Muscle Building

Linear Periodization for Strength Training Explained: Simple Muscle Growth

Lots of athletes and gym-goers are familiar with the term periodization. However, they often don’t have a clear idea of what they’re talking about when they start arguing for one form of periodization over another.

One of the most effective forms of periodization, especially in the world of strength training, is known as linear periodization. Read on to learn more about it and its importance when it comes to muscle growth. You’ll also see an example of what this type of program looks like in action.

What Is Periodization?

Periodization involves making changes to a person’s workload, training tasks, and training focus. These changes are sequential or phasic and split up into separate blocks. They take place within the microcycles (the number of workouts done per day/week) and mesocycles (two-to-six-week periods of following the same workout structure) of a person’s training plan, as well as the overall annual plan. 

Basically, periodization ensures that there is a sufficient amount of variety in a person’s program. By doing this, you can ensure that you continue to progress and improve your training performance. You’ll also be less likely to hit training plateaus.

What Is Linear Periodization?

Linear periodization is also known as traditional periodization. It’s a system that was developed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s. 

This training system involves gradually decreasing training volume over time while also gradually increasing training intensity. If a person is following this type of program while working up to a competition, they will also taper off their training as the competition approaches.

Traditionally, linear periodization has been a long-term approach to training. In fact, programs that follow this model were originally meant to be followed for a full year. Many Olympians even follow four-year programs that help them to effectively prepare for the next round of the Olympic games.  

These days, gym-goers and athletes tend to use the term “linear periodization” to refer to any program that increases a person’s training intensity and decreases their training volume over time. A program that only lasts a few months could fall under this category, as well as longer programs that last a year or more.

Benefits of Linear Periodization for Strength Training

When you follow a program designed with linear periodization in mind, you can experience a lot of great benefits. Here are some of the advantages this type of programming has to offer:

Make Consistent Progress

Let’s face it. If you want to see true progress and avoid plateaus, you have to train on a consistent basis. It’s not enough just to show up at the gym at the same time five days per week and string a bunch of random exercises together, though. You also need to be following a specific program that allows you to expose your muscles to the regular stress that’s needed for muscle growth and increased strength.  

Avoid Confusion

We’ve all been there. We show up to the gym and have no clue what to do with ourselves, so we end up wandering around, using whatever machines are available, and leaving after we’ve spent what we consider to be a sufficient amount of time in the building. If you want to know exactly what you should be doing when you walk into the gym (and why you’re doing it), linear periodization programs are extremely helpful. 

Master the Basics

Linear periodization programs give you a chance to really master the basics and improve your lifting technique, too. Because they’re designed with the intent of gradually increasing the weight over time, you avoid overloading your body too early. You also have a chance to test yourself on a regular basis, though, and monitor your progress.

Ensure Preparedness

If you’re getting ready to compete, a program designed with linear periodization in mind will be especially beneficial. Everyday gym-goers can get away with a little more flexibility and spontaneity. If you want to get ready to hit a new personal best, though, you need to be following a tried and true program that can set you up for success and help you do that.

Linear Periodization in Action

Remember, with linear periodization, the idea is to begin with high volume and low intensity, then decrease volume and increase intensity over time. 

Let’s say you’re six months out from competing. If this was the case, you might follow a linear periodization program that has you performing your lifts according to the following set/rep ranges:

  • Weeks 1-4: Perform 4 sets of 10 reps 
  • Weeks 5-8: Perform 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Weeks 9-12: Perform 4 sets of 6 reps
  • Weeks 13-16: Perform 4 sets of 5 reps
  • Weeks 17-20: Perform 4 sets of 3 reps
  • Weeks 21-24: Perform 3 sets of 2 reps

Every week, in theory, you’ll be adding weight to the bar. Over time, as you add weight, the number of reps you can perform with proper technique will naturally have to come down, so the linear periodization model makes a lot of logical sense.

Tips for Maximizing Your Program

If you’re new to the idea of linear periodization or have never followed a program like this, there are some things you should keep in mind. These tips will help you ensure you get the most out of your program and see significant improvements in your training and performance, whether you’re preparing to compete or not:

  • Give yourself at least three weeks at each rep scheme before you transition to another one
  • Don’t try to add too much weight to the bar at once; the goal is to gradually progress
  • Get comfortable with boredom and keep your mind focused on the end goal
  • Be patient and run the full program; if you quit before you finish, how will you know if you could have seen significant improvements?

Learn More About Linear Periodization Today

As you can see, there are lots of advantages that come with focusing on linear periodization when designing a strength training program. If you want to experience the benefits outlined above, be sure to consider the examples of the appropriate way to incorporate linear periodization into your program.

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