I have spent a lot of time looking into the most effective way to approach training, from both a team perspective and an individual perspective. In general, there are 2 schools of thought, and both have one goal in mind: to create the most potent stimulus to either create an increase in performance or change in body composition.
The first philosophy is a more modern day approach to designing a training program. It’s what is called undulating. Think of undulating as variable. This looks like a typical training week where we focus one day on power, another day on endurance, another day on strength, and each day has a different stimulus. The idea is that the body will need recovery after whatever stimulus you provided so on the next day you pick something different, upper body focus on day 1 and lower body focus on day 2. A lot of research shows this approach to be effective in allowing adaptation and improvement to take place.
The second philosophy is called linear. This means that the stimulus stays the same for a longer period of time. We don’t change from day to day. We take a phase, could be 1 week or 1 month, and focus on only developing one thing; only lower body this week, only endurance work the next week, and so on and so forth. The linear approach is a more old-school, eastern-block format that was developed by sports scientist in the 1960’s.
The more modern approach, which has been adopted by most westerners, is the undulating program. I normally program in accordance with this undulating approach. However, a few weeks ago I wanted to tinker around with what it would feel like to switch things around and take 1 week chunks and focus on one single training goal for each week.
I have to say… I loved it! Here is why:
It was different, meaning it felt like I was training in a different way. It gave me a distinct start and stop period for what I was doing. I knew that, in 5 days, I was done with whatever I was working on and that sense of accomplishment felt good.
It really let me see what I need to work on. I dreaded the week that I focused on power. I knew I was going to have to do 30” sprints up hill, squat, and press heavy loads for few reps. It has always been my weak spot, but really digging into it helped me face it.
At the same time, since I was immersed in that single training goal for a week, I had a chance to really see change as the week went along, as opposed to waiting from week-to-week to see if my speeds were getting faster at the 30” sprint marks or my loads for my heavy sets of 5 squats were increasing.
I liked predictability for a change. I liked knowing what was coming next and that I could focus that week on only one thing. I don’t normally like this, but knowing it was only a short time helped.
Having this deep dive into one training goal at a time helped me not only see improvement from day to day, but it also helped me see what needed to be worked on. When I did my 3rd week on endurance work, I noticed that I was consistently tight in my left hamstring, which hadn’t been a problem the previous two weeks. It was good to see that and come up with fixes.
Over the course of the next 3 weeks in the gym, we will have a linear approach to our training. Each week will have a singular goal. I believe that it’s good to tinker and test new ideas when it comes to what we do in the gym.