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Nonlinear periodization, despite being a relatively new method of periodization, is utilized by a growing number of individuals in various disciplines. Nonlinear periodization, also referred to as undulating periodization, is a training method where a different training focus is targeted each training day of the week.
In contrast to linear periodization, cycles using the same training intensity and the same training volume for a given period of time are not used in nonlinear periodization. Within a given week of a nonlinear resistance training program, a tactical athlete will work at different intensities and perform different volumes of exercise on each training day. An example of one week of nonlinear resistance training may look like the example presented in Table 1.
Table 1. One Week of Nonlinear Periodized Resistance Training
Where and when nonlinear periodization was first used in training programs is unclear but it may have been developed during the late 20th century in order to accommodate the needs of athletes during their competitive seasons (2). Nonlinear periodization is currently used to train high-level athletes in a variety of specialties, including tactical athletes of all levels.
Tactical athletes are required to perform at, or near, their peak level for their entire career. Unlike competitive athletes, tactical athletes do not have the luxury of an off-season. One of the many benefits of a nonlinear periodization is that a tactical athlete can work on different training adaptations simultaneously, while still maintaining the ability to perform at a high level in order to accomplish their given mission.
Nonlinear periodization can also be beneficial for tactical athletes who have an unpredictable training schedule due to deployment or other factors out of their control. For example, in units or departments where part of the team or an individual misses a portion of the training calendar, while the rest of the team is training, they are able to make a smooth transition back to their team.
One of the primary reasons nonlinear periodization is effective is due to the size principle. Different motor units within the motor unit pool are stimulated each day of a training week (Figure 1). The same muscle tissue is not used in every workout within a given week and therefore muscle tissue stressed during a high-intensity day will be able to rest during an endurance day later in the week (1). Using different resistances and volumes for each day of a training week provides muscle tissue with frequent and appropriate rest (1).
This allows the tactical athlete to continue to improve muscular endurance while not stimulating the same portion of the motor pool used on the previous high-intensity day, reducing the risk of overreaching or overtraining.
While nonlinear periodization is a relatively new training model, it has shown positive results with regard to both strength and power gains along within the field performance parameters. Nonlinear periodization allows a tactical facilitator and tactical athlete to work around the various demands of their mission and still achieve the training objectives of the program.
Jason Dudley, CSCS, TSAC-F, oversees all aspects of the TSAC program and the physical training of Military groups, Colorado Springs SWAT team and Individual Colorado Firefighters. Jason has experience in the NFL, NHL, The Big East Conference, and The Pac-10 Conference. Jason received his Masters in Human Movement and Performance from Western Washington University.