My Periodization Has A First Name

It should come as no surprise that, if periodization in general is a good idea for athletes and gym rats alike, someone would come up with more sophisticated forms of it. Once again, I'm going to hit you with some multisyllabic terms that aren't particularly sexy. (You wouldn't whisper "conjugate periodization" to someone you hoped to get conjugal with, to state the obvious.)

But if you understand the ideas, you understand why Alwyn designed the New Rules programs the way he did. If you don't, you'll get lost.

And once you're lost, it's just one short step back to the world of endless biceps curls and leg extensions.

One more reassurance: The ideas behind Alwyn's workouts are complex and sophisticated, and they represent the very latest in scientific understanding of how muscles get bigger and stronger. But the workouts themselves aren't difficult to understand or execute. So, while I want you to understand the "why," you'll be surprised at how simple the "what" can be.

Linear periodization

This is what I described above: You do this, progress to that, progress to the next thing, get to a peak, and back off. Linear periodization means never having to say you're doing the same workout you did last month. And, while it's better than the average divide-and-conquer bodybuilding program, it's not always the best plan.

"The main problem with linear periodization is that you constantly move away from the quality you've just developed," Alwyn says. For example, in one stage you develop muscular endurance, then steadily progress toward heavier lifts, with fewer reps, thus losing some of the endurance you worked to improve. "So if it was important to develop that quality in the first place, why not at least maintain it?"

That's why some more sophisticated periodization systems have emerged. The key to them is that they improve on what periodization does best—help you build strength, power, and muscle mass—without taking an all-or-nothing approach to each phase of your program.

Alwyn uses these three types of periodization in the New Rules programs:

Alternating periodization

You'll find this in the Fat-Loss program. You can probably guess what it is by the name: In Stage 1, Alwyn has you doing sets of ten to twelve repetitions, mostly. In Stage 2, you go a little heavier, with sets of eight to ten. Then, in Stage 3, you go up as high as twenty reps per set, with an average of thirteen to fourteen per set.

In other words, instead of going in a straight line from the highest reps to the lowest, you shake up your metabolism by alternating from medium to low to high in the three stages.

Conjugate periodization

With linear periodization, you lift pretty light weights for high repetitions in the early stages, then heavy weights for low reps in the later stages. But where is it written that you can't mix and match?

That's the idea behind conjugate periodization—each program combines some heavy lifts for strength, some fast lifts for power, some medium-rep sets for muscle growth, and some high-rep sets for muscular endurance and overall conditioning.

For example, in the Strength II program, Alwyn has you do two heavy sets of four squats for pure strength, followed by an eight-rep set for muscle growth, followed by a twelve-rep set for muscle endurance. (I'll explain all this in more detail in Chapter 20.)

Undulating periodization

Classic, linear periodization assumes that every athlete in training has a specific moment in his season when he needs to reach a peak. But few sports really work that way. Take basketball: If the players only peak at tournament time, then that means they're playing at less than their peak throughout the season, which could keep them from reaching the post-season tournaments in the first place.

So strength coaches created a different model, called "undulating periodization," in which the athletes are able to maintain high levels of muscle endurance, strength, and mass throughout the season. But it's more than a maintenance program. In fact, some new research shows that undulating programs develop strength and size faster than linear systems.

Consider this study in the May 2002 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The researchers took a group of college-age lifters with an average of five years' training experience. Half did a linear program—three sets of eight reps one month, three sets of six the next, three sets of four the last. The other group did something called "daily undulating periodization" (or DUP, surely among the most unfortunate acronyms in the entire language). They did three sets of eight on Monday, three sets of six on Wednesday, and three sets of four on Friday. So they did the same program for three months, but they never did the same protocol twice in a week.

The linear group still had big gains—average increases of 14.4 percent in the bench press and 25.7 percent in the leg press. But the DUP group doubled them up— 28.8 percent in the bench and 55.8 percent in the leg press.

That's not exactly the way Alwyn uses undulating periodization in the New Rules hypertrophy workouts, but it shows the power of shaking things up.

AH these variations on linear periodization are still fairly new, and research hasn't yet established that they're always better than linear systems, or which variations might be better than others. However, plenty of research has shown that periodization, of any type, isn't just better than other types of programs. It's dramatically better.

Warming Up

You could divide all lifters into two groups, based on how they warm up:

Group 1 gets on a treadmill or stationary bike and stays there for somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes. I'm not sure how anyone in this group arrives at the optimum time to tread or cycle, but I suspect it has something to do with the length of the magazine articles they're reading or the segment on CNN on the TV overhead. Group 2 loads up a barbell and starts lifting.

Now, the people in Group 1 may literally get warm, but they don't do anything to prepare their bodies to lift weights. And when they do finally get around to lifting, they tend to do it about as intensely as they pedaled that bike. (Remember New Rule #7: Don't "do the machines.")

The people in Group 2 tend to be the most serious, hardest-working lifters in the gym. (And I should note that they're often a lot stronger than I am.) But they don't do anything special to prepare their bodies for lifting, either. I've seen these guys walk in and start lifting with 90 percent of the maximum weight they're going to use on that exercise.

I hope to get two ideas across in this chapter:

1. You will lift better, with less risk of injury, if you take a few minutes to prepare your body for the task.

2. Walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike doesn't prepare your body for the task of lifting heavy weights.

First, though, I must rule:

The Donts of Treadmill Buying

The Donts of Treadmill Buying

Though competitive runners are advised to run on the road, there are several reasons why you should buy treadmills anyway. You might have a family which means that your schedule does not have the flexibility it once had.

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