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Just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there’s also a number of methods that you can use to structure training programs for your clients. And even though I’m sure there’s probably at least 27 arguments being had at this very moment, on the Internet, about which is the best method, that’s not what this blog post is about.
The goal is of this post is to go over 4 common periodization methods and allow you to pick which one works best for your clients. As long as you can justify why you’re using the method you are then that’s all that matters. It’s when you blindly copy or just use a style of training without knowing the “why” that you run into trouble.
The Sequential method is also known as the Linear or Traditional method and uses specific intervals of time in order to develop a singular goal. With this method you basically increase the training intensity while decreasing the training volume over time, and focusing one strength quality.
Within this method, you have 2 styles; the long linear and the short linear approach. The long linear works well for beginners, general fitness or in the rehabilitative setting. While the short linear approach is more about fixing any shortcomings of the long linear approach and only last 1-3 weeks.
The typical phases in this method as laid out by the NSCA are; preparation, hypertrophy, strength, power, competition and active rest.
With this method you’re doing several different workouts in a repeating cycle, with emphasis on using different rep ranges, exercises or both. The reason behind alternating the emphasis every few weeks is to help prevent the body from hitting plateaus or falling into a rut.
This is a wave like approach which typically uses one of two 2 methods; the long undulating method and the short undulating method.
With the long undulating method each wave lasts roughly 3-4 weeks, while the short undulating method uses weeks of accumulation followed by weeks of intensification. The short undulating method’s biggest advantage is it prevents overtraining much more than the long method.
3 Methods of Undulating Periodization:
Daily Undulating Periodization – rotate between different workouts over a weekly cycle.
Weekly Undulating Periodization – wave like cycle changes in the stress every week
The Pendulum Cycle – alternating back and forth between a strength emphasis and a hypertrophy emphasis every 2-4 weeks. (This is a very common method used by many fit pros for general population clients)
In the concurrent method you train multiple qualities simultaneously in a given time period. The most recognised form of concurrent training is the conjugate method, which was popularised by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell.
The conjugate method of training is broken up into 3 main components; the max effort method, the repetition method, and the dynamic effort method. I won’t go any deeper than that, as there are so many other great articles on the conjugate method (www.elitefts.com or www.westside-barbell.com/)
The concurrent method would also be the method of choice for serious Crossfit athletes, because they need to train all the strength qualities.
This is probably the most well known method in which you use a linear series of blocks that focus on several abilities at once. In each meso-cycle block there is usually a focus on one dominant quality, and possibly a secondary focus on another quality. This is the preferred method of training by numerous high level athletes.
There are 3 main types of meso-cycle blocks:
Accumulation (4 weeks) – This cycle focuses on the basics like general aerobic endurance, muscle strength and movement patterns in general.
Intensification (4 weeks) – This cycle focuses on developing more specific abilities like anaerobic endurance, specialised muscular endurance and event specific technique.
Realization (2 weeks) – This is the pre-competition cycle, which will emphasise qualities like maximum speed and recovery prior to the event.
So there you have it, a run down of the 4 most common periodization methods and how they are structured. Hopefully you’ve either found another method to start using or this post have further solidified why you use the method you do.