Undulating Periodization: Pros and Cons 

Undulating Periodization: Pros and Cons 

In the strength and conditioning world, there is a heated debate going on.

Coaches around the world can’t agree on which type of periodization is best. Some love linear, and others swear by undulating.

At OPEX Fitness, we believe the best type of periodization depends on the client and their goals. To emphasize this, we will look at undulating periodization, it’s pros and cons, and the best time to use it.


Table of Contents:

  1. What is Undulating Periodization?
  2. Pros
  3. Cons
  4. How to Use It
  5. Sample Daily Program
  6. Sample Weekly Program

What is Undulating Periodization?

Undulating periodization is a type of training where volume and intensity go up and down, either weekly or daily, within the training period.

Weekly undulating periodization (WUP) changes the volume and intensity week to week. And daily undulating periodization (DUP) adjusts the volume and intensity daily between training sessions.

In this type of periodization, you have different intentions for different training sessions, whether weekly or daily. For example, in DUP on Monday, you could focus on maximal contraction strength, Wednesday on power, and Friday on hypertrophy.

Pros and Cons of UNDULATING Periodization

Pros

1) This type of periodization works well for advanced clients, or those who have a high training age. The undulation creates a high level of stimulation which these clients require for adaptation (a fancy word for getting results).

2) It’s a great way to prepare for multiple competitions dispersed throughout a client’s training program. The undulation exposes the client to both high intensity and volume as well as low intensity and volume, all without the duration of a linear approach. 

3) It’s suitable for athletes with a long sports season who don’t have time to go through a long linear program.

4) Undulation can help maintain readiness of multiple physical characteristics while managing fatigue, with a balance of higher and lower intensity sessions. 

Cons

1) It’s not great for beginners. For those learning how to lift weights, this type of training program can be confusing. Just as they get in the groove, the training switches.

If you’re working with a beginner or happen to be one, we recommend doing full-body workouts and following a linear approach.

2) Undulating methods that use a very high intensity day (or days) every week can be challenging to recover from. Further, program design must be intricate to avoid interference between volume and intensity days in a DUP method.

It may be wise to incorporate deloads in your long-term training plan and to alternate between linear and undulating methods in a long-term plan. Additionally, educate your clients on the importance of a quality lifestyle that reduces stress outside of the gym

How to Use Undulating Periodization

First, define a long-term plan, commonly referred to as a macrocycle. Determine the long-term goals for this plan during the assessment and consultation process, including identifying dates of competition for athletes. 

Next, layout short-term plans, or mesocycles, inside of the macrocycle. These short-term plans may include accumulation, intensification, pre-competition, competition, and deload phases. Again, the goals of these short-term plans are client-specific. 

Finally, you will identify the priorities within each short-term plan. Examples include maximizing characteristics (strength and power), developing a movement pattern, or refining for competition.

Sample Daily Undulating Periodization Program


Day 1: Strength Endurance Focus

A) Back Squat, @20X1, 6-8 reps x 4 sets; rest 3 min

B) Deadlift, @30X1, 5-6 reps x 4 sets; rest 3 min

C1) Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift, @30X1, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 sec

C2) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, @30X0, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; rest 2 min


Day 2: Strength Endurance Focus

A) Bench Press, @21X1, 6-8 reps x 4 sets; rest 3 min

B) Weighted Pull-Up, @30X0, 3.2.1 x 4 sets; rest 20 sec/3 min

C1) Dumbbell Press, @20X1, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 sec

C2) Barbell Drag Curl, @3030, 6-8 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 sec


Day 3: Max Contraction Focus

A) Back Squat, @20X1, 2-3 reps x 5 sets; rest 5 min

B) Deadlift, @20X1, 3-2-1; rest 5 min

C1) Reverse Lunge, @30X1, 8-10 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 sec

C2) Chinese Plank, 30-45 sec x 3 sets; rest 2 min


Day 4: Max Contraction Focus

A) Bench Press, @21X0, 3-2-2-1-1; rest 4-5 min

B) Pendlay Row, @20X1, 4-5 reps x 3 sets; rest 3 min

C1) Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, @20X1, 6-8 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 sec

C2) Lat Pulldown, @30X1, 6-8 reps x 3 sets; rest 90 sec


Sample Weekly Undulating Periodization Program

Applying rep schemes below to main lifts each training day.

Week 1: 6-8 reps x 4 sets

Week 2: 3-4 reps x 4 sets

Week 3: 5-6 reps x 4 sets

Week 4: 2-3 reps x 4 sets


Want to Write Effective Exercise Programs?

Writing an exercise program can be tricky.

There are seemingly endless possibilities for training splits, exercises, and progressions.

But what if you had a principle-based framework? One that highlighted exactly what to include in your exercise program based on your client’s ability?

Download our free guide to exercise selection and learn exactly that framework, and how to create effective resistance training programs for all of your clients.  

DOWNLOAD

References:

Periodization: What the Data Says, Greg Nuckols

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