Periodization Part 2: 16 week training cycle

In part one, we defined linear, nonlinear and block periodization. We also learned that these types of periodization are rarely used alone, instead a solid training program includes them all. 

In this article we will put those words into practical use. 

Putting it All Together

The main point of this article was to provide foundation knowledge and understand that arguments like "which type of periodization is best" is stupid. It's sort of arguing which is the best exercise to do. Like we only have the option to do one? The answer is...that's a stupid question.

Most programs (at least good ones) are a combination. Yes, linear, non-linear and block periodization.

In my opinion it's best to start on a macroscale and break things down into pieces from there. Since a large population of my readers are interested in powerlifting I will give an example of 4 months of training for a powerlifting competition.

Since we have 4 months, it'll be easy to break this up into 4 blocks (this is just an example, it can easily be 1-16 week block or 2-8 week blocks, but this post can't be 100,00 words.)

Now that we have broken up the 16 weeks into 4-4 week blocks, we need to have an emphasis to each block (block periodization.) Although we like to emphasize, as a powerlifter it's advantageous to think of these training stimulus' as a continuum.

Meaning - nothing is purely hypertrophy or purely strength work. It's all a grey area. 

A good program includes high, moderate and low loads at all times - the percentage of each will be based on short-term and long-term goals. 

Think of it like stocks (which I have none of, by the way). It's probably not smart to put all your money on one stock and hope for the best (this is like only doing 10 rep squats for 4 weeks.) The smart move would be to have some sort of equal distribution into several stocks. Say $500 each, then over time when you get a hunch, reading the economy and whatever else that matters for stocks happens - you start to take out a little from here, place it there. And this is a forever evolving game, like training. 

It never works out exactly this way, but I'm placing percent labels on volume/hypertrophy, strength and power work for simplicity. 

Review

  • We've broken our 16 week training cycle into 4 blocks. 
  • We've broken those 4 separate blocks into certain emphases and in our specific example it could be said that the volume/hypertrophy and strength workouts are inversely related.  

The third step is to examine each week in each block. 

Let's assume this lifter is squatting 2x/week. The same concept can be applied to bench and deadlift, but it's redundant to list them all. Plus, squatting is what lifting/life is all about.  

Let's also define "volume/hypertrophy" workouts as anything over 6 reps, "strength" workouts as 1-5 reps and "power" workouts as intentionally training at a submaximal intensity (effort.) Again, it's not this black and white, but some assumptions need to be made for this example. 

Definitions:

Volume = V

Strength = S

Power = P

Block 1 - Emphasis on volume/hypertrophy

Week 1 - 5x7 (V) - 4x10 (V)

Week 2 - 6x3 (S) - 5x2 (P)

Week 3 - 3x9 (V) - 4x2 (S)

Week 4 - 2x11 (V) - 4x1 (S)

Final tally: Volume 4, strength 3, power 1.

Quiz: Is this block linear or nonlinear?

Correct! It's both! And for bonus points it's also DUP. 

If you were to plot this on a graph you would see big waves since there is a range of 11 to 1 rep, but you'd also see that over time the load gets heavier. Strength workout 1 was 3 reps, strength workout 2 was 2 reps and strength workout 3 was 1 rep. This is a perfect example of how a training block and program can be linear, nonlinear and block periodized. 


Block 2 - Emphasis beginning to shift to strength

Week 5 - 5x4 (S) - 4x10 (V)

Week 6 - 3x3 (S) - 9x2 (P)

Week 7 - 2x9 (V) - 3x2 (S)

Week 8 - 2x5 (V) - 1x1 (S)

Final tally: Strength 4, volume 3, power 1.


Block 3 - Emphasis on strength

Week 9 - 5x3 (S) - 4x10 (V)

Week 10 - 3x3 (S) - 9x2 (P)

Week 11 - 3x5 (S) - 2x8 (S)

Week 12 - 2x4 (S) - 6x1 (S)

Final tally: Strength 6, volume 1, power 1.


Block 4 - Emphasis on strength & peaking

Week 13 - 3x3 (S) - 4x1 (P)

Week 14 - 3x4 (S) - 3x2 (P)

Week 15 - 1x1 (S) - 8x1 (P)

Week 16 - 2x2 (S) - 3x1 (P)

Final tally: Strength 4, volume 0, power 4.

*This is an article about periodization and not well-thought out peaking for a meet. For a more detailed understanding I recommend this article

Let's Review...Again.

In the 16 weeks of training I just laid out we see a few things. 

  1. There is DUP involved from workout to workout and this is present throughout the entire cycle. 
  2. Within each cycle the training is linear, in terms of the strength days increasing in intensity. I'd also note that each microcycle would hopefully be linear if your training maxes are increasing. 
  3. There is block periodization used to emphasize certain attributes every 4 weeks, with the work being more specific to the individuals goals over time. 
  4. Not directly related to periodization, but we also saw total volume decrease over time in order to peak for the meet, but again, visit the article posted for a more detailed approach. 

In Closing

So that was a lot, but if you made it through both part one and two you now realize the intricacies of periodization. You now know why I said asking which type is the best was a stupid question.

Because we can and should use them all! 

Why?

Block periodization allows us to emphasize certain areas of training, whether it be certain lifts, skills or muscle development. It's common to see powerlifters use high volume blocks right after a meet to build muscle in certain areas. 

Linear periodization allows us to adapt to heavier loads over time, which of course is the goal as a barbell or physique athlete. I'd argue that all strength programs should be linear, it's just a matter of the timeframe. 

Nonlinear periodization gives us the freedom and mental break from using the same loads or rep ranges continuously. When you're squatting 3x/week, it's more fun to squat 9's, 5's and 3's, than it is just to squat 5's all the time. This increase in mental stimulation will certainly help the lifter push their limits. 

DUP allows the lifter to practice their skill more, accumulate more volume and muscle damage, all of which will make for a better athlete. Listen to this podcast by Mike Zourdos to learn more about DUP. 

Now that was fun and I hope you learned something

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