October 19, 2023 2 min read

PERIODIZATION 2/10: Western/Linear Periodization by Shane Robert

Western Periodization is a linear model of periodization that states training should gradually progress from low intensities and a large volume of work to high intensities and a low volume of work, typically over many weeks to several months. It aims to peak an athlete's performance at a specific time, often aligning with a competition or event. After the peak has finished, the cycle starts over using slightly heavier weights, usually based on the new 1 rep max established in the previous cycle. 

First proposed by Russian sports scientist Leonid Matveyev and popularized in the US by Dr. Mike Stone, this method of periodization was very popular with strength athletes in the 1970’s, 80’s and first part of the 90’s. Examples of terrifically strong athletes who used this style of training include Ed Coan, Bill Kazmaier, and Kirk Karwoski. 

Here are the key features and principles of Western periodization:

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD: Western periodization is built on the principle of frequent (weekly) progressive overload. It involves systematically increasing training intensity (percentage of 1 rep max) over time to stimulate muscle growth and strength gains.

PHASES: Western periodization typically consists of three main phases with distinct: 

    1. Hypertrophy Phase: emphasis is on increasing muscle size (hypertrophy). It involves moderate to high training volumes (sets and reps) with submaximal weights. The goal is to build a solid muscle foundation.
    2. Strength Phase: this phase, the focus shifts to building maximal strength. Training volume decreases, and the intensity (weight lifted) increases. The goal is to convert the muscle size gained in the hypertrophy phase into increased strength.
    3. Peaking Phase: The final phase involves further reducing training volume while increasing intensity. The goal is to peak or reach maximum strength just in time for a competition or event. This phase often involves tapering to allow for recovery and fine-tuning.

      PERIOD LENGTH: The length of each phase can vary based on the needs of the athlete. Someone who is quite lacking in weight could spend more weeks in the hypertrophy phase, while someone who has filled out their weight class might need to spend more time in the strength phase.

       LINEAR PROGRESSION: The training intensity increases in a linear fashion throughout each phase, with the goal of steadily increasing strength and performance. Typical plans look something like this:

      Phase 1: Hypertrophy, 3-5 x 8-12

      Phase 2: Basic Strength, 4-6 x 4-6

      Phase 3: Strength and Power, 3-5 x 1-5

      Phase 4: Peaking or Maintenance, 1-3 x 1-3

      Western periodization is a well-established and effective training model for those looking to improve strength, power, and muscle size.



      • Great for beginners
      • Good for intermediates 
      • Can work for advanced
      • Ensures all aspects of training are covered at some point
      • Can theoretically be used to peak on a specific day
      • Adaptation between phases can be lost
      • Uses percentages of 1RM, which can fluctuate day to day
      • Can stay too far away from heavy loads for advanced lifters 
      • Doesn’t adjust based on recovery  

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