Linear vs. Non-Linear Training

A quick how-to guide on programing to fit your needs and optimize your results.

As a general rule, linear training programs work best for people with a low training maturity (i.e. have not been training for very long) and non-linear programs work best for those with a high training maturity (i.e. those training for several years).

I say this as a GENERAL rule because it does not hold under all circumstances. It is certainly possible for an advanced lifter to still make considerable progress off of linear periodization. On the other hand, less experienced lifters could get decent results from a non-linear program.

With linear periodization the volume starts high and the intensity starts low. As the program progresses from week to week the volume gradually decreases (in a straight – or linear – progression) and the intensity gradually increases (in a straight – or linear – progression). Basic examples of each could look like the following:


Week 1 - 3x8@65%,
Week 2 - 3x8@70%
Week 3 - 3x5@75%
Week 4 - 3x5@80%
Week 5 - 3x3@85%
Week 6 - 3x3@90%
Week 7 - 3x1@95%
Week 8 - 3x1@100%

Non-Linear (this is one example of non-linear periodization called “wave training” because the volume and intensity wave, rather than progress in a straight line)

Week 1 - 3x8@65%
Week 2 - 3x8@70%
Week 3 - 3x3@85%
Week 4 - 3x3@90%
Week 5 - 3x5@75%
Week 6 - 3x5@80%
Week 7 - 3x1@95%
Week 8 - 3x1@100%

As a general rule: the longer one trains (in terms of months and years, not individual training sessions), the more easily and quickly they adapt to a training stimulus.

Linear periodization is very predictable for the human body and as a result, the human body adapts to it very quickly in more advanced lifters. On the other hand, non-linear periodization is not as easily and quickly adapted to by the human body.  This is why more advanced lifters would want to use non-linear periodization.

Advanced lifters have built up a high ability to adapt to a given training stimulus. Accordingly, if they did a linear program that was easy to adapt to, they would only see gains for a short time. The non-linear program, which is more difficult to adapt to, would elicit gains over a longer period of time.

The optimal way to program your training is to program in a way that will elicit the greatest training adaptation. A good friend of mine Chris Doyle (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at The University of Iowa) once said, “The best program is the one you’re not on.” His point is that we need to be constantly changing our training stimulus in order to continue to elicit strength gains. There are four basic ways to do this:

  1. Switch from a linear program to a non-linear one
  2. Switch from a non-linear program to a linear one
  3. Switch from one kind of linear program to another kind of linear program
  4. Switch from one kind of non-linear program to another kind of non-linear program

Bryan Dermody, Former Strength & Conditioning Coach/Powerlifter




Not only is nutrition key to your gains at the gym, but optimize your results by giving your muscles what they need - BetaTOR.

BetaTOR is the pure, free acid form of beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB).  BetaTOR shifts the balance of protein synthesis and protein degradation in your favor allowing you to recover faster so you can maximize your training volume and frequency, thus maximizing your gains!  Learn more about the benefits BetaTOR has to offer here.




© 2021 MTI Biotech, Inc. All rights reserved.