More Thoughts on Cybernetic Periodization

Cybernetic Periodization

Something I constantly find myself thinking about is the concept of cybernetic periodization (CP).

Siff discussed this in his book Supertraining, and the concept makes perfect sense – you don’t feel the same every single day, so why would you go in with a set plan for any given training day?

The problem is, I can see both sides of this equation.

On one hand, as I stated before, CP makes perfect sense – on the days you feel good you either increase your volume, your intensity, or possibly both. Take advantage of the fact that you feel good. Any older trainees reading this probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

On the other side of the equation (and this is very important if you are competitive), this could lead to some weird situations where you might not “feel good” on meet day. How do you know what you’re capable of if you’ve never trained when feeling a little off?

Round and round I go.

What I’ve done in the past that’s worked well is to focus on whatever feels good that day. If squats feel great, I’m going to push the volume and/or intensity on squats. Essentially, my goal is to “cement” that feeling so that my body can reproduce it often.

But what if squats don’t feel good? This is where I get a set or two in, and then shut it down. I’ll move on to my assistance exercises and do the same thing. What I’ve found is that something always feels good, even if the core movement does not. Here’s an example.

A few weeks ago, I warmed up on squats and they felt terrible. Instead of continuing to bang my head against the wall, I did two sets and called it a day. However, I moved on to RDL’s and then a step-up variation and they felt great, so I increased the volume on those.

Essentially, I greased the groove of whatever felt best that day.

How essential do you feel CP is to your training? Is this something you use? And if so, how do you incorporate it into your training?

Stay strong



Leave Comment

  1. Im doing Wendlers 5/3/1 and like the way its handled there: On a "bad" day, just get the main lift in (3 warm up sets, 3 work sets) and get the hell out.
    On a regular day, do the main lift and the planned assistance (for me usually one exercise at 5 x 10 and one at 5 x 15, eg. RDLs and leg presses after squats).
    If I feel great, I might add a set or two to the assistance, or throw in an extra assistance exercise at the end.
    This way, you at least get around the problem you describe with an "off day" for a meet: You always do the main/competition lift no matter what.

  2. I think it's a bit of both, too. I'm sort of at a cross roads with this as i've started messing around with it. If i've planned heavy triples, and I feel like crap, i'll work up to the heaviest triple I can get, with good form, for that day, and note it down. So, you can say, "dam, I only performed at 90% of my best today!". Then I can try and figure out why that happened. Most often either life or lazyness get's in the way and screws up nutrition and/or rest in some form or other.
    As i've got stronger, though, I've struggled to do this. Recently, If i'm feeling like crap, I just get my prescribed reps in, but lay off the intensity. It's a good chance to focus completely on technique. It's almost like getting an extra mini-deload as it leaves me feeling fresh, as opposed to still feeling like crap with the first method I described. I don't know what's better, though, but both of these situations are what I play around with.

  3. I've been guilty of skipping workouts due to feeling a little off but now I've become more disciplined…that leads to the question…how does one avoid getting into excuse-making while practicing Cybernetic Periodization

  4. Nice to see someone talking about Ian King's stuff. He's only linear in the Get Buffed series for the sake of explaining how things work. If you read his "How to Write Strength Training Programs" book he goes into alternate periodization as well.
    As far as CP goes, I don't have "good" days. I have bad days or I feel normal. I don't know if that would work, but I won't knock it. By writing down your program and planning on paper you are making a commitment that should not be broken.
    You still go to work when you feel "off". Why would you skip the gym?

  5. Cybernetic Periodization is my ultimate goal. I’ve never felt it was exclusivley about “feeling” good or bad. I understood it as, “Personalized Periodization”. I track my workouts, every set, every rep, every rest period. I know what works for me. I know when I peak, when I need to deload, when I need to train for hypertrophy, endurance, fat loss, relative strength etc based upon my body and my goals. There are good days and bad days, I take those into account, but I don’t skip a workout or miss reps unless I’m physically unable to perform. For me it has been the answer to optimal year round fitness.

    If your ur undisciplined you are not ready for CP, you need a program, and probably a training partner or two to hold you accountable. Nothing wrong with that, I think we all have to work our way up to CP.

  6. Just re-read the Ian King stuff, Mike … 🙂
    I expect you to remember the table regarding weekly load progression in Get Buffed I or the How to write book. Something along the lines of (for 3 weeks):
    week 1 – leave the gym very fresh, even underworked, technique focus, some reps in the hole
    week 2 – maybe one rep in the hole, serious work in the gym
    week 3 – peaking
    Although King gives %1RM examples for the weeks, the key is to recognize the /subjective/ exhaustion measure, and it's weekly progression. So for example, if you used 100 lbs in week 1, but are very stressed for whatever reason in week 2, you may end using only 90 lbs, but /feeling/ still way more exhausted than in the previous week, due to your higher external stressor. In week 3, you may then return to something like 110 lbs. Voila, no fancy Siff work needed …
    BTW, it always buffles my head when people are dissing Ian King as outdated "linear guy" (Cressey, helllllooo? LOL). WTF? You can clearly see the progression from a simple linear plan for beginners (low thresholds for strength qualities, thus virtually no detraining) to a more and more maintenance focused planning with increasing training age. E.g. you may see the switch to mostly compound exercises already in the control stage, and even some sets of explosive power exercises like sntach pulls in this stage 1. So, in Supertraining terms, there is a seamless transformation from linear periodization (beginners) to Conjugate Sequene System (advanced) in King's plans. Unfortunately the fitness meinstream is stucked in the simple non-linear stuff (Kraemer & Co). Baah.

Leave a Reply

Back to All Posts