This article is a live case study, of a ‘trained athlete’ carrying out prescribed exercises and timing from the scientifically proven Modified Linear Periodised Programme for Loading. Taken from Brad Schoenfeld’s book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. Schoenfeld is considered by many to be the strength and hypertrophy specialist.
My name is Ryan Parker and I have recently carried out a live case study for Brad Schoenfeld’s linear periodised programme. As a 31-year-old male with a background in sport and fitness, I began to hit many strength plateaus. My deadlift 1 rep max was stuck at 170kg for about 5 years (I think I lifted 175kg once or twice in the past), squat has been at 130kg for at least two years and my bench has increased from 95kg to 100kg only recently having been stuck on 95kg for about 2 years. My body weight, fat and measurements have stayed roughly the same during this time. My lack of progress began to bother me.
Although now my job as a Marketing Executive for Human Kinetics is largely sedentary I’ve always worked out between 3-5 times a week.
This situation will resonate with a lot of people in a similar situation. Have I got as strong as is physically possible, as strong as my God-given genes will let me? Maybe as I’m now 31 I simply can’t get the gains I got when I was in my early 20’s? Maybe my training has just been too random?
Well, I put all this to the test, by following Brad’s Linear Periodised Programme taken from Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. I get married in July 2019 and I want to be in the best shape of my life for the wedding and the honeymoon so my goal is to increase my strength and size in the 6-month programme before going on a bit of a pre-wedding cut.
My training history
My training over the last 3-4 years has been rather concurrent (or perhaps even random). I play soccer once a week and usually hit the gym at least 3 times a week. I go through phases, predominantly I do HIIT type workouts or strength training, this usually revolves around powerlifting lifts and occasionally Olympic lifts. A couple of times a month I tend to do some endurance type work but these rarely consist of anything more than an hour of steady-state cardio, something like a bike ride or a run, such as parkrun which is a 5k run and takes me between 21-24 minutes. Most weekends I also go on long dog walks too.
I also occasionally play badminton and tennis but this is getting less often, I haven’t even touched a racquet for about 6 months. I have, of course, gone through phases of typical bodybuilding bro splits. However, I’ve noticed I haven’t been able to add any weight to my big lifts for the last few years, despite doing regular heavy strength training.
Tale of the tape and vital stats – pre-programme
All measurements marked in inches, unless stated otherwise.
|Weight||78kg (172lbs or 12 stone 3lbs)|
|Height (feet and inch)||5’10 (177cm)|
|Body Fat (using callipers)||12.6 %|
|Abdomen (around belly button)||32.5|
|Waist (around hips)||34|
More information in skinfold testing and the norms can be found on ExRx.
1 rep max
|Strict (Military) press||67.5kg|
The power clean was included too, although it isn’t prescribed in Brads Linear Periodised Programme. I am not expecting any gains here but I feel it will be informative to see if my power does improve as my strength (hopefully) improves.
All unbroken, until failure.
|Strict pull-ups||28 reps|
|Strict chins||31 reps|
|Back squat + 100% body weight||26 reps|
|Bent over row 75% body weight||26 reps|
|Bench 75% body weight||23 reps|
|Strict (Military) press 50% body weight||21 reps|
|Bicep curls 50% body weight||11 reps|
|Post strength mesocycle |
|Post-Microcycle 4 |
|Finishing stats 29th April|
|Height (ft, inch)||5’10|
|Abdomen (around belly button)||32.5||33.5||34.25||34|
|Skinfold||Baseline||Post strength||Post hypertrophy|
|Lean weight||68.2 kg||69.8 kg||72.9 kg|
|Fat weight||9.8 kg||10.30 kg||10.6 kg|
|Lift|| Baseline/concurrent training||Post strength cycle||Post hypertrophy|
Relative Strength Tests
|Lift||Baseline||Post strength||Post hypertrophy|
|Strict pull-ups||28 reps||20 reps||22 reps|
|Strict chins||31 reps||28 reps||23 reps|
|Push-ups||69 reps||64 reps||69 reps|
|Dips||35 reps||35 reps||29 reps|
|Back squat + 100% body weight||26 reps||22 reps||15 reps|
|Bent over row 75% body weight||26 reps||30 reps||31 reps|
|Bench 75% body weight||23 reps||21 reps||24 reps|
|Strict (Military) press 50% body weight||21 reps||23 reps||23 reps|
|Bicep curls 50% body weight||11 reps||12 reps||15 reps|
Analysis of results
As a general rule, my upper body has got stronger. My relative strength has gone up on most upper body lifts, except pull-ups and chins. My lower body relative strength (squats) has dropped a lot, this could be because I am now heavier or maybe I was having a bad day on the testing day but I definitely could not get anywhere near 26 reps again. Despite this, my legs have got bigger and leaner.
Post strength cycle I was smashing my previous plateaus and my deadlift, squat and bench 1RM’s all increased. However, post strength phase my 1 rep max has not increased on anything apart from the strict press. I’ve actually stayed the same on everything else. My strength hit a peak after the first microcycle (strength phase) but then as more reps and different exercises came into play my strength has stagnated, despite being heavier, bigger and arguably looking stronger.
As explained later in this post, the final phase was adjusted due to personal circumstances and partly due to the fact I was happy with the size I’d put on and was starting to think about getting leaner. From October to April I followed the training side strictly and only missed a couple of sessions. This is where I saw the biggest gains I peaked in terms of hypertrophy after microcycle 4.
If hypertrophy is your aim this programme works, I clearly put on size and muscle.
The programme I decided to follow (linear peridised) starts with a strength phase and ends with a hypertrophy phase. It is designed so that growth peaks at this time.
The main goal was to get bigger and stronger. Before baseline, I was doing quite a lot of strength training (heavy weights, low reps) I was getting frustrated that I haven’t really been able to add any extra weight to my lifts.
The strength phase is this programme was slightly different from how I usually strength train with some different exercises and rep ranges. The programme ‘peaks’ with a hypertrophy phase. Hypertrophy gains were seen as an added bonus but I wanted to test the theory of if hypertrophy training could lead to strength gains.
Before I started the programme I stated that I’d like to increase my weight to somewhere between 82-85kg while still maintaining a similar body fat percentage. This was achieved although my body fat did increase a little more than I’d like, I went over 85kg.
My relative strength has always been above average, so I was happy to just maintain these as a weight increase was expected. It’s the 1RM’s that I really wanted to smash. My relative strength did get a little worse on some lifts but it increased on others (such as strict press and bent over row) overall and my 1RM’s didn’t push on as much as I’d have liked.
What is the Modified Linear Periodised Programme?
Taken from Brad Schoenfeld’s book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy a linear periodised programme is a scientific approach to strength and muscle hypertrophy (growth and increase of the size of muscle). This book has been one of the best sellers for Human Kinetics. It is one of the best strength training books and one of Human Kinetic’s most valuable academic books. So its easy to see why I chose this book for my programme. Having done a fair bit of research I concluded that this linear periodised programme is the programme for me!
What is Periodisation?
Periodisation training is where an athlete or coach systematically plans training. The plan is broken up into phases and microcycles with the aim that the athlete should peak at the end of the final phase. It can involve tapering to peak for a one-off event. Or in my case, it involves a strength phase followed by a hypertrophy phase with a mixture of workouts and de-load weeks. The aim is to have maximum hypertrophy gains after that final cycle.
Types of periodisation
An array of periodisation models have been proposed to maximise muscular adaptations to resistance training. Of these models, three have been studied with respect to their effects on muscle hypertrophy: traditional linear periodisation, nonlinear (undulating) periodisation and reverse periodisation.
It should be noted that periodisation is a concept, not a defined system of training. Thus, there are virtually unlimited ways to structure a periodised programme based on a person’s unique needs and abilities. Given that all training variables can be manipulated and given the plethora of possible combinations of manipulation, the ability to draw practical inferences from research is limited. So although periodisation appears to maximise hypertrophy, multiple approaches remain viable options. Which is why the programme should help me as I’ve never really taken a scientific approach to a periodised programme before.
As mentioned, I have chosen to do a linear periodised programme. The origins of this type of programme can be traced back to the 1950’s. Matveyev – a Russian physiologist, is widely credited with developing the traditional linear periodisation model to prepare athletes for Olympic competition. This was later further developed by Tudor Bompa who expanded and further organised the periodisation model. Bompa is also the author of the brilliant Periodization, 6th Edition.
The linear model has three basic phases: the macrocycle, which encompasses an entire training period generally ranging from 6 months to several years; the mesocycle, which splits the macrocycle into at least two subdivisions lasting from several weeks to months; and the microcycle, which further subdivides the mesocycle into weekly phases focused on daily training variations.
In the classic linear model, intensity and volume are inversely structured so that mesocycles progress from periods of high volume and low intensity to periods of low volume and high intensity. A typical three-phase linear mesocycle begins with a hypertrophy or muscle endurance phase in which intensities of load are 60% to 75% of 1RM (10 to 20 repetitions). Next is a strength phase in which loading intensities range from 80% to 90% of 1RM (4 to 8 repetitions). The final mesocycle focuses on strength and power by increasing intensities even further, approaching or exceeding 95% of 1RM (2 to 5 repetitions). Each increase in intensity is met with a corresponding reduction in training volume to accommodate the greater stress on the neuromuscular system.
Ultimately, the person peaks at the end of the final mesocycle so that the training outcomes transfer to competition. Several studies have been carried out to determine whether periodising a resistance training programme enhances muscle growth, the detail of these studies can be found in Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy.
Is linear periodisation better reverse periodisation?
There are arguments stating that reverse periodisation is better for hypertrophy than the traditional linear periodisation programme. However, there isn’t much science comparing the hypertrophic adaptations of linear models to back up these arguments.
Prestes et al (1) did a study in 20 trained young women and found that after 12 weeks there was an increase in fat-free mass with the linear periodisation group. That was enough to convince me to try the traditional linear periodisation programme over the reverse programme.
Reverse periodisation has a hypertrophy mesocycle at the end of the macrocycle. However, although my goal is hypertrophy it is also to increase my strength so I liked the amount of strength work in the linear periodisation programme.
What about an undulating/nonlinear programme?
Nonlinear periodisation is thought to address inherent issues with the traditional model—namely, that progressive increases in load intensity do not allow sufficient time for regeneration. This places undue stress on the body over extended periods and increasing the potential for overtraining. Also, the hypertrophic gains obtained during the early phases of training are not well maintained because volume—a primary driver of hypertrophy is progressively decreased over the latter phases of the linear macrocycle.
Nonlinear periodised programmes vary volume and intensity in an undulatory manner. A number of studies have been carried out on undulationg programmes the findings are also listed in Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy.
Author Brad Schoenfeld concludes that both linear and nonlinear models of periodisation seem to be equally viable for maximising hypertrophy.
Increasing lean body mass
In their pioneering work, Stone and colleagues (2) found that a periodised programme increased lean body mass to a significantly greater extent than a nonperiodised routine did. Unfortunately, the values for each group were not published, thereby precluding the ability to assess the magnitude of differences in the protocols. In a subsequent study, Baker and colleagues (3) failed to detect any significant differences in lean body mass between periodised and nonperiodised models; another study (4) showed greater absolute differences in favour of periodised training, but values did not rise to statistical significance. It should be noted that the two latter studies used the skinfold technique to evaluate body composition, which is of questionable accuracy for assessing relatively small changes in lean mass over short periods. So although there is some direct evidence to support the use of periodisation in a hypertrophy-oriented programme, the research at this point remains equivocal, precluding the ability to form definitive conclusions on the topic.
I also used the skinfold technique for measuring body fat as well as self-reported body measurements. The validity of anything self-reported is questionable but one thing which cannot be questioned whether or not this programme will help me lift more in the weight room. The calliper skinfold body fat measurement is still widely regarded as the most accurate, easy way to measure body fat.
As Brad writes in his book, there is considerable evidence which shows that periodisation elicits greater gains in strength than nonperiodised approaches do. Given that mechanical tension is a primary driving force for muscle protein accretion, a case can be made that greater increases in strength alone would facilitate superior hypertrophic gains over time.
In the book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy Brad also goes into great detail about undulating and reverse periodisation but for this case study, (I am just focusing on a modified linear periodised programme.)
How I attacked the Linear Periodised Programme
This is slightly adapted from the recommended programme from Brads book to suit my lifestyle and the equipment available to me. Brads exact recommendations can be found in Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy and The M.A.X Muscle Plan.
|15/10/2018||Strength full body – 4 weeks|
|Monday||Bench press, barbell bent reverse row, standing strict press, squat, deadlift||3||5||3 mins|
|Wednesday||Bench press, barbell bent reverse row, standing strict press, squat, deadlift||3||5||3 mins|
|Thursday||HIIT workout (week 2 & 4 only)|
|Saturday||Bench press, barbell bent reverse row, standing strict press, squat, deadlift||3||5||3 mins|
|12/11/2018||Strength de load – 1 week|
|Monday||Incline chest fly, lat pull down, upright row, Bulgarian squat, Romanian deadlift (as a replacement for lying hamstring curl), standing calf raise||3||15-20||2 mins|
|Saturday||Incline chest fly, lat pull down, upright row, Bulgarian squat, Romanian deadlift (as a replacement for lying hamstring curl), standing calf raise||3||15-20||2 mins|
|19/11/2018||Strength split body – 4 weeks|
|Monday||Chest press (5s, 5r), incline fly (3s,8r), barbell row (5s, 5r), weighted pull ups (replacing lat pull down) (3s,8r), strict press (4s, 4r), lateral raise (3s,8r)||3 mins|
|Wednesday||Squat (5×5), deadlift (5×5), good morning (3×8), Romanian deadlift (3×6) calf raise (3×20)||3 mins|
|Thursday||Chest press (5s, 5r), incline fly (3s,8r), barbell row (5s, 5r), weighted pull ups (replacing lat pull down) (3s,8r), strict press (4s, 4r), lateral raise (3s,8r)||3 mins|
|Saturday||Squat (5×5), deadlift (5×5), good morning (3×8), Romanian deadlift (3×6) calf raise (3×20)||3 mins|
|17/12/2018||Test week (Do all strength tests and measurements)|
|24/12/2018||Rest 1 week – Xmas|
|31/12/2018||Test week take 2|
|07/01/2019||Metabolic phase – 3 weeks|
|Monday||Incline chest press, single arm DB row, DB shoulder press, DB curl, tricep extension, leg press, calf raise||3||20||1 min|
|Wednesday||Incline chest press, single arm DB row, DB shoulder press, DB curl, tricep extension, leg press, calf raise||3||20||1 min|
|Thursday||Conditioning session (week 2 only)|
|Saturday||Incline chest press, single arm DB row, DB shoulder press, DB curl, tricep extension, leg press, calf raise||3||20||1 min|
|28/01/2019||Hypertrophy phase, microcycle 1 – full body 3 weeks
(skipped a de-load week because of Xmas I had 3 de-load weeks)
|Monday||Chest press, seated pulley row, strict press, DB curl, Tricep push down (rope), front squat, hamstring curl, standing calf raise||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Wednesday||Chest fly, one arm row, rear delt raise, EZ curl, tricep (rope), lunge/leg press, toe press||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Saturday||Incline bench, chin-ups (weighted), lateral raise, hammer curl, lying tricep extension, squat, Romanian deadlift, calf raise||3||6-12||2 mins|
|18/02/2019||de-load week, microcycle 2|
|Thursday||Incline bench, pull-ups, Bulgarian squat||3||12||2 mins|
|Saturday||Incline bench, pull-ups, Bulgarian squat||3||12||2 mins|
|25/02/2019||Hypertrophy split body, microcycle 3 – 4 weeks|
|Monday||Trap bar deadlift, Barbell split squat, DB side lunge, stiff leg deadlift, calf raise, some ab work to finish||4||8-10|
|Wednesday||Bench Press, incline fly, pull ups, lat pulldown, DB shoulder press, lat raise, barbell curl, overhead DB tricep extension||3||8-10||2 mins|
|Thursday||Leg press, leg curl, hamstring curl, hyperextension, seated calf raise, toe press, reverse crunch||4||8-12||2 mins|
|Saturday||Incline bench press, pec dec, chin up, one arm DB row, DB shoulder press, reverse fly, DB bicep curl, DB tricep kickback||3||8-12||2 mins|
|25/03/2019||de-load week (slightly adapted from Brad’s prescription) microcycle 4|
|Thursday||Bench press, lat pull down, power clean||2||12-20||2 mins|
|01/04/2019||A testing week|
|8/04/2019||5:3 way split 4 weeks, microcycle 5|
|Monday||Military press, lateral raise, rear delt fly, tricep extension (rope), hammer curl, lying tricep extension, concentration curl, tricep kickback, DB incline curl||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Wednesday||Lat pulldown, one arm row, DB pullover, incline bench press, decline bench press, flys, barbell ab rollout, twisting crunch||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Thursday||Back squat, DB lunge, knee extension, hip thrust, Romanian deadlift, leg curl, calf raise seated and standing||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Friday||Military press, lateral raise, rear delt fly, tricep extension (rope), hammer curl, lying tricep extension, concentration curl, tricep kickback, DB incline curl||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Saturday||Lat pulldown, one arm row, DB pullover, incline bench press, decline bench press, flys, barbell ab rollout, twisting crunch||3||6-12||2 mins|
|Sunday||Back squat, DB lunge, knee extension, hip thrust, Romanian deadlift, leg curl, calf raise seated and standing||3||6-12||2 mins|
You may have seen some linear periodised programme’s which start with high volume, low-intensity training and gradually progresses to a lower volume of high-intensity work. This programme starts with strength into a short metabolic phase then into a long hypertrophy phase broken up into 5 microcycles within the hypertrophy phase.
The science behind the hypertrophy phase
The hypertrophy phase in this programme illustrates a strategy for systematically increasing volume across a training cycle. This strategy can be used in both linear and undulating models. Microcycle 1 shows a 3-day-per-week routine in which all major muscles are trained in each workout session. In this scheme, training would generally be carried out on nonconsecutive days, I’m going for Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the other days are reserved for recovery. Microcycle 3 increases frequency to 4 days per week employing an upper-body/lower-body split routine. This type of routine is best carried out on a 2-on/1-off, 2-on/2-off basis. Although the training volume remains the same on a per-session basis, the total weekly volume is greater because of the higher frequency of training. Microcycle 5 increases frequency to 6 days per week employing a traditional bodybuilding-style split routine. Typically training in this type of protocol is carried on a 3-on/1-off basis.
The video below shows part of the workout from the third microcycle.
View this post on Instagram
This is @ry10pkr from HK Europe, he is now in microcycle 3 of his modified linear periodised programme which is prescribed in @bradschoenfeldphd’s book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. Since starting the programme he’s gained 5kg and his body fat has stayed between 12-13%. During the strength phase he managed to increase his 1RM’s on all the big compound lifts. Now deep into the hypertrophy phase he is expecting to put on more lean mass. Here is a little video of his upper body workout. Track how he gets on at humankinetics.me and search for modified linear periodised programme. #hypertrophy #periodization #strength #fitness #lift #bulking #massgainer #SportScience #gym #NSCA #weighttraining #gains #workoutmotivation #trainingwithhumankinetics
I still did do the occasional bit of cardio but it was much less regular and there wasn’t much steady state cardio it nearly always involved some sort of resistance, as written in The MAX Muscle Plan, cardio helps improve recuperation from heavy training. Very low-intensity dog walking was still regular. I incorporated a few HIIT workouts. I did not partake in any long distance running or much soccer.
As well as the training plan I also made some adjustments to my diet. To ensure I was in a calorific surplus for hypertrophy gains.
As described in Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, combining resistance training with an energy surplus enhances the anabolic effect: gains in a fat-free mass increase from 38% to 46% of the total weight gain achieved by sedentary subjects to as much as 100% in trained subjects.
Getting the right balance
In a study of elite athletes (not that I’m an elite athlete, but I do train regularly), Garthe and colleagues (5) randomised subjects to a diet designed to provide a surplus of approximately 500 kcal/day or an ad libitum intake (ate when they felt like eating). All subjects participated in the same 4-day-per week hypertrophy-type resistance training programme, which was carried out over a period of 8 to 12 weeks. Results showed a greater increase in fat-free mass in favour of those in a caloric surplus versus those at maintenance (1.7 vs. 1.2 kg, or 3.7 vs. 2.6 lb, respectively), although the results did not reach statistical significance. Interestingly, the differences in fat-free mass between the groups were specific to the lower-body musculature, where a significant advantage was noted for those in an energy surplus. Greater increases in fat-free mass associated with the energy surplus were accompanied by an increased fat deposition compared to the eucaloric (Calories burned and calories gained are in a balance) condition (1.1 vs. 0.2 kg, or 2.4 vs. 0.4 lb, respectively). Thus, well-trained people appear to use less of the surplus for lean tissue–building purposes; a higher amount goes toward adipose (fat) tissue. It is not clear what, if any, effect an even greater energy surplus would have had on body composition changes.
Beyond a certain point, overconsumption of energy has a negative impact on muscle growth. When macronutrient intake exceeds bodily requirements to maintain homeostasis and energy production for cellular processes, skeletal muscle can ultimately become resistant to insulin.
In well-trained subjects, evidence suggests that a positive energy balance of 500 to 1,000 kcal/day is preferable for increasing fat-free mass. Contrary to what some may believe, untrained subjects can benefit from a substantial energy surplus. This is because untrained subjects have a higher hypertrophic potential and a faster rate of growth than trained subjects do, which accommodates more energy and substrate for building new tissue.
So, my plan was to avoid being eucaloric, of course, but to gradually increase my intake of food. To be honest this could have been carried out better and I struggled with this much more than the training.
My macronutrient intake
As you may know, the body needs three macronutrients, these are protein, carbohydrates and fat (lipid). Each macronutrient has different relevance from a hypertrophy point of view. Here is a quick breakdown of what is recommended and what I tried to eat.
Synomonius with muscle building. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg of body mass. However, as Brad explains in his book the protein needs of those seeking to maximize muscle size are substantially higher than those listed in the RDA guidelines.
Lemon and colleagues (6) found that novice bodybuilders in the early phase of intense training required approximately 1.6 to 1.7 g/kg/day. This increased protein requirement is necessary to offset the oxidation of amino acids during exercise as well as to supply substrate for lean tissue accretion and the repair of exercise-induced muscle damage. The dose-response relationship between protein intake and hypertrophy appears to top out at approximately 2.0 g/kg/day; consuming substantially larger amounts of dietary protein does not result in further increases in lean tissue mass. There is even some evidence that protein requirements actually decrease in well-trained people.
Optimal total daily protein intake depends on both energy balance status and body composition. Phillips and Van Loon (7) estimated that a protein intake of up to 2.7g/kg/day was needed during hypoenergetic periods to avoid lean tissue losses. However, my diet will be high in calories so this is not an issue for me.
As I started the programme weighing 78kg (172lbs) I aimed to eat at least 156 grammes of protein a day. This mostly came from eggs or a protein bar with my cereal every morning, a mixture of meats, fish and high protein vegetables or beans with my lunch and evening meal as well as some nuts and a protein shake post-workout to ensure I did not miss that golden window of opportunity. I planned on eating greek yoghurt most evenings if I felt I hadn’t eaten enough throughout the day. I did eat well for most of the days but in the evenings I did swap greek yoghurt for a chocolate one on more than one occasion. As my weight and training increased, I planned to add a little more but I didn’t increase it as much as I should have towards the end. I was happy with my weight increase but if I wanted to hit 90kg I could have eaten more.
Carbs are essential for hypertrophy. Even though actually carbohydrate is not essential in the diet because the body can manufacture the glucose needed by tissues through gluconeogenesis. But for muscle growth, it is required. As much as 80% of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production during moderate-repetition resistance training is derived from glycolysis. Substantial reductions in muscle glycogen, therefore, limit ATP regeneration during resistance exercise, leading to an inability to sustain muscular contractility at high force outputs. In addition, a distinct pool of glycogen is localised in close contact with key proteins involved in calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum; a decrease in these stores is believed to hasten the onset of muscular fatigue via an inhibition of calcium release. Studies have found that muscle glycogen depletion significantly decreased the number of repetitions performed in 3 sets of squats at 80% of 1RM. Similar impairments in anaerobic performance have been noted as a result of following a low carbohydrate diet.
At the very least, it would seem prudent to consume enough carbohydrate to maintain fully-stocked glycogen stores. A minimum intake of 3 g/kg/ a day seems to be sufficient according to Brad Schoenfeld. Additional carbohydrate intake will be considered if I feel I require/want more.
3g/kg a day for me is around 234g a day. Although I haven’t really monitored my food intakes prior to taking part in the Linear Periodised Programme case study, as a rough estimate I would say I usually have around 234g a day anyway. I did gradually increase carb intake. Most carbs came from potato, sweet potato and rice. I also had at least one cup of green tea a day and included other foods to help increase insulin sensitivity such as turmeric and garlic – I was a hit with my mates, work colleagues and future wife!
Fat, also known as lipid, is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in many bodily functions. These functions include cushioning the internal organs for protection; aiding in the absorption of vitamins; and facilitating the production of cell membranes, hormones and prostaglandins. At 9 kcal/g, fat provides more than twice the energy per unit as protein or carbohydrate. Dietary fat is classified into two basic categories: saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and unsaturated fatty acids, which contain one or more double bonds in their carbon chain. Fats with one double bond are called monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), of which oleate is the most common. Fats with two or more double bonds are called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). This is explained in greater detail in Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are conceivably important for enhancing muscle protein synthesis and should be prioritised over saturated fatty acids (SFAs). A minimum of 1 g/kg/day of dietary fat appears sufficient to prevent hormonal alterations.
I went for around 1.2 g/kg/day = 94g a day, of which at least 2g will be from omega-3 fatty acids. The fat intake was slightly higher than what is needed because I snacked on nuts a lot while at work and rarely turned down any cakes/chocolates.
Pre programme I ate between 2,500 -3,000 calories a day, I did increase this. During the final hypertrophy microcycle I aimed to be to eat between 3,800 and 4,000 a day. I usually fell a little short of this. I followed some of the meal ideas and plans from The New Power Eating by Susan Kleiner PhD and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson PhD which were great.
Vitamins, minerals and supplements
I always try to get most of the essential nutrients from eating a balanced diet. However, I did dabble with a few supplements. These included.
I’ve cycled creatine in the past and I am a responder, it did help me increase size. I’ve never noticed much of an increase in strength though. However, numerous studies have shown creatine to be the best supplement for strength and size. Susan Kleiner writes about the benefits of creatine in The New Power Eating.
I did cycle it durning this programme, I had around 3 grammes a day for 7 weeks, then stopped taking it for 7/8 weeks and then I started using it again throughout the hypertrophy phase of the programme. I do think creatine played a big role in aiding my weight gain.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone. As this case study took place throughout winter, I was not be exposed to much sunlight, hence my vitamin D levels were most likely low. Numerous studies have found that athletic performance declines with low vitamin D. Muscle weakness is also associated with low vitamin D levels. Read more on why everyone in Britain should take Vitamin D. I did have some Vitamin D supplements but I did not take it every day.
Linked with improved sleep as well as an excellent exercise aid. Magnesium is often low in people who train a lot, I’ve never been tested for it but I am keen to keep my levels topped up, I did take a magnesium supplement before bed on most training days.
A quick and easy way to get protein into my system after a workout is with a shake. On days I did not have time to get a good quality meal in post workout I had a whey protein shake.
EPA and DHA
I ate fish at least a couple of times a week. I also had a cod liver oil tablet or krill tablet most evenings which are high in EPA and DHA.
Rest and sleep were vital. Sleep helps increase insulin sensitivity and the ability to have the energy train. Dr Ian Dunican recently presented a webinar for us on the importance of sleep, titled Sleep and Performance: Time to Wake Up! you can watch this now, for free on the Human Kinetics website. I tried to ensure I got 8 hours every night.
Follow my progress
Feel free to follow and comment with any feedback.
Results phase 1 – Strength
Tale of the tape
|Baseline/concurrent training||Post strength mesocycle||Difference|
|Weight||78 kg||80 kg||2.5%|
|Height (feet and inch)||5’10 (177cm)|
|Body Fat (using callipers)||12.60%||12.00||1%|
|Abdomen (around belly button)||32.5||34||-4.60%|
|Waist (around hips)||34||34||0|
The aim is everything bigger, except my abs (which has got bigger but is marked as a minus figure as it has gone in the wrong direction, the goal is not to get a bigger waist).
The results here are good, I’ve put on 2kg, without really changing my diet. My legs have got bigger, rather surprisingly my arms have grown the most, proving that big compound lifts will make everywhere grow.
|Baseline/concurrent training||Post strength mesocycle||Difference|
There isn’t much change in my body fat as a whole, which I’m pleased with. However, some of the results are a little surprising, having fluctuated quite a lot around the suprailiac and quads.
1 Rep Max tests
|Baseline/concurrent training||Post strength mesocycle||Difference|
|Strict (Military) press||67.5kg||75kg||11%|
I’m very pleased that all my big lifts have improved. The strict press has improved the most, this is probably because I’ve never done as much strict press as this programme prescribed. I do however train my deadlift, squat and bench a lot and I was hitting plateaus. To see all these increases even slightly is great. Given more time I’m confident I could have got 105kg on the bench press, I only attempted it once and couldn’t lock it out without my spotter helping, however, this was only around 4/5 mins after lifting 102.5kg.
I didn’t attempt to squat any higher than 140kg. I had one attempt at 180kg deadlift but couldn’t lift it any more than a couple of inches off the floor, I started seeing stars and went home!
I could only power clean 85kg, I failed at 90kg twice and didn’t try it again, as this was not part of the strength cycle, I’m not too fussed about hitting or surpassing my PB of 90kg.
Relative strength tests
|Baseline/concurrent training||Post strength mesocycle||Difference|
|Strict pull-ups||28 reps||20||-28.5|
|Strict chins||31 reps||28||-9.60%|
|Back squat + 100% body weight||26 reps||22||-15%|
|Bent over row 75% body weight||26 reps||30||15%|
|Bench 75% body weight||23 reps||21||-8.6|
|Strict (Military) press 50% body weight||21 reps||23||9.5%|
|Bicep curls 50% body weight||11 reps||12||9%|
Not surprisingly my relative strength has only increased on the bent over row and strict press, as I have been doing these a lot more than usual. As I’ve only been doing reps of 3-5 or 8 my body was not prepared for high volume sets, hence the drop in relative strength for most of these exercises. Despite doing a lot of squats and bench, the heavy weights and low volume has led to a decrease in max reps. Another thing to note is the fact I was actually lifting more as I now weight 80kg and I was working out all the relative weights for 80kg, not 77kg as I did previously.
The next phase which is metabolic should see these increase.
Analysis of the first mesocycle
The first thing I’d recommend is to find out your 5 rep max on all the big lifts. Don’t start guessing you’ll waste your time lifting weights too light or too heavy, I workout out my 5 rep max before I started the programme, however, I was training with a friend and it took him a few sessions to get the right weight for some lifts.
Another thing I’d recommend is to get a spotter, I had a spotter which helped me push through the last rep on many occasions where I would have had to give up and not try the last rep had he not being there. Training with a friend also helps keep you on track and motivated.
I enjoyed the first phase of the programme, in the past when I’ve just done strength training I’ve often lost focus and motivation. With this programme I didn’t. its simple, effective and I never felt overtrained or fatigued and I had very little sign of DOMs which is great.
My cardio has dropped, I’ve only played 5 a side soccer a couple of times and I haven’t done any running and I’ve only been on the cardio machines in the gym to warm up.
The workouts were longer than my usual sessions. I typically spend about 45-50 minutes in the gym. The sessions in the first microcycle were taking just over an hour, the split body microcycle sessions were taking about 90 minutes.
The main limitation I had was getting to the gym, I sold my house halfway through the programme and my new house will not be ready until February. I’ve been living with my fiancée’s parents who live 26 miles away from my gym. The gym is also 15 miles away from my work so I’ve been covering a lot of distance in order to train.
I only missed one session, I did have to rearrange a couple though because of work commitments and I also had a couple of weekends away. This resulted in back to back sessions and occasionally two sessions in a day to ensure I got them in. This isn’t recommended.
Results after microcycle 4
This is during the hypertrophy phase but before the final 4 weeks of the 5:3 split. I didn’t do the strength tests but did my body measurements as I was feeling bigger than I had been in the past. The most surprising for me is the fact my legs grew two inches. I’m putting this down to not doing more leg work but varying the work. Although there were fewer deadlifts and squats compared to what I usually do (and my strength on these exercises didn’t actually increase) I put on size by including lunges and some machine work such as the leg press and leg extension. Perhaps less functional but helps increase size. I’ve written a post on machines v free weights (Free weights or machines? The science and the facts) which is well worth a read for more information.
I was also a little surprised to see my weight over 85kg, the biggest I’ve ever been. The main drawback is I did feel less mobile and perhaps a little less fit. However, I am encouraged to know that I can put on size and my body fat didn’t go up too much either.
|Baseline/concurrent training 14th October||Post strength mesocycle 17th December||Post-Microcycle 4 1st April|
|Weight||78 kg||80 kg||85.5 kg|
|Height (feet and inch)||5’10 (177cm)|
|Body Fat (using callipers)||12.60%||12.75||13.45|
|Abdomen (around belly button)||32.5||34||34.25|
|Waist (around hips)||34||34||34.25|
Final results – Hypertrophy
The only time in the programme I did not stick to it, unfortunately. So the results are not as great as they could have been. I simply could not make it 6 times a week. I went three times a week. I did shoulders and arms on Monday’s, chest and back on Wednesday’s and legs on Saturdays followed by a little bit of cardio.
I’m not one to make excuses but I moved house at the start of this microcycle and there was a lot of work to be done on it and I was very time poor. It also fell at a time where socially I had a lot on too so I committed to just three days a week which was achievable.
Also, my motivation dropped a little, the programme peaked at a bad time for me. Personally I’d got to the heaviest I’d ever been and I wasn’t too bothered about getting much bigger. Actually although I lost a little bit of size I was getting leaner and was happy with my weight at around 83.5kg after the programme finished.
|Post strength mesocycle |
|Post-Microcycle 4 |
|Finishing stats 29th April|
|Height (ft, inch)||5’10|
|Abdomen (around belly button)||32.5||33.5||34.25||34|
In terms of putting on size, this is the best programme I’ve ever done.
I would defiantly recommend the linear periodised programme if you want to put on size.
It was time-consuming and fairly high level but achievable (until the last microcycle but this was because of my personal circumstances.) If I had have finished the last 4 weeks I am confident I would have hit at least 88kg which as a 10kg increase since the start of the programme. I finished at 83.5kg but at my heaviest I was 85.5kg. To be honest, even 78kg which is what I was when I started is quite heavy for me. I’m usually between 76-78kg.
My diet wasn’t as strict as I’d have hoped, I did increase my calorie intake and throughout microcycle 1-4 of the hypertrophy, I was having around 3 grammes a day of creatine. If I continued this and finished the programme properly then the gains would have been significantly greater.
When I was at my heaviest after microcycle 4 (85.5kg) I did feel and look bigger but less athletic.
Post-summer I may do the hypertrophy programme again and see if I can hit 90kg but for now, I am now looking forward to getting my fast twitch fibres firing again and some more HIIT in time for the summer shred!
The programme helped me plan a full training year and helped me stay focused on the end goal. When I’ve done hypertrophy programmes in the past I’ve sometimes got a little bored, however with this modified linear programme, the training methods kept me focused and most of my training sessions were good.
Gaining strength is more difficult once you hit 30, as discussed in the post The surprising benefits of strength training for children.
- Prestes, J, De Lima, C, Frollini, AB, Donnatto, FF, Conte, M. Comparision of linear and revere linear periodization effects on maximal strength and body composition. J Strength Cond Res 23: 266-274, 2009.
- Stone, MH, O’Bryant, H, Garhammer, J. A hypothetical model for strength training. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 21: 342-351, 1981.
- Baker, D, Wilson, G, Carolyn, R, Periodization: The effect on strength training of manipulating volume and intensity. J Strength and Cond Res: 8 235-242, 1994.
- Monteiro, AG, Aoki, MS, Evangelista, AL, Alvena, DA, Monteiro, GA, Picarro, Ida, C and Ugrinowitsch, C. Nonlinear periodized maximises strength gains in split resistance training routines. J Strength Cond Res: 23, 1321-1326, 2009
- Garthe, I, Raastad, T, Refsnes, PE and Sundgot,-Borgen, J. Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletes. Eur J Sport Sci. 13 295-303, 2013.
- Lemon, PW, Tarnopolsky, MA, MacDougall, JD and Atkinson, SA. Protein requirements and muscle mass.strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders J Appl Physiol. 73: 767-775, 1992
- Philips, SM and Van Loon, LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 29 Supp 1: S29 – S38, 2011.