The periodisation of training is often a variable which is overlooked by many Personal Trainers and also gym users. The world of professional sport, elite athletes and competing physique athletes are all aware of the importance for planning and periodising training to get the most out of their training. Whether your goal is health, weight loss, performance based or aesthetics, periodising your training will help you get far more out of your time at the gym.
It is often thought, especially amongst novice trainers, that progression is linear and to keep getting results we need to train for longer and just keep adding more sets. If this was true then eventually you would be training for 5-6 hours a day, the size of Phil Heath in no time at all and consistently living in #GainzVil.
The purpose of this blog is to outline 3 simple, yet effective models for periodising your training to ensure you continue to improve, reach your goal, increase strength and encourage hypertrophy. The importance of periodising training is an area we focus on heavily during our personal training courses.
As the name suggests, this is considered the hallmark model of periodising training. This model involves dividing a long term goal or Macrocycle (Typically a year, but in some situations it could even be up to 4 years long) into smaller Mesocycles which usually lasts a few weeks or couple of months which often represents a phase of training such as ‘Strength’ or ‘Active Rest’. Mesocycles are then broken down into Microcycles which can be as short as one day or a week and often represents a single training session.
The classic periodisation model which Jim Stopanni outlines in his strength book explains the relationship between intensity and volume. As time progresses the volume of training decreases (total reps) and the intensity increases (% of 1 rep max) building up to a ‘Peak Phase’. An important note here is the importance of decreasing the volume as the intensity increases. Hopefully the figure below helps picture how this model works.
Although many strength based clients and athletes do enjoy the classic strength periodisation model, there are some considerations we need to make:
- If the client / athlete needs to peak in strength several times throughout the year then be mindful of the duration you keep the client in the hypertrophy range. The excess volume can lead to fatigue which will result in a poor performance when it comes to strength.
- If your client is a bodybuilder or more aesthetic orientated, the muscle gained during the hypertrophy phase maybe lost or will certainly become more difficult too maintain during the later phases, as the volume decreases. As a result, other periodisation models may best suit the more bodybuilder type of client.
Reverse Linear Periodisation:
This model is what it says on the tin. It adapts the Classic Periodisation model above and reverses it with primary focus on hypertrophy rather than strength. Therefore as the client progresses, each Mesocycle will see an increase in volume and a decrease in intensity. Please note however that this doesn’t keep progressing for ever, but the client once he completes a full periodised programme, may start back at the power stage. Although the ideal Reverse Linear Model starts with a power phase (sets of 1-3 reps), clients can skip the power phase and start in the strength phase which may leave more time to focus on the hypertrophy and higher volume phases or even potentially start in the lower volume hypertrophy phase (sets of 6-8 reps) and gradually increase the volume to sets of 20-30 reps potentially, which are associated with a more Sacroplasmic type of hypertrophy. (The debate of Firbrous and Sacroplasmic hypertrophy is an article in itself). The Reverse Linear Periodisation model looks similar to the Classic model above, but intensity and volume are switched over.
The Undulating Periodisation model follows a less linear principle when compared to the previous two models above. This model is our more favourable principle of periodising training as not all progression is linear and sometimes, certain clients need to revisit certain phases of training depending on their goals and body type. The Undulating Periodisation model is usually a 14 – 21 day Mesocycle where the client may complete a strength specific session one day and a high volume hypertrophy session the next day. Please see below for an example:
Monday: Upperbody Session 1 = Strength (Sets of 2-4 reps) High Intensity
Tuesday: Lowerbody Session 1 = Hypertrophy (Sets of 8-10) Medium Intensity
Wednesday: Rest Day
Thursday: Upperbody Session 2 = Hypertrophy (Sets of 8-10) Medium Intensity
Saturday: Lowerbody Session2 = Strength (Sets of 2-4 reps) High Intensity
Monday: Upperbody Session 1 = Strength (Sets of 1-3 reps) Very High Intensity
Tuesday: Lowerbody Session 1 = Hypertrophy (Sets of 10-12) Medium Intensity
Wednesday: Rest Day
Thursday: Upperbody Session 2 = Hypertrophy (Sets of 10-12) Medium Intensity
Saturday: Lowerbody Session2 = Strength (Sets of 1-3 reps) Very High Intensity
According to Jim Stoppani, the sporadic nature of the undulating programme can encourage power, strength and hypertrophy gains with clients. The model can also be modified further in terms of range and week 2 could focus on completely different rep schemes in total contrast of week one and potentially target sets of 20-30 reps. The key however is to be organised and map out your Macrocycle so you have an idea of what intensity and volume you are prescribing at each Mesocycle. But don’t forget, plans are working documents and if your client is progressing better with a certain rep scheme, intensity or volume then you may want to take advantage of that and prescribe more of that to your client.
Hopefully by now you have an idea of how to periodise you clients training programmes over a Macrocycle depending on their goals (Classic Model = Strength, Reverse Linear Model = Hypertrophy and Undulating Model = All Over!!). Being able to periodise training effectively takes time and practice, but we highly recommend that you pre plan your clients training and periodise different phases as this is crucial for progression. Don’t ‘wing’ your training plans as that becomes blatantly obvious to your client and makes you look unprofessional. During our Personal Training qualifications we spend a lot of time of planning effective programmes for clients and emphasise the importance of being organised.
Although the above periodisation models can be found in most strength and hypertrophy based literature, there is another which was made famous by possibly the most renowned strength and powerlifting coach of all time, Louie Simmons. Louie’s gym has the reputation of being the strongest gym in the world with his clients holding numerous world records in events such as deadlifting and bench pressing. His gym is so elite that you can only train there by invitation. Louie has developed a periodisation model known as the conjugate method. This method is solely focussed on strength and not body composition but emphasises on max effort when training. The video below is Louie himself explaining the conjugate system to CrossFitters and if you are interested in strength training it is definitely worth watching…