Preprint / Version 1

The Myth of "Periodisation"


  • James Steele Solent University
  • James Fisher Solent University
  • Jeremy Loenneke University of Mississippi
  • Samuel Buckner University of South Florida



periodisation, competitive sport, strength and conditioning, theory, philosophy of science


In this chapter we present an overview of periodisation introduceing and discussing its definition and historical development. We then consider the common argument that strength and hypertrophic adaptations are optimised through the application of periodisation, and provide alternative interpretations that we think likely reflect more parsimonious explanations than appeals to periodisation ‘theory’. Lastly, we will consider its structure as a myth vs as a scientific theory in the Popperian sense. From our perspective and analysis, it does not feel unfair to label periodisation as a myth. At the very least it has strong elements of mythos about it particularly in terms of its origin and development. If periodisation is to take a step forward into the beginnings of a scientific theory, then consensus specification and definition such that it yields clear deductively testable consequences should be the next point in its journey from mythical origins.


Metrics Loading ...


Popper, K. R. Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. (Harper & Row, 1968).

Mills, J. Toward a theory of myth. J. Theory Soc. Behav. 50, 410–424 (2020).

Cresswell, J. Theories as modern myths: Giving up the pursuit of good theory to focus on good theorizing. J. Theory Soc. Behav. 50, 429–434 (2020).

Mills, J. Why theory is not myth. J. Theory Soc. Behav. 50, 435–438 (2020).

MacIntyre, W. P. Francis Bacon’s use of ancient myths in Novum Organum. Alicante J. Engl. Stud. Rev. Alicant. Estud. Ingleses 123–132 (1994) doi:10.14198/raei.1994.7.10.

Douven, I. Abduction. in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ed. Zalta, E. N.) (Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2021).

Meehl, P. E. Appraising and Amending Theories: The Strategy of Lakatosian Defense and Two Principles That Warrant It. Psychol. Inq. 1, 108–141 (1990).

Tiller, N. The Skeptic’s Guide to Sports Science: Confronting Myths of the Health and Fitness Industry. Routledge & CRC Press (2020).

Whitehead, A. & Coe, J. Myths of Sport Coaching. (Sequoia Books, 2021).

Stone, M. H. et al. Periodization and Block Periodization in Sports: Emphasis on Strength-Power Training—A Provocative and Challenging Narrative. J. Strength Cond. Res. 35, 2351 (2021).

Matveyev, L. Fundamentals of Sports Training. (Victor Kamkin, 1982).

Ozolin, N. Sovremennaia Systema Sportivnoi Trenirovky [Athlete’s Training System for Competition]. (Fizkultura i Sport, 1971).

Verkhoshansky, Y. & Verkhoshansky, N. Special Strength Training: Manual for Coaches. (Verkhoshansky, 2011).

Harre, D. Einfu¨ hrung in die allgemeine Trainings—und Wettkampflehre: Anleitung fu¨ r das Fernstudium [Introduction to general training and competition theory: instructions for distance learning]. (DHfK, 1964).

Nadori, L. Training and Competition. (Sport, 1962).

Platonov, B. H. Theory of annual training background, status, discussions, ways to modernize. Theory Pract. Phys. Cult. 9, 18–34 (2009).

Stone, M. H., O’Bryant, H. & Garhammer, J. A hypothetical model for strength training. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness 21, 342–351 (1981).

Bompa, T. Periodization of strength. Sports Rev. 1, 26–31 (1965).

Krüger, A. From Russia with Love? Sixty years of proliferation of L.P. Matveyev’s concept of Periodisation? Staps 114, 51–59 (2016).

Hornsby, W. G., Fry, A. C., Haff, G. G. & Stone, M. H. Addressing the Confusion within Periodization Research. J. Funct. Morphol. Kinesiol. 5, 68 (2020).


Selye, H. The stress of life. xvi, 324 (McGraw-Hill, 1956).

Selye, H. A Syndrome produced by Diverse Nocuous Agents. Nature 138, 32–32 (1936).

Pavlov, I. P. Conditioned reflexes: an investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex. xv, 430 (Oxford Univ. Press, 1927).

Yakolev, N. Biochemical foundations of muscle training. Uspekhi Sovr Biol 27, 257–271 (1949).

Bernshteĭn, N. A. The Co-ordination and Regulation of Movements. (Pergamon Press, 1967).

Anokhin, P. K. Biology and Neurophysiology of the Conditioned Reflex and Its Role in Adaptive Behavior: International Series of Monographs in Cerebrovisceral and Behavioral Physiology and Conditioned Reflexes, Volume 3. (Pergamon Press, 1974).

Cunanan, A. J. et al. The General Adaptation Syndrome: A Foundation for the Concept of Periodization. Sports Med. 48, 787–797 (2018).

Thorndike, E. L. An introduction to the theory of mental and social measurements. 277 (The Science Press, 1904).

Hammert, W. B., Kataoka, R., Vasenina, E., Ibrahim, A. H. & Buckner, S. L. Is “periodization programming” periodization or programming? J. Trainology 10, 20–24 (2021).

Willoughby, D. S. The Effects of Mesocycle-Length Weight Training Programs Involving Periodization and Partially Equated Volumes on Upper and Lower Body Strength. J. Strength Cond. Res. 7, 2 (1993).

Mattocks, K. T. et al. Periodization: What is it good for? J. Trainology 5, 6–12 (2016).

O’Bryant, H. S., Byrd, R. & Stone, M. H. Cycle Ergometer Performance and Maximum Leg and Hip Strength Adaptations to Two Different Methods of Weight-Training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2, 27 (1988).

Buckner, S. L. et al. The General Adaptation Syndrome: Potential misapplications to resistance exercise. J. Sci. Med. Sport 20, 1015–1017 (2017).

Androulakis-Korakakis, P., Fisher, J. P., Kolokotronis, P., Gentil, P. & Steele, J. Reduced Volume ‘Daily Max’ Training Compared to Higher Volume Periodized Training in Powerlifters Preparing for Competition-A Pilot Study. Sports Basel Switz. 6, 86 (2018).

MacDougall, J. D., Sale, D. G., Alway, S. E. & Sutton, J. R. Muscle fiber number in biceps brachii in bodybuilders and control subjects. J. Appl. Physiol. 57, 1399–1403 (1984).

American College of Sports Medicine. Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 41, 687 (2009).

Fragala, M. S. et al. Resistance Training for Older Adults: Position Statement From the National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2019).

Bell, Z. W. et al. Unilateral high-load resistance training influences strength changes in the contralateral arm undergoing low-load training. J. Sci. Med. Sport (2023) doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2023.06.011.

Dankel, S. J. et al. Assessing differential responders and mean changes in muscle size, strength, and the crossover effect to 2 distinct resistance training protocols. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. Physiol. Appl. Nutr. Metab. 45, 463–470 (2020).

Marcotte, G. R., West, D. W. D. & Baar, K. The Molecular Basis for Load-Induced Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy. Calcif. Tissue Int. 96, 196–210 (2015).

Bodine, S. C. et al. Akt/mTOR pathway is a crucial regulator of skeletal muscle hypertrophy and can prevent muscle atrophy in vivo. Nat. Cell Biol. 3, 1014–1019 (2001).

Miller, B. F. et al. Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise. J. Physiol. 567, 1021–1033 (2005).

Damas, F., Phillips, S., Vechin, F. C. & Ugrinowitsch, C. A review of resistance training-induced changes in skeletal muscle protein synthesis and their contribution to hypertrophy. Sports Med. Auckl. NZ 45, 801–807 (2015).

Burd, N. A. et al. Enhanced Amino Acid Sensitivity of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Persists for up to 24 h after Resistance Exercise in Young Men1–3. J. Nutr. 141, 568–573 (2011).

Joanisse, S. et al. Recent advances in understanding resistance exercise training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy in humans. F1000Research 9, F1000 Faculty Rev-141 (2020).

Bamman, M. M., Roberts, B. M. & Adams, G. R. Molecular Regulation of Exercise-Induced Muscle Fiber Hypertrophy. Cold Spring Harb. Perspect. Med. 8, a029751 (2018).

Adams, G. R. & Bamman, M. M. Characterization and regulation of mechanical loading-induced compensatory muscle hypertrophy. Compr. Physiol. 2, 2829–2870 (2012).

Petrella, J. K., Kim, J., Cross, J. M., Kosek, D. J. & Bamman, M. M. Efficacy of myonuclear addition may explain differential myofiber growth among resistance-trained young and older men and women. Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 291, E937-946 (2006).

Buckner, S. L. et al. The Basics of Training for Muscle Size and Strength: A Brief Review on the Theory. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 52, 645–653 (2020).

Dankel, S. J. et al. Do metabolites that are produced during resistance exercise enhance muscle hypertrophy? Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 117, 2125–2135 (2017).

Smaldino, P. E. Models Are Stupid, and We Need More of Them. in Computational Social Psychology (Routledge, 2017).

Hempel, C. G. & Oppenheim, P. Studies in the Logic of Explanation. Philos. Sci. 15, 135–175 (1948).

Afonso, J., Nikolaidis, P. T., Sousa, P. & Mesquita, I. Is Empirical Research on Periodization Trustworthy? A Comprehensive Review of Conceptual and Methodological Issues. J. Sports Sci. Med. 16, 27–34 (2017).

Kiely, J. Periodization paradigms in the 21st century: evidence-led or tradition-driven? Int. J. Sports Physiol. Perform. 7, 242–250 (2012).

Kataoka, R., Vasenina, E., Loenneke, J. & Buckner, S. L. Periodization: Variation in the Definition and Discrepancies in Study Design. Sports Med. 51, 625–651 (2021).

Suchomel, T. J., Nimphius, S., Bellon, C. R. & Stone, M. H. The Importance of Muscular Strength: Training Considerations. Sports Med. 48, 765–785 (2018).

Scheel, A. M. Why most psychological research findings are not even wrong. Infant Child Dev. 31, e2295 (2022).

Counts, B. R. et al. Muscle growth: To infinity and beyond? Muscle Nerve 56, 1022–1030 (2017).

Fisher, J. P., Steele, J., Smith, D. & Gentil, P. Periodization for optimizing strength and hypertrophy; the forgotten variables. J. Trainology 7, 10–15 (2018).

Steele, J. et al. Long-Term Time-Course of Strength Adaptation to Minimal Dose Resistance Training Through Retrospective Longitudinal Growth Modeling. Res. Q. Exerc. Sport 0, 1–18 (2022).

Bartolomei, S., Stout, J. R., Fukuda, D. H., Hoffman, J. R. & Merni, F. Block vs. Weekly Undulating Periodized Resistance Training Programs in Women. J. Strength Cond. Res. 29, 2679 (2015).

Zourdos, M. C. et al. Modified Daily Undulating Periodization Model Produces Greater Performance Than a Traditional Configuration in Powerlifters. J. Strength Cond. Res. 30, 784 (2016).

Keys, B. The Early Cold War Olympics, 1952–1960: Political, Economic and Human Rights Dimensions. in The Palgrave Handbook of Olympic Studies (eds. Lenskyj, H. J. & Wagg, S.) 72–87 (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2012). doi:10.1057/9780230367463_6.

Nuckols, G. Periodization: History and Theory • Stronger by Science. Stronger by Science (2017).

Parks, J. Red Sport, Red Tape: The Olympic Games, the Soviet Sports Bureaucracy, and the Cold War, 1952-1980. (2009).

US Census Bureau. Cold War: U.S. and USSR populations 1970-1990. Statista (1991).

Norton, K. & Olds, T. Morphological evolution of athletes over the 20th century: causes and consequences. Sports Med. Auckl. NZ 31, 763–783 (2001).

Rewilak, J. The (non) determinants of Olympic success. J. Sports Econ. 22, 546–570 (2021).

Gergen, K. J. Social Psychology as History. in Social Psychology in Transition (eds. Strickland, L. H., Aboud, F. E. & Gergen, K. J.) 15–32 (Springer US, 1976). doi:10.1007/978-1-4615-8765-1_2.

Fellows, R. & Liu, A. M. M. Borrowing theories: contextual and empirical considerations. Constr. Manag. Econ. 38, 581–588 (2020).

Murray, J. B. & Evers, D. J. Theory Borrowing and Reflectivity in Interdisciplinary Fields. ACR North Am. Adv. NA-16, (1989).

Kiely, J. Periodization Theory: Confronting an Inconvenient Truth. Sports Med. Auckl. NZ 48, (2018).

Kiely, J., Pickering, C. & Halperin, I. Comment on ‘Biological Background of Block Periodized Endurance Training: A Review’. Sports Med. Auckl. NZ 49, 1475–1477 (2019).

Vasenina, E., Kataoka, R. & Buckner, and S. L. Adaptation energy: Experimental evidence and applications in exercise science. J. Trainology 9, 66–70 (2020).

Weisberg, D. S., Keil, F. C., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E. & Gray, J. R. The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 20, 470–477 (2008).

Weisberg, D. S., Taylor, J. C. V. & Hopkins, E. J. Deconstructing the seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. Judgm. Decis. Mak. 10, 429–441 (2015).

Davids, K. & Baker, J. Genes, environment and sport performance: why the nature-nurture dualism is no longer relevant. Sports Med. Auckl. NZ 37, (2007).

Macnamara, B., Moreau, D. & Hambrick, D. The Relationship Between Deliberate Practice and Performance in Sports: A Meta-Analysis. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. J. Assoc. Psychol. Sci. 11, (2016).

Meehl, P. E. Clinical versus statistical prediction: A theoretical analysis and a review of the evidence. x, 149 (University of Minnesota Press, 1954). doi:10.1037/11281-000.

Tetlock, P. E. Expert political judgement: How good is it? How can we know? xvi, 321 (Princeton University Press, 2005).

Katsikopoulos, K., Pachur, T., Machery, E. & Wallin, A. From Meehl to Fast and Frugal Heuristics (and Back): New Insights into How to Bridge the Clinical—Actuarial Divide. (2008).