Linear Periodization is basically a type of training practice wherein athletes train for a certain events or races by starting at slow speeds (with a lot of volume) and gradually reduce the amount of time training at a slower speed and replacing it with lower amounts of more intense training at the goal pace/intensity you plan to use in the race.
Reverse periodization is simply starting with shorter but faster bouts of training at goal race pace and then gradually increasing the duration or volume at which you spend at that pace.
Linear – a lot of slow to short amount of fast
Reverse – a short amount of fast for a short amount of time to increased amounts of fast for longer.
The fast majority of people who do train for any event typically follow linear progressions. Less people follow reverse periodization, however, there are a number high level athlete who use reverse periodization with a lot of success. Tim Kerrison, a coach for Team Ineos cycling and coach to Chris Froome who has won the Tour De France 4 times employs this style of training for his riders. In addition, Brett Sutton, famed triathlete coach to a number of Olympic and ironman winners, has also employed this type of periodization with great success.
Linear periodization works. It is relatively easier to use and plan around and tends to make more sense when planning it out for a season. The problems with linear periodization is that the amount of volume can be too much for people to handle and it is easy to over train using this model, which makes you tired and not in peak form when a race comes around. On the flip side, reverse periodization is a lot harder to implement, however its focus on starting fast with correct technique and building from there can be potentially game changing for those people who cannot tolerate high amount of work or who are prone to injury. The key with reverse periodization is not go overboard with the intensity when you start. Sample schedule for a runner may be…
weeks 1-4 – 3-4 sessions of technique based intensity.
Weeks 5-8 – 3-4 sessions of longer intensity intervals
Weeks 9-12 3-4 sessions of longer intensity intervals
weeks 13-16 – 3-4 sessions of goal intervals
weeks 17-18 taper into race.
Sample session from weeks 1-4 for a goal 5k may be
20 intervals of 60 meters efforts with perfect form at steady but not full out pace with plenty of recovery.
20 intervals of 100 meters,s are as above.
sampel session from weeks 5-8
10 intervals of 100 meters at perfect from steady effort but not full out, at current 1 mile PR effort with plenty of recovery.
10-20 intervals of 150 meters goal 1 mile PR effort plenty of recovery.
Sample from weeks 9-12
10 intervals of 200 meters – at current 1 mile PR effort with plenty of recovery.
2-3 intervals of 400 meters – at current 1 mile PR effort with plenty of recovery
Sample from weeks 13-16
8-10 400 meters – goal 5k pace with reduced recovery
4-6 800 meters at goal 5k pace with reduced recovery
1-2 1 mile at goal 5k pace efforts with reduced recovery.
The idea is that your intensity is being build off form and not just speed. Thus if you are starting at the beginning and find that you are getting shin splints everyday, dial in your running form first before moving up to longer intensities. While your form does not have to be spot on, it needs to be within the ball park. However, even with “poor” or inefficient form I believe this type of training still sets people up for less risks of injury.