Thanks to Jeff S. for turning me on to this . . .
It's a good book, one that lays out the nonlinear approach nicely.
The exact origin of nonlinear periodization, also termed UNDULATING PERIODIZATION, is unclear, but it is a more recent development than the classic strength and power periodization model.
Nonlinear programs may have originated in the late 1980s with 2-week training periods using various training zones to meet the needs of athletes. Likewise, nonlinear programs may have originated in in the late 1970s and early 1980s with strength coaches designing programs to meet the needs of American football players.
In these training plans, two very different types of training days were developed The different training days were developed. The different training days were termed hypertrophy and functional strength days.
On the functional strength days, multi-joint exercises (power clean, squat) were performed using lower numbers of repetitions (4-6 per set), while on the hypertrophy days more single-joint exercises (arm curls, leg curls) were performed using higher numbers of repetitions (8-12 per set).
Additionally, it was noted that when more mesocycles were used in a macrocycle, better results were achieved. Essentially that meant that the different patterns of loading had a greater frequency of exposure as microcycles shifted from 4 weeks to 2 weeks; some now use 1-week microcycle changes.
Although many variations of the nonlinear training model can be developed to meet the needs and goals of a trainee, the following is a representative model.
If weight training is performed 3 days per week, three different RM training intensities, or repetition maximum (RM) zones, will be used on each of the 3 training days. On the first, second, and third training day of each week, training zones of 4-6, 12-15, and 8-10 repetitions per set using RM resistances will be performed, respectively. Other training zones, such as a very heavy (1-3 RM) zone, can be included in the training program's design if they meet the needs and goals of the trainee. In addition, percentages of the 1RM can be used for certain lifts addressing the same types of loading ranges. Care must be taken because the percentage of 1RM and the RM vary depending on the muscle mass involved in an exercise and for machines versus free weights (e.g., 80% of 1RM in a squat may result in only 8-10 repetitions, whereas in the leg press 15-20 repetitions may be possible at the same percentage of 1RM.
Note that training zones are NOT necessarily performed sequentially such that training volume and intensity follow a consistent pattern of increasing or decreasing over time.
For example, during 1 week (three sessions) of training, the zones might be performed in the sequence of 4-6, 12-15, and 8-10 repetitions per set.
During the next week of training, the sequence of zones might be 8-10, 4-6, and 12-15 repetitions per set.
With nonlinear training, long periods (weeks) using the same training intensity and volume are not performed. Thus, the need for a high training volume phase (hypertrophy phase) as used in the classic strength and power model, i avoided.
Another advantage of the nonlinear model is ease of administration. Once training zones have been chosen that meet the goals of the training program, they are simple alternated on a session-by-session basis.
So, continuing with the current example, if, during the course of a season during one week only two weight training sessions can be performed because of a competition, the first training session of the next week might use the training zone that was not used during the previous week and the sequence of training zones begins with that training zone.
There are other possible ways to make the decision concerning which training zone to use such as if there is lingering fatigue resulting from the weekend competition, which minimizes the ability to develop maximal power. In that case if a power training zone is part of the training program, it might be advisable to use a different training zone for the first training session of the week after the competition.
However, once training zones have been decided, it does not mean that over time different training zones cannot be incorporated into the training program. For example, during the early postseason, a very heavy or a power training zone might not be used. But, during the late preseason, a very heavy or power training zone might be used.
Thus the choice of training zones to use at a particular point in the training program can be changed to meet the goals and needs of the trainee as the training progresses. Similar to the classic strength and power training model, planned light training periods or rest periods can also be incorporated into nonlinear training programs. Typically these recovery periods are scheduled approximately every 12 weeks of training.
Nonlinear periodization offers advantages over classic strength and power periodization in some training situations. A major goal of the strength and power periodization model is to reach a peak in strength and power at a particular time. For many sports with long seasons, success is dependent on physical fitness and performance throughout the season. When resistance training for general fitness, peaking maximal strength and power at a certain point may not be important, but continued gains in strength and power are important training outcomes. Training goals for many sports and for general fitness need in part to focus on development and maintenance of physical fitness throughout the season or throughout the year.
Nonlinear periodization is more flexible in how and when a peak in performance is created depending on the goals of a particular mesocycle. It also allows for more frequent exposure to different loading stimuli (e.g., moderate, power) within a particular weekly workout profile.
It does not progress in a planned linear increase in intensity with a reduction in volume as seen in the linear model, but it varies training volume and intensity in such a way that consistent fitness gains occur over long training periods.
The practicality and increasing popularity of the nonlinear approach to periodized resistance training have been due to several factors:
1) It allows more variety in a workout sequence.
2.) It allows athletes to more quickly pick up a workout sequence after illness or injury.
3) It causes less boredom in the day to day workout routines.
4) It is adjustable to the diverse situations of a given training day and gives trainees the most effective type of workout.
The flexible nonlinear approach allows for the trainer and athlete to choose the workout when the athlete reports to the weight room. While still in the experimental stage of development, the practical concept consists of several steps:
1) Conducting a coaching analysis of the athlete's fatigue status at the time of the workout.
2) Testing for physical performance status on the day of the workout.
3) Monitoring the initial resistance and set performances in the workout compared to prior efforts.
4) Choosing, modifying, or switching the workout based on the results of steps 1 to 3.
5) Having an overall plan for the mesocycle so that workouts in a 7- to 10-day cycle can be checked off or accomplished.
Both nonlinear periodization and flexible nonlinear periodization have advantages over other weight training programs that make them applicable to a variety of training situations and populations, including both fitness enthusiasts as well as various groups of athletes.
In implementing a training program using the nonlinear method, many habits must be developed. Not only should a master schedule be planned for the program, but the lifter also needs to be able to respond to the workout and to any testing information, whether it is on the day of the workout or a planned evaluation time after each mesocycle. Testing protocols and training logs are vital for this process.
Exercise choice is an important part of the development of a nonlinear program. However, it is also necessary to have a basic knowledge of the muscles trained with a particular exercise and the role of muscle soreness in helping to modify a nonlinear program so that continued gains can occur.
The goal of the nonlinear resistance training program is to maximize the individual's ability to optimally perform appropriate training on a given day.
A training log must adhere to the five acute program variables of a resistance workout protocol:
1) Exercise choice
2) Exercise order
3) Number of sets of an exercise
4) Training intensity
5) Length of rest periods between sets and exercises
In a good training log, the exercises to be performed need to be noted, the exercises need to be placed in the proper order, the number of sets should be noted, the length of rest period should be noted, and the intensity or resistance to be used for a particular exercise needs to be noted. A training log must be properly constructed to reflect the planned workout for the day and to record the actual performances.
The following are several reasons to use a training log:
- To know what has been done in previous training sessions.
- To note the progress as the program advances.
- To know when to increase the resistance for a specific exercise.
- To have a record of the program so that a very successful program can be repeated.
- To have a record of the program so that changes can be made to an ineffective program.
- To note any change in the acute program variables based on testing before a training session.
- To give an immediate indication of the quality of performance in a particular exercise.
Keeping a training log is especially important when using nonlinear and flexible nonlinear programs, because the acute program variables will change regularly. With nonlinear plans, some acute program variables, such as the exercises performed and resistance used, can change on a session-by-session basis.
Some abbreviations make keeping a log quick and easy. For example, in your workout plan you might have the bench press scheduled as
bench press, 3 x 8-to -10RM x 250 x 2 minutes
This would mean the bench press exercise should be performed for 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions per set (the 8- to 10RM zone), using 250 pounds, with a 2-minute rest between sets.
When using an RM zone, it is not necessary to go to complete failure but the external resistance should be kept within that rep range. Some sets will go to failure if the load is too heavy or if you want to get a sense of where you are in the RM zone.
In a training log it is also important not just to note what was supposed to be performed but also what was actually performed. For example, 3 x 10, 10, 7 means that in the third set only 7 repetitions could be completed. This is vital information that can be used in altering the current workout or for changing a future workout when using this loading range or RM zone. The following are some examples:
Example 1: Using the Log to Adjust a Current Workout
You had planned to do 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions using 250 pounds in the bench press, which you have previously been able to do. On the first set, you are able to do only 4 repetitions. In this case you would need to make an immediate decision about whether to continue with the subsequent sets using the same load. It is obvious that you are not at the same level of strength for this workout as you were in previous workouts when you were able to perform all the RM zone reps using the 250 pounds. This could indicate many possible situations:
- You may be fatigued from a prior day's workout or practice.
- You may have had a rough day at work or school, which created psychological stress that does not allow you to concentrate on the training session.
- You may have an injury.
- You may be training at a different time of day than you usually train.
- You may be suffering from the first signs of acute overtraining.
- It may be that you just did not put forth a solid effort in the first set and want to try again.
- The length of rest periods between sets was too short to provide sufficient recovery.
The workout performance on each set is an important indicator of current physical state of readiness. If you were to try the same resistance again and the number of repetitions did not improve, this would give you solid evidence that one or more of the situations described in the list may exist. If, however, you do succeed in performing 8-10 repetitions, you would continue with the training session as planned.
It is so important that you react to the performance of a training session.
If you are using the flexible nonlinear approach, you should switch to another workout style for that exercise, or, if possible, for all upper body exercises or for the entire training session. Most important is that if you continue not reaching the desired number of reps for a major lower body exercise or a structural exercise, then you need to switch to a different workout style for all the primary exercises. Ultimately, trainers, coaches, and athletes need to become "workout detectives" to determine the root cause of the drop in performance and then to modify the current workout and the subsequent workout using that specific workout style.
In the first example, the first set is used to determine what the loading should be for the next sets and possible subsequent workouts. As discussed, you need to determine whether this is just a function of a particular exercise or all of the exercises in the workout protocol for that day.
Therefore, you need to evaluate the performance level in any prior large-muscle group exercise or in the next large-muscle group exercise in order to optimize the workout for that day. If an 8- to 10RM zone was planned for the squat and each of the sets was done in this repetition range using the planned load, then the problem would appear to be isolated to the upper body. Typically, in a flexible nonlinear program, all of the major exercises are performed using the same resistance loading pattern. However, it is possible that in some advanced programs the loading zone may be varied on an exercise-by-exercise basis.
Exercises performed in a session must allow for appropriate rest for the muscle tissue that is not to be trained due to a need for recovery.
For example, if you switched to a lighter weight because of your inability to complete the reps at a scheduled load of an 8- 10RM zone for the squat, you would not want to continue to use the heavier load for the power clean that involves the use of virtually the same muscle groups. This would not allow you to rest the muscle groups that are not ready to perform the squat at the planned training load. Unless the squat was dramatically miscalculated in its load, you would then decrease the training intensity in the power clean as well.
If you were capable of performing the power clean with a high intensity, then it may well be that you overestimated the resistance for the squat. It becomes a complicated trial and error process, where the loading and the response to training must be continually evaluated in order to optimize the exercise performance while allowing enough planned recovery with lighter-load days without continually defaulting to lighter-load sessions.
The potential mistake with switching to an alternative workout with lower intensities is minimizing the needed stimulation needed for power and maximal strength when using very heavy and heavy workouts.
Conversely, you may be UNDERTRAINING if you do not increase the load of a particular exercise when you find you are stronger as a result of normal physiological adaptations. For instance, imagine that you had been scheduled to perform the bench press for 8-10 repetitions at 250 pounds, but in the first set you perform 15 repetitions. This is outside of the planned 8- 10RM zone. In this case you would want to immediately increase the load in the next set so that only 8-10 reps can be performed. In the workout log you need to be able to change the resistances and the repetition numbers AS THEY ARE PERFORMED in your workout to meet the training goals of the entire program.
Enjoy Your Lifting!
It's a very good book.