A new meta-analysis explores whether periodized training leads to greater strength gains and hypertrophy than non periodized training.
Periodization refers to the manipulation of training variables – typically volume (sets x reps) and intensity (the amount of weight lifted) of training – to maximize performance.
Basically, we can’t expect to make continual, linear progress in the gym. If we could count on adding 5 lbs to our bench every week, there would be individuals benching 5,000+ lbs.
Periodization accounts for the fact that we make progress as a result of us adapting to the stress that exercise places on our body. Periodization IS the way we manipulate that stress in the gym to get a favorable outcome so that we keep making progress.
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis to compare the magnitude of strength gains and hypertrophy between volume-equated periodized and non-periodized programs.
The meta-analysis also examined if there were differences between linear and undulating periodization models on long term gains in muscle strength and size, and if training status influenced the findings.
The meta-analysis pooled a total of 35 studies.
- Periodized programs elicited greater strength gains than non-periodized programs
- Hypertrophy, however, was not enhanced by periodized training compared to non-periodized training.
- Undulating models of periodization led to greater strength gains than linear models, but only in trained individuals..
Interpretation & Takeaways
Historically, periodization has been accepted as good practice for strength gains. This is the second meta-analysis in the past five years to report that periodized training leads to greater increases in 1RM strength than non-periodized training.
The present findings do confirm that an already established style of periodization (linear or undulating) does not further enhance hypertrophy. However, I’d argue that we can’t dismiss the utility of periodization for hypertrophy just yet. Most periodization studies are designed to examine strength, with hypertrophy only as a secondary outcome.