Increasing the difficulty of your workouts is one of the keys to building muscle and getting stronger. But a gradual progression,which typically calls for changing the workout every four weeks, may not be the best way to achieve your goals.
According to new research, the most effective way to get stronger and build muscle is to change your set and rep scheme every workout, rather than use the same rep scheme for several weeks before progressing.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared strength gains achieved with linear periodization (LP) against those elicited by daily undulating periodization (DUP). The training involved three sets of the Bench Press and Leg Press performed three days per week. The LP group performed sets of eight reps during weeks 1-4; six reps during weeks 4-8; and four reps during weeks 9-12. The DUP group altered training on a daily basis (Monday, eight reps; Wednesday, six reps; Friday, four reps).
The researchers found greater strength gains in the DUP group and concluded, "making program alterations on a daily basis was more effective in eliciting strength gains than doing so every four weeks."
More recent studies have found that in addition to strength gains, DUP may also lead to greater gains in muscle thickness.
So it's clearly more effective to utilize a daily undulating set and rep scheme. More interesting, too, because you never do the same workout two weeks in a row.
A three-week plan for a DUP workout could like something like this.
- Week 1. Sets/Reps: 5x3-5
- Week 2. Sets/Reps: 3x10-12
- Week 3. Sets/Reps: 4x6-8
Once you finish Week 3, simply start over, adding weight if you can. And challenge your body with different weight loads and volumes. Don't use the same set and rep scheme for more than one workout during a week.
So despite the fact that you've been told to lift in certain rep ranges to achieve size and strength goals, stick to the DUP style of training to achieve results faster.
- Rhea MR, Ball SD, et al. "A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength." J Strength Cond Res. 2002 May;16(2):250-5.
- Prestes JFrollini AB, et al. "Comparison between linear and daily undulating periodized resistance training to increase strength." J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2437-42.
- Miranda FSimão R, et al. "Effects of linear vs. daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains." J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1824-30.
- Simão RSpineti J, et al. "Comparison between nonlinear and linear periodized resistance training: hypertrophic and strength effects." J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1389-95.