Periodization/ cycling models (Poliquin)

Hi all,

I am new to this forum and not actually a sprinter but I do primarily gymnastics strength training (but sprinting is involved in training). With regards to this post, I am trying to relate to periodization/ cycling models to strength training whether it be bodyweight or free weights. Of course with gymnastics, the main type of strength is to train relative strength.

I have recently read two VERY good books: “Building the Gymnastic Body” by Coach Christoper Sommer


“Modern Trends in Strength Training” by Charles Poliquin.

Now firstly, with the gymnastics book, a low volume, low repetition scheme is used with all strength exercises BUT the same muscles are trained quite frequently throughout a week because several planes have to be covered. Infact, each training day in a week trains the same muscles but uses different exercises (cover different planes etc). The cycling with this training is to keep the training load constant for 8-12 weeks for an athlete progresses through an adaptive cycle of percieved overload, load and underload. This allows for recovery of the CNS, musculature, connective tissue etc. Once 3 sets X 5 reps is reached for an exercise, you move to a harder exercise progression (decrease leverage etc).

Poliquin also works with athletes but his approach is to typically use undulated periodization in which phases of accumulation (higher volume lower intensity) are alternated with intensification (lower volume higher intensity). He also often deloads volume every 3rd workout of the same kind. Poliquin states that most athletes nervous systems adapt to a particular routine in 6 workouts of the same kind. After this it is time to change things up. He also says an athlete adapts to reps the fastest out of all loading parameters and some athletes would do well to change sets or reps every (1-2 weeks) and some every 3-4 weeks (6 workouts of the same kind).

As you can see both of these models are very different. I’m sure both have pro’s and con’s but I would be interested to hear anyones thoughts on these two models.

I hope this isn’t too off-topic for sprinting as such but I believe sprinters are involved in strength training so maybe it can be of relevance/ use.


My initial though is that the Gym book is relying on the exercises of the gymnastics development first with the weights as supplemental while CP’s approach would be weights as the primary variable. Each is right depending on the purpose. Thoughts?


Thankyou for your response. Actually, the gymnastics book is totally conerned with body weight progressions. This surprises many people and where it differs to weight training. Where a weight trainer may simply add weight to an exercise, bodyweight progressions often involve increasing ROM or reducing leverage or training in an unstable environment such as on the rings. Sometimes weight is added though.

An example of another difference is comparing the handstand pushup and military press. Both are vertical presses but with the handstand there is a techincal factor (tension, balance etc) involved and so it can sometimes be useful to stretch a training cycle longer than the physiological peak to reach the technical peak (I think this is why his cycles last 8-12 weeks) because otherwise it would make more sense to change up after 6 weeks if following Poliquins principle of nervous system adapting to 6 workouts of the same kind. Coach Sommer believes a major fault of most coaches is failing to allow enough tim in the underload or recovery phase which in this case is at the end of the 8-12 weeks where the percieved level of effort is low. You start with exercises you find hard for 3-5 reps and then keep all variables the same (reps, sets etc) for 8-12 weeks and when you have adapted, then for the next 8-12 week cycle you progress to a harder variation or increase reps etc such as moving from a type of dip on parallel bars to dips on the rings.

Poliquin definately has great information about program design such as individualisation and I believe he has similar concepts to you such as using supersets for antagonists with rest in between (I haven’t got your books yet-someone on another forum who has read your books mentioned it). I am trying to combine these two models together. Poliquin and Coach Sommer.


Look carefully at your objectives and timing requirements for your particular sport’s preparation. Any changes beyond that model must be during a time period far away from expected competition performances. due to the long skill acquisition periods for gymnastics, those outside periods will be brief, I suspect.

Can bodyweight exercise be classified as high CNS effort?
Certain gymnastic movements cause high muscular tension, I believe they can.

i don’t see why not. Sprinting is a bodyweight exercise when you think of it.

For what it’s worth, I work with one of the top female gymnasts in Canada one time per week on strength training (it’s all her schedule will allow given she trains 30+ hours per week in gymnastics). We do explosive med-ball throws, jumps and olympic lifts, along with some basic weightlifting movements (i.e. bench press, pull downs, etc.).

She weighs about 90-95lbs, but can power clean 120lbs, bench press 125 and squat about 200lbs. This is from lifting only 1x per week. She has steadily improved over the 3 years I’ve work with her. We train her like I would train a sprinter or jumper, and she has kept improving. I believe she can lift a lot more, but I’m very careful about loading her given her high volume of work in her disciplines.

From what I understand, she’s the exception when it comes to gymnasts in Canada in that I don’t hear of many others doing weight training, particularly in an explosive manner.

When you say that you train her like you would train a sprinter or a jumper, you mean (?):

  1. general and not specific approach to strength training. I think so, what is more specific that the specific gymnastic exercises?
  2. consideration for the 30+ hours of specific work.
  3. planned unloading
  4. is there a need for jumps? During practice the amount of jumps (and depth landings) performed by a gymnast can be huge.

What is the rationale behind strength training with you (in this case)? GPP, CNS adaptations?

Charlie, what about bodyweight non-explosive exercises? A reversed plank on rings can be high CNS, beyond a non-trivial risk of death for the lay gymnast?


In regards to considering the nature of the training irritant I’d urge readers to think less of the exogenous character and more of the endogenous character.

High CNS effort, as a result of physical workload, is yielded by high force and or high velocity muscle contractions and from this point we must consider the number and size of muscles involved in the work, the amplitude of movement, the working intensity, magnitude of resistance, regime of muscle activity, rest intervals, and so on.

As it stands, many novice and over fat trainees struggle to manipulate their own bodyweight and, as a result, high force, relatively speaking of course, efforts (in the form of maximal efforts) are required to negotiate even a few repetitions.

gymrob I cannot urge you strongly enough to review the periodization and programming models of Verkhoshansky, Issurin, and Bondarchuk. All three have excellent texts available on the subject and each one of them will give you a far more complete picture of the entire process versus what you’ve mentioned you’ve read thus far.

The biggest mistake, in my view, the coach/manager of training can make is to delineate between technical-tactical training and physical preparation and this is EXACTLY, and tragically for the athletes, what the vast majority of texts authored by North American’s illustrate.

Sport training is an organic whole that is greater than the sum of its parts (ergo the psychological, technical-tactical, physical, and intellectual) and along with this we must remember that the alteration of one aspect of preparation always impacts another.

I would say keeping the resistance training “General” in nature, as you would with a sprinter. The fact that she comes to training and improves every week tells me that the demands of her gymnastics workouts stress her in a way that doesn’t require me to do more than 1 session per week.

I do lots of unloading sessions, as her coaches did not unload as much as I would have liked (so, the strength coach has to unload more to make up for it).

The jumps we do are only concentric (up onto a box). No landings, as I am aware of her requirements for landings and dismounts throughout the week. In most cases, we perform cleans, snatches, jerks or med ball throws and they satisfy our explosive movement requirements. Jumps are typically secondary options.

Our needs for strength training shift throughout the year. Sometimes preparatory strength, sometimes CNS loading. Sometimes basic postural reinforcement.

I assume you would describe thiis as keeping strenght up or moderately shifting upwards throughout her season vs a significant change in her strength level?

high forces have to be totalled no matter where they come from. More of this equals less of that, so it’s a matter of which is most important and when.

Agreed and this is exactly what blows me away regarding the strong delineation between technical-tactical training and “S&C” here in the west particularly amidst the non-club environments. Hence, my suggesting that gymrob review literature directed towards the programming of the entire sport training process versus the localized aspect of only ‘S&C’.

Absolutely. Things have improved incrementally over the three years I’ve worked with her. Many workout sessions we have completed could be classified as maintenance workouts (maintenance of strength and lifting technique) so that when she did have lower volume gymnastics work, we were able to ramp things up without any issues.

I often referred to the work we did as keeping her in a “holding pattern”.


I haven’t looked at this thread in a while but let me just say THANK YOU for all your replies and knowledge expressed. I will take all of it onboard.

I’m not a coach…just a teenager interested in strength training among other physical aspects and so I can’t speak from being a high level coach. I believe that there are some gymnastic elements that are certainly classed as CNS stressful. If going by the fact that regarding strength training with heavy loads, high load thus low reps thus high tension imposed stress the CNS heavily then just consider some of the EXTREMELY hard static positions and dynamic movements on the rings.

If anyone would like to get into gymnastics as a mode of exercise “S and C” then I cannot recommend the above site enough. Christoper Sommer runs it and he is a very vry highly regarded coach. You can also go on the forum…there is a world class ring specialist on there among some other high level athletes.

He has a book and all of the maximal strength exercises are performed for 3-5 reps and so I believe this reflects the high level of intensity thus CNS involvement but also the reason he says to stick with the same exercise for the same loading parameters for 8-12 weeks is to allow the recovery of: CNS, conective tissue, musculature, joints and psyche.

Gymnastics is a tricky one because unlike a weightlifter you don’t just add weight, you often move to hard varaitions in each plane of movement for example performing dips on rings is a lot more difficult than on Parallel bars. There are many other ways of progressing such as decreasing the leverage youare able to exert on an exercise.

Once again thanks for the replies:).

I feel privilaged to be engaging in a discussion with top coaches and trainers! Number 2 that is awesome training a gymnast!