The first thing you need to know about periodization is that it’s not just for bodybuilders anymore. It’s been around since the beginning of time, but nowadays there are many different types of periodsization training for athletes. There are those based on specific sport or performance goals, like powerlifting; then there are ones which focus on general fitness (i.e. strength, hypertrophy), and finally there are those which emphasize other aspects such as mental toughness (like recovery).
There are two main types of periodsization: linear and nonlinear. Linear means that all your training is done with one long term goal in mind, while nonlinear means that you have multiple short term goals in mind. Nonlinear periodizations usually involve some type of volume fluctuation between each phase, but they tend to be more difficult to stick to because you’re constantly changing up what phases you train in.
Linear periodizations usually involve increasing intensity every few weeks until you reach a point where you hit a plateau. Then you decrease intensity gradually over several months to avoid hitting a new plateau. You may also increase frequency, but at most once per month. If you do so, it will probably be in the form of higher reps than before and/or lower weight used for the same number of sets performed.
This method is most popular for those in powerlifting, strongman, and other types of lifting. For bodybuilding, however, it’s not as common because bodybuilders seek to gain muscle mass in the shortest amount of time possible. Of course, this isn’t always true because some bodybuilders take years to train for a competition.
In any case, the rest periods are always long, or at least not as long as you may think. It’s very rare that you would ever take days off in between training sessions unless you’re either traveling or simply don’t have access to a gym for a day or two. In fact, most powerlifters train at least twice a day every day if they can. Many of them live and breathe the sport because it is their bread and butter!
There are many different types of linear periodization models, and you may have even heard of some of them before:
Linear Periodization: As explained above, this method involves gradually increasing volume and reaching a peak, then gradually decreasing volume and reaching a plateau. Overloads are applied in small increments every few weeks until a peak is reached, then the decrease in intensity is gradual as well until the process begins anew. This type of periodization is most common among those in powerlifting.
Undulating Periodization: This involves a non-linear approach to training in which the volume and intensity is not increased or decreased gradually throughout the training cycle. Instead, it is a more random approach where you may increase or decrease volume and intensity from one day to the next. For example, you might increase the weight and reps on one exercise while decreasing them on another exercise during the same workout.
This is most popular among those in bodybuilding because it is less predictable. Your body can’t adapt as easily to a random style of training so you’re able to make progress for a longer period of time before having to switch things up again. This method is more complicated though so it isn’t as common.
Peak Periodization: As the name implies, this method involves peaking at any given moment (well at least once every month or two). You taper the volume and intensity of your training so that you peak at any given time for any specific goal. It isn’t as popular as some of the other types, but it has some benefits.
The problem with periodization in general is that it’s very hard to stick to. Most people don’t have the dedication to constantly switch things up and prefer something a little more regimented.
Most people fall under what are known as “non-periodized” routines. These are the types of routines you’ll find in most magazines. You know, where you do 3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise and that’s it. It might get you “bigger” but any “strength” gains will be minimal since you never take your muscles out of their comfort zone long enough to force them to grow.
The problem with periodization is that it takes a lot of discipline and most people aren’t willing to take 2-3 hours in the gym every day lifting very heavy weights. That’s why so many people prefer the non-periodized routines. Of course, if you’re not taking heavy enough weights then you’re never really going to get “stronger,” you’ll just get bigger…
Sources & references used in this article:
Living in the Past: Thebes, Periodization, and The Two Noble Kinsmen by A Davis – Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 2010 – read.dukeupress.edu
Periodization and the heroes: inventing a Dark Age by I Morris – Inventing ancient culture: historicism, periodization …, 1997 – books.google.com
Between “mandate” and “state”: Re‐thinking the periodization of Israeli Legal history by A Likhovski – Journal of Israeli History, 1998 – Taylor & Francis
Stages of consumerism: recent work on the issues of periodization by PN Stearns – The Journal of Modern History, 1997 – journals.uchicago.edu
Periodization in marketing history by SC Hollander, KM Rassuli… – Journal of …, 2005 – journals.sagepub.com
HISTORY, NOSTALGIA, OR SOMETHING ELSE?: Dilemmas of Periodization in Teaching in the 1980s by M Helmsing, A Porter – Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 2020 – search.proquest.com
The politics of periodization by CE Orser – Reclaiming archaeology: Beyond the tropes of …, 2013 – books.google.com
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Presentism and periodization in language writing, conceptual art, and conceptual writing by B Watten – Journal of Narrative Theory, 2011 – muse.jhu.edu