Major Pitfalls of Linear Periodization

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Why Linear Periodization Sucks

Linear periodization is the first template of periodization that originated in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and ’60s. Linear periodization is a simple guide that can be used over a 12 to 16-week time frame regarding strength training or sports performance training.


Let’s use the example exercise of doing a back squat to illustrate linear periodization. We could start block one by doing 3 sets of 10 reps. It might then transition to 3x8, then 3x6, and then the last four-week block will be 3x2-4 reps. It is a very simple guide based on linear periodization.


Looking at linear periodization through simple terminology, we can see block 1 focusing on hypertrophy. Block 2 is focusing on basic strength. Block 3 is focusing on strength and power, and block 4 is where peak performance becomes the focus.

Who Does Linear Periodization Work For?

I believe linear periodization does work fairly well for beginner athletes. Linear periodization gives beginner athletes a sense of organization and progression. Beginner athletes can adapt to anything for 10 to 14 weeks; in most cases, the adaptations by beginner athletes are neurological. Linear periodization is also simple to follow and can serve as a dangling carrot to pull young athletes through their sports performance athletic training in the weight room.

When Does Linear Periodization Stop Working?

Technically, linear periodization never stops working. It is just that other methods can be used that are better. I would say that after 10 to 12 weeks of training an athlete, coaches can start to bring in more strength qualities into the programming. Coaches can bring more performance qualities into the programming as well to lead to better execution in the chosen competitive sport.


Linear periodization is also incredibly boring for athletes. Athletes are just focusing on simple strength qualities from block to block. There is nothing that is overly in-depth. 


Linear periodization also ignores what CrossFit has proven over the last two decades, namely that multiple different strength qualities, like endurance and absolute strength, can be trained in the same training program. People like Louie Simmons, Anatoly Bonderchuk, and Dietmar Schmidtbleicher have all proven in their research and their application in training. Multiple different qualities and characteristics can be trained throughout one training period.

Broken Record

I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but strength, power, speed, and even endurance can be trained within the same training period and block. We have seen this proven out through our Parabolic Periodization. Looking at power output, absolute strength, endurance, and hypertrophy, we can see that they all can be trained with success to lead to greater performance in competitive sports.

Using Linear Periodization In Training 

Well, for starters, I wouldn’t. But if I had to, as an academic exercise say, this is how I would do it. 


I would spend the first 10 to 12 weeks with a younger athlete based on linear periodization. I prefer using undulating periodization where the first two phases are based on exposure and comprehension. After that 10 to 12-week period, I would transfer the young athlete directly into undulating periodization and recognize that the program can have 2 to 3 key qualities to focus on.

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Key Qualities

The first key quality to focus on is technical coordination to increase absolute strength, but mainly to focus on power output. The second characteristic is to focus on absolute strength with exercises like the back squat. The third key focus is to use accessories to improve hypertrophic gains or to enhance impulse output depending on the phase and goal of the athlete.


Coaches tend to stay glued to linear periodization for two specific reasons. The first reason is that it can be easy to use in a large group setting, though it isn’t any easier than undulating periodization to execute in this manner. The other reason is that a lot of strength coaches got strong when they dove into linear periodization. At the ages of 18 to 20 years old, coaches may have started to focus on linear periodization so they have this loyalty to this type of programming because this is the time frame they reaped the largest gains.

Recap

Always recognize when it is time to abandon linear periodization and advance to something greater, like Parabolic Periodization. Remember, becoming a champion requires cultivating that power. And not just the muscle power, but the brain power as well. 

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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