Written by Greg Nuckols
Dr. Israetel is a rising force in the world of strength and bodybuilding. He has a Ph.D. in Sports Physiology, and he’s a competitive athlete himself. Currently focusing on bodybuilding, he’s also competed in martial arts and powerlifting. With that brief intro out of the way, let’s dive into the interview.
I understand that you’ve of the opinion that there aren’t different types of periodization? Care to elaborate on that?
The first thing that we have to accept in order to agree that there are not, in fact, different types of perioidization is that there is only one actual reality. I have yet to learn of a dependable system of philosophy that has determined otherwise. Since the world is “as it is,” and doesn’t depend on the state of the observer (I’d love for someone to bring up quantum mechanics as a retort… LOVE), our task is to figure out how it works.
Specifically, we must figure out how the human body works, and in the case of periodization, how it responds to training. Along this theme of a constant reality is the indisputable fact that at the level of basic physiology (upon which the entire science of periodization is built), almost all humans are remarkably similar. We have 97% genetic concordance with Gorillas, 98%+ with Chimps, and 99%+ with every other human on the planet. Humans respond to training in almost identical ways qualitatively, but differ only in quantity of response. For example, ALL humans need an overload to progress and ALL humans take on muscle damage with training. HOW MUCH training is an overload and how much muscle damage occurs from any given training is different for different people, but no one on this earth can claim to experience zero muscle damage from training at any given volume.
Because reality is universal and because humans are so similar to each other in their basic physiology, there is only ONE science of training. There is only ONE grand architecture for proper training theory that works the best to improve performance. There is no such thing as “linear periodization” or “conjugate periodization” or “daily undulating periodization” if you’re really in search of the truth. There are linear, conjugate, and daily undulating elements in EVERY properly sequenced and periodized training plan. It’s JUST PERIODIZATION. Put another way, if you consider all the principles of training (specificity, overload, variation, fatigue management, and several others), you arrive at the same basic structure of training as everyone else who’s been thinking clearly and diligently about the subject.
Are there proper debates at the margins and details? YOU BET.
Exactly how much of a linear progression can you make in a mesocycle before progress is no longer maximal?
Lots of debate, lots of consideration of the sport and the individual differences of the athletes. How much variation is too much? In other words, can a system be “too conjugate?” You bet, but there’s a lot of gray area. And how much alteration in volume/load is best within a microcycle (daily undulation)? Almost no modern sport scientist will tell you “no alteration” is the best answer (in fact, I think the last proponent of actual purely linear progression died in the 70’s or something), yet almost no sport scientist will tell you that it’s a good idea to train for sets of 15 reps, 5 reps, and power doubles in the same week. There is quite a bit of debate on the specifics, but most serious sport scientists have found that an advanced block periodization model is appropriate for most sports.
Modern block periodization (known best as “modern periodization”) has linear elements (load increase per week during a strength phase, for example), conjugate elements (secondary fitness characteristics must be maintained even though dominant ones are preferentially trained in any particular block), and undulating elements (heavy and light days in the same week, using varying volumes and loads within a microcycle to manage fatigue). There’s a good debate to be had about how much linear progression, how much fitness characteristic specificity, and how much undulation are best for any particular circumstance. On the other hand, some popular methods overuse one of the training principles or styles to the detriment of others. Training that is too linear ignores fatigue management and variation. Training that is too “conjugated,” or undulated too much within the week or month gives up too much specificity to be maximally effective. NO, Westside is NOT the best way to train be cause it largely ignores phase potentiation. NO, DUP is not the best way to train because it largely ignores specificity. NO, linear progression (whoever still does that anyway…) is not the best way to train, because it trades off too much variation and fatigue management.
If you invest too heavily in defending a biased system of training, you’re just going to be missing out on the effective features of a system that addresses ALL of the training variables, not just some. That system is called “modern periodization,” and it’s always evolving and being updated (as well it should as it’s a testable and falsifiable scientific theory). In the end, saying that you do “Conjugate Periodization” is the same thing as saying you believe in “Bottleneck Evolution.”
Well, just like evolution proceeds through mutation, selection, drift, and bottleneck events, ALL under the overarching theory of Evolution, attending to dominant and secondary fitness characteristics (Conjugate approach) is UNDER THE OVERARCHING THEORY OF PERIODIZATION. Damn near no one in the biological sciences considers themselves a die-hard “Bottlenecker,” and it’s damn near time us meatheads started looking at the BEST way to train that integrates all proper features, rather than defending to the death systems which have exaggerated some features to the detriment of other features, and worse, best results.
When planning training, where do athlete preferences factor into all this? Should the coach make adjustments to accomodate individual athletes, or is the training model the training model, and that’s that?
We chose the RP name because of the significance of the Renaissance period (an end to the mysticism of the Dark Ages and the re-birth of science) and because our business model was an attempt to reflect the practices of Renaissance Technologies (a hedge fund that uses mostly quantitative trading and has largely disposed of trading by hunches and traditions). Because I was the scientist, I wrote much of the early programming and the templates, most of the tracking programs, and things of that nature. I also (still) do most of the research into effective strategies and am the outreach person on science matters for the company. That’s why I have this fancy “head science consultant” title, you see!
Outside of the research and template making, I do write programs and diets myself as well.
Our book is this unique in that it is both scientific in its origins and recommendations, as well as being a useful starting point to diet design for anyone who wants to get leaner and more muscular, from the businessman that wants a simple yet effective approach to the physique athlete that needs all the details to fall into place.
Born in Moscow, Russia, Mike Israetel is a professor of Exercise Science at the University of Central Missouri. Additionally, he is a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder, and has been the head sport nutrition consultant to the US Olympic training site in Johnson City, TN. Mike is currently the head science consultant for Renaissance Periodization, and the Author of “The Renaissance Diet.”Online Training, Website, Facebook