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Updated: Sep 4, 2022

Anyone that knows their way around a gym is most likely familiar with the Overload Principle, commonly referred to as progressive overload. It's the backbone of effective resistance training. The only problem with progressive overload is that, eventually, the required amount of weight needed to induce the desired stress level on the body becomes too great to withstand.

This is where the Principle of Variability comes into play. When we can no longer stack more plates, we incorporate change into our workouts. A standard method of implementing change is the use of periodization.

The concept of periodization can be traced back to the 1960s and a gentleman named Leonid Matveyev. Matveyev is considered the father of periodization, although several others experimented with the concept around the same time. American sports scientists Michael Stone, Harold O'Bryant, and John Garhammer eventually adapted the principles of periodization to training strength and power athletes.

The most revolutionary concept introduced with periodized training is the idea of splitting training into cycles.

  • Microcycles: Typically seven days in length.

  • Mesocycles: Usually about a month in length.

  • Macrocycles: Between six months and one year.

Linear periodization uses a waterfall approach meaning the skills learned in the first phase allow athletes to perform in the next stage with greater efficacy. The purpose of linear periodization is to train athletes so that they are in peak performance condition when they need to be.

"Periodization is the logical and systematic process of sequencing and integrating training interventions in order to achieve peak performance at appropriate time points."

~ Haff and Triplett (NSCAA Forth edition - Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning)

A typical linear periodization training program for athletes would first focus on hypertrophy training, then strength building, increasing power, and finally, addressing functional movements related to a particular sport. The problem here is that we're not training for a specific event. There's no meet or match on the horizon.

So how should the average gym-goer incorporate periodization?

That depends on your level of experience in the gym. People relatively new to weightlifting should focus on a linear program that eases them into weightlifting safely and effectively.

When you begin lifting, the first adaptation your body undergoes is neurological. Your body and brain become more in tune as you learn the movements. This is why linear periodization schedules hypertrophy training in the first mesocycle. Hypertrophy training uses higher volume rep schemes, meaning you perform more repetitions per exercise than strength or power training. This strategy follows the mantra, "practice makes perfect," and helps you build a foundation before moving on to more challenging programs.

The Lift League recommends athletes begin with powerbuilding for this very reason. Powerbuilding combines high-volume accessory lifts using hypertrophy rep schemes with strength-building compound movements. This lets you get your reps in while you work on increasing your initial strength. The Lift League goal for new athletes is to increase strength while learning the movements to build a foundation that will allow them to progress safely to more demanding programs.

On top of your solid foundation, you build a house of strength. Strength training is about moving heavy weight at low reps over multiple sets. A perfect example would be Bill Starr's 5x5 program which was initially developed to help train football players in the 70s. Over the years, countless research studies have supported Starr's program. The most widely excepted method for increasing maximal strength is to perform 4 - 6 sets of 4 - 6 reps using no less than 80% of your 1RM. Bill Starr's 5x5 splits the difference.

The Principle of Specificity states that as our training progresses, so must our area of focus. As athletes advance within The Lift League, they are provided a mix of hypertrophy, strength, and power training programs with increased overall volume and specificity.

But this linear approach is only a guideline for beginners. Individuals who know their way around a gym can use this same program by taking a nonlinear path because each mesocycle program has been created to work hand in hand. The Lift League uses periodization throughout the entire macrocycle, so athletes can choose to run any mesocycle in any order. Dealers choice. House always wins.

If you run a high-volume program and move to a program with less volume, do not view it as a step back. You are training your body to avoid the plateaus that will inevitably come from months of repeated movements encountered in programs lacking variability.

“The need for different phases of training is influenced by physiology because neuromuscular and cardiorespiratory development and perfection…are achieved progressively over a long period of time. One also has to consider the client’s physiological and psychological potential, and that athletic shape cannot be maintained throughout the year at a high level.”

~ Tudor O. Bompa (Theory and Methodology of Training 1983)

You can combine mesocycles in the way you want, but you can also go even further and combine microcycles from different programs. Since periodization has been woven throughout the entire bank of league workouts, you can take a week from one program and connect it with a week from another program. This is where we begin to see the opportunity to use The Lift League as the basis for APRE training.

When training at any level, it is impossible to overstate the importance of listening to your body. APRE (Autoregulatroy Progressive Resistance Exercise) is the art of adapting programming to how you feel when you step into the gym. A delicate balance between pushing yourself and avoiding injury. On those days when you know you should not be doing max lifts, transition from the Texas Method into a few days of the Bro Split. Your body will thank you.

We have spent years putting this program together, testing it, and improving it to make The Lift League the only program you need.


Carlos Santana, Juan. Functional Training. Champaign: Human Kinetics; c2016. 156-167 p.

Kraemer, William J., Steven J. Fleck. Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts. Champaign: Human Kinetics; c2007. 8-23 p.

Mann, J Bryan1; Thyfault, John P2; Ivey, Pat A1; Sayers, Stephen P3. The Effect of Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise vs. Linear Periodization on Strength Improvement in College Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue 7 - p 1718-1723 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181def4a6


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