Human body is an incredible machine. The networks we have inside us have their own set of behaviors. Hence studies, researches, experiments and 10 other scientific procedures happen every day across the globe in various labs to reveal this complex machinery.
Of all studies done so far, a principle has been well established that stands true for every living body. The principle is Stimulus and Response
Your body responds to a particular stimulus (or in simple terms, action). Exercise, is nothing but a stimulus to which your body has the potential to respond. Let’s walk through the reality now. We don’t ‘just’ exercise for the sake of exercising. Everybody has goals. An old man at his 70s might consider exercising to improve his health condition and to reverse the effects of age related degeneration, a 20 year old would add poundage to his lifts to get strong and build muscle, and a huge 300 lbs. powerlifter would lift some crazy ass weights to win the next powerlifting meet. So there’s always a goal.
Here, the intensity would gradually increase as there is a progressive overloading of weight. Hence, volume would come down.
Now let’s understand this. When you start lifting, your strength goes up because neurological adaptation goes up. But after a certain point, adaption starts to flatten out. Thus the main disadvantage of LINEAR PERIODISATION is – inefficient motor unit (muscle cell) recruitment. We have 2 kinds of motor units. HIGH THRESHOLD motor units (HTMU) and LOW THRESHOLD motor units (LTMU). To build muscle and get stronger HTMU recruitment should be higher and efficient
To simplify the terms, HTMU is your strength fibers or fast twitch fibers or Type 2 fibers and LTMU is your endurance fibers or slow twitch fibers or Type 1 fibers.
With linear periodization, adaptation sets in fast and the chances of hitting a plateau in your training program is extremely high as the intensity and volume variation brought about is slow and would be a straight (incline or decline) line in the graph.
Example of Linear Periodization:
- First 4 weeks: Rep range 12-15
- Second 4 weeks: Rep range 10-12
- Third 4 weeks: Rep range 6-8
So the magic protocol is Daily Undulating Periodization-DUP (also known as Non Linear Periodization).
The concept I am going to present further is well researched and experimented by Dr. Mike Zourdos who specializes in Strength and conditioning and Skeletal muscle physiology. His study includes comparison of two DUP models done in 2015, basically on powerlifters but the theory can be applied to all training demographics depending on specificity of the training program.
Coming straight to concepts:
Hypertrophy-strength-power are all inter dependent. If you are not maximizing cross sectional area of your muscles, you are not going to maximize strength. If you are not maximizing strength, you are inhibiting your ability to lift heavier on your hypertrophy days and hence allowing this limitation to compromise your gains. So a stagnant loading of weights will again set in adaptation and hence chances of hitting a plateau. Thus all components are important to enhance each other. Strength and growth are related to volume and growth specifically also depends on calorie intake and rest (sleep). These two aspects are not dependent on trauma.
Now that you know the inter dependency, how can DUP help?
As the name says, it’s undulating between strength, hypertrophy and power daily. Now understanding what kind of lift can enhance these parameters is crucial as well. I presume everybody understands what is a compound exercise and an isolation exercise. If not, leave a query in the comments section.
Doing compound exercises can target all 3 edges of the triangle- Strength, hypertrophy and power as it recruits multiple motor unit segments and multiple joints at a time. So basically the big lifts – squats, bench press, dead lift and I would also add standing military press (this is not considered by professional coaches mostly). I am adding this due to the functional benefit it offers of handling load overhead and yet balancing the body. The idea is to undulate between the intensity of these big lifts within a week. So you might consider doing these big lifts 2 to 3 times a week by varying the rep range as follows,
- 12-15 – Hypertrophy day,
- 8-10 – Strength day and
- 3-5 – Power day
You might be wondering what about other exercises. You can definitely add them and keep the rep range around 12-15 on specific days. The idea is to undulate between big lifts for the reason mentioned above.
Now the standard ratio of undulating is 1:1:1 in a week. That means you train for hypertrophy once, strength once and power once. But this wouldn’t be the ideal way to go about if your goal is to build muscle. You would need more hypertrophy specific volume work for this. Hence it would make more sense to keep the ratio this way 2:1:1 – H:P:S. So it would look like this-
H-P-H-S-P-H-S-H for a 2 week period.
Idea is to keep in mind the specificity. You will add volume to the area of emphasis (hypertrophy in most cases)
Every week, try to add pounds to your lifts. Let it be a small addition but make an attempt. This will maximize your muscle growth and hence strength and power. The secret to why this program works better than any other program is because your body constantly switches between the specificities and keeps improving strength and performance on a regular basis, thus not letting adaptation set in and staves you off plateau. Now the very genuine doubt that can come up is regarding recovery. Don’t worry about it. You will not be overtraining yourself. Our body is smart and its safety mechanism is excellent. Your recovery will be periodized a couple of weeks into DUP as well. Body understands changes and it has the potential to counteract by re arranging things.
I tried to make it as simple as I could. Doubts in the comment section.
About the Author: Melvin Cherian (http://getsetgo.fitness/#/public/coachprofile/melvin)
1. Dr. Mike Zoudos’ video on Daily Undulating periodisation