We’ve been talking recently about how periodicity in your lifting program – systematic alternations in the intensity and volume over time – can improve your results.  And we honed in on undulating periodicity as an advanced technique.

But what about runners?

Periodicity Is Not The Same As Progression

I previously wrote about how to incorporate progression into your cardio.  But progression and periodicity are not synonyms.  You can progress each week (for example, adding a 1/4 mile to each run, each week or improving your time a little bit each week) but that’s not periodized running.

A fake example “linear periodization” of running would be doing 4 weeks at a 12 min pace, then 4 weeks at a 10 minute pace, then 4 weeks at an 8 minute pace.

But runners know that linear periodization just doesn’t work. (So don’t follow the silly example of linear periodization!)

I realize that most of the people reading this site are much more focused on lifting than on running, as am I, but running still makes up a good part of conditioning and fat loss training for many of you.  So let me explain.

Runners Use Undulating Periodicity

Well, truth be told, runners figured out the value of undulating periodicity long before lifters/strength coaches.   But runners don’t call it “undulating periodicity”.

Take a look over at runnersworld.com and you’ll see countless training plans (in prep for 10k, half marathons, etc.) all of which vary the intensity throughout the week but showing progression over time.

Here’s an example week (more…)

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Last week we talked about basic linear periodization.  But over the past decade, several studies have shown the high value of a different form of periodization:  undulating periodization.

For example, see this.

But it’s interesting to note that comparisons of different periodization models for beginners does NOT show undulating periodization to be superior.  (See this.)

I’ve seen evidence of this myself, so I suggest linear periodization for beginners, and even intermediates.

For more advanced lifters, undulating periodicity is quite valuable.  But you have to do it right.

Undulating Periodization

One of the reasons you might not have ever done undulating periodization – or even heard of it – is that it’s much more complicated to do (not to mention hard to pronounce!).  Some people also call in “nonlinear periodization” but undulating is more accurate.

To save on the typing, I’m going to use UP as the abbreviation.

If you are not keeping a training log, forget about UP.  There’s no way you can keep track of it all in your head week after week.

The basic idea with undulating periodicity is that you switch among strength-hypertrophy-conditioning regimens much more frequently than in linear periodization.

Weekly vs. Daily Undulating Periodization

The original studies of UP were weekly.  Meaning, you’d do a week of low-load, high rep lifts, then a week of medium load, medium rep lifts, then a week of high load, low rep lifts.  Let’s call that WUP.

But when I mentioned earlier that UP is a relatively recent development in the history of resistance training, I was referring to the daily variation (DUP) – here you are changing the protocol within each week.

And since then, when most people talk about UP, they mean DUP.

An example of DUP for someone on a full-body routine lifting M, W and F is (more…)

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By now you’ve probably heard more times than you can count, that to keep progressing with your fitness, you can’t just keep doing the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year.  Your body adapts and thus needs different stimuli to change.

pic: Periodizing your workouts is hard work, but it pays off
Periodizing your workouts is hard work,
but it pays off

You could randomly change your workout every time you enter the gym.  Of course, you also could spend the day eating ice cream and watching reality TV.  Is it easier than planning your workouts?  Yeah. Is it smart?  No.

What you want is a systematized way of changing your workouts, that helps you progress as fast as safely possible and is still fun.

The term for this is “periodization“.

I’ve previously alluded to an upcoming routine I’ll be talking about (currently calling it the “PPL Workout”) which inherently includes a form of periodization.  But it’s not ready yet.  So today I’ll describe periodization and then tell you how you can apply it using my 6x6x6 Routine (since that’s the routine most of you have already purchased).

There are many ways to periodize your workouts.  For running, we’ll do a separate article but for today I want to talk about lifting.

Aspects To Periodize

The word “period” means “over time”.  So periodization is how you change your workouts over time in order to keep progressing.

For beginners, that time frame is usually 1 to 3 months – you don’t need to change your program more frequently than that.

As you get more experienced, you might need to change every month or so.

But what do you change? (more…)

Continue reading about Periodicity – What Is Periodization?