Linear periodization vs. Non-linear periodization in strength training

Recently I was reading the stuff from T-nation (Dave Tate, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson and John Berardi stuff) and EliteFTS (both are my favourite sites allong with
I finaly get to know what the hell is Westside and their patterns.

I would love to discuss here the pro’s and con’s of linear vs. Non-linear periodization.

First of all, linear periodization is a system of development of atributes (performance factors – abilities) in sequential manner (structural, accumulation/hypetrophy, max strength, power phases etc for example), or in other words: first develop one thing and then other. The bad thing that happens with this approach is that factors that arent developed decrease, so while you do you structural work all other stuff falls down and same thing for other phases.

The solution is to do everything in the same period. This could be called parallel approach. The problem here is that athlete cannot optimally adapt to a large number of stimulus at the same time (1-2 training goals at the time).

The thing that bothers me the most is the definition of non-linear and conjugate system! On my opinion the solution is to do all the work at the same time but with different emphasis (’Everything is done, only the volume varies’ – C.F.). Or to say, while you develop one thing, work on the others too, but not too much, just minimal to keep them where they are.

For this three approaches look at the pictures attached (pictures are from my recent seminar work ’Training, planning and programming’ – unfortunally this article should be translated, and as soon I do it you will have it guys!) Dont worry about graphs too much, it is my explained in seminar, and for now it is not so important to understand!

Ok, now when we have thing straigh-up (do we?), this is the main question:
If linear periodization is so bad (as Eric Cressey stated in his latest article) why does Charlie uses it? Ok, Charlie uses conjugate method, but I saw a mentioned phases (accumulation, max work, maintain) in his strength periodization??
My own opinion is that linear periodization works excellent for totally beginners (and someone returning to training), and when they come to a max phase, we should start doing conjugate method for now on! After some time (off-season or transiotional period) we could include linear periodization again, but not longer that 2-3 weeks…

Any thought on this?

The problem is always in the definition of where you are in a program. The phases must be only slightly different and the edges of all transitions must be smoothed out. This is especially true for sprints, when any sort of transitional or adaptative stiffness can be fatal.
I guess you could say the planning question of most consequence is: When, within the speed program, can I move the weights up, which ones, how much, and for how long?

Tnx Charlie!

But, wouldnt the ‘introduction-accumulation period’ in GPP when you use largers reps and lower weigths in advanced sprinter cause a great fall in his max strength? Then how do you manage to improve strength level from period-to-period, season-to-season, year-to-year? Do you use this approach (presented in GPP DVD) only with begginer-medium sprinters?

One thing that many people fail to realize re: so-called linear periodization is that(if carried out properly as per Stone, Bompa, and Charlie, of course!) it is really only linear over the short term(say 3-6 weeks) but in the long term of say 8-12 weeks it is undulating and is not actually carried out in a linear manner, featuring several moves in and out of the various phases.
Obviously, the more advanced the athlete is, the more frequent the changes will be.

The rotation of elements will take place, similar to the progression in the conjugate method. Note that this is not a criticism of conjugate since I have used both methods with very good success.

Tnx, this make a things little clearerl…
What you are stating is that you could have a week of structural training, a week of accumulation, a week of max strength and repeat?

Exactly, or a similar such model. Quite often the portrayal by some of “linear” periodization does not accurately describe the reality of how some are successfully implementing periodization programs. Undulating is the word I have heard in a few clinics with Stone in describing such moves in and out of various phases.

Thanks Pioneer. You’re on the money!

Charlie and others:

Wouldn’t it be very hard to do the completely conjugated style that people try to make so popular ala Westside (their interpretation of it at least) when sprinting involves more than just strength development?


Not sure if you’re asking if “Westside”-type lifting is bad for the sprint athlete, or if the conjugate approach “Westside”-style is a bad approach to training sprints?

Damn, I had a point, but can’t get it out after 3 attempts. :rolleyes:

When I first learned about accumulation and intensification, where time under tension and reps get lower as you move through you plan, it was called undulating intensification.

Now, this seems to be referred to as alternating intensification and a model that is truly undulating involves more short term variation in the set/rep schemes.

Is this distinction necessary? Might this undulating model lead to the constant adaptation stiffness that Charlie has talked about?

As you move through structural, accumulation, and max strength, does the sprint work change at all?

If it’s subtle, it shouldn’t lead to stiffness. Duration of any change is an issue too. The longer the accum period, the harder it is to change over to more intensity and the more gradual you must be.

My point that I am trying to get at is that, right now, Westside and it’s lemmings are advocating only one form of conjugate training (in their interpretation), which involves upper and lower ME days with either dynamic or rep. My point is that many of the lemmings are trying to say anything NOT this style is, of course, linear, when that may be far from the case. When looking at a sport (like track or football) where various things other than absolute strength come into play, I don’t think you can simply say conjugate this and conjugate that.

For example, in sprinting you have a GPP phase, where in Charlie’s plan you have hypertrophy weights, up/out plyos, short sprints (hill and flat), and higher rep medball work. All points of the F:V curve are being worked, but in different ways. We see more endurance work coming from the weights and the medball and low intensity work, with the sprints and plyos providing specific strength and accel development. In SPP you begin to incorporate max velocity work (a different portion of the curve than pure accel), while also changing the weights to max strength (which may then work to enhance the accel development already). Medball and plyo work becomes more reactive, more beneficial to top speed and less about starting strength and general fitness. And etc etc etc.

Maybe Charlie or someone else can point out why I am completely wrong or right, but after reading Mike (over at elitetrack) articulate clearly what I had in my head, I am convinced that the Westside interpretation is not the end-all, be-all of conjugation schemes and planning as it only applies to one quality–absolute strength in a powerlifting perspective.

‘…but after reading Mike (over at elitetrack) articulate clearly what I had in my head…’
Davan, can you please post the link to that article?
BTW, is my concept on conjugate method correct (last pic)? I believe that Westside uses parallel method rather than conjugate (or Modern method - Zatsiorsky S&P ), cause they dont switch emhasis during year…
After all, their goal is to develop maximal strength, and on conjugate their mean using ME, RE, DE at the same time, which is definitively different than trying to develop more that one ability during a season…

Being heavily influenced by Charlie, WSB, the Soviets and the voices in my head, perhaps I can clarify:

(Davan, don’t forget, every training system has it’s ‘lemmings’. Don’t make the mistake of attempting to gain insight from a ‘lemmming’, but rather, find someone qualified.)

By the way, using the lemming in an effort to qualify a population of mindless followers is hillarious (great visual). I often use the word in the same context myself.

A conjugated training plan must not be confused with the Conjugate Sequence System/Coupled Successive System/Block Training, etc

A conjugate program simply implies multi-faceted development with no indication as to how the training load is appropriated to various tasks.

The CSS is a unification of concentrated/linear loading (for the primary task) and distributed loading for all ancillary tasks. This hierarchy of tasks which pinnacle at the primary will differ from block to block. Hence the significance of the ‘Sequence’ of blocks which ultimately result in a powerful cummulative training effect.

When WSB may be viewed as an application of the CSS is during a specific contest prep in which the lifter will structure and sequence a series of training blocks which target different primary tasks while concurrrently maintain ancillary tasks. Each block building upon the last in an effort to maximize the realization of the motor potential.

The CSS in its origins effectively encompasses the training of skill, strength, speed, endurance, etc the entire spectrum of abilities which, when developed, ultimately heighten the demonstration of sport skill.

Remember, just because WSB is a maximal strength development system does not mean it is void of a skill component. The sport skill just happens to be lifting weights, and in this regard the technical/skill component must not be underestimated.

The application of the CSS towards speed development is known as Vertical Integration and we are fortunate to have the founder in our midst.

I see big similarity to CF and The conjugate sistem…but don’t think they are the same thing.
What i appreciate about CF is the use of many means,giving more volume/emphasys to some means(like in the conjugate system).But,at the same time this doesn’t lead to a bad form on techical point of view,nor big losses in speed-strength(like the CSS).
I see more the CFTS like a middle point beetween complex and conjugate.
Ah,of course all imho.
Reading many sources like Siff&Verkhoshansky,Verkhoshansky (not translated in english works), Myslinsky ecc i found the subject without rigid definitions…


I also found a lot of definitions of conjugate, and that is the real reason I started the thread! Someone says parallel, someone say new-method, someone says conjugate, but most of time the definitions are different!
I think that the best method is blocked method, when training emphasis are switched in sequential manner while the other training goals/factors are maintained with maintenance volume (everything is done, only the volume varies) and you can call this whatever you want!
The question is:
How long is the time frame in which you consider “everything is done”? One Training session, one day, micro, meso?
We can say that CT Pendulum is also conjugate if we use mezo as a time frame, but if time frame is micro then it is not conjugate but rather linear? Opinions?

And I believe Louie himself makes this very point in one of his articles. As usual, the shepherd often knows where he’s going. It’s the sheep who wander about bleating.

Fulkrum I agree that CFTS/Vertical Integration is not an application of absolute conjugate methodology. I do, however, perceive Vertical Integration and the CSS as being strikingly similar. There was actually a great discussion between Charlie, myself, and others on another thread discussing this very comparison.

I agree that the discussion can quickly become philosophical.

A note on the loss of speed-strength: this would only occur if the training was either 1. not designed to develop speed-strength by a significant margin, or 2. not sequenced properly.

Although I am not able to translate Verkhoshanski’s Russian I was able to directly question him via phone connection and I am confident that the understanding that I have of Block training is a complete one.

Accordingly, we may view conjugate sequence system/coupled successive system/block training as being one in the same.

the conjugate method, however, must not be confused with block training.

My understanding and useful application of the different methods is based upon the following distinction:

Block= an indisputable concentration of the training load volume dedicated to the development of one primary ability while dedicating the remainder of training load volume to the maintenance of all other abilities

complex= an even distribution of the training load volume towards the development of all tasks concurrently