This is a common term used in the strength and conditioning field, there is much discussion about which way to periodize and how. But your average trainee vary rarely has a program, let alone one with progressive (and variable) resistance, let alone one that periodizes different variables into an orderly fashion. This could speak to the small percentage of gains that periodization might actually add to your total goals given that many people get great results without such, or it could be that people actually are periodizing their workouts, but going on feel rather than any strict formulation. Before going further lets actually look at what periodization is:

Periodization training allows for the use of many different types of workouts, trianing programs, and modalities. In essence, it calls for varying the training stimulus (intensity or volume) over determined periods of time to allow for proper progression in the exercise stress and planned periods of rest. (Kramer et al, 2007, p. 53)

And that’s it really, its a structured, systemized plan, that takes into account, and focuses on different variables, to further develop the overall goal (be it strength, athletic performance, aesthetics etc). The history of periodization, Kramer et al. state comes from the principle of progressive resistance training or overload developed in the 1940’s by an army physician working with soldiers, which in turn developed from an older principle; the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle, which essentially is: “the need to gradually increase the amount of physical stress placed on the body in order to continually stimulate adaptations.” (p. 53) Adaptations that can be manipulated are generally volume, intensity, frequency and duration, with rest periods in there too.

Linear Periodization

The most popular way to periodize variables is known as linear periodization and was the traditional way programs were ordered in the Eastern Bloc in the 1950’s. Kramer et al. notes the coaches found that by decreasing volume and increasing intensity (expressed as percentage of 1RM) their strength and power athlete’s performances increased leading up to competition.

These early periodization models were built around one competitive season broken into four phases: preparation, first transition (end of preseason), competition, and season transition (off-season). The length of time of each phase depended on the length of the competition season, the mode of training, and individual differences of the athletes. (Kramer et al, 2007, p. 54)

To further elaborate, Kramer notes that the preparation phase focused heavily on increasing muscle mass and strength, volume was a priority while intensity was low. As they moved into the first transition phase  volume was lowered to allow for an increase in intensity (as the two are inversely related), with the goals being muscular power (defined in the physics fashion as work over time/ P= W/t) and increased skill. The competition phase, also known as the peaking phase were different for each sport, but training for everyone was sports specific, designed around the demands of competition. Finally the off-season was spent recovering and rehabilitation without completely detraining. (p. 54)

Linear periodization takes quite literally and simply the concept of progressive overload, in the sense that usually it increases load or volume gradually and week to week.  While this may be the best way for beginners to increase their size of strength it actually becomes problematic over a long period of time with plateaus being quite common as the lifter progresses.

In linear periodization, the aim in each mesocycle is to attempt to increase the body’s muscle hypertrophy and strength toward the theoretical genetic maximum. Thus, the theoretical basis for a linear method of periodization consists of developing muscle hypertrophy followed by improved nerve function and strength. This is repeated again and again with each mesocycle, and within each phase, loading would progressively increase from workout to workout. (Kramer et al, 2007, p. 55)

The authors note: people new to training should commence with 6 to 12 weeks of a general preparation phase to get ready for a more formalized plan. This plan should focus on light weights, learning new exercises and progressing to the starting RM percentage used in the program. (p. 57)

An example of a linear periodized program would be:

Microcycle Repetition Training Zones
1 3-5 sets of 12-15RM
2 4-5 sets of 8-10RM
3 3-4 sets of 4-6RM
4 3-5 sets of 1-3RM

(Microcycles here represented as 4 weeks long) (p. 56)

A more complicated example would be as follows:

Preparation phase (4wks) First Transition (4wks) Competition Phase (4wks) 2nd Transition (Off season 4wks)
Goal Muscle Growth Maximal Strenth & Growth Peak Muscle Growth
Reps 8to10 4to6 1to3 8to10
Sets 4to6 3to4 3to5 4to6
Intensity Low Moderate Very High Low
Volume High-moderate Moderate Low High-moderate

(P. 56)


Kramer, W.J., Hatfield, D. L., Fleck, S.J. (2007). Strength Training (edited by Lee Brown). Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.



So it turns out the quad tendon issues I’ve been dealing with, as well as my shoulder ones are indeed becoming insurmountable. I don’t like to train in pain, I don’t think it’s a good indicator of positive training load/frequency/volume. As such I’ve reduced my volume/frequency for week 5 (but not load), to see if I can’t dissipate some of the fatigue I’ve been accumulating while maintaining perhaps even promoting a bit of strength leading into the peaking phase. Strength is gaining slowly so that’s not my problem, and while I think the twice per week frequency has been good for strength, it’s just loading me up too much. I’ll try and keep an assistance for deadlift and bench, see how that goes. As long as the weights go up week to week I don’t mind.




This was a pretty good week, everything starting to get a little heavier but still moving. I’ve kept my volume to one core lift session per week, I added some assistance on the last day, a close grip bench and Romanian deadlift. Ideally I’d love some more squat volume in there but with my quad tendons being still sensitive (feeling better, my squat session on Friday made them a little sore but they pulled up fine), and as we’re getting into peaking, I’ll keep the volume low and focus instead on intensity.

The girls are doing pretty good, Sieraya is doing really well, she’s already on track to beat her last comp numbers and we’re still 6 weeks out. Considering she hasn’t trained much since her comp in November and has been gallivanting around Europe this is especially impressive.

Dion has been following a serious training program for this goal for the past few months so she’s coming along nicely too, already easily repping higher than her former comp PR’s so we’ll expect a big comp day for her, from her.




Stop Fit Shamers From Sabotaging Your Client’s Fitness Goals – Lori Calloway.

How Long is a Training Session? – Alwyn Cosgrove.

Your Optimal Training Frequency for the Glutes Part I: Exercise Type – Bret Contreras.

An Introduction to Dieting Part 1 – Lyle MacDonald.

An Introduction to Dieting Part 2 -Lyle MacDonald.

How to Run Without Pain – Chad Waterbury.

Are we really working hard? – Alwyn Cosgrove.

Individual Differences: The Most Important Consideration for Your Fitness Results that Science Doesn’t Tell You – Bret Contreras and James Krieger.

Doctors Do Not Know Much About Obesity Because They Are Not Expected To – Dr Sharma.

Canadian Human Rights Petitions Against Sizeism -Dr Sharma.

Weight Bias Awareness Is Still Not Being Taught To Health Professionals -Dr Sharma.

Random Thoughts on Long-Term Fitness Industry Success – Installment 5 – Eric Cressey.

How long should you rest when training with lighter loads? – Brad Schonefeld.

What is the Best Rep Range for Muscle Strength and Size? -Brad Schoenfeld.

What Are Macros? — What To Know About Macronutrients – JC Deen.

Alcohol And Weight Loss — The 4D Fat Loss Guide For Losing Body Fat And Having A Social Life

Fine Tune Your Frequency -Blaine Summer

3 Tips for Successful Dieting – Nick Shaw.

Sleeping Positions: A Disucussion of Pros and Cons – Quinn Henoch.

The Best Program for You -Thomas Lilley.

More from the Mailbag – Lyle McDonald.

Training the Obese Beginner – Lyle McDonald.

3 Amazing Back Training Routines – Smitty

Less Sickness For Better Results – Eric Cressey.

Why People Store Fat In Different Parts Of The Body -Kevin Richardson.

Questions on GMOs -Steven Novella.

Curcumin Hype vs Reality – Steven Novella.

The Strength Training Guide for Women Over 40 -Nia Shanks.

10 Overlooked Reasons Why Every Woman Should Strength Train -Nia Shanks.

Strength Training Made Simple – The 5 Principles For Pencil Pushers –Charles Poliquin.

Rise of the (Weight) Machines: Why Exercise Equipment is Not As Bad You’ve Been Told – K. Aleisha Fetters.

Losing Weight and Your Sanity: Why the Scale Lies (And How to Make Sense of Your Weight) – Brian Sabin.

Lady Gaga, The Super Bowl, And Half-Assed Body Positivity – Ragen Chastain.

Maybe I’m just not fit enough to be a trainer. 6 ways to overcome this common anxiety and build a great career. – Lindsey Heiserman.

How To Lose Belly Fat And Keep It Off In 7 Effective Steps -JC Deen.

3 Simple Squat Depth Solutions -Dean Somerset.

Are You Ready To Do Stuff? A Post On Mobility – Dean Somerset.

For the previous posts check out here and here.

Wk 2.

First thing to note this week is a slight, but persistent quad tendon strain I’ve been experiencing in both legs. Enough so that after my squat session on Monday I’ve given them the week off then I’ll re-assess squat volume after that. As my deadlift is proportionally weaker at the moment I may focus my volume there and drop back to two squatting days per week for the foreseeable future. Below is my Day one workout of Week two, you may not notice it but the set of squats shown (nevermind Sieraya’s sweet, sweet ass in the background) was pretty painful through the quads (oddly the next day they actually felt a bit better):

I’ve decided I’m going to reduce squat and bench volume as I’m also getting some teres minor/rotator cuff pain and want to make sure I’m in the best position to start my heavy phase (which starts week 4), I’ll spend the next two weeks rolling the shit out of my quads and shoulder. Below are the core lifts from my day 2 workout:

The only other core lift for Wk2 which I’ll do is the Romanian deadlift, which was at a ridiculously light weight (shown below).

At the end of Wk2 my knees were feeling better, shoulder is still a little niggly. I’m going to add my knee sleeves for wk3 to see if that helps them.


I’ve changed up my program to reflect my volume tolerances, and it seems to be going good, feeling stronger, and a little less sore (aside froms DOMS of course). Training this week was good, I’ve gone back through and increased my weights to reflect what (a) I think might be more realistic and (b) what I want to get for the comp. I don’t think they’re unrealistic numbers from a strength perspective, but I really need to stay on top of my rolling and stretching. Lets go with the lifts. I’ve put only the core lifts in from each day. Knees felt good on the squat, the sleeves helped, either  psychologically or not. Deads are feeling really good (I know, they’re all baby weights) which helps with confidence for the future. To be honest I think I could probably get away with one squat day per week, and I’ll look at that if I don’t like how my quad tendons are feeling.

I’ve raised calories up, body comp be damned as I wasn’t recovering as fast as I’d like, and also, I only need to stay under 105kg, now isn’t the time to try and be a cowboy and try and be aesthetic. I can do that in the offseason.

Program changes look like this. I’m in first week of this so you can see my projected targets for the next 3 weeks. Things are going to start getting real soon.


The girls are doing great, if anything their weights are too light, probably around 55-65% (initial) 1RM. I’ve readjusted them, I really want them strong for the peaking phase, in which we’ll add top singles at, around, or even above their beginning 1RM’s. We’ve got 3 more weeks before peaking begins in which we’ll get them up to about 72kg for squats, 47kg for benches and 90-100kg for deads at 3×6 before we start red lining them for the finish line. Here’s a sample of their training this week:



Anyone who trains with me knows I favor resistance training as a staple, but why is that? Let’s look today at some of the benefits of resistance training. Today I’ll be taking notes from the book “Strength Training” edited by Lee E. Brown. This book is a collection of essays from various authors, some of the biggest names in the strength and conditioning field, so let us allow them to tackle this issue for us:

In addition to increasing muscle size, resistance training improves muscle strength and bone health, and it can improve athletic performance. The benefits of resistance training are important for both men and women to help them stay healthy and to offset the natural aging process, which can lead to loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and bone mass (osteoporosis) and subsequent disability. (Kramer & Spiering, 2007, p. 29-30)

The authors state that the act of growing muscle mass is protective too and that many people, women in particular fail to utilize the benefits of such, usually because they’re afraid it will make them too big. (p. 30) I would state too that the gym, and gym culture can have a pack or tribal mentality, which can make newcomers feel very unwelcome.

There are two essential principles if one is to put on muscle mass, (1): muscle must be stimulated to increase size, and (2): growing muscles need energy to grow. Regarding (1) the stimulus required comes from a progressive and well designed resistance training program, and (2) comes from a well balanced diet that provides adequate calories. The authors note that if either of these principles are ignored muscle can not adapt. The authors provide an example of the importance of the factors related to muscle increase below. (p. 31)


(Kramer & Spiering, 2007, p. 31)

One thing to note that isn’t in the above is the importance for recovery and rest for the growth of new muscle, yes nutrition provides the building blocks for new growth to occur but proper sleep contributes to the effectiveness of the growth.

In line with (1) above, the authors note that generally speaking moderate to heavy loads are optimal (70 -85% of 1RM) as well as a high enough volume (8-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets). (p. 32) Moreover the authors note that rest periods also affect the muscle’s response to resistance exercise:

Short rest periods (one to two minutes) used in accordance with moderate to high intensity and volume elicit greater acute responses of anabolic hormones than programs using very heavy loads and longer rest periods (three minutes). Shorter rest periods are associated with greater metabolic stress (e.g higher levels of lactic acid in the blood), and metabolic stress is a stimulus for hormone release. The hormonal response is important because naturally occurring anabolic hormones stimulate muscle protein synthesis and increased muscle size. Therefore relatively short (one-to two-minute) rest periods are recommended for optimizing long terms gains in muscle. (Kramer & Spiering, 2007, p. 32)

Now, this is basically what the literature will say in most textbooks that you read, but it should be noted, for the more well- read readers that the current research is, well, illuminating on this issue. For those who are interested in reading more on rest periods, metabolic stress and lighter loads for muscle growth I suggest you read anything by Brad Schoenfeld (his books The MAX Muscle Plan and The Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy are the best I’ve seen on this issue). For now you can check out some of his research on his blog here, here and here.

Regarding (2) the authors note that resistanc training helps increase muscle protein synthesis, which in scientific terms means:

Upon the completion of resistance exercise, the acute increase in anabolic hormones within a muscle stimulates the myonuclei to increase protein synthesis. More specifically, the nuclei increase production of the contractile proteins actin and myosin within the existing sarcomere. Increased contractile proteins means two things:
1: An increase in the size of the muscle
2: An increase in the force-generating capacity of the muscle. (Kramer & Spiering, 2007, p. 40)

Basically, increasing protein synthesis makes muscles bigger and stronger. This comes into play when we think about calorie partioning too. When you resistance train, the calories you use are partitioned to help you remodel and rebuild, thus increasing protein synthesis can help your diet work for you to build more muscle. That is why it is so important to eat adequate protein (and carbs too) around your training times.


Kramer, W.J., Spiering, B.A. (2007). Strength Training (edited by Lee Brown). Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.

So, last week I shared with you my training blog for the base phase I just finished (see here). Now lets look at my ongoing weekly trials and tribulations as I prep toward my comp.

Here’ a look at my training week:


I’ll be following a pretty simple linear progression with my program, with the skeleton of the workout coming from Robert Wilks’ designs. I’ve altered it slightly to remove the speed days to put in a slightly lighter core lift day, with a highly specific assistance day and general assistance day on the last day. I’ve also put in a heap of core work to assist in my anterior pelvic tilt/generally weak core.  Weight progressions will be starting really low, around 55% of 1RM and working up to mid 60% by the end of the first training block. From there things move up, I’ll be around 65-75/80% for the next block then 80-100% for the last block. I’ll be putting in heavy singles in the last/peaking phase, for the girls (Dion and Sieraya) too. To be honest I’m sick of this high rep stuff, I put too much upper body, particularly bench assistance in so I’ve removed it (whee the Single Leg Deadlift is) and will focus instead on my deadlift, although I utilised the KB Single LDL, I’m actually going to use the Glute/Ham Raise. I toyed with putting in an opposite deadlift (in this case that would be a sumo stance) but deadlifting x4 days/week seems extraneous. The GHR should provide me with a bit more conditioning to my weak posterior chain (any thoughts on this would be appreciated).

This week’s training has been ok, on workout 1/day 1 I felt pretty tight in my quad tendons, probably from my strength testing on the weekend:

And more than this I’ve been trying to sort my back issues out too, I think I’ve been jamming my thoracic into extension before each rep which is putting stress on my low back, as you can see below I’m trying to maintain a neutral spine (which actually feels, proprioceptively to me as a posterior tilt)

Days 2 and 3 (below) were pretty easy, very low RPE’s, so I kind of saw this week as a functional deload, the next two intro weeks should be fairly easy, so I can go into some higher loads pretty recovered:

As you can see body comp isn’t getting much better. I’ve been juggling low calorie when I can to try and recomp, unfortunately due to the low metabolic activity of powerlifting style routines I don’t get my heart rate up as much or as often to burn a significant number of calories. I could probably do the lighter weeks sets EMOM (every minute on the minute), but I’ve been a little distracted in the gym helping Sieraya out. And with my binges here and there it probably wouldn’t matter if I did. But continue I shall as the weeks progress. I also don’t want performance to be affected but I can probably fix that by partitioning calories around workouts (say carb heavy meals 1-4 hours before, protein heavy ones after). But honestly? As long as I stay under 105kg it doesn’t really matter, I’m just vain, I have lost 2kg though, so that’s something.

Here we are again, prep for a powerlifting comp (for more on this, see here, here and here). I’ve been on holidays in Europe for 5 weeks, which only left me 4 weeks to acclimatize myself to training before beginning prep for the Onyx True Raw Competition on May 5th. As such I’ll be cataloguing my already completed 4 weeks of base work, that is general physical preparedness/general adaptation training, which will prepare me for a higher intensity style of training. I start proper prep next week.

My base work has been high variation, moderate sets/moderate load/varying volume, that is the core exercises (squat, bench deadlift) have been variants of the main lifts (wide stance or paused squats/sumo deadlifts and close grip benches for example), the sets have started low and followed a linear increase week to week. I’ve taken something of the “powerbuilder” approach to things with this program in that once I’ve finished my core lifts I focused on higher rep/volume/hypertrophy style training for my “assistance” exercises. Some examples of base work are here:

The program was pretty easy, in the sense that RPE was low, particularly as I got to the lower rep/peaking weeks. I can generally tolerate higher loads at low reps; to measure intensity I use reps in reserve for lower rep sets, for higher reps and moderate load (usually for sets over 10-12) I use a “feeling” based RPE.


I did some very conservative strength testing on the weekend, I’ll include vids below, I aimed for a 4RM with one or two left in the tank to calculate a 1RM from a 5-6RM (using a one rep max calculator, I generally use this one). I did surprisingly well considering I haven’t lifted anything over 130kg more than once or twice in the past few years (obviously with lots more work to increase these humble baselines to come). I ended up with 160kg on squat by 3 reps (with one left in the tank):

A 130kg bench by 3 reps (with one left in the tank):

And a 160kg deadlift by 1 with about 3 left in the tank:

My body felt pretty good, other than the fact that I need to foam roll and stretch way more than I do, and that I have quite a few movement/mobility restrictions (tight ankles, hips, back, pecs, traps, you name it). My body composition after the holiday is really bad (you’ll see it below), I’ve been trying to correct it but to be honest its only in the past week that I’ve gotten serious, so I’ll include a pic of my current appearance. I will try and recomp during prep, but will be doing that by tidying up the diet, and still focusing on performance (cals will be around 2-2500 generally with protein at about 2g/kg/bw/day, carbs about 35% of total cals and fats about 25-30%)

Look, this is a particularly flattering pic, and I don’t look that good, so you can imagine what I look like in real life. No excuse or reason for it really other than being, as I like to say, “fat and happy”. Bodyfat percentage is about 25% conservatively and weight about 104kg (but fluctuates up to 107kg after high calorie weekends).fullsizerender-3

Keep an eye on here in the weeks to come and I’ll include my progress.

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