Linear vs. Nonlinear Periodization: Which Is Better for Strength and Hypertrophy

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Nonlinear Periodization: Which Is Better for Strength and Hypertrophy?

I’ve been asked this question a lot lately, so I thought it would be worth writing up an answer. The short version is that both methods are effective in their own right, but the one you choose will have more of an impact on your goals.

The Longer Version: There’s no such thing as “one” way to train; each method has its pros and cons. So let’s look at each in turn.

1) Linear Periodization: This is the most common type of training, and also probably the easiest to understand.

You start with a set number of reps (or sets), then increase weight every workout until you reach failure or fatigue. Then you decrease the load again until you hit failure or fatigue again.

Repeat this process indefinitely until you’re strong enough to do something else…like bodybuilding!

Pros: Easy to learn, easy to perform. Doesn’t require much time or energy either.

It’s very linear and predictable. Cons: Can be boring if you don’t stick with it long enough, can take awhile to get stronger, and isn’t necessarily going to help you build muscle mass or strength gains faster than other types of training.

2) Undulating Periodization: This is a fancy way of saying you’ll do heavy, medium and light days during the week.

You’ll obviously train with high reps one day, medium reps another and then low reps on your last workout. You’ll switch between exercises every time you change the weight.

Pros: It allows you to train more frequently than other types of training since it gives your body a break from heavy weights while still shocking your muscles with new exercises. Cons: Not as much of a strength builder, and can sometimes be mentally frustrating as you’re not really sure what you’ll be lifting from day to day.

3) Non-Linear Periodization: Also known as the “Westside Method,” this type of training uses a combination of strength movements (low reps) and power movements (high reps).

Linear vs. Nonlinear Periodization: Which Is Better for Strength and Hypertrophy - Picture

Done properly over the course of several weeks, this method can be very effective for increasing overall strength.

Pros: Probably one of the fastest ways to increase raw strength. Power lifts are often neglected by bodybuilders, but they’re essential to increasing whole-body strength.

Cons: It’s very demanding on the body, meaning you can’t train as frequently. There’s also a very precise way of progressing that may intimidate some people.

Non-linear periodization is the type of training used to prepare my athletes for their upcoming season. For instance, if they’re playing soccer they’ll do heavy lifting in the off-season, but as the games get closer they’ll start dropping the heavy weights and adding in more power movements.

In essence, it’s a type of periodization that’s catered to their sport. So it’s less about what muscles you’re targeting and more about how your training impacts your overall abilities.

This type of training definitely isn’t for everyone, but for some athletes it works very well. The key is to experiment and see what works for you!

And There You Have It

Training for strength isn’t just about lifting heavy weights. It’s a combination of proper nutrition, rest, recovery and most importantly consistency.

Linear vs. Nonlinear Periodization: Which Is Better for Strength and Hypertrophy - gym fit workout

So if you’re just starting out make sure you keep these things in mind. And if you’ve been at it for awhile, now you know a few more tips to help you get stronger.

So get to it!

Want a detailed 12-week training program that will help you build strength as well as add size?

Download the “Build Strength To Get Bigger” guide right now!

What’s your take on training for strength? Have anything else you’d like to see me write about?

Let me know below!

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Sources & references used in this article:

Comparison between nonlinear and linear periodized resistance training: hypertrophic and strength effects by R Simão, J Spineti, BF de Salles… – … Journal of strength …, 2012 –

Periodization: what is it good for? by KT Mattocks, SJ Dankel, SL Buckner… – Journal of …, 2016 –

Non-linear periodization for general fitness & athletes by S Fleck – Journal of human kinetics, 2011 –

Optimizing strength training: designing nonlinear periodization workouts by WJ Kraemer, SJ Fleck – 2007 –

Comparison between linear and daily undulating periodized resistance training to increase strength by J Prestes, AB Frollini, C de Lima… – … Journal of Strength …, 2009 –

Nonlinear periodization maximizes strength gains in split resistance training routines by AG Monteiro, MS Aoki, AL Evangelista… – … Journal of Strength …, 2009 –

Nonlinear versus linear periodization models by LE Brown, GE Bradley-Popovich, GG Haff – Strength Cond J, 2001 –