Achieve your optimum health and fitness for a lifetime!


By John Litteral 12-7-22


Strength and Muscle Building CycleCut Down CycleMaintenance and Recovery Cycle

Both “high volume-low intensity” and “low volume-high intensity” are very effective methods for noncompetitive bodybuilding. Our bodies are very sophisticated and will adapt to many things, including training routines. It will adapt and get stronger, but your body will also adapt to certain routines, and you will find yourself hitting plateaus and not having the same rate of progress as you did before. The ultimate way to overcome training plateaus and to avoid having your routine becoming repetitively mundane, is to practice periodization training. Periodization is one of bodybuilders best weapons in their training arsenal. Periodization is not only applicable to training, but it is also fantastic for diet and nutrition. I will go over nutritional periodization in the following chapter in more detail, but nutritional periodization and periodization training go hand-in-hand because as each cycle that you’re training, whether you are doing a cycle for strength and size, or getting lean, or a recovery cycle to recover from adaptations that happen during the other cycles, as you transition from one training phase to another, your diet and nutrition must transition into another phase as well. For example, whenever you are doing a training cycle to build more strength and muscle mass, your results will be drastically hindered if you are dieting to lose body fat. Your food intake must coincide with what training phase that you are in. Therefore, you must increase calories to a moderate calorie surplus in order to get the best bang for your buck to gain strength and muscle mass. Here is a practical definition for periodization training…

Periodization is the practice of dividing training into specific cycles, with each cycle targeting a specific physiological adaptation. While periodization is most commonly used in the training programs of athletes, it can also be effectively used in training programs for the general population.2

We all have our own specific goals, level of fitness, experience, and genetic makeup that will determine what cycle/phase that we should begin with. If your main goal at the moment is to lose body fat, then you will want to start with the cut down cycle. If your main goal is to build strength and muscle mass, then you will want to start out with the muscle building cycle. The maintenance/recovery cycle is a period, preferably done after a cut down cycle, where you focus on recovering from intense dieting and training. It usually involves slowly raising your calories and using a moderate intensity and volume in order to allow your body to fix and repair your metabolism and the wear and tear that may have been done from heavy lifting. I highly recommend that no matter what cycle that you are in, you should be very careful not to be too extreme with either your dieting or training. Since this article is about NONCOMPETETIVE bodybuilding, then that means that it is important to not train like you are competing. Any sport that is competitive is never sustainable for the long-term. Noncompetitive bodybuilding is meant to be the kind of training that is sustainable for a lifetime. It is the ultimate training for EVERYBODY for optimum health, fitness, mobility, and a better quality of life.

Note, there is various terminology that bodybuilders use to refer to the different cycles. Sometimes bodybuilders use the terms “off season” and “in season” in reference to their bulking and cutting cycles. “In season” for their cut down, and “off season” for their bulking.

As far as what order that I recommend doing the cycles, I recommend beginning with the strength and muscle building cycle first. Then follow it with the cut down cycle. And then after the cutdown cycle I recommend the maintenance and recovery cycle. The length of time that you do these cycles depends upon what your goals are. If you have a whole lot of weight that you need to lose, then I recommend a longer cut down period because obesity is very unhealthy and leads to many diseases. But make sure that after you finish your cut down cycle that you do your maintenance and recovery cycle for the same length of time as you did the cut down cycle in order to repair the imbalances caused by the extended period of time of training in a calorie deficiency. If your body weight is not high, then I recommend 6 weeks per cycle for intermediate and seasoned lifters, beginning with the strength and muscle building cycle, then the cut down cycle, and then the maintenance and recover cycle. Then I would repeat over and over. Six weeks per cycle is long enough make gains, and short enough to not create too many negative adaptations. For a novice lifter who does not have a weight issue, I recommend a lengthy strength and muscle building cycle that is centered around 4 compound movements, that being the squat, deadlift, bench press, and the overhead shoulder press. The length of the strength and muscle building cycle for the novice depends upon how long they are able to add more weight to their lifts each training session. Once a novice has been lifting for a while and gains strength rapidly, they will eventually plateau, and the gains will no longer be as rapid as they once were. Once that happens, then that is the right time to begin the cut down cycle. But a novice should take full advantage of the opportunity to get stronger during their “newbie gains” period. I will discuss this novice period a little later on in another article.    

Watch Video


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: