Periodization for GS, Part 5 (Going up in weight vs increasing reps)

In the last post we looked at addressing common individual issues. In this post we will look at working towards different goals. The two goals we will look at include working towards increasing kettlebell weight, and increasing repetition with the same kettlebell weight. Obviously both outcomes need different approaches. If we use the double jerk as an example, moving up kettlebell weight generally involves slower sets of 50-70 reps over ten minutes and will greatly benefit from increased strength, whereas increasing reps over 100 may require more endurance. This is not to say becoming stronger will have negative effects for 100+ rep sets, or that increasing endurance will be negative for slower sets.

In a past post I mentioned linear (classic), block and undulating styles of periodization. Linear is fantastic for beginners or rehabilitation or coming back from a layoff. Block periodization could involve concentrating on a lighter bell to build a large foundation and endurance base. This would be followed by a phase of training focusing on the competition weight and pace. This strategy may detrain your specific strength slightly, however you will be moving into a heavier phase before competition where you will recover this lost strength. Obviously, cross training with extra conditioning and/or resistance training will also play a role here. Extra conditioning and resistance training stressing local muscular endurance may be of use. Overall, I feel this approach has the most application increasing rep number for higher pace sets because of its base and focus on your competition bell.

If you used a simple undulating model you could focus on three or more bells at any one time. You might have a day focusing on heavier bells, medium kettlebells and light kettlebells.  The first phase could involve one kettlebell above your goal kettlebell and two below. In the second phase this could be changes to one above your goal weight, one at goal kettlebell weight and another under the kettlebell weight. This could work on a sliding scale of 2-8 kgs. By training like this you should be able to build specific strength whilst maintaining or improving endurance. Extra resistance training focusing on maximal strength may be particularly beneficial. This approach may be the best for moving up in bell weight because you get to ‘feel’ a wider range of bells.


Putting it all together

There are many ways to periodize your year. Linear, block and undulating periodization can be used together. If you have a layoff at the end or start of the year it is often nice to start with linear to get back into it. If you have four competitions evenly spaced, you could use linear mode for a month or two then for the first competition use block for biathlon (build endurance base), and the second competition could be undulating for long cycle (peak endurance). Then you may wish to move up a kettlebell weight for the third competition using an undulating for biathlon (build strength endurance) and lastly undulating/long cycle (peak strength endurance). I consider biathlon to require greater amounts of local muscular endurance and long cycle to have greater demands on conditioning. Another way could be to focus on biathlon, but move up and down competition weights. If you focused on long cycle (and are training 4+ times a week) you could do more general strength training (to maintain or improve strength) as the long cycle training should improve your general/specific conditioning. I generally like to start the year off working slightly lighter and build a base for the rest of the year, before finishing up using heavier bells. The idea is by switching variables such as events, weights and types of periodization you should be continually setting yourself up to succeed.


My name is James Ross, I’m a qualified personal trainer, strength & conditioning coach and sports scientist. I am a founder and coach at The Richmond Gym in Melbourne and started the website

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