The two most popular periodization methodologies used among performance coaches are linear periodization and daily undulating periodization. Linear or classical periodization progresses from mesocycles (i.e, 3-6 week periods) of general fitness qualities to hypertrophy, to maximal strength, to power and so forth. This ultimately leads up to a peak in performance for a competition such as a race. Daily undulating periodization involves more frequent changes in loading schemes either daily or weekly rather than designating specific training blocks to a given fitness or performance quality and may be more suitable for sports with frequent competitions. When compared head to head for improving strength and muscle size, undulating periodization often reigns supreme. However, there are myriad of ways that one can undulate their program and thus it remains to be determined what set and rep scheme undulations will yield the best results.
A new study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism compared the effects of two different undulating schemes on strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance. A group of 16 resistance trained males were matched for strength and body mass and divided into a high rep group and a low rep. Each group trained 3 times per week for 8 weeks performing only the bench press and back squat exercise at each workout. The high rep group performed 8×6 @ 75% on Monday, 9×4 @ 80% on Wednesday and 10×2 @ 85% on Friday. The low rep group performed 4×12 @ 60% on Monday, 4×10 @ 65% on Wednesday and 5×8 @ 70% on Friday. These programs were matched for total volume. Before and after the 8-week program, the subjects were tested for 1RM strength in the bench press and squat, muscle thickness and muscular endurance (total reps completed with 60% of 1RM).
The results showed that both groups significantly improved squat 1RM (+10.17% for high rep and +11.11% for low rep) and bench press 1RM (+8.98% for high rep and +9.71% for low rep). No differences between groups were found. Similar results were found for increases in muscle thickness in chest and thigh muscles where both groups showed significant increases with no differences between groups (increases in muscle thickness ranging from 5.4 – 18.9%). No significant differences were observed for muscular endurance after the training program or between groups. The authors conclude that training volume appears to be a main contributor to strength and hypertrophy since training intensity did not appear to have an effect when volume was matched. Therefore, coaches can confidently use a variety of set and rep schemes to vary training and still contribute to strength and size gains.
Klemp, A., Dolan, C., Quiles, J. M., Blanco, R., Zoeller, R. F. F., Graves, B. S., & Zourdos, M. C. (2016). Volume-Equated High and Low Repetition Daily Undulating Programming Strategies Produce Similar Hypertrophy and Strength Adaptations. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, Ahead of Print.