There are many form of periodization, however, when all forms of periodization are compared most are similar as long as volume is equated.


  • There are many forms of strength periodization such as linear, non-linear, and reverse linear periodization.
  • To achieve progressive overload, one can adjust various training variables, including weight, sets, reps, and the frequency of workouts.
  • If the volume or overall workload remains consistent, the specific form of periodization chosen doesn’t make a difference.
  • Utilizing a training journal is crucial for effectively monitoring and documenting progressive overload in workouts.


Periodization is a process that serves as the micromanagement of an athlete’s weight training program in the annual plan. Several periodization models have different variations in training volume, intensity, and recovery. Some have wondered whether a strength vs hypertrophy periodization program works best for building muscle.

Linear periodization is a gradual increase in exercise intensity with a reduction in training volume (i.e., the weight gets progressively heavier with the number of reps decreasing over the training cycle). Reverse periodization is the opposite order. Reverse periodization involves incorporating a higher proportion of high-intensity training early in the training phase and is thought to stimulate physiological and performance adaptations.


A recent meta-analysis reviewed all the studies (i.e., 200 athletes) that compared reverse periodization with traditional linear periodization and found that when the training volume and intensity were similar between groups, reverse periodization was no more effective than traditional linear periodization.

Compared to traditional or block periodization, reverse periodization did not provide superior performance improvements in swimming, running, muscular endurance, maximum strength, or maximal oxygen uptake.(15) The studies suggest it is strictly a matter of preference for which form of periodization one wants to use.

hypertrophy vs strength overload principle strength vs hypertrophy periodization training principle overload body recomposition workout plan principle of overload principle of progression principle of overloading progressive overload workout plan

hypertrophy vs strength overload principle strength vs hypertrophy periodization training principle overload body recomposition workout plan principle of overload principle of progression principle of overloading progressive overload workout plan


The last meta-analysis on periodization came out in 2017 and reported that periodized programs were better than non-periodized programs for strength gains (12). however, the literature review had studies that had different volumes, so you didn’t get a clear picture of whether the gains were due to the program itself or just due to doing more total work at the end of a training cycle.

Most studies have found that when the volume is equated (i.e., similar), muscle growth is similar between linear periodization, non-linear periodization, and reverse linear periodization programs. Linear periodized training involves using a training program where volume decreases over time while intensity increases. A daily undulated periodization program model changes training variables each workout but results in a gradual decrease in volume (i.e., sex x reps) and increased intensity (i.e., weight) over time.

A new review of the literature was conducted on the different types of periodization and its effect on hypertrophy periodization and strength. The great thing about this new study was that earlier studies had different volumes, but this review only analyzed programs that were volume equated.


The results of the study found that:

  1. Periodized training programs led to greater strength gains than non-periodized training. For the studies included in the review, resistance training protocols that used a periodized approach led to 21.6% greater increases in strength when compared to a non-periodized training routine.
  2. Undulating periodization models resulted in greater strength gains than linear periodization models, but only in trained individuals. Advanced trainers may want to rotate volume and intensity weekly or daily to increase maximal strength gains.
  3. It could be that the weekly rotations in volume and intensity give the nervous system a better chance to recuperate compared to a linear program in which weeks of training involve either focusing on one variable, such as increasing the intensity of each workout and decreasing volume.
  4. The authors found that periodization did not result in greater increases in muscle growth. The study’s author did mention he thought that many of the studies did not use high-quality body composition standards such as DEXA.

Studies on Strength Periodization

The 2022 meta-analysis confirms that periodizing training is important to maximize strength gains, but it did not affect muscle growth.(13) The author did suggest there is a high inter-individual response to training, so it is best to use the form of periodization that works best for the individual.

Some training protocols are effective at eliciting increases in strength at a one-time point; however, they may not be effective later. The finding that when programs are volume equated is similar to most other studies looking at muscle growth.

Most lifters should consider using an undulating form of periodization for the purely psychological aspects of something new each week. You may train with higher reps on an exercise one week; the next time a bodypart is trained, lower reps are performed.

Making a workout challenging will result in greater motivation to train than doing the same workout day in and day out, but it’s an individual preference.


Lifters often debate how often they should change the repetitions and weight. Is it better to change on a monthly, weekly, or some even recommend daily? Researchers had 42 train with squats, but they divided lifters into three groups:

A.)  Weekly Variation: Lifters varied between strength training (6 sets of 4 reps @85% of a 1RM) and hypertrophy training (6 sets of 8 reps @75% of a 1-RM), and power training (6 sets of 8 reps @30% of a 1RM) weekly.

B.)   Daily Variation: Same as the weekly protocol, but lifters rotated workouts each day. For example, one day, a strength workout, and the next day a hypertrophy workout.

C.)   Mixed Workout: This group did all three workouts in one day. They did the strength workout, then performed a power workout, and then did the hypertrophy workout.

At the end of the study, all the groups performed similar repetitions. The total volume and intensity were similar for all groups. All groups increased strength, but the mixed workout and daily groups had a greater increase in strength than the weekly group.

The mixed group had increases in 1RM back squat strength of 20.5%, daily changes (20.3%), and weekly (13.6%). Changing your repetitions and intensity daily can lead to greater increases in strength than weekly changes.(14)


Most people go to the gym and don’t have a journal to track sets, reps, weight, etc. Workouts can be structured in several ways to be linear, non-linear, or reverse periodization.


The history of periodization is quite detailed, but much can be attributed to Dr. Thomas L. DeLorme. In 1945, Dr. DeLorme, an army physician, designed a revolutionary new rehabilitation technique. Instead of using his past recommendations traditional rehabilitation model of 7 sets of 10 repetitions in each exercise, DeLorme’s new model recommended 3 sets of 10. One set was done at 50% of the patient’s 10RM, 1 at 75%, and 1 at 100% of 10RM.

Once a patient could perform >10 repetitions on the final set, the weights were “progressed” accordingly.[1] The brilliance of DeLorme’s research was that he paved the foundation of all modern-day strength training programs for increasing strength and hypertrophy. This created the basic tenet of the principle of progression/principle of overload.

His research was more than just “lifting weights” but the ability to provide a resistance training program that improved physical performance. There are basic training principles for increasing strength and muscle hypertrophy.[2]

  •       Progressive overload: The workout stimulus must gradually increase over time to further improve performance.
  •       Specificity: The training adaptations are specific to the stimulus applied.
  •       Variation (and/or Periodization): Appropriate training volume and intensity manipulation, movement speed, and exercise selection.
  •       Individuality: The magnitude of the adaptation to the training stimulus (i.e., performance improvement) differs for each person.

Periodization has various blocks or cycles that are classified by amounts of time: macro cycle(annual), meso cycle(weeks to months), and micro cycle (days to weekly).

Throughout the lifting cycles, the muscle tension gradually increases (weight, reps, sets). If the training response is too strong and the body cannot recuperate, this leads to overtraining, a maladaptive response in which the body regresses.

hypertrophy vs strength overload principle strength vs hypertrophy periodization training principle overload body recomposition workout plan principle of overload principle of progression principle of overloading progressive overload workout plan


Overtraining results in a sustained decrease in performance for months. Many lifters say they are overtraining if they have not made progress, but a true physiological overtraining response is very difficult to induce.

In a 2020 systematic review of overtraining research in resistance training, 10 of the 22 studies where researchers attempted to induce overreaching or overtraining failed, as no reduction in performance was observed.[3]

There are genuine cases of overtraining; for example, the legendary study by Fry and colleagues would break any lifter. Participants performed 10 sets of singles with a 1RM with 2-minute rest periods for two weeks. Let me repeat that: “They did 10 max squat tests twice per week!” After that, their 1RM performance dropped by 26.8 pounds.[4]  The subjects had reduced nerve stimulation, increased markers of muscle damage (i.e., creatine kinase), and decreased lactate responses during exercise.

Overtraining can occur; it rarely occurs with a typical lifter who goes to the gym a few days a week. Overtraining is much more likely to occur in endurance athletes than in strength athletes. [5]


There is also a term called overreaching, meaning a person’s physiological stress is taken above a person’s limit. A deload or break is immediately taken, followed by a growth and recovery phase. There is a difference between overreaching and overtraining.

Overreaching is a planned escalation of physiological stress, followed by fatigue management and recovery. Overtraining is the continued inability to adapt to a training demand, with a subsequent reduction in performance.

A proper training program should have periods of overreaching to enhance adaptations, but never to the point of overtraining. After overreaching, deloads, in which the total training volume and intensity are reduced, should be performed every 4-8 weeks.

Deloads are necessary for both physical and psychological breaks from strenuous exercise. Several block periodization models increase tension overload, such as linear, non-linear, and reverse linear.

hypertrophy vs strength overload principle strength vs hypertrophy periodization training principle overload body recomposition workout plan principle of overload principle of progression principle of overloading progressive overload workout plan



Linear periodization is the most popular method of training. This periodization involves increasing intensity (i.e., weight) and decreasing volume (i.e., sets and reps) throughout multiple mesocycles in an annual training plan.


Non-Linear Periodization involves constantly changing various components, such as the weight, sets, and reps during the cycle. It frequently changes variables like exercises, volume, intensity, rest period, and training adaptation.

This is in direct contrast to a linear periodization program that focuses on the gradual increase of one variable. The theory behind this type of training is that alternating heavy and light days allows muscle fibers, joints, and connective tissue to recuperate on light days while maintaining muscle tension.

Undulating periodization can be broken down into daily undulating periodization and weekly undulating periodization.


Reverse periodization is like linear periodization but in reverse; each macrocycle starts with heavier weights at the beginning and less volume (sets and reps) and progresses to lighter weights and more volume (more sets and reps).

*Weight is progressively decreasing as the volume increases.

All these principles involve changing one or more training variables. The goal of periodization is to improve performance and for people reading this book to gain muscle and reduce the risk of overtraining.


The research suggests that linear and undulating periodization are equally effective for muscle growth. [6,7] However, one study found reverse periodization less effective than linear periodization for muscle growth. Researchers had subjects assigned to either a linear periodization routine (i.e., light weight progresses to heavy weight) or reverse linear periodization (heavy weight progresses to less weight and higher reps).

The researchers reported that those that performed linear periodization or gradually increased the weight over a period resulted in a seven-pound increase in lean mass. In contrast, the reverse periodization group decreased weight and gained only three pounds.[8]

Contrary to the previous study’s findings, Camargo et al. found that training blocks of strength phases preceding a hypertrophy phase or vice versa resulted in a similar increase in lean muscle mass and strength. Resistance-trained men were randomized into two groups.

The Study

One group completed six weeks of hypertrophy training and six weeks of strength training. The other group completed the same blocks of training in the opposite order. Both groups used the same volume over the six-week training study. The strength block was trained with compound exercises in the 2-4 RM range.


The hypertrophy block was trained with compound and single-joint exercises performed in the 10-12 RM range. At the end of the study, both groups had similar increases in muscle strength and muscle mass when the volume was similar.[9] Based on the literature, all periodized programs are equally effective for increasing muscle growth.

There seems to be a minor advantage in alternating sets and reps over a training cycle. One study compared a non-periodized (kept the same volume), a traditional periodization, and an undulating periodization program for 12 weeks.

The non-periodized or no change in sets or reps group performed 3 sets of an 8 RM for 12 weeks. The traditional periodized group alternated both sets and reps every few weeks.

The undulating program alternated sets and reps weekly. The total sets and reps were equated between the groups, so the total workload was similar, whereas training intensity was manipulated throughout the study. Leg muscle size increased in all groups non-periodized (8.1%), traditional periodization (11.3%), and undulating periodization (8.7%).

In the first six weeks, all groups increased muscle size; however, only the conventional periodization and undulating periodization groups increased leg muscle size from weeks 6-12.[10] There was a slight advantage in the magnitude of muscle growth for the periodized groups over the non-periodized. This suggests that volume is a key factor for muscle growth; however, there is an advantage in changing both sets and reps throughout a training cycle.

Strength Periodization: Non-periodized vs Undulating

It’s important to emphasize when the volume (sets x reps) and intensity (% of a 1RM) are similar; it does not matter whether you change these variables daily or weekly. For example, when researchers compared subjects who used a daily combination of different intensities and rep ranges (i.e., combined heavy and light training each workout) compared to a weekly undulating program (used the same rep range for the entire week, then changing rep and set schemes the next week).

At the end of the study, similar increases in muscle occurred between both groups, provided the total volume and intensity were similar.[11] This suggests that people looking to gain muscle need to strategically periodize their workouts by changing both volume and intensity for optimal muscle growth. It does not seem to matter whether the changes in reps and sets occur daily or weekly.



1.     Janice S. Todd, Jason P. Shurley, and Terry C. Todd, “Thomas L. DeLorme and the Science of Progressive Resistance Exercise,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26, no. 11 (November 2012): 2913–23.

2.     Michael Stone, Steven Plisk, and David Collins, “Strength and Conditioning,” Sports Biomechanics 1, no. 1 (January 1, 2002): 79–103.

3.     Clementine Grandou et al., “Overtraining in Resistance Exercise: An Exploratory Systematic Review and Methodological Appraisal of the Literature,” Sports Medicine 50, no. 4 (April 2020): 815–28.

4.     C. Fry et al., “Performance Decrements with High-Intensity Resistance Exercise Overtraining,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 26, no. 9 (September 1994): 1165–73.

5.     Christopher M. Norris, Overtraining Syndrome – an Overview. Managing Sports Injuries (Fourth Edition),Churchill Livingstone, 2011,Pages 59-83.

6.     J. Grgic et al., “Should Resistance Training Programs Aimed at Muscular Hypertrophy Be Periodized? A Systematic Review of Periodized versus Non-Periodized Approaches,” Science & Sports 33, no. 3 (June 1, 2018): e97–104.

7.     Jozo Grgic et al., “Effects of Linear and Daily Undulating Periodized Resistance Training Programs on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” PeerJ 5 (2017): e3695.


8.     Jonato Prestes et al., “Comparison of Linear and Reverse Linear Periodization Effects on Maximal Strength and Body Composition,” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23, no. 1 (2009).

9.     Júlio Benvenutti Bueno DE Camargo et al., “Order of Resistance Training Cycles to Develop Strength and Muscle Thickness in Resistance-Trained Men: A Pilot Study,” International Journal of Exercise Science 14, no. 4 (2021): 644–56.

10.  Eduardo O. De Souza et al., “Different Patterns in Muscular Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations in Untrained Individuals Undergoing Nonperiodized and Periodized Strength Regimens,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 32, no. 5 (May 2018): 1238–44.

11.  Markus Antretter et al., “The Hatfield-System versus the Weekly Undulating Periodised Resistance Training in Trained Males,” International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching 13, no. 1 (February 1, 2018): 95–103.

12. Williams, T. D., Tolusso, D. V., Fedewa, M. V., & Esco, M. R. (2017). Comparison of Periodized and Non-Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 47(10), 2083–2100.

13. Moesgaard, Lukas & Beck, Mikkel & Christiansen, Lasse & Aagaard, Per & Lundbye-Jensen, Jesper. (2022). Effects of Periodization on Strength and Muscle Hypertrophy in Volume‑Equated Resistance Training Programs: A Systematic Review and Meta‑analysis. Sports Medicine. 10.1007/s40279-021-01636-1.

14. Hernández-Davó, J. L., & Sabido, R. (2022). The Effect of Three Different Resistance Training Programming Approaches on Strength Gains and Jumping Performance. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 1–6. Advance online publication.

15. González-Ravé JM, González-Mohino F, Rodrigo-Carranza V, Pyne DB. Reverse Periodization for Improving Sports Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine – Open. 2022;8(1):56.

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