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Linear Periodization: Definition, Uses, Benefits, and Examples

What is Linear Periodization?

Linear periodization organizes training programs in which the training intensity (e.g., weight lifted) gradually increases while the training volume (e.g., sets and reps) gradually decreases. For example, a trainee might start with high-rep sets with a smaller percentage of their 1RM and gradually add weight to the bar while doing fewer reps per set.

A Deeper Look at Linear Periodization

Linear or traditional periodization is a simple method for planning training variables. It was developed in the 1950s and 1960s by Leo Matveyev (​​a Russian physiologist) and Tudor Bompa (a Romanian sports scientist). 

Because of its success among Soviet lifters, the model was applied to the training plans of strength competitors in many other countries (mostly limited to the communist block). 

To build strength and explosiveness, athletes gradually increased the amount of weight they lifted while doing fewer reps. A taper was used before a competition to reduce fatigue and help athletes peak. 

Despite its simplicity, linear periodization works because it’s simply an intelligent way of organizing training variables. 

Since athletes can’t do more reps and lift more weight, volume is gradually sacrificed in favor of lifting more weight, which helps improve neuromuscular efficiency and makes trainees comfortable with having more weight on the bar.

The Benefits of Linear Periodization

The most notable benefit of linear periodization is that it is simple and predictable. As a coach, you can make minimal adjustments to your clients’ training plans from week to week and mostly guess how their performance will change in the upcoming weeks. 

A related benefit is that linear periodization gives newer lifters a taste of structured training without overwhelming them. More complex approaches, like block or undulating periodization, can be challenging to understand, handle, and plan.

Another benefit of linear periodization is that it allows for structured progression, which can result in impressive strength gains, especially for newer lifters.

Plus, thanks to its simplicity, linear periodization can be combined with other models (such as block) to produce the best results for trainees of all levels.

For example, let’s say that a client is running a four-week mesocycle to build strength using block periodization. 

If they gradually increase the volume and decrease the intensity between weeks one and four, that would be an example of linear periodization within block periodization.

Linear vs. Block. vs. Undulating Periodization

Linear periodization is the simplest way to organize training for yourself or clients because changes occur slowly and predictably over time.

Block periodization is more complex because the goal is to segment a long-term training plan into individual mesocycles, each focusing on a specific thing––for example, strength, power, or hypertrophy.

For example:

  • Weeks 1-4 – hypertrophy
  • Week 5 – deload week
  • Weeks 6-10 – strength
  • Week 11 – deload week
  • Weeks 12-16 – power

Undulating periodization is also more complex and is about changing volume and intensity from week to week or workout to workout. An example of daily undulating periodization is:

  • Monday – 5×3 @ 65% of 1RM for power
  • Wednesday – 4×4 @ 85% of 1RM for strength
  • Friday – 3×10 @ 65% of 1RM for hypertrophy

FAQ

1. What makes linear periodization effective?

Linear periodization focuses on structured progression and is simple to apply, which makes it great for coaches working with newbie lifters and less experienced trainees trying to build a workout plan for themselves.

2. Who is linear periodization for?

Linear periodization is generally best for less experienced trainees because it allows them to progress steadily and predictably. However, it can also be combined with undulating or block periodization to produce results for more advanced trainees.

3. How long should a linear block of training last?

Individual training phases (mesocycles) should generally last around four weeks but can be extended. A beginner can run a linear block for as long as it brings results, which can go beyond six months.

Related Terms in Periodization and Planning Category