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Ultimate training periodization — Chapter four — Holistic Strength (Full Book)

Please take a second to answer this question.

When you want your holidays to be lit, what are you going to do?

I could imagine that 90 % of you answered with “Plan everything upfront”. I know that the remaining 10 % will probably argue that planning kills all spontaneity. That’s a valid argument, I will address it later. We go with the assumption that having a rough outlay for what you’re going to do is generally good! You can always adjust on the way.

So what’s that periodization thing?

“I continue my streak of incongruous pictures in this series, but who does not like racoons..” by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

It’s quite simple. You focus on different aspects at a different time in order to increase your potential to reach your strength goals and minimize the chance of overtraining (14).

You could, for example, focus on hypertrophy in the first time frame.

Focus on strength endurance afterwards and have a period to increase maximum strength in the end.

Sounds already like block periodization, right? Not necessary..

One thing for sure, periodized training seems to be superior to non-periodized training.

Superior in regards to strength gains. At least Williams et al. could show a significant effect size of 0.43 in a meta-analyses favouring the periodized approach (everything over 0.3 is considered effective). Okay, periodization seems to be a good idea in general. But well, there are many types of periodization. We just have a look at the three main ones.

Block periodization, linear periodization and daily undulating periodization.

Linear periodization:

As simple as it gets, we do not have to use too many words to describe it. You take your training program and divide it into macro- (9–12 months), meso- (3–4 months) and microcycles (1–4 weeks).

Over the course of time, you gradually decrease the training volume and increase the training intensity within and between cycles (15).

It could look somewhat like this (microcyle):

· Week 1: 4 sets of 10 reps 60 kg

· Week 2: 4 x 8 — 70 kg

· Week 3: 4 x 6 — 80 kg

· Week 4: 4 x 4 — 90 kg

The same microcycle can be repeated afterwards with higher weights.

Block periodization (5)

Block periodization is the option to get away from the aim to develop several fitness goals simultaneously. It came alive to address problems of linear periodization.

Kind of Periodization 2.0.

The main goal was to get rid of neuromuscular fatigue (NF). To understand this a bit better, NF is noticed by a decline in the ability to generate force. In other words, despite training, your Bench performance is going down. The block structure of the periodization allows introducing whole phases that can be used to “recover”.

As a short example approach. It can look somewhat like this.

Figure 1: A short overview over block periodization (5).

All phases vary in terms of fatigue accumulation and work towards the peak (maximal performance). That was option two, using different phases of training for fatigue management. There is just one more option to look at.

Daily undulation periodization (DUP):

Well, the name is pretty self-describing. Daily undulating periodization is a concept in which training phases vary in shorter time periods. From week to week or even day to day. That could, for example, look like this.

· Monday training with 8 RM

· Wednesday training with 6RM

· Friday training with 4 RM

Three different phases in just one week. And well, what I learned over the time is, that you do not necessarily have to have heavy squats, deads and bench on Monday and everything light on another day.

The different “themes” of the day can even be exercise specific.

That gets clear if we look again at the squat, bench, dead example.

Exercise specific DUP (my stuff) could look like this:

The ultimate periodization: (What science says)

“adult short-coated brown dog wearing red fitted cap — that caption tho” by Agnieszka Boeske on Unsplash

As far as I could get into it, there is no black and white when it comes to periodization schemes (surprise). Who would have expected this? I will just list really short summaries of what I found during my search otherwise, it might be hard to understand what I mean. Keep in mind that I also read a bunch of studies that were not eligible but still broadened my perspective.

First of all, we lack research in this area! There is no such study that directly compares block periodization and DUP, just keep in mind that this study would probably have to be a year or longer depending on the periodization approach…

What do we have?

· Matthew et al. 2002 (15) (Linear vs DUP)

21 strength trained man, 12 weeks. Group 1: Week 1–4 (8RM), Week 5–8 (6RM), Week 9–12 (4RM) vs Group 2: 4,6 and 8RM all within one week

Statistically significant differences favouring the DUP group.

· Harries et al. 2015 (16) (Linear vs UP)

Meta-analyses 17 studies included (no differentiation between daily and weekly UP). No statistically significant differences in strength. Well, most of the included studies were conducted on untrained individuals… #newbiegains

Well, when that is all we have. A good decision might depend on good guessing..

We saw that DUP has many different faces. Most studies actually investigate the approach with medium, heavy and light days. So far it seems like DUP could possibly beat up at least linear periodization. This depends a lot on the context of training. It just would be nice for me since it goes hand in hand with what I experienced #biased ;)

We can probably say that linear periodization might not be the best idea if you’ve surpassed the newbie phase already. The rest has to be trial and error with a slight tendency to DUP.

We see black on white that nothing is black or white..

See you in the next chapter :)

If you’re looking for more shorter life-lessons, just follow the link ;)


14. Williams, T. D., Tolusso, D. V., Fedewa, M. V. & Esco, M. R. Comparison of Periodized and Non-Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine 47, 2083–2100 (2017).

15. Rhea, M. R. et al. A Comparison of Linear and Daily Undulating Periodized Programs With Equated Volume and Intensity for Local Muscular Endurance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 17, 82 (2003).

16. Harries, S. K., Lubans, D. R. & Callister, R. Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Linear and Undulating Periodized Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29, 1113–1125 (2015).