Periodization is a fancy word for timing out your strength training to avoid mishaps such as overtraining, undertraining, or psychological “burnout.” A correctly periodized training program allows for maximal strength gains within the time frame of the program.
There are several different subcategories within the realm of periodization. The two most popular forms are linear and undulating periodization, and they can be similar in effect, yet they are quite different in execution.
This is a great example of the KISS (Keep It Super Simple) method. This type of programming calls for simply adding weight to your lifts, week after week, and trying your very hardest to outwork your previous workout. This tried-and-true method has shown results in all levels of lifters and athletes, from novice to advanced competitors.
“Linear” refers to the line of progression when you look at the weights used from each workout to the next. This line will slowly and steadily increase until the end of your program, when it is time to show off how strong you have gotten. A typical linear periodization program will last anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks.
Now that you are familiar with linear periodization, take that nice straight line and make it a chaotic zig-zag from the first week of the program to the last, and now you have undulating periodization. Basically, instead of increasing weight or reps linearly throughout your program, you will consistently be adding or dropping weight and/or reps from each workout to the next.
The idea behind undulating periodization is to allow optimal recovery time between ultra-intense workouts, eliminating physical or mental overtraining. This is a method often used by more advanced lifters and athletes because of the commonly intense nature of the training sessions. For example, if a competitive powerlifter trained three days a week, a sample week of their program might look something like this (percentages shown are those of the respective one-rep max for each individual lift):
- Day 1: Squat—80% 5 sets/3 reps
- Day 2: Bench Press—70% 6 sets/3 reps
- Day 3: Deadlift—75% 3 sets/8 reps
Neither of these methods has been proven to be better than the other. Each person will have their own opinions on which is better and why. I would suggest starting with linear periodization for two reasons:
- It is a very easy method to follow. There is no reason why anybody should start a linear program and not be able to finish it.
- It is a very accommodating method for beginner lifters. It is effort based, and what you give is what you get.
Like I said previously, these methods might not be ideal for everyone. They are great templates for individuals who want to get stronger, but they must be tailored to best fit you and your goals. For more information regarding training programs, ask of the NIFS Health Fitness Specialists to create one for you. If this methodology intrigues you and you would like to try it out, specifically mention this blog and they will create a program based on one of these training strategies.
This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.