rest is not supplied to the body, muscle growth will stop. I emphasize adequate recovery time that my micro cycles usually include one or two days of rest.

In summary, macro and micro cycles are tools of organization that I use to help track and analyze my progress as well as look for signs of overtraining.

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