Periodisation: Linear vs Conjugate (non linear) | Joe Defranco Podcast #50 Summary

Periodisation simply = a plan to achieve your desired results within a specific time frame.

Linear (Western) Pedisation

Training is broken down into progressive phases that have a single focus.
Generally a linear perdisation will start with higher volumes and lower intensity gradually increasing the intensity and lowering the volume.

Hypertrophy: x amount of weeks
Strength: *
Power: *
Peaking phase: speed/sport specific endurance: *
Transition phase: *

Better suited for athletes you will train long term uninterrupted.


  • You’re only training one single physical ability at a time. A lot of times that physical ability that you gain in a certain phase isn’t maintained throughout the entire process as you’ve moved onto the next phase.
  • All these phases are geared towards this ‘peaking phase’. Peaking for a big event. If your something like an Olympic athlete, that might be perfect for you. But if your a team sport athlete then you have multiple events per week. You’re not just training for one game, so only having that one peaking phase probably isn’t the best case scenario.
  • With linear periodisation you have specific sets, reps and percentages that  you have to hit every day/week in order to reach this peak. But if you have a bad session or miss a couple of days then it can screw up the progression process. This can become especially problematic if your the OCD type personality whose anal about hitting your numbers every week.

Conjugate (non linear) Westside Perdisation

Several abilities are coupled together and trained throughout the training cycle.
Popularised by Louise Simmons powerlifting strength expert. It has become Joe Defrancos foundational strength programs for all his athletes for nearly 20 years.

The system is centred around 3 basic pathways to strength development.

1. Maximal Effort Method

  • Heavy lifts upwards of 90%+ of 1RM to improve maximal strength.
  • Weight is undetermined for the day. It is the heaviest weight you can lift for 3 reps. 3RM.
2. Dynamic Effort Method (Compensatory Acceleration Training)
  • Lifting submaximal weights as quickly as possible.
  • Example: they’ll take a low % (E.G.60%) of their 1RM squat and do 2 reps as fast as possible.
  • Doesn’t just have to be with barbells – can incorporate with more athlete specific movements such as med ball throws, plyometrics,  box jumps.
3. Repetition Method (Body Building Method)
  • Lifting submaximal weights but for higher reps closer to failure.
  • 8-20 reps to create muscle mass.

Those are 3 different methods Louie Simmons uses to help his power lifters develop massive force,  get strong and big all while keeping them explosive.So you can clearly see the difference between the two periodisation methods now.

Why Joe Defrancos prefers Conjugate methods with his athletes:

  • The ability to train multiple abilities simultaneously. As long as they compliment each other it makes more sense. Strength, power and building muscle all working hand in hand instead of in large separated blocks.
  • You remain closer to your peak when you train Conjugate method which allows you to only be a few weeks from your peak at any one time.
  • It gives you more room for auto regulation to work around life’s unexpected problems. If your athletes having a great day you can increase intensity or add another exercise. Or if he’s having a bad day taper it down for the day and cut something yet. Conjugate gives you that flexibility because their are no hard set rep/set schemes.
  • It allows you to work with athletes to improve multiple abilities within a strict time frame. Perfect example: preparing an athlete for an NFL combine/summer athletes preparing for college season.

Disclaimer Note

Just because we’re training multiple abilities in speed, strength and hypertrophy all in the same phase they don’t all have to be the main course of that phase. 

Example: Max effort strength training may be the main course during a certain time of year. Then the hypertrophy becomes like the desert ‘icing on the cake’ and then  something else may be the appetiser. They don’t all have to be given equal importance in training and it can still remain the  Conjugate method. 

In the end. Both systems work. Both have found results for many people. It’s about finding which method works best for you and your situation.