There are many different models of periodization, each with their unique benefits. As such, there is no such thing as a “universal” periodization model. The type of periodization model that should be used will be dependent on the needs analysis of an athlete, according to these factors (Abbott):
- Training age
- Athlete’s developmental phase in the sport (Beginner, intermediate, advanced, elite)
- Macro-cycle phase (Off-season, on-season, competition season)
- Existing physiological state
- Existing psychological state
- Weak physical attributes
- Technical problems/deficiencies
- Type of sports and the position that the athlete plays (Offensive midfielder in soccer, quarterback in football, etc)
- Dominant movement pattern/energy pathways/qualities
According to these information obtained, you will be able to derive the type of periodization model to be used in order to reduce chances of injury during training and maximize training performance. In the subsequent parts of the article, I will be elaborating on the 4 different periodization models and their uses.
Sequential Method/ Linear Periodization
The sequential method of periodization was first invented by Soviet sports scientist Metveyev, and subsequently adopted by the West which is popularly known as the linear periodization model.
Essentially, this style of periodization involves a unidirectional loading of motor ability in discreet phases of usually 4 weeks, before moving on to the next phase, focusing on a motor ability which builds upon the previous phase. In power-strength or strength sports, the sequential method usually involves 4 mesocycle phases in the order of muscular endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength and then conversion to power.
Linear periodization would be the bread and butter approach towards training for an endurance race. First popularized by Coach Arthur Lydiard for producing Olympic champions and world record holders in distance running in the 50’s and 60’s, it continues to breed top tier athletes. The linear periodization of endurance training would begin with building an aerobic base via clock high mileages at low intensity for 8-12 weeks, thereafter transiting to hillwork and speedwork for 4-6 weeks and then the sharpening phase of 4 weeks before concluding with a taper 1 week before the major race.
The sequential method/ linear periodization established the relationship that intensity is inversely proportional to volume.
Benefits of Linear Periodization/Sequential Method
- The relatively light loads with high volume of work done in the initial phases provide a platform for skills and technique to be properly developed before moving on to subsequent phases, which focuses more on intensity.
- The high volume work at relatively low loads/ intensity gives tendons and ligaments time to develop adequate strength to handle higher stress demands in higher intensity work required in the later phases.
- Phases build upon each other and thus provide progressive overload gradually, reducing chances of injury.
- Model emphasis on unidirectional loading provide highly specialized stimulus – great for developing sports specific performance via specific physical preparedness(SPP) training.
Drawbacks of Linear Periodization/ Sequential Method
- Only allows for a single peak, which is not practical for an athlete who races a few key races every season.
- High volume of training at initial phases may deter the motivation for a beginner. Volume of loads maybe too high for beginners to handle.
- Rotation of physical attributes. It takes as little as 4 weeks of not training a particular fitness attribute for detraining effect to set in. Since the mesocycle phase of linear periodization is a minimum of 4 weeks, some fitness attributes gained in the previous phase maybe lost by the end of the current phase. For example, an athlete who just finished the hypertrophy phase of strength training may have lost some of the muscular endurance adaptations going into maximal strength phase.
Who is best suited to use the model of linear periodization?
- Linear periodization is best suited for beginners who need to build a firm foundation in technical skills. The high volume, consistent work throughout the initial phases allows proper technique to be ingrained into the athlete. In addition, progressive phases of linear periodization allow the athlete to develop technique in the model of “introduction-consistency-intensity”.
- Suitable for endurance sports with a single major competition in mind. The linear periodization saw much success in the endurance scene over the past few decades and would be a good model to be adopted to train for major competitions. However, a single long slow distance (LSD) session still need to be done in the subsequent phases after base building in order to maintain the aerobic base developed.
Who is not suitable to use this model?
- Performance in sports which requires multi-faceted fitness attributes, such as crossfit, mixed martial arts and boxing.
- Law enforcement jobs like police, soldiers and firefighters, as they require a broad development of the various fitness attributes.
Undulating Periodization (UP)
UP allows the athlete to work on more than one physical attribute at the same time. In the world of strength-power sports, UP allows the athlete to gain strength and mass at the same time, allowing for neural and physiological adaptation to take place.
There are many variations of UP. The first form of UP is a model developed by Poliquin with 2 weeks cycles, alternating between high intensity, low volume strength work to develop neural adaptation in order to increase strength and higher volume work at a sub maximal intensity in order to work on hypertrophy (Abbott).
Poliquin believed that strength training lost their training efficiency after two weeks due to the law of diminishing returns. Thus, after two weeks, training stimulus and focus is switched in order to avoid this issue and continue to make progress in strength (Abbott).
This style of training also remove the detraining effect experienced by a particular fitness attribute as experienced in linear periodization since detraining effects only sets in after 4 weeks of not working on a particular attribute.
However, there are many debate as to whether the two week cycle works as:
- As much as detraining effects are reduced, the ability for real progress to be made in the particular attributes within the time period of a 2 week cycle is questioned. American College of Sports and Medicine (ACSM) states that rate of muscular strength gains is 40% in untrained individual, 20% in moderately trained individual, 10% in advanced athletes and 2% in elite athletes, spanning across duration of 4 weeks to 2 years respectively (Bradley-Popovich & Haff, 2001).
- 2 weeks in a high intensity, low volume cycle is capable of pushing the athlete into the state of overtraining (Bradley-Popovich & Haff, 2001).
In general, I would think the 2 weeks cycle puts a lot of stress on an athlete. Therefore, this style of periodization would require an athlete to be in a matured state of development with good technical foundation and work capacity to handle such an intense workload. This cycle did achieve help to achieve success in strength-power sports, and I would believe that it is very much for these sports, not so much for endurance athletes.
Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) – A Better Alternative?
The daily undulating periodization, or the concurrent method of periodization, is an alternative from the normal undulating periodization with 2 weeks cycle. As the name suggests, DUP involves doing workouts which are consistently changed up within the week.
For example, for a strength athlete training 3 times a week, DUP periodization would be something like having a session on Monday which focuses on raw strength (85-95% 1RM at 3-5 reps for 3 sets), a session on Wednesday which focuses on hypertrophy (75-85% at 6-8 reps for 4 sets) and probably a session which works on power on Friday (60% 1RM for 3-5 reps, 3 sets, focusing on speed).
I feel that this style of training allows the athlete to work on more fitness attributes than the normal UP and in fact, this style of periodization is not only applicable in the strength-power sporting world – it is also applicable to developing multi-faceted fitness.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in September 2008 had shown the effectiveness in DUP in raising the fitness levels and emergency preparedness of firefighters (Peterson, Dodd, Alvar, Rhea, & Favre, 2008). The study was carried out with a group performing DUP for 3 sessions a week for 12 weeks, whereas the standard control group did the standard linear periodization regime for 3 sessions a week and for 12 weeks as well. The group performing DUP experienced greater improvement in performance as compared to the control group.
In addition, another article published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal in February 2001 also stated that “daily and microcycle fluctuations produce superior strength gains” due to its ability “to prevent overtraining while maximizing adaptive stimulus” (Bradley-Popovich & Haff, 2001).
Who is suited to use DUP?
- I feel that DUP is a great model to build on a wide range of fitness attributes, thus increasing GPP. Therefore, I feel that law enforcers, who need to be strong, fast and have a high level of work capacity year round, will benefit from the periodization pattern of the DUP.
- DUP is also great for power-strength athletes.
Who is NOT suited to use DUP
- As the periodization model jumps straight into the physical work with no preparation phase, it may not be ideal for beginner athletes who do not have the proficiency to perform some exercises at high intensity in the correct technique/ the foundation strength to follow a DUP program without getting injured.
- Even though there are studies which had shown that DUP can effectively increase strength, it may not be the best method to work on sports specific fitness.One example would be endurance athletes. This is because there are no studies or examples which had proven that DUP actually can increase endurance more effectively than the linear periodization approach.
However, recently, the program developed by Crossfit Endurance, founded by Brian MacKenzie, seems like a DUP approach towards endurance. It was subjected to lots of criticism from traditional endurance athletes as the core principle of the program was antagonistic to the traditional approach towards training for endurance.
I feel that the program is interesting – it is still relatively new, being established for only less than a decade and hard to judge if it is actually an effective form of training for endurance athletes. The program however, does emphasis on strength training and GPP as the foundation – a potentially effective way to build a strong and injury resistant body as a base to build a huge endurance engine within it. Will definitely attend a Crossfit Endurance course to learn more about it if I get the chance!
- Another reason why DUP might not be the best way to build SPP is because due to the nature of it being able to focus on multi-faceted fitness attributes, it reduces the specialized fitness stimuli. While this might not really affect the beginner or intermediate athlete due to the high transfer of trainedness (Myslinski, 2012), the advanced or elite athletes will fail to improve on their SPP as the stimulus provided in a GPP oriented program will be inadequate to raise the SPP due to the decrease in transfer of trainedness as the athletes reach higher levels of fitness.
Conjugate Sequencing System (CSS)
The conjugate sequencing system has elements of concurrent/DUP periodization and the linear periodization. Its purpose is to preserve the fitness gained via GPP training while working on providing additional stimuli to the fitness attributes needed for SPP (Abbott).
This periodization model is best described in a graph as shown below in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Pictorial representation of the Conjugate Sequencing System (Abbott)
In figure 1, hypertrophy, maximal strength and specific speed are put on maintenance loads while explosive power is worked on, using the concept of linear periodization. A, B, C and D are the progression exercises, each with progressively greater stimulus in helping to develop explosive power. An example would be:
A= Jump Squats
B= Barbell Jump Squats
C= Depth Jumps
D= Depth Jumps with a weighted vest
When the desired result is obtained, the particular fitness attribute can be put away on maintenance load, while another attribute can be brought to focus and worked upon using the same concept.
Using figure 1 as an example, should the desired result be obtained in explosive power, it can be put on maintenance load and maybe work on hypertrophy for the next 8-12 weeks.
The CSS does possess a drawback. Due to the high level of work done to maintain and develop fitness attributes at the same time, there is a high probability of overtraining if the program is not designed properly to balance maintenance work and fitness development work. In my opinion, it would not be ideal to carry out such program design year round – a period of solely doing maintanence work would need to be allocated to allow the body to recover from the strain of CSS (Abbott).
Who is suited to use the CSS?
In my opinion, CSS is great for multi-sports athletes, such as triathletes, obstacle course racers, law enforcers, sports which have extended periods of competition such as soccer, basketball, etc. This is because it helps to preserve the base level of fitness in athletes while working on SPP which helps to keep an athlete strong and injury resistant throughout the season while maintaining a high level of fitness.
Who is not suited for the system?
The CSS is physically demanding, just like UP and DUP. As such, it is not suited for the beginner athletes who still do not have a base level of strength, work capacity and technique to perform at and/or to recovery from the high volume and intensity that the CSS demands.
CSS also has an emphasis on performance. A high level of GPP would be a mandatory criterion for building SPP using CSS. This would not be ideal for the beginner athlete as well since he will not have the solid GPP foundation and would be more susceptible to overtraining and injury.
Periodization models are tools which aid in an athlete’s fitness development. In order to maximize the athlete’s potential in his/her sport, it is essential to know how the various periodization models work and use them at the right time during the course of the athlete’s physical development in order to maximize performance and the effectiveness of training.
Ultimately, the concept of an athlete’s development would be to develop robust technique in core exercises, establish consistency in technique, basic strength and work capacity before he can focus on performance.
Periodization, in essence, is used to prepare to train, to program training protocols for competition and lastly, design training programs with the objective to win.
In the next blog post of this series, I will be blogging about the concepts and considerations taken to develop a training program based on the linear periodization model.
Abbott, C. (n.d.). The Application of Periodization Moels for Athletes of Different Standards – A Practical Approach.
Bradley-Popovich, G. E., & Haff, G. G. (2001). Nonlinear Versus Linear Periodization Models. Strength and Conditioning Journal.
Myslinski, T. (2012, May 30). The Development of the Russian Conjugate Sequence System. Retrieved from Elitefts: http://www.elitefts.com/education/training/the-development-of-the-russian-conjugate-sequence-system-needs-banner/
Peterson, M., Dodd, D. J., Alvar, B. A., Rhea, M. R., & Favre, M. (2008). Undulation Training for Development of Hierarchical Fitness and Improved Firefighter Job Performance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.