Pulsed Periodization

This picture is meant to illustrate what's going on. But don't read too far into it

This picture is meant to illustrate what’s going on. But don’t read too far into it

I wanted to talk about a concept/strategy I’ve been playing with the past month or so that seemingly has been working pretty well for me. This is something I’ve stumbled across several times in the past, almost randomly, that worked really well but I had brushed it off as a random fluctuation rather than an effective strategy. I decided to test the concept in my own program after a period of being a little unmotivated with training, essentially using it as a back-to-basics approach. And it’s worked pretty well.

The Strategy

The concept is quite simple. The first week work up to a heavy triple (@9, if you’re familiar with RPE). The next week add a rep and the week after that add a rep, staying at the same weight across the weeks (if you can). So you start out working up to x3 @9 and you finish at x5 @9. Then increase the weight of the topset by 5% and start over. For example:

Week 1

385×3 @7, 405×3 @8, 425×3 @9

Week 2

385×4 @7, 405×4 @8, 425×4 @9

Week 3

385×5 @7, 405×3 @5, 425×5 @9

Week 4

405×3 @7, 425×3 @8, 445×3 @9

Practical Implementation

I’ve been using this strategy on all exercises in my program. For the competition exercises I’ll start at a triple and go up to 5s. For more accessory-oriented exercises I’ll start from 4s or 5s and add reps from there. It’s conceivable you could use blocks where the competition exercises would use 4s, 5s, and 6s and then move down to 3s etc in the next block.

I use this strategy in the context of autoregulation. So if I can’t hit that new topset then I don’t. I think it’s also better if you keep the topset to an 8.5 RPE rather than a full on 9.

This setup might be more appropriate for an off season time frame. At some point it might be better to switch to a more linear style when getting closer to a meet.

Pulsed Periodization

When thinking about what to call this thing I was drawn to the fact that for short pulses this looks like linear periodization. The intensity also increases in a sort of “step-wise” fashion. There already existing something called “Step-wise Periodization” which is just another name for Linear Periodization where the volume and intensity are manipulated in a stepwise fashion, ie. x8, x5, x3 etc. So Step-Wise Periodization seemed out of the question.

I settled on the name “Pulsed Periodization”. I like to categorize things. Maybe I’m being overly categorical. Maybe I’m neckbearding and this doesn’t really deserve it’s own designation.

Why has this worked for me?

My hypothesis is that it’s worked well because it keeps me at a relatively high intensity where I’ll build volume. It starts me out at a higher intensity and allows me to get accustomed to it. The fourth week acts as a slight deload due to the drop in volume although the intensity is still high. This strategy has taken me to an all new e1RM PR on Squats as well as a rep PR of 445×3.

Keep in mind my context. I’m an intermediate (maybe advanced-intermediate) with approximately 4 years under my belt. This probably wouldn’t be appropriate for someone more advanced than me. And I fully realize this probably won’t work for me forever. Also, the strategy might only work in synergy with the rest of my program.

Expect more tweaks and modifications. I’ll probably post them here, so feel free to check back from time to time.

Chad, you’ve invented a new form of periodization!

Oh, god, no. Please do not take this as me coming out saying I’ve invented a new program that will take the world by storm and get every hardgainer and their uncle stronger. I’m damn sure there’s an article somewhere on http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/ that exactly describes just this sort of strategy. This even harkens back to Doug Hepburn-style training. I’m not so arrogant to believe I’ve come up with a brand new style of periodization. I’ve simply come across a strategy that works for me and I wanted to see if anyone else would be interested.

If anyone tries this out, please let me know. I’d even be willing to build a training program utilizing this strategy. Contact me if you’d like. More data here would be awesome. Also, let me know what you think in general. Positives and negatives are welcome.

My last question for you is: how much would you pay for the ebook?

Just kidding…


One thought on “Pulsed Periodization

  1. […] to write a quick update as to what I’ve been up to. I’ve been using the progression I wrote about last week for about a month or two now and have been having pretty awesome results. […]


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