Periodization by Nuckols, The Last Lecture, McGill’s Biomechanics

Reading Time: 3 mins

Greg Nuckols wrote a very comprehensive review of all the existing literature on periodization. It can be found here on his website Stronger By Science. Greg identifies the various types of periodization, along with objective evidence regarding the effectiveness for strength and hypertrophy, in both trained and untrained populations. I highly recommend taking the time to read it this article to its entirety, but in the meantime, here are a few solid take-home points.

  • “Periodized training seems to produce faster, larger strength gains than nonperiodized training, regardless of training status.”
  • Despite such an absolute, consider that one “can’t assume that findings in one population will apply to another population, or even that findings in one lift will apply to another lift”:
    • Undulating is deemed superior to linear for trained individuals, where there is no substantial difference for those who are untrained. Consider that untrained populations respond to nearly any strength-inducing stimulus, and quickly at that.
    • Squat vs bench dissimilarities: probably attributed to the fact the most folks are relatively more trained in the bench press vs heavy squats, relating back to trained vs untrained. Consequently, literature showed no significant difference between periodized vs nonperiodized groups for the squat (both soared quickly). The bench press was more influenced by periodization strategy for the trained but not untrained.
  • “Is undulating periodization just a short-term strategy that essentially peaks lifters?” I would interpret this information as that undulating may be preferred for shorter training blocks (<16 weeks), but linear probably takes the cake in the long haul.
  • “There were no significant relationships between study length and relative advantage of periodization…” Understand that the majority of these studies were 6-12 weeks, with only a few longer projects only lasting 16 weeks (not exactly a long mesocycle), and one lasting 32 weeks (much more valid in my opinion). If we compared 20 studies, half being 16 weeks and half being 32 weeks, this may be different.
  • “Lack of studies on highly trained lifters” consider the term “recreationally trained”… these are most likely the undergrad bro’s who train a five-day split at the university gym (not fourth-year division one strength athletes). These subjects train frequently (3+ days/week) and have been doing such for a few years now, which qualifies them as “trained”. Just a thought.
  • Lastly, “Periodization and periodization style doesn’t seem to affect hypertrophy, at least in the literature we currently have”. Greg follows this up by arguing “that periodized plans designed to progressively increase volume over time would lead to greater hypertrophy than nonperiodized plans, or periodized plans that don’t focus on progressively increasing volume.”

I have this book on my bookshelf, actually it is owned by Jarred, called The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. I had seen the video before but decided to re-watch it the other day. This lecture at Carnegie Mellon University by Randy Pausch was to be his last lecture prior to dying from a terminal pancreatic cancer. Here is a condensed version, about forty-five minutes long, that I highly recommend.  Randy discusses…

  • Why are brick walls great? They teach you how bad you want something and weed out those who don’t want that same thing bad enough. We learn of our dedication from brick walls.
  • The best way to teach someone is to have them think they are learning something else (implications for movement education and motor learning??)
  • Remember, Jackie Robinson had a clause in his contract that forbid him from complaining when he was spit on and verbally abused- so don’t complain.

Dr. Stuart McGill aka the Back Mechanic is undeniably a world leader in spine health, despite some folks maybe taking his word a bit too far. A recent article on Perform Better’s website clears up some confusion related to spine kinetics vs kinematics..

  • Kinetics relate to forces that cause movement, aka muscle activation. This would create a moment/torque. Anterior core or flexion moments are created via anti-extension exercises (dead-bugs, bird-dogs, …)
  • Kinematics relate to movement itself without much regard to the forces that cause the movement. Spinal flexion is a kinematic term displayed via anterior movement of the spine during movements such as a curl-up or crunch.
  • Consider the loads for these patterns, sport/activity of the individual, and also the time of day for training- maybe overlooked for populations with existing ailments. Higher loads may be tolerated for some moments but lighter loads are more ideal for movements.

Last point of interest- Possibly the greatest influencer of my time is stepping down from his Editor-in-Chief position at the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR). Dr. William Kraemer has seen an absurd amount of literature of the past thirty years from his position with the NSCA and researching at Ohio State. He wrote a short resignation letter which can be found here. His successor will be Dr. Nicholas Ratamess, who is right up the road at The College of New Jersey.





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