Written by justis berg
15 March 2010

 

What’s Best For Increasing Muscle Mass and Strength:

Linear or Reverse Linear Training Programs?

 

 

“Training is an exact science.”

—Mike Mentzer

 

            Mike Mentzer was correct in saying there is an exact science to training. In the January  2009 issue of Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was reported that you can take two identical workouts and train with the exact same total work performed, yet have different gains. It has been my experience that many bodybuilders can learn how to get better results by periodizing their workouts. Periodization is simply the organization and planning of training. In sport, this planning is usually based upon achieving maximum physical abilities (strength, speed, power, etc.) for a given competition or period of competitions. For a more in-depth look at how changing your training routine can make a difference, please visit my interview with Eric Broser of MD’s ‘No Juice Bodybuilding’ on the new MD AUDIO ONLINE Page: www.musculardevelopment.com/content/blogcategory/115/181/.

Among the periodization models, there is the classical linear periodization (LP), which divides a strength-training program into different periods or cycles: macrocycles (9-12 months), mesocycles (3-4 months) and microcycles (1-4 weeks), gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles.1 Reverse linear periodization (RLP) follows the modification in intensity and volume, however, in reverse order, as compared with LP— increasing volume and reducing intensity.2 So basically, reverse linear periodization starts with a higher weight poundage and then gradually reduces the weights as the weeks go on, whereas a linear system starts out with lighter weight and then gradually increases the weight poundage.

            The researchers from Brazil devised a really interesting training routine, to compare the effects of linear versus reverse linear training systems on strength and muscle. Another important variable considered was that for both training groups, the intensity and the volume were equated.3 In linear periodization, training intensity (load, or weight) is increased each microcycle (1-4 weeks) and the volume (amount, or number of repetitions) is decreased. The researchers varied the training to range between a 4-rep maximum and a 14-rep maximum. 

• One group started off with higher reps and a lighter weight and gradually increased the weight, while decreasing the reps— gradually increasing the training intensity while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles.

• One group used a heavier weight with less reps— increasing volume and reducing intensity.

 

Linear Periodization Increases Muscle Mass And Strength Greater Than Reverse Linear

At the end of 12 weeks, the volume and intensity of the two programs were exactly the same; however, the results were dramatically different. Both groups increased muscle strength, but the linear periodization program produced greater increases in upper and lower body strength. More shockingly, the linear periodization program increased lean muscle mass and decreased body fat, while the reverse linear program produced no noticeable changes in lean muscle mass or strength. 

The study concludes that if you plan your workouts for the next few weeks, always plan to train from a lower training intensity to a higher one. Traditional strength gains that occur during the first weeks of training are more dependent on neural adaptations (1-8 weeks); therefore, after this period, more significant alterations may occur in muscle mass and fat mass. The present study suggests that exercise routines constantly need to be changed for progressive increases in strength and muscle mass, but the adaptation period is an essential part— always train from a perspective of gradually increasing training intensity.

 

Key Point:

            A weight-training program that uses a periodized training system (gradually increasing the training intensity, while decreasing the training volume within and between cycles) is superior for increasing lean muscle mass and strength, when compared to a reverse linear program (increasing volume and reducing intensity).

 

References:

1. Rhea MR, Ball SB, Phillips WT and Burkett LN. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodization with equated volume and intensity for strength. J Strength Cond Res, 16: 250-255, 2002.

2. Rhea MR, Phillips WT, Burkett LN, Stone WJ, Ball SB, Alvar BA, and Thomas AB. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for local muscular endurance. J Strength Cond Res, 17: 82-87, 2003.

3. Prestes J, Lima C, Frollini A, Donatto F 2, Conte M. Comparison of Linear and Reverse Linear Periodization Effects on Maximal Strength and Body Composition. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(1):266-274