Periodization training was introduced in the 1940’s, and it is basically a set training format that involves different modalities of resistance training, organized within a set or determined time frame. The concept of periodization was first developed by Dr. Thomas Delorme who was an army physician working with physical therapy patients. During this time he formulated the progression of their therapy routines and exercises, and the need to gradually increase the resistance on particular muscle groups. Evolving from the SAID principal (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand), periodization was born.
Today most professional athletes are trained using this method under the supervision of their team strength and conditioning coaches. Many trainers and CSCS professionals use this format of training for clients preparing for a specific athletic event because it is an effective means of stimulating the muscles for anaerobic endurance, hypertrophy, strength, power, and speed all done in an orderly manner over a pre-determined period of time.
Typically a basic linear periodization model consists of four stages within a 4 month to a year time period. The stages are the preparation phase, first transition, competition, and second transition phase. Linear periodization models consist of linear increases in the workload and volume for each week.
The preparation phase consists of muscle endurance and hypertrophy training, where the exercise volume is high and intensity low. The first transition phase focuses more on muscular strength where work volume decreases as the intensity increases. The competition phase consists of exercises that are sport specific or consist of power lifting and explosive movements based on speed and velocity. The off-season or second transition phase is designed to be more non-linear in nature. Here the athlete performs a variety of training to avoid de-conditioning and to focus on structural or rehabilitative exercises.
Linear periodization models will also use the terminology, macrocycle, mesocycle, and microcycle to better outline training format. A macrocycle is the entire periodization training program set for several months in duration and up to a year. Within the macrocycle are the mesocycles, which may be a month long in duration. Within the mesocycles are minicycles or microcycles, typically a week to a few days in duration. These divide the training program down to specific time periods to complete specific training protocols or goals.
Adopting concepts from the classical linear periodization model, nonlinear periodization training has replaced the linear approach to training for many athletes and recreational athletes. Nonlinear periodization calls for more frequent changes in training intensity and volume. This is changed weekly or even daily. This form of periodization typically shows minimal plateaus in strength increases than that of linear periodization due to the constant change in exercise variation and muscle stimulus, therefore it demands constant physiological adaptations to the imposed work being performed. For instance a single training session may work a particular muscle group for strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance all within the same workout session.
Nonlinear periodization is sometimes a better method to use when time constraints make it difficult to follow and adhere to a linear periodization program, and the fact that variations of training within the program allow for better muscle recovery time, since the intensity and volume are changed daily.
Linear periodization models are typically used for college and professional team sports, when an athlete can dedicate all of their time to adhering to this type of training under the supervision of their Strength & Conditioning Coaches. Nonlinear periodization is not as methodically organized and allows for some inconsistencies in one’s daily training routine without a tremendous amount of setbacks.
Jon Torerk, CSCS