On Trial: Linear Vs. Reverse Linear Periodization

Which is better: starting light and ending heavy, or starting heavy and ending light?
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OPENING ARGUMENTS

Defense: Linear periodization involves starting with light weight and progressively getting heavier over several weeks or months. Research confirms that it leads to significant increases in size, strength and athletic performance.

Prosecution: With reverse linear periodization, heavy weight for low reps progressively gives way to less weight and higher reps over several weeks or months. This form of cycling is popular with bodybuilders, especially when prepping for contests. Research also confirms its efficacy.

EVIDENCE

  • Researchers from the Federal University of São Carlos (São Paulo, Brazil) had trained subjects follow a 12-week linear periodization strength training program or a reverse linear periodization program.
  • Both programs changed weight and rep ranges every week. The linear group started with a weight that allowed for 12–14 reps per set and ended with a weight that limited reps to 4–6 per set. The reverse group did the opposite rep-scheme cycle.

VERDICT: LINEAR PERIODIZATION

The linear periodization scheme doubled muscle mass gains and strength, while simultaneously dropping more bodyfat.

The scientists reported that the linear group gained seven pounds of lean muscle mass while the reverse group only gained three pounds of muscle. The linear group also lost more than five pounds of bodyfat while the reverse group lost a little more than three pounds of bodyfat. Although both exercises, the linear group made greater strength gains than the reverse group.

SENTENCING

Start with a weight that allows for 12–15 reps per set; do this for 1–4 weeks. Then increase the weight to drop the reps to 9–12 per set for 1–4 weeks. Increase the weight again to drop reps to 6–8 per set for another 1–4 weeks. In the final phase, increase the weight again so that reps are limited to 3–5 per set. The researchers had the subjects cycle these rep ranges once a week, repeating the cycle three times during the 12-week study

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