What Everybody Needs To Know About Periodization

WRITTEN BY Martijn Koevoets

Most people tend to over complicate periodization. Especially for pure strength sports like powerlifting. Let me make it simple for you in this blog post.

A while ago Stephen Hall of revivestronger.com sent me a message asking about periodization.

He was asking about how to use different periodization models because a lot of people tend to over complicate it.

In this blog post I will share with you how you can use all kinds of different periodization models at the same time… and how you can make it practical so you can immediately use it.

Let’s first define periodization.

Periodization Defined

Periodization is defined as the organization of training in time with the aim of reaching the best possible performance possible on a set date.

For powerlifting that means you are trying to organize and plan your training in such a way that you can lift the most weight possible on meet day.

The reason why periodization get complicated it because people get confused about all the different periodization models out there.


  • Linear Periodization
  • Undulating Periodization or nonlinear periodization
  • Block Periodization

On top of that every now and then there is scientific literature posted that compares these models and declares one periodization model the winner for best periodization model.

Which is ludicrous, and I’ll tell you why.

You can implement different periodization models in your training… at the same time.

I’ll show you an example but before we do that we need to talk a little bit about the way training should be structured.

Woman Bench Press - Powerlifting Blog

How Training Programs Should Be Structured

Long term training is structured in different cycles.

At a high level you have a macro cycle. This can be a 16 week long period where you are training for a meet.

A Macro cycle consists out of meso cycles.

A meso cycle usually last a few weeks and has a distinct goal for that period.

E.g. to build muscle mass, strength or to build endurance or work on technique if you practice a technique sport. Such as soccer or baseball.

These meso cycles in turn consist out of micro cycles.

For most people this will be the same as their training week. The micro cycle contains which exercises you are doing and for how much weight and for many reps and sets.

You might already see how all these periodization models fit together.

But let’s make it super easy with a periodization template.

Periodization Training Example

Let’s take a macro cycle of 16 weeks to peak into a powerlifting meet.

And let’s say the last week before the meet is your taper where you allow for super compensation and take it easy in the gym.

Linear Periodization

From week 1 to week 15 you will increase the intensity on your squat, bench and deadlift… while in turn decreasing the volume.

That’s linear periodization. On a macro level there’s linear periodization.

The farther out of the meet you are the more you can focus on building muscle and on your weak parts.

You can focus more on muscle mass in week 1 to 6 for example. After the first 6 weeks you could switch exercises and focus another 6 weeks on muscle mass and your weak points.

Now you have 2 blocks of training where you focus on muscle mass.

Block Periodization

After those first 12 weeks you can do a training block focused on using that extra muscle for extra strength.

This training block can be 3 weeks long. Weeks 13 to 15 in our example.

To focus more on strength, the intensity needs to go up and the inversely the volume needs to come down. There’s that linear periodization again.

But we now also have divided out 16 week macro cycle into 4 blocks.

  • 2 blocks of 6 weeks where we focus on muscle mass
  • 1 block of 3 weeks where we focus on strength and finally
  • 1 block where to taper into the competition

On a macro level we have linear periodization. And on a meso cycle level we implemented block periodization.

Let’s move on to micro cycle level…

Squatting - Powerlifting Blog

Undulating Periodization

For our micro cycle we could perfectly use daily undulating periodization.

Let’s say you are doing a upper/lower body split and train 4 times a week in total.

Then in our 1st block of focusing on muscle mass you could focus on sets of 10 for 1 training and sets of 12 to 15 for your 2nd training. Both for upper body and lower body exercises.

In your 2nd muscle mass block you could focus on sets of 6 reps in one training and sets of 8 to 10 in your 2nd training for instance.

In your strength block you could focus on sets of 5 in one training and sets of 3 in your 2nd training for that body part.

Or if you want to do weekly undulating periodization you can focus on sets of 15 in week one, sets of 12 in week 2, sets of 10 in week 3, and so and so forth.

This still is undulating periodization, also called nonlinear periodization.

You Did It! You So Smart

You did it! you now have successfully incorporated 3 different periodization models in 1 training cycle. You’re so smart.

Do you see now why it’s foolish to compare one periodization model to another?

You can use all 3 together. Each periodization model should be implemented at the right level of your training cycle.

What I Do

What I most of the time do is this:

  • Linear periodization on a macro cycle level
  • Block periodization on a meso cycle level and
  • Undulating or nonlinear periodization on micro cycle level

And that’s all I have to say about that.

I really hope this clears the mist regarding periodization models for you. If not you can always reach me on Twitter, Facebook or email.

Just drop me a line and I’m more than willing to help you.

Periodization Book

By the way, if you’re looking for a periodization book then I can recommend the following. Some are pretty dense mind you!

Most of them are more aimed to more technical sports like soccer, basketball and the like. But still contain quite a few golden nuggets.

Periodization-5th Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training

Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts

Periodization Training for Sports-3rd Edition

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Author: Martijn Koevoets
Martijn is head honcho of Powerlifting University, a powerlifter, author, blogger, online coach & extreme metal aficionado. He also loves a good whiskey. He has been featured on websites like EliteFTS, JTSStrength, JMAX Fitness and more.

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.



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