Things In Your Training Program Have To Change
It’s pretty clear. If you want optimal long-term gains in size and strength then things in your training scheme have to change. I know it’s a hassle and a pain. But trust me, its well worth the extra time.
The thing is if you always use the exact same training scheme for months/years on end with exactly the same training variables in it, you will always come across those frustrating, hair-pulling training plateaus. Guess what? They will always keep on coming unless you change things up. Yes I admit, our bodies are incredibly stubborn and very demanding, but unfortunately this is what has to be done in order to ensure your constant weightlifting progress. It would be nice and convenient for us if everything could stay the same. But, if you want constant progress in the gym you have to give your body what it wants: variety! Variety is something I don’t see a lot of in the weightlifting world. In fact, I have heard a lot of weightlifters say: keep variety to a minimum. It leads to nothing but extra hassle, work and can make it hard for one to track their progress. Why complicate things? What? This is terrible! Variety doesn’t have to mean difficult or time-consuming. But it does mean one thing: you are always one step ahead of the game. Surely that’s worth a little bit of extra effort?
The major problem I see in the weightlifting world is that weightlifters get too comfortable with a certain training scheme. This often leads them to falling into the trap of keeping everything exactly the same. Some weightlifters just don’t want to change their routine or see the long-term value in some form of variety.Most of the time, these weightlifters will end up scratching their heads, asking: why am I not making continuous progress? Why am I always taking one step back? Yes, you might be using a really good program now and people are saying all sorts of awesome things about it. But I can assure you that if your awesome scheme doesn’t have any variety in the form of non-linear periodization, then this scheme is going to fail at some point. In reality, most schemes fall into this trap. They all make the one big mistake that REALLY can be avoided: they don’t accommodate for progress in the long-term.
“Weightlifters get too comfortable with a certain training scheme”.
Every scheme works to some extent in the short-term. But, when you start thinking and training long-term, most of these schemes will not be able to accommodate this. This is why I will always recommend non-linear periodization for those weightlifters looking to go long-term. If you ask me what the best routine for long-term progress is, I will always say this: the scheme that CONSTANTLY changes. It doesn’t matter how ground breaking, tailor-made, or sophisticated a weight training program is, if it does not have elements of non-linear periodization in it, I will not recommend it. Period. You won’t ever persuade me otherwise.
I have just seen too many weightlifters lose a lot of time and energy making little to no progress on these apparently awesome but static routines. I don’t want to see you stall, become disappointed, demotivated or frustrated by lack of progress and not being able to get an honest answer for it. If you are looking for an honest answer and solution to your problem, then you need to look to the fundamentals. All weightlifting progress that happens in the long-term is based on non-linear periodization. Without this, all your efforts will always break down. Let’s then make sure that you get this concept correctly integrated into your own training.
Before jumping straight into non-linear periodization, it’s good to know what you need to do in the first place to ensure non-linear periodization actually works in your favor. A successful non-linear periodized scheme needs to look at three elements: conjugate, undulating and linear. When you look at each one, its easy to see why non-linear periodization (or conjugate undulating periodization) actually works the way it does. Conjugate, undulating and linear are actually three different separate forms of periodization. The problem is, all three by themselves are actually pretty terrible for long-term gains. But, the magic comes together when you combine all three. By combining all the best parts of all three and removing all the drawbacks, you get conjugate undulating periodization. Conjugate undulating periodization being your ticket to long-term optimal gains in size and strength.
“Combining all the best parts of all three and removing all the drawbacks, you get conjugate undulating periodization”.
The first on the periodization list is conjugate. When I talk about conjugate I mean changing exercises. Now, changing exercises on a regular basis is great. In fact, it’s one of the best ways of avoiding the biological law of accommodation. You know that theory that says: if you keep using something over and over again, you stop getting a positive response from it? Well, that’s the one! A high degree of exercise selection and rotating between different exercises regularly in your program is a sure fire way of making sure that you always get the gains you deserve. The question is: what happens if I only change exercises regularly and nothing else in my routine? Short answer is: you won’t be going anywhere. That’s right. Without any undulating element (no change between volume- and intensity training) you wont be able to develop your size or strength over time.
Likewise, without any linear element (no increase in volume and intensity over time) you won’t be making any progress. Although exercise rotation is powerful for long-term gains, exercise selection alone is like trying to walk over water, its never going to happen. You will never go anywhere. Essentially, you will just sink. So, before jumping straight into periodization, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of just changing your exercises. More is needed!
- “A” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates CP (conjugate periodization) but no LP (linear periodization) or UP (undulating periodization)
- “B” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates CP (conjugate periodization) and LP (linear periodization), but no UP (undulating periodization)
- “C” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates CP (conjugated periodization) and UP (undulating periodization), but no LP (linear periodization)
- Ultimately, CP is ineffective on its own. Long-term gains only happen when you have all three forms of periodization in your program.
The second common form of periodization is undulating. Undulating periodization means changing frequently between volume and intensity training. This can be done between training sessions WITHIN the same week and/or BETWEEN weeks. The major benefit I love of undulating periodization is that you can develop your strength and size capacity alongside each other over time. This is really beneficial for the long-term as size and strength complement each other very nicely. In other words, if you are looking for more strength in the long-term, you need more size. Likewise, if you want more size in the long-term, you need more strength. It’s not a one or the other I am afraid! However, the question is: can you make any long-term gains with undulating periodization?
Generally, if you have some linear element in there, then yes you can. In other words, if you trying to rotate between volume and intensity (undulating element) as well trying to increase the volume and/or intensity on a weekly basis (linear element) then you can make some progress. But, without any conjugate element (exercise selection) you will always stall at some point. For this reason alone, I am never a fan of undulating periodization without any form of conjugation. Why? That frustrating biological law of accommodation is just around the corner! It’s just eager to strike if you don’t add in any exercise rotation in your training. As a result, undulating without any form of conjugation is never a long-term solution.
- “A” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates UP (undulating periodization) and LP (linear periodization), but no CP (conjugate periodization).
- “B” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates UP (undulating periodization) and CP (conjugate periodization), but no LP (linear periodization)
- “C” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates UP (undulating periodization), but no CP (conjugate periodization) or LP (linear periodization)
- Ultimately, UP is ineffective on its own. Long-term gains only happen when you have all three forms of periodization in your program.
The last main form of periodization to cover is linear. Easy really! In most cases, weightlifters utilizing a linear scheme will tend to crank up the weight on a weekly basis as much as possible. Linear periodization is a fine scheme if you are training for a specific event (e.g. powerlifting meet) and you want to work up to a new 1RM in time for your event. A linear periodization scheme is easy and simple in structure to follow. Honestly, it’s perfect for a temporary period of time (say for 6-8 weeks). But for you, it’s terrible for ensuring long-term gains in size and strength.
I guarantee you, everytime someone follows a linear scheme for a long period of time, they always crash. Then, they go to another linear based scheme and the whole cycle begins for another round. Again, there is some progress, and then a major crash occurs in their performance. Linear schemes just don’t work in the long-term. It still amazes me how many intermediate/advanced lifters still stick to linear-based schemes. I promise you, no matter how hard you fight with a linear-based scheme, if will always fight back harder. You just will not win in the long-term with a scheme based around linear periodization. My honest advice: no one who is in weightlifting for the long-term should be using a linear-only scheme.
- “A” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates LP (linear periodization), but no CP (conjugate periodization) or UP (undulating periodization)
- “B” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates LP (linear periodization) and CP (conjugate periodization), but no UP (undulating periodization)
- “C” represents the outcome (no long-term gains) when a scheme incorporates LP (linear periodization) and UL (undulating periodization), but no CP (conjugate periodization)
- Ultimately, LP is ineffective on its own for long-term gains. Long-term gains only happen when you have all three forms of periodization in your program.
Combing The Best, Leaving Out The Rest
The verdict is pretty clear then: conjugate, undulating and linear forms of periodization on their own are not optimal solutions for long-term gains in size and strength. Well then, what is? This is why it’s called conjugate undulating periodization. In this form of periodization, you are essentially combining all the positives of each individual system and leaving out the limitations. What’s not to like, right? I love it! It’s just a shame that it’s not really a mainstream way of training for everyday recreational weightlifters. I hope I can change that in the future!
With conjugate undulating periodization you include sufficient exercise rotation, regular volume AND intensity training, as well as the linear element of trying to increase your volume/intensity over time (progressive overload). The good thing is there are no negatives! Well, the only negative might be that you might have to dedicate a little more time on planning your training, keeping a closer eye on progress and getting a little more creative with your training. But, is this really a negative? In my eyes, it’s a small price to pay for the awesome long-term gains you will get in return.
As you can see, conjugate undulating periodization is a method of training; it’s NOT a training scheme itself. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what the design of your training program actually is like, as long as it has some indication of conjugate undulating periodization. If it doesn’t, then it’s likely that your program will let you down at some point. If you want long-term gains in size and strength then programming conjugate undulating periodization into your training scheme is the best way of doing that. I wouldn’t recommend anything else.
- I present you the golden triangle of long-term gains. When you include all three forms of periodization (CP, LP and UP) into your training program, you will have the best training programming ever. Plateaus and stalls will be a thing of the past. EVERY weightlifter who is in this for the long-term needs this golden triangle. Don’t forget about it. Use it.
- With CP, LP and UP in your program, you will have sufficient exercise selection, constant alternation between volume- and intensity-training, and a linear element in trying to use more volume/intensity over time (overload). All together, you have the perfect training recipe for optimal long-term gains in size and strength.
If you have any questions about the article or would like to discuss further some of the topics mentioned, then please feel free to leave comments down below. How do you feel about periodization? Convinced? Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed! Let me know!