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Planning an off Season Schedule: A study into Linear vs. Daily Undulating Periodisation

It is important to optimise the sometimes short, off season training period. This period should give a solid foundation and is generally free from in-season competition and restraints. Knowing how to maximise the effects and results of the training during this time will enable the coach/athlete to begin the competitive season at a higher level.

It is almost universally accepted that training should be broken up into individual cycles, ‘periodisation’ does that. Periodisation breaks the training into 3 distinct cycles.  Macrocycles (9–12 months), mesocycles (3–4months), and microcycles (1–4 weeks).

The most commonly used form of periodisation is Linear periodisation. The training performed when following a linear periodisation plan generally involves gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles. I.E. week one of a cycle will have generally have higher volume and lower intensity than week 4 of the cycle. Various studies have shown this to be an effective method of planning an training, resulting in increased performance.

A lesser used form of periodisation is ‘udulating’ perdiodisation. Whereas the linear form increases the intensity and decreases the volume gradually throughout the cycle, undulating periodisation could see an athlete having high intensity low volume in week 1 and the opposite in week 2.

A study by Rhea et al published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compares the effects and results of the two different types of periodisation in relation to one repetition maximum for bench press and leg press. In the study 2 groups consisiting of 10 previously training men performed either a linear or undulating protocol. The linear group performed sets of 8 RM during weeks 1–4, 6 RM during weeks 4–8, and 4 RM during weeks 9–12. The undulating group altered training on a daily basis (Monday, 8 RM; Wednesday,6 RM; Friday, 4 RM) for the length of the study.

The study carried out 3 tests to monitor the effectiveness of both protocols. An initial 1RM test prior to starting the cycles, a test at the mid point and then a final test at the end of the protocol.

As expected, both groups showed a significant increase in performance between the first test and the final test. Directly comparing the results did show that one protocol increased strength to a greater level than the other. The results show that the linear group had a percentage increase of 14.37% and 25.61% for bench press and leg press respectively, compared with 28.78%and 55.78% for the undulating group.

The outcome of the study shows the undulating periodisation training may increase strength in previously trained men more effectively than a linear protocol.

This study was carried out by and can be found in:

Rhea, M.R., S.D. Ball, W.T. Phillips,and L.N. Burkett. A comparison of linear and dailyundulating periodized programs with equated volumeand intensity for strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(2):250–255. 2002

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