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Periodization Question


I posted a couple of weeks ago a question about what periodization is on the begginer forum, but i still cant quite get it. By my understanding, periodization is just a fancy scientific term by which we can describe varying aspects of our training. Like, for instance, if im doing low bar back squats 6 weeks and then do front squats the next 6 weeks, thats periodization. Or, for instance, if i have a 4 day upper/lower split and the first upper or lower day i do 5x3 on the main movements, and the second upper or lower day i do 3x12 on the same movements, thats also periodization. Another example could be if i have a time frame of 3 months and the whole 3 months i do the same rep range, the same rest periods, the same exercises etc., but still follow the progressive overload principle - thats a NON periodized program, but if i did the first month, for instance, 5x3 on the main movements and use a chosen set of assistance exercise, but the second month i did 3x10 on the main movements and change up the assistance exercises, that is also periodization.
But my confusion is whats the difference between nonlinear and undulating periodization, or the difference between linear periodization [example - first 3 weeks: 3x10-12 (Hyperthrophy), second 3 weeks: 3-5x5-8 (Strength), third 3 weeks: 2-3x1-3 (peaking)] and block periodization, and what exactly is the periodization aspect of conjugate periodization. I have other questions about periodization, but it would be very helpful if someone told me if im thinking it right and took the time, and explained atleast these confusions I have.


Oh boy, this is gonna be great @T3hPwnisher @dt79 @Yogi1.


I understand periodization well enough, but not enough to answer the specific questions he asked about undulating vs nonlinear. Honestly, once I found out about cybernetic periodization, I realized most of it was a total “no true scotsman” sorta thing.


Years and years ago, there was a track and field coach, at a super nerdy school. All the jocks got to use the real gym, and the real track, and real jumping pits. The guy who coached the nerdy guys, didn’t get a gym. He had to train his nerds, in the hallways of the nerd school. It was so cold outside, they couldn’t even go out there.

So all they could do was skip down the hall, jump up and touch the ceilings, and kind of hop around.

When spring came, and the nerds could get out on the track, they had improved a lot. The jumps in the hall ways prepared them to do real track and field stuff.

Then the coach of the nerds was like, “how can I improve the hallway jumps, which will improve the track and field results?”

So he had the nerds lift weights, to increase their strength. To literally push into the floor harder. So they got stronger for awhile. When they went back to hallway jumps, they had more strength. So they could hallway jump better. These special hallway jumps taught them to “harness the strength” they had developed.

When they hit the track, their results where even better. The nerds could beat the jocks! So then the guys who coached the jocks were like, " let’s look into this!"


They decided you should start by improving your size. Then improve your strength. Then get more powerful. Once you’re bigger and stronger and faster, you have increased your “motor potential.”

So now you need to improve your technical mastery. You bridge the gap, by building the “skill to coordinate maximal force effort,” and the “skill to rationally employ force efforts.”

This leads to an increase in the power output of the competition exercise.

Naturally, different coaches have different plans for how to arrange this. To add to the confusion, people are using the weights, to prepare for the “competition exercise” -which is also lifting weights.

So different coaches have different opinions about how much of what you need to do, and when. Or even if you should do some stuff at all. Or even the need for periodization at all. On top of that, everybody uses the same words, only differently, to explain their particular theory on the subject. It’s difficult to look at 2 or 3 different plans, and compare them. It will really make your head spin.


Periodization as I understand it basically addresses the idea that we can’t focus on every single aspect of our training at once. IE top level strength athletes of old realized that once they got to a very high level, they could no longer increase their muscle mass AND strength AND conditioning at the same time with the same efficiency as they could earlier on. So from that they developed those linear peaking programs that you reference in your post (3 weeks of 8’s for hypertrophy, 3 weeks of 5’s for strength… Leading up to a competition). Their training cycle now had periods where they would be better focused on specific goals.

Single-factor theory where one driver (volume) remains constant and another (intensity aka weight lifted) is increased.

Dual-factor theory, where volume and intensity are both manipulated to drive progress.

Not sure about this one.

The theory that strength, speed, and muscle mass CAN be developed simultaneously and indefinitely by rotating special exercises on max-effort days allowing for better CNS recovery from workout to workout, as well as the use of dynamic effort days and repetition effort lifts to promote muscle mass. We can have an endless discussion on this but you’re better off reading Louie Simmons’ articles on the subject.


You have read the textbook, so to speak. You are familiar with the idea that your training will adjust over time.

Now, it’s time for the laboratory part of your education. You are going to go to the gym, just like chemistry lab, and do an experiment. Like in lab, you are just going to follow the directions. The directions will lead you through the experiment.

In the gym, you’ll just follow a pre-written plan. This will lead you through the process. Then, in 12 weeks, you’ll understand.

Like you mentioned, you can rotate and switch and do Or not do all kinds of stuff. How you do it, is the plan. If you have a good plan, things build off of eachother. If you have a bad plan, things work against eachother, and your results suck.

Find a coach/writer you believe. Find one of his programs that mentions different “phases/blocks/focuses/whatever” and run it. Realize that in addition to putting in work, you are also trying to learn how to follow the program. Understand how is it supposed to work, and to do it that way.

Once you get through it a time or two, things will clear up.


Wendler has the best grasp of this stuff. His system makes it all really simple.

You should also check out The Westside Method Thread
-conveniently this guy is back to answer all our questions!


Another cool story is the tale of the boxer who was as good as he could get. Then he broke his hand. So he had to pick up boxes all day with his left. Doing this unfamiliar task made him stronger. This strength in turn made him better at boxing. Then he became the World Champ!


Check out what the strongest guy ever said about it:

“Bench Press Traing” by Paul Anderson.


Periodization is simply training different attributes of a given sport in different phases. This is usually done because of necessity. You are confused because:

  1. You are looking at this from a Bottom-up approach instead of Top-down. You are unable to define the pertinent attributes of your sport which actually need periodizing and why they must be periodized. I don’t blame you for this. (Strength vs hypertrophy… bleh!)

  2. The complexity of a periodization plan will depend on the sport itself. For example, a yearly powerlifting plan for non-elite lifters may have considerable overlap and less phases as opposed to an Olympic lifting plan.

Non-linear and Undulating Periodization are… I don’t know man… I basically call the former a progression model since the aspects of programs like 531 apart from the main lifts do not change with the different “phases” other than the deload week, and the latter “heavy, medium and light” days.

I suppose you could justify calling the latter “periodization” by your intent when you execute the lifts, eg, adapting to maximal weights on the power days, skill training and maximal acceleration with submaximal weights on strength days and err…more sets with higher reps for less stress on the joints on hypertrophy days(note: all these also relevant to points 1 and 2), instead of simply separating them by rep ranges. This is why the confusion occurs since the overlap is immense and people start thinking low reps for strength and high reps for hypertrophy is the only defining factor when training these attributes.

Conjugate periodization? I only conjugate with lions. (Joke. I don’t have enough knowledge about this system to comment.)


@dynamitestrength I think its important to understand that periodization was born out of necessity. Let’s say I have a meet 12 weeks from now, and my goal for my current training cycle is to get as strong as possible and add some upper body mass, particularly in my triceps. Would it make more sense to start out with weights as heavy as I can handle, then as I get closer to the meet really ramp up the tricep work? Likely the other way around.

It would be ideal to do both for the entire training cycle, but in reality that can’t be done as I would overtrain. So the best approach is to start with moderate weight on my main lifts and slowly increase the intensity as I get closer to the competition. At the beginning when main lift work is moderate is the best time for me to add as much tricep volume as I can handle. As the competition gets closer and I ratchet up the intensity on my main lifts, recovery is more of a challenge and the tricep work must be lowered, possibly eliminated. If I set this up right, I will have accomplished both of my goals by focusing on each at different intensities at different times.


Cool point about D.U.P. and H/L/M!

Bill Star invented the training style, then science came along and backed it up.

It’s like the opposite of a block system. You train everything, every week. If you do the light day circuit style, for time you’re even getting your cardio. That’s why it so effective. But by pushing so many things at once, you stall out faster.

But if you only have 8 weeks to crush the weights until football season starts, why not burn the candle at multiple ends?


Lots of good replies here already. I’ll just add my 2 cents to piggyback on what others have already said.

In your first thread on the subject you were having trouble with the concept–now you sort of have the conceptual idea of planning training down and are asking questions about STYLES of periodization. Always remember that periodization isn’t random–it isn’t JUST a description of your training variables. It is a way to make them build on top of each other, so there is a direction to it and a timeline (usually given by a deadline like a meet, competition, or tournament).

Block periodization can mean a few different things–one of the most common is basically a subset of linear periodization. In fact you described it pretty accurately-- 3 weeks hypertrophy (block 1), 3 weeks strength (block 2), 3 weeks peaking/power/speed (block 3). Block duration can change and is usually determined by the amount of time until your deadline and what needs the most work: for a fighter with a bout in 12 weeks that lacks strength and power but is fast and has endurance, you would take that into account when planning out the 12 weeks—something like 4 weeks strength/hypertrophy, 4 weeks power/max strength, 2-3 weeks power, 1-2 weeks peak and deload. Really it could vary a ton and would depend on the exact fighter’s weaknesses, but that is a general example.

Conjugate periodization also means a few different things, but what most people mean (especially in powerlifting) is basically trying to train ALL aspects of a sport at once (or at least most of them). This is done by essentially setting aside time out of each week for each variable. For Westside Powerlifting the basic template from the 90s did the following: Max strength 1 day for each upper/lower body, Speed/Power 1 day for each, and the last half of the workouts was geared towards muscle growth or weak point training (hypertrophy for weak muscles, etc. which could also be loosely considered “endurance” for a sport made of 1 rep maxes)

For a different athlete like say a decathlete it would be much more complicated but the goal is the same: set aside days or sessions out of each week to work on ALL aspects necessary. Let’s think about it a different way: Instead of blocks of 3-4 weeks working ONLY on one main attribute for an athlete, you’d focus on multiple attributes every week. So each week might look like:

Day 1: Speed
Day 2: Agility
Day 3: Max strength and hypertrophy
Day 4: Rest or Conditioning
Day 5: Strength and Power
Day 6: Endurance
Day 7: Rest

These would all follow their own progression patterns, with an eye towards improving each of them over the same period of time (say, a month or 8 weeks). This is only one example, and was not made for any real reason other than illustrating the concept (i.e. I wouldn’t plug this into someone’s training). HOWEVER, put this way you can easily see Louie Simmon’s idea: Day 1 max strength, Day 2 power/strength-spreed…etc.


One thing with periodization is that it basically comes very close into the whole “no true scotsman” thing that Punisher was talking about.

Depending on who is talking, ‘Block periodization’ can also be a synonym for “conjugate sequence” periodization, which is the method USSR coach Yuri Verkoshansky developed for use with Olympic athletes of different sports. If you’re talking to a powerlifter it usually means what I said above.

So the terminology gets confusing, but really you need to focus on the fundamental aspect of it: a progression that builds on itself rather than being random, and that makes room for different sports attributes rather than only paying attention to 1 aspect.


For some of us, the best way to understand is by doing.

Do Starting Strength to get a grasp on linear progression.
Follow it up with the Juggernaut method which is highly periodised.

After 3 months of each you should understand the difference.


In the OP, you laid out a linear style periodization. That will work great for a while. The issue you will run into later on will be the shortening of your residual training effect (RTE). RTE is how long a trained skill/attribute lasts after training has ceased. So, for example, a skill with a very high neural demand is explosive strength. Your ability to move weights fast. The RTE of direct maximal force producing work is only about 5-7 days for trained people. Keeping it even simpler, the RTE of muscular endurance/hypertrophy is right around 30 days. Basically, that initial 6 week hypertrophy phase was a wash after week 4 of the strength phase. The same is true for an extended peak phase versus strength as well. With powerlifting, the goal is to lift the most you can on one day. I am a big fan of developing all skills in each different block and just switching the emphasis around based on weeks out from a meet. Check out DUP, WUP,and any other concurrent training methods. Those seem to work pretty well for most people.


Some one with experience!

How long are your blocks? Are they all the same length of time?

If I’m trying to put on some muscle(hypertrophy phase) how do I handle the heavy and fast stuff?


Great to have you posting here again.

Still lifting heavy/new PRs/big meets?? etc


A block I set up runs anywhere from 4-12 weeks. Just depends on how far out a meet is or what someone needs to work on. For you, since the main goal is muscle building, I’d suggest a longer blokc with all work geared towards more volume. You can still lift heavy, you’ll just have to plan it out to make sure youre hitting higher volume in assistance work or on “back off sets.” I like to use a lot of AMRAPs and plus sets during stints like this because you can still get an idea of where your maxes are without actually maxing.