Part 4: The Periodization Model


The Periodization Model

This has gotten repeated questions and the answer is;

They will take their previous training “template” and analyze what was their weakness and slot in an exercise or two or remove an exercise or two that they felt were unnecessary. If results dropped, they would reanalyze what they weren’t doing right in training such as, dropping of snatch high pulls, athlete finds his second pulls weaker. There, they will slot in a few exercises. If results increase, it sticks. 4 weeks of no progression is long enough to warrant a change in training. They do not have a “stone” template that all athletes follow.

The periodization model is the planning of what happens in the athlete’s training depending on the years or period he is in. That’s the standard periodization model. In the Chinese model, it means planning in advance, in order to predict what results they will achieve eventually. The results that they want, such as during this period, this athlete needs to be able to squat, pull, snatch, whatever of a certain amount. The result that’s deemed necessary is from analyzing certain things from the lifter.

  1. Age
  2. Training maturity
  3. Level of strength
  4. Lifting numbers
  5. Weakest link & strongest feature

Then depending on whether the athlete’s in this or that phase, they develop the system. Maybe in this phase the lifter is

  1. 21
  2. 7 years training
  3. Front squats 200KG, clean pulls 230KG
  4. Snatches 140KG, CNJ 185KG
  5. Mediocre snatch, excellent clean. Extremely aware of body, thus capable of using bounce very well. Suck at second pull in snatch, overhead stability not 100%.
SO with such data, they start to create the program in that phase, with the goal of improving second pull power. Some kettlebell snatches, power snatches, reduce classic snatching to 2 sessions but increase block snatching, hang snatching, pause snatches, high rep (5 reps) snatches under fatigue, snatch high pulls with bend, etc.
That in a way, is the idea of how periodization works in the system.

Too many people believe that periodization means planning in advance, and follow exactly or as close as possible to the designed plan. They believe they can control the results, by making the athlete train in a certain way. Perhaps how many reps and sets, % is all set in. Not how the Chinese believe it. Either they don’t have enough data like the former Soviet crowd, or they have enough data to warrant that, that method is less effective. I don’t know, but I know it works.

Changes can be either in flexibility of lifter, repetition, sets, exercise selection, level of training intensity, ranges of motion, tempo, order of exercise, etc. Things change, all the time. Athletes have as much input to training as do the coaches. After about 5 years, athletes start making their own training templates as they understand themselves better. This is the best, because a coach can only see, not feel what the athletes are feeling. It’s really a feeling thing. You can’t expect an athlete that’s got huge back strength and weak leg strength to use the same model as everyone else.

I’ve come to learn that the internet community agrees with following a pre-determined template from an awesome coach that can predict what will happen in each phase.

Please. This is weightlifting. Don’t be stupid.

Usage of the “Chinese” Periodization Model

Let’s take the average “for fun” weightlifter. I’ll use Caucasians as an example. 180CM tall and 85KGs (you guys are going to have to learn metric, because I’ve already learned pounds and feet). Snatch 110KG, CNJ, 140KG, back squats 200KG, front squats 165KG, 3RM clean pull 180KG, 3RM snatch pull 160KG, push press 110KG. Pretty all rounded, but he’s been stalling for months at his strength.

His weakness has always been receiving the bar overhead and his second pull power is weak

This is his current routine;

Monday – Snatch, CNJ, test to max, 3 attempts. Snatch balance 5×3. Snatch pulls 3×3/1×5/5×3, rows and presses
Tuesday – Front Squats max, 2×2/2×1/5×3, clean pulls 5×3 @ 140% clean, rack jerk 8×1, jerk drives till you die, pull-ups and dips
Wednesday – Snatch max/5×3, snatch pull, hang snatch high pull with rebend, behind neck push press, box jumps
Thursday – CNJ to 1RM/5×2-3 Back Squats max/2×2/6×3, standing press, and rows
Friday – Snatch/CNJ /clean pulls, push press
Saturday – Front squats 5×2-3, sprint, jump, conditioning

Here’s the general idea of percentages;

  • Always work to a daily 100% single in squats, snatch, CNJ. Then do work anywhere between 85-95% for reps. 85%-3 reps and above, 90%-3 reps, 95% 2-3 reps. 85% is usually for technique work, so don’t stay there too long in the set when your technique feels good.
  • Pulls are at least 110% higher than classic lifts up to 140%. Anything higher means your technique is retarded, so go fix it. No it doesn’t mean you’re super strong. It means you can’t use your power.

Hell if anything, just let the reps determine the weight. Perfect form, all the time. 1st rep, 3rd rep, 8th rep, 10th rep, whatever. It has to look the same as the first rep.

What my coach would do is;

  • Increase squat frequency to daily squatting
  • Do more partial squats, squats from pins or racks
  • Increase heavy pulling and extended ROM pulling

This is his modified routine;

Monday – Snatch, CNJ, test to max, 3 attempts. Snatch balance 5×3. Front squats, snatch pulls 3×3/1×5/5×3, rows and presses
Tuesday – Back Squats max, block cleans, clean pulls on platform 5×3 @ 140% clean, rack jerk 8×1, jerk drives till you die, and DIE some more, pull-ups and dips
Wednesday – Back squats, Snatch max/5×3, snatch pull, hang snatch high pull with rebend, behind neck push press, box jumps
Thursday – CNJ to 1RM/5×2-3, front squats, clean pulls from block, push press, and rows
Friday – Snatch/CNJ /clean pulls, push press
Saturday – Front squats 5×2-3, sprint, jump, conditioning

By now, the athlete would’ve gotten a stronger squat and pull and his snatch and CNJ would’ve increased. Now to use this newfound strength, by shifting the focus back into his snatch and CNJ and it’ll improve. If it still doesn’t, we’ll analyze again what the weakness is. Perhaps his strength has gone up. All throughout this time, the snatch and CNJ is never neglected.

Most of the time, when they make this change to their routine, they stick to it, and so it becomes their new “routine”. Only difference is maybe they’ll drop a session or two of the strength work and put the work back into the classical movements. Or they switch the placing of the exercises.

Here are a few scenarios you’ll generally have;

  1. Strong but bad technique
  2. Weak but good technique
  3. Strong and good technique
  4. Weak and bad technique

Each group has their own strengths and weaknesses and the model addresses just that. The solutions are relatively straight forward and logical.

Group 1, less strength work, more technique, and more time doing slow partial lifts to ingrain the right mechanics.
Group 2, more time in strength work such as squats and pulls. Workouts can begin with strength work and classic lifts are practiced later.
Group 3 are the easiest to train, but these bunch must be cared for psychologically as the can be hard headed and proud. Always encourage this bunch to try harder to create that advantage as they have a chance in the Olympics, and tell the other athletes in the other groups to chase this particular athlete. Also remind such athletes that the God given superiority doesn’t last forever, but as long as its theirs, make the best of it and train hard. Say the negative in a positive light. It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.

One may think they’ll eliminate group 4, but that can be untrue. Sometimes these fellows are just slower to develop and suddenly spring back when puberty hits. This group is generally quite rare. By now they would’ve been moved to other sports that suit them better, or streamed into a more education inclined system to guarantee their future


20 replies
  1. Do
    Do says:

    Great. Very inspirational article. I train under a russian coach in germany and don’t really know his principles for creating my routine. I suppose it’s also a periodization model, but I feel like I could be squatting alot more.

    Maybe I should try to talk about his ideas about training with him. And also there’s the point that you mentioned, that I probably know myself better than he does.

  2. Kirksman
    Kirksman says:

    Je mehr du trainierst, desto bessere Ergebnisse wirst du haben. Haha! No, I don’t speak German. That was my German friend!

    Spend many hours in your weakest points and work to improve it. There are times when you will hate the exercise but doing it, but if doing it is what’s required to be better, you’ll just have to do it.

  3. Shaun
    Shaun says:

    In the example you created, the fictitious lifter doesn’t actually seem to have a problem with strength based on back squat and clean pull numbers. And the stated weakness of receiving the bar overhead is not addressed.

    I see what you are saying though, the approach is to address weaknesses.

  4. Kirksman
    Kirksman says:

    @Steve, it means 3 sets of triples. 1 set of 5. 5 set of triples.

    The first set of triples you may be trying 180KG, the 5 maybe 160 and the 5×3 could be 190

  5. George Heckert
    George Heckert says:


    What is the loading generally like for the high pull with rebend? I know you always say let the reps determine the weight, but what is a general target %age?

    • Kirksman
      Kirksman says:

      I would say……holy cow, I don’t know! I feel 100% of the actually snatch or clean 1RM would be a good figure. Off the blocks of course.

  6. Danilo Fernandes
    Danilo Fernandes says:

    Reading this series again and again…

    What’s the point on going up and down with the weights in an exercise? Better activation of muscles, technique and etc?

    • Kirksman
      Kirksman says:

      We always consider ourselves to be beings of consistency. We aren’t. If we were asked to walk a straight line, with our eyes open, we’d still have to make minor readjustments. Now consider that walking is something we do every day, naturally and yet we need adjustments.

      Snatching and clean and jerks, not only isn’t a natural thing to do…it’s also rare that we do it. 2 hours a day at most? So when we keep going up in weights, not only do we fail to correct that improper movement pattern, we continue to ingrain the wrong one too, AND at heavier weights. IF you can’t walk, don’t run. So learn to “walk” with the weights and then “run”

      • Matt
        Matt says:

        Love this analogy. I work with a lot of people in a pre-hab, post-rehab setting and many times the idea that there’s a quick fix makes it tough for people to understand what it really means to (re)train your body to move well.

        Thanks for sharing all your insights on the Chinese weightlifting training. Inspires me to lift harder!


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