Daily Undulating Periodization 101
Original article can be found here:
Periodization is a method of organising your training, this is done to avoid the biological law of accommodation.
Sounds complicated right?
Let me break it down for you:
The biological law of accommodation describes how the body stops adapting to the same stimulus over time…
And this means no gains for you!
Fortunately, there are two ways to avoid plateaus:
- Change the parameters of the exercise: e.g. reps, sets, weight.
- Rotate the exercise.
There are two ways to smash your plateaus: change the parameters of the exercise (sets/reps/weight) or rotate the exercise…click here to find out how to do this!
Daily undulating periodization (DUP) is a form of non-linear periodization that focuses on the 1st method.
Training sessions are typically divided to target different performance goals.
For example, you might have a heavy, medium, light setup.
You would rotate between these different training variables throughout the week (in an undulating fashion).
It’s easy to think of non-linear periodization as a wavy line (rather than a straight one).
Let’s explore the basics of DUP further.
There is no set rep range
One of the biggest myths in bodybuilding is that you should stick to the 1-5 rep range for strength and the 8-12 rep range for muscle growth.
But this isn’t grounded in science:
Studies have proven that there is no difference in muscle growth between a low rep range and a high rep range (when volume was accounted for).
What can we learn form this?
Volume is the driver of muscle growth…not the rep range.
There is no ‘best rep range’ for muscle growth! Volume is the key to making sweet gains…
To add to this, each rep range is beneficial for performance in different ways:
For example, low rep ranges (90-100% 1RM) are superior for neural adaptations and strength…
Whereas high rep ranges (60% 1RM) are beneficial for developing work capacity and muscle endurance.
DUP isn’t ‘muscle confusion’
Muscle confusion is a pernicious myth that has been spread by gym bros for decades.
The idea that a muscle can be tricked by switching from a dumbbell to a barbell isn’t backed by science…
However, like all great myths there is some truth:
When the body is exposed to an exercise, it’s less responsive to it over time.
This is known as the repeated bout effect.
The solution to this is to change the parameters of the exercise.
So instead of using a 5×5 for a squat, you could substitute it with a 6×4.
Prilepin’s chart can be used to figure out the optimal reps/sets for a given % of your one rep maximum.
Training frequency is high
Low frequency splits are commonly advocated by bodybuilders:
The idea is to work each muscle with ultra high volume and let it rest for the entire week.
But whilst this is beneficial for steroid users, it’s completely ineffective for natural bodybuilders.
Studies have shown that muscle protein synthesis peaks at 36 hours post-workout and rapidly declines.
So realistically, you have a 24-48 hour period of muscle growth. That’s it!
I don’t know about you, but I want to maximise muscle growth.
That’s why I personally recommend a 2-3x per week training frequency for muscle growth.
Research has shown that this produces more muscle and strength gains in the long-term.
Another factor you need to consider is skill:
If you want to get good at anything, what’s the golden rule?
In fact, in Malcolm Gladwells book called outliers, he notes that it takes on average 10,000 hours to master a skill.
Of course, you don’t need to practise the squat for 10,000 hours, but the point still remains.
After all, there is a strong neurological component to strength training.
The more frequently you practice the movement pattern, the more efficient you become.
Want a big squat? Squat more often! Studies have shown that there is a strong neurological component to strength training (practise makes perfect).
This is known as greasing the groove in powerlifting circles.
Exercise selection is low
Daily undulating periodization places a big focus on the compound lifts.
Assistance exercises take a back seat and in some cases are removed entirely.
This is a blessing and a curse (depending on how you look at it).
If you’re a powerlifter who wants maximum carryover to the big 3, then you’ll want to spend most of your time benching, squatting, and deadlifting.
However, if you’re a recreational lifter you probably don’t give a damn about the ‘big 3’.
Therefore, you might find DUP repetitive due to the low exercise selection.
This is definitely something to consider.
After all, you should enjoy your training if you want to stick with it.
Progressive overload is still important
Like any good program, DUP is built around progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the gradual increase in volume (or tonnage) over time:
Volume= sets x reps x weight
Progressive overload is the gradual increase in volume (or tonnage) over time: Volume= sets x reps x weight
However, you can’t just add reps aimlessly and call it progressive overload.
A lot of bodybuilding magazines promote drop sets as a way to increase volume, but not all reps are created equal.
This is why you’d ideally increase the weight AND reps simultaneously.
Pros and cons of DUP
Daily undulating periodization is an excellent method for getting stronger and building muscle. It has a high frequency, it rotates between training variables, and it revolves around adding weight to the bar. This isn’t to say that DUP is perfect, in fact it can be repetitious due to its low exercise selection. Overall, I strongly recommend DUP for anybody looking to gain size and strength fast.
Linear vs Non-Linear Periodization
Linear periodization (also known as block periodization) separates intensity and volume into different phases.
On a typical LP program, volume starts high and gradually tapers down while intensity increases.
*The table below is an example of linear periodization (a typical cycle would be 12 weeks)
Sets x Reps
As you can see, the sets/reps are changed linearly on a weekly basis rather than day-to-day.
While this is better than not periodizing your training at all, it isn’t as effective as non-linear periodization.
Why linear periodization is flawed
Performance isn’t maintained
Because intensity and volume are separated into different blocks (4 weeks) it’s hard to maintain performance when moving onto the next phase.
You essentially become de-trained because you aren’t practising the given rep range.
For example, in week 1-4 you’re using 75% of your 1RM for sets of 10, which is great for building muscle endurance.
However, by week 12 you’ve moved onto triples (90% 1RM) and therefore lose your work capacity.
This turns into a vicious cycle of adapting to one skill, then losing it in favour of another.
It’s too minimalist
Most linear periodizaiton programs have limited assistance work included.
This leads to poor general strength and muscular weaknesses.
LP is less effective for strength gains
One study compared the training effects of LP and DUP on experienced trainees (an average of 5 years under the bar). They were split into two groups:
- Linear periodization
- Daily undulating periodization
After 12 weeks, the DUP group experienced 28.8% growth on the bench press vs 14.4% for the LP group- despite them both doing the exact same workload.
Daily undulating periodization has been shown to be twice as effective as linear periodization (28.8% vs 14.4% strength growth during a 12 week span)…Click here to learn more
Linear periodization is ineffective in the long run. Because the training variables are separated into different blocks, you aren’t able to maintain your performance throughout the 12 week cycle. LP is also too minimalist, with low exercise selection. My recommendation is to stick to non-linear forms of periodization.