It is well accepted within the culture of collision-based team-sports such as football and rugby that resistance training is a key component to physical preparation. Most teams will include some form of resistance training during both the preparatory and competitive season. While little debate surrounds the usefulness of strength training for these athletes, many coaches still debate which periodization scheme is superior for inducing physical and performance changes. Linear periodization is the traditional approach that progresses athletes from phases of high volume and low intensity to low volume and high intensity over a period of months. Undulating periodization, popularized by former Olympic strength coach Charles Poliquin, emphasizes both high and low volumes and intensities within a given microcycle. Both training methodologies have been shown to enhance strength and performance, however it remains unclear which is superior.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of traditional versus undulating periodization on performance markers in a group of high-level adolescent male rugby players. A sample of twenty-six, 16-17 year old rugby players were randomly allocated to a traditional periodization group (n=8), an undulating periodization group (n=8) or a control group (n=10). For a period of 12 weeks, all groups participated in their normal rugby training twice per week. The training groups performed an additional 2 resistance training sessions per week over the 12-week period. While the training programs differed in structure according to the periodization scheme, overall volume and intensity did not significantly differ between groups. Before and after the training program, 10 and 20 m sprint time and vertical jump height (unloaded and loaded 10 kg) were tested as markers of performance.
The results showed that 1RM box-squat strength improved by 33.9% for the traditional group and 44.5% for the undulating group (effect sizes ranging from large to very large). Improvements (i.e., reductions) in 10 m and 20 m sprint time were -1.6% and -0.5%, respectively, for the traditional group and -2.5% and -1.7%, respectively, for the undulating group (all effect sizes were small). Only the traditional group showed improvements in the unloaded vertical jump (4.3%) while only the undulating group showed improvements in the loaded vertical jump (7.5%). Small to moderate correlations were observed between changes in lower body absolute and relative strength with changes in 10 and 20 m sprint times. Overall, undulating periodization appears to have resulted in superior changes in strength and performance among adolescent rugby players, although traditional periodization was also effective.
Harries, SK. et al. Effects of 12-weeks resistance training on sprint and jump performance in competitive adolescent rugby union players. J Str Cond Res. In Press.