Research Review By Kevin Neeld©

Date Posted:

November 2009

Study Title:

Comparison of Linear and Reverse Linear Periodization Effects on Maximal Strength and Body Composition


Prestes J et al.

Author's Affiliations:

Physiological Sciences Department, Federal University of Sao Carlos; Health Sciences Department, Methodist University of Piracicaba; Superior School of Physical Education, Brazil.

Publication Information:

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2009; 23(1): 266-274.

Background Information:

It is widely accepted that periodized training programs results in greater increases in strength and hypertrophy than non-periodized programs. With that understood, there is less agreement on which model of periodization is most effective for various training goals.

The three main periodization models are linear (LP: progressively increasing exercise intensity and decreasing exercise volume in successive weeks), reverse linear (RLP: progressively increasing exercise volume and decreasing exercise intensity in successive weeks), and undulating (altering exercise intensity and volume in successive training sessions).

Of further interest to the training community is how time away from training affects training progress. While it is generally understood that extended time periods without training will have a detraining effect, less is known about the time course of this effect and how shorter bouts of rest (e.g. a week off) will affect strength and body composition.

The purpose of this study was to compare adaptations in maximal strength, local muscular endurance, and body composition between a LP or RLP training program, and the effect on these measures of one week of no training.

Pertinent Results:

NOTE – The training programs lasted twelve weeks. Body composition, strength, and local muscular endurance were assessed before the training commenced (A1), at Week 4 (A2), Week 8 (A3), Week 12 (A4), and after one week of detraining (A5).
  • Fat mass decreased in the LP (A1: 13.46, A4: 11.07) and RLP (A1: 14.39, A4: 12.79) groups. Fat free mass increased in the LP (A1: 43.37, A4: 46.44) and RLP (A1: 41.39, A4: 42.92) groups. Body fat percentage decreased in the LP (A1: 23.05, A4: 19.23) and RLP (A1: 25.06, A4: 22.31) groups. Of these, only the changes in the LP group were significant.
  • Bench press strength increased 14.57% and 16.15% from A1 to A4 in the LP and RLP groups, respectively. Lat pull-down strength increased 26.45% and 21.55% from A1 to A4 in the LP and RLP groups, respectively. Arm curl strength increased 15.67% and 17.07% from A1 to A4 in the LP and RLP groups, respectively. Leg extension strength increased 36.84% and 30.26% from A1 to A4 in the LP and RLP groups, respectively. All differences from A1 to A4 were statistically significant. LP improved to a significantly greater degree than RLP in the lat pull-down exercise. The authors did not report any other significant difference between periodization models in these strength measures.
  • No significant differences were found in local muscular endurance for either training group.
  • All changes in body composition and strength were maintained from A4 to A5.

Clinical Application & Conclusions:

The findings of this study fail to provide a clear indication of a superiority of either a linear or reverse linear periodization model. Of relevant interest to practical strength and conditioning is the finding that all body composition and strength changes were maintained following one week of training. In some instances, strength actually increased following one week of rest. This finding lends support to the idea that individuals following a consistent training program can use a week off to recuperate from the physical and mental stresses of training without risking notable strength decrements.

This research can be used by training professionals during presentations and/or conversations with over-enthusiastic clients/athletes that feel a week away from formal training will halt their progress.

Study Methods:

Twenty women participated in the current investigation, and randomly assigned to the LP or RLP training groups. The training programs lasted twelve weeks. Body composition, strength, and local muscular endurance were assessed before the training commenced (A1), at Week 4 (A2), Week 8 (A3), Week 12 (A4), and after one week of detraining (A5). Tests included: body composition using skinfold calipers; one repetition maximum (1RM) on the bench press, lat pull-down, arm curl, and leg extension; and local muscular endurance on the arm curl and leg extension.

The training program involved two workouts (A and B), performed three days a week (e.g. Week 1: Monday-A, Wednesday-B, Friday-A; Week 2: Monday-B, Wednesday-A, Friday-B; etc.).

Workout A included: Bench press, inclined chest fly, dumbbell shoulder press, lateral raise, standing arm curl, biceps preacher curl, triceps extension, and close-grip bench press.
Workout B included: Back squat, leg extension, leg curl, glute kickbacks, hip abduction, hip adduction, standing calf raise, lat pull-down, and seated row.

Exercise volume and intensity were altered such that the LP group increased resistance and decreased volume over the first three weeks of each of the four-week training cycles (Cycle 1: reps decreased from 12-14 to 8-10; Cycle 2: reps decreased from 10-12 to 6-8; Cycle 3: reps decreased from 8-10 to 4-6). The RLP group decreased resistance and increased volume at these same times. The fourth week of each cycle (e.g. weeks 4, 8, and 12) involved performing sets of 12 repetitions for all exercises and was used as a deloading week. Only two workouts were performed in these weeks. Participants in both groups also performed two weekly 30-minute conditioning sessions around 60% of their target heart rate as determined by the Karvonen method.

Study Strengths / Weaknesses:

The authors, seemingly surprised, report that the RLP group did not experience the same increases in strength as the LP group despite beginning the program with higher training loads. Anecdotal evidence suggests that weaker individuals have more strength to gain, which provides a reasonable explanation for the current results. The primary limitation of this study is an insufficient sample size. The significance found in this study provides unsubstantiated support for LP programs over RLP, despite both groups increasing strength in all exercises. Doubling the sample size would likely narrow the gap in results between these two periodization models.

Additional References:

  1. Deschenes MR & Kraemer WJ. Performance and physiologic adaptations to resistance training. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2002; 81: S3-S16.
  2. Fry AC. The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations. Sports Med 2004; 34: 663-679.
  3. Graves JE et al. Effects of reduced training frequency on muscular strength. Int J Sports Med 1988; 9: 316-319.
  4. Rhea MR et al. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for local muscular endurance. J Strength Cond Res 2003; 17: 82-87.