Periodization - A Brief Overview

 Introduction to Periodization  

Periodization is planned variation in training to peak performance and reduce injury risks. Typically, sports follow structured competition schedules that require peaking anywhere between one and five times a year. Strength and conditioning coaches must physically prepare athletes to perform optimally on the field by improving relative performance markers, such as strength, speed, and power, off the field. Altering modifiable training variables (exercise choice, exercise order, training frequency, exercise intensity, training volume, rest, or progression) in some way is key to safe and effective exercise programming. Outside of a very basic set of non-negotiable training rules, coaches can periodize expressively as desired. In fact, different periodization models exist today due to flexibility in training variable organization.

Non-periodization is exercise monotony. Performing the same three exercises in a 6x6 with 90 seconds rest, week in and week out, is a classic example of anon-periodized training protocol. Current literature suggests that periodization is superior to non periodization for improving strength.

Periodization Review

21st century athletes are faster, stronger, and more powerful than ever before. Periodization is a program design concept that industry leading coaches use to amplify athletic performance (3). Periodization is the result of altering modifiable training variables (exercise choice, exercise order, training frequency, exercise intensity, training volume, rest, or progression) to peak performance and reduce injury risks. Research studies indicate that both periodized and non-periodized training programs are effective for increasing athletic performance markers, such as speed, strength, and power (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The primary purpose of this blog is to determine whether or notnon-periodization is better for increasing strength than any one specific periodization model.

A number of research studies have compared periodization to non-periodization for the goal of increasing strength. Kraemer et al (1) tested thirty collegiate female tennis players for strength over a nine month period using linear and non-varied training protocols. Subjects were tested and retested using 1-RM leg press, 1-RM shoulder press, and 1-RM bench press protocols at the four, six, and nine month marks. At the six month mark, the linear periodization group significantly outperformed the non-periodization group in all three strength measures. After nine months, the linear periodization group displayed larger strength increases than the non-periodization group. Other studies investigating strength and periodization have shown similar findings; periodization is superior to non-periodization for increasing strength. Further, Kramer et al (2) compared a multiple sets, non-periodized program to a multiple sets, periodized program for 1-RM parallel squat strength in forty-three recreationally trained men. Although both training groups improved 1-RM parallel squat strength similarly, the periodized group did so using less than half of the overall training volume of the non-periodized group. Kramer’s study suggests that periodized training is more efficient at producing strength increases, owing to less training volume and a reduced training time commitment. Upon further review of current literature, periodization is better than non-periodization for increasing strength in a time and volume efficient manner.

Exercise is highly dynamic and multidimensional. Owing to the vast interplay amongst modifiable training variables, there are an infinite amount of ways to periodize training programs. Resultantly, multiple “popular” periodization models exist. Linear, undulating, and flexible non-linear are three of the most widely used periodization models in today’s athletic realm. The linear periodization method increases exercise intensity and decreases training volume over time (5). The undulating method careen’s through multiple adaptations daily, weekly, or bi-weekly in a non-linear, wave-like fashion (4). The flexible non-linear method undulates daily across multiple training adaptations based on training status and fatigue (3). Varying benefits and drawbacks characterize each individual periodization model, sparking the question- which periodization model is best for increasing strength?

A number of research studies have examined the effectiveness of different periodization models on strength measures. Miranda et al (4) tested two groups of ten statistically similar, recreationally trained men over twelve weeks using daily undulating and linear periodization training models. Both training groups performed an equal amount of work over the twelve week testing period and exhibited similar, statistically significant strength gains in 1 RM and 8RM tests for the bench press and the leg press. McNamara et al (3) reached similar results in a similar study comparing the flexible nonlinear method with the concurrent method. Research trends show similar strength increases across all periodization models. Thus, current periodization literature suggests that no single periodization model is best for increasing strength.

Periodized resistance training programs are superior to non-periodized resistance training programs for the goal of increasing strength. Current Literature suggests that periodized programs increase absolute strength to a greater degree than non-periodized programs. Further, periodized resistance training programs elicit greater strength gains using lower training volumes than non-periodized training programs. Although periodization is better than non-periodization for increasing strength, no single periodization model stands out above the rest. Literature suggests that flexible non-linear, undulating, and linear periodization training methods all increase strength similarly. Each method has its own individual benefits and drawbacks. 

1. Kraemer, W. , Hakkinen, K. , Triplett, N. , Fry, A. , Koziris, L. (2003). Physiological changes with periodized resistance training in women tennis players. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35 (1), 157. 
2. Kramer, J. , Stone, M. , O’Bryant, H. , Conley, M. , Johnson, R. (1997). Effect of single versus multiple sets of weight training: impact of volume, intensity, and variation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11 (3), 143. 
3. McNamara, J. , Stearne, D. (2013). Effect of concurrent training, flexible nonlinear periodization, and maximal-effort cycling on strength and power. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27 (6), 1463. 
4. Miranda, F. , Roberto, S. , Matthew, R. , Bunker, D. , Prestes, J. (2011). Effects of linear versus daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1824. 
5. Painter, K. , Haff, G. , Ramsey, M. , McBride, J. ,Tripplett, T. (2012). Block versus daily undulating periodization weight training among track and field athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology &Performance, 7 (2), 161. 
6. Simaeo, R. , Spineti, J. , Belmiro, F. , Matta, T. , Fernandes, L. (2012). Comparison of periodized nonlinear and linear resistance training: hypertrophic and strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26 (5), 1389.