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Programming: Modalities

For those involved in coaching higher-level athletics, it is easy for one to get caught up in the details of creating the optimal program. To stay consistent with the purpose of this blog series, I will briefly cover the commonalities shared between winning programs in Russia, China, and Bulgaria (arguably the strongest countries every four years at the Olympics).

Remember that the best program is the one that works – and periodization over the past 20 years has proven to be the most effective.5 Although periodization seems similar to the three main cycles, they occur within each of the cycles. Here are the basics you should know about periodized training programs:

  1. Sequential/Phasic: Do the workouts build on each other?

  2. Variety: Does the routine change? Main thing to remember here is that “the body becomes increasingly resistant to an incessant stimulus.”6

  3. Goal: Does the program lead to peak performance on a certain date? 7

Periodization can be implemented in many different ways throughout a training program. Below are three modalities in which it can be used simply.


Under the periodization umbrella, three different versions have been shown to lead to weightlifting gains. They all simply modify the independent training variables of volume, intensity, and frequency.

  1. Linear: Training volume progressively decreases over time as the training intensity increases.

  2. Undulating: Similar to linear periodization, but the oscillation between training volume and intensity occurs more frequently. One will typically see a complete fluctuation between training volume and intensity within a few days or weeks (as opposed to an entire mesocycle).

  3. Block: Follows the linear method in which the volume progressively decreases with time and intensity increases, however the frequency of these oscillations happens daily.

Different training programs call for different periodization methods. However, undulating periodization has been shown to yield the greatest gains within weightlifting.7


This short-section is intended to help coaches develop athletes by providing two programming models for the improvement of body-weight movements (not the sport of gymnastics).

Again, the same three independent variables are controlled in a format that is supplemental to the overall program. Below is a representation of a periodized cube model:8

You can also take a progressive model and apply it to either developing strength in a gymnastic movement, or practicing the skill itself. It would look something like this:


The term monostructural refers to any metabolic effort traditionally referred to as “cardio” (i.e. running, swimming, rowing, biking, etc.) Scientific literature has long stated that to improve your VO2 max, the athlete would need to train long, aerobic efforts on a consistent basis. However, more recent literature is showing that “improve[d] aerobic fitness… is likely found at the anaerobic end of the metabolic spectrum.”

For this reason, we recommend programming intended work-to-rest interval ratios into your monostructural workouts.


A standard workout program may work for untrained athletes, but as the athlete progresses, customized workouts must command priority.

This customized program should begin with a one-on-one meeting where the coach and athlete clearly identify what success will look like. Then, KPI’s are set to objectively benchmark weaknesses of the athlete and set tangible goals. As the coach then puts in motion the program, certain independent and dependent variables must be considered as time goes on. These variables can and should be modified if the athlete is not progressing at the desired rate.

Only in this way can the coach and athlete yoke themselves into a synergistic relationship so that the outcome is greater together than it would’ve been alone.


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