Periodization is the organization of training into blocks that focus on specific skills. It is a very old concept in the programs of the Soviets, and Eastern bloc nations. Due to the success of these nations in the arena of strength it has also garnered a lot of attention in the Western world as well.
The most commonly known form of periodization is the linear style, in which training is broken into hypertrophy, strength, power, and transition phases. This is the style originally developed by the Soviet researcher Matveyev. Some feel that this is the only method of organizing training in order to conform to the periodization paradigm, and as a result this training method has received a lot of criticism. A training program needs to allow for different capabilities, and different goals. The body is constantly changing, and one method can’t be effective at all times.
The basis of periodization is the cycling of training variables, including load, volume, relative intensity, perceived intensity, and other variables to achieve a final goal. To cycle these variables in a synergistic fashion, that has each cycle benefit the next is the goal of periodization.
There are four cycles that are used. There is the microcycle which is usually a single workout, but can be stretched to a longer period. The mesocycle is a series of microcycles oriented towards a specific goal. The macrocycle is a series of mesocycles linked to accomplish the final goal. The Quadrennial is mostly only used with Olympic athletes, but is built around four different year-long macrocycles.
Linear periodization is the original method originally created by Matveyev. This method consists of a hypertrophy phase, a strength phase, a power phase, and a restorative phase. It is literally linear in that you grow the muscles, make them strong, increase their power, and then taper to allow the gains to take as you allow the body to recuperate.
Each cycle is directed towards a single goal. Hypertrophy uses several sets of 8-12 reps, designed to stimulate growth. Strength builds on this hypertrophy, and changes the reps to 5-8. Power finalizes drops the reps further to onloy using 1-5 reps. The restorative phase drops volume, or eliminates training entirely.
For a more advanced athlete this approach is far from optimal. The reason being is that the qualities developed in the preceding phases aren’t carried over. By the time you reach the power phase, you’ve lost a lot of the hypertrophy you developed.
The linear approach isn’t the only method available, and the conjugated method makes several improvements to the linear method. This method calls for the linking of two or more qualities that need to be developed, and training them within the same program. For example training anaerobic-endurance and training for maximal strength would be a good way to stimulate hypertrophy.
The conjugate method is not perfect either. There are only a certain number of days per week or month, and the body can only handle so much strain. You can’t train everything that needs to be trained in one given microcycle. Some results are going to suffer.
For a powerlifter, a bodybuilder, or other types of specialized athletes, this might be acceptable. The athletes that need a more well-rounded approach for football, basketball, baseball, hockey, wrestling, volleyball, track, and swimming, will need something more specific. These athletes would require hypertrophy, speed-strength, strength endurance, maximal strength, and aerobic endurance, to varying degrees for their respective sports. This means all of these require different forms of training.
For those of us who are most interested in functionality, muscle building, and strength, these fundamentals can be adapted. That will be discussed more in the next periodization article.
This article was researched and written by Matt Taylor
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