What is Western periodization?
In brief, Western periodization is linear progression from high reps to low reps (peaking). Each week the lifter is adding weight to the bar while reducing the reps. Usually the first two or three weeks consists of 8-10 reps, and the lifter builds up to a heavy triple or double over the course of 10-15 weeks. This is one of the most generic forms of periodization there is. While Western peridozation is not super fancy, it does get the job done.
This system has been used by many powerlifting legends coming from the USA, thus the name “Western”. The most notable children of this system are Ed Coan and Kirk Karwoski , but there are also a ton of others who used the same peaking style.
Here comes a logical question. Weren’t all of those powerlifting legends on the juice?
Sure. You can’t break world records as a natural. However, the system still works, although you can’t expect results similar to the ones of the enhanced lifters.
The main reason why this system works is the usage of gradual progression and cycling. You are adding weight to the bar each week (stimulus) while providing the body with enough time to recover for the session (recuperation). At one point you reach a wall (peak), and you “deload” in order to give your mind and body time to recover after a difficult training cycle.
Of course, I would be a complete liar if I didn’t tell you that quite often many of the athletes using this system were also increasing their steroid dosages week by week. What a surprise….
You have to keep in mind that this approach is best suited for barbell and other compound exercises which allow you to calculate the percentages you are using to a very precise numbers.
Why is this method better than stuff like Sheiko, the Bulgarian method….etc?
The main reason is that the system is extremely simple, and you have enough time to recover. Following similar routine is way more practical for the average natural bodybuilder who does not have the time nor energy to be in the gym every day for a few hours doing high volume routines such as Sheiko, Smolov or something even crazier like the so-called Bulgarian training method, which most people are doing wrong by the way. In short, if you are still alive after doing the Bulgarian training method as a natural, you are not doing the Bulgarian training method, but some light version of it. The real system is brutal and if you can survive the torture, you are essentially a lifting machine.
If I can get my squat from 225 lbs to 315 lbs by squatting heavy only once a week, why would I kill myself maxing out every day when I am not a professional lifter? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It’s time for many people to wake and realize that more and harder DO NOT always equal better long term progress.
I have followed a ton of routines in the past and the one that worked every time is linear cycling followed by a deload. This method has never failed me, albeit progress could appear slow. If we accept that you will be doing cycles of about 8-12 weeks, you will be setting personal records (PRs) about 4-6 times a year. This is not bad at all when you think about it, but we all know that the most optimistic plans rarely end up being 100% fulfilled.
Can you give me an example of a hypothetical training cycle?
Below is an example of a deadlift program using the so-called Western Periodization method.
You first need to chose a weight you can do comfortably for 10 reps. If we have a 315 lbs deadlifter, 225 lbs should be about right to start with. You should always try to pick weights you know you can do. The whole point is to plan everything so well that you never miss a rep but still lift weights you have never lifted before at the end of the cycle.
Note: 10 lbs seem fine for the deadlift but that’s only because the lift involves major muscle groups. The smaller the major working groups in an exercise, the smaller the jumps you can make.
225 lbs x 10;
235 lbs x 8-10
245 lbs x 8
255 lbs x 5;
265 lbs x 5;
275 lbs x 5
285 lbs x 3-5
295 lbs x 3
305 lbs x 3
Go for a PR triple attempt or reset the cycle at a weight higher than 225 lbs
Go for a 1 RM or a heavy double.
How long does an effective training cycle last?
About 8 weeks should be allowed for your body to get stronger, but in some situations you can have success with much shorter cycles such as 4 or 6 weeks. However, once you get very stronger in relation to your genetic potential, you will need those 10-12 weeks to build up. Still, the length of the cycle is heavily dependent on the context of the situation.
P.S. I realize that many people may prefer other training methods and that’s perfectly fine with me. I know for sure, however, that this one works.