• Undulating Reps For Growth

      By Greg Merritt & Jim Stoppani Ph.D Flex


      Periodized training programs, in which the weight used is systematically increased while reps decrease, have been shown to be very effective for producing gains in muscle strength and size. The most popular form, linear periodization, involves increasing the weight every 4 weeks or so and has proven to produce impressive strength gains. Undulating periodization is a form that involves changing up the weight and rep ranges every time you train a muscle group, using no set pattern for increasing or decreasing weight. Few studies have compared periodization techniques for muscle growth, but we believe that the muscle confusion that comes with undulating periodization will produce greater gains in muscle size.


      Researchers in Brazil had untrained men follow a linear periodized weight-training program for 12 weeks or an undulating periodized program. The linear periodized group did two set of 12–15 reps per exercise for the first four weeks, then 3 sets of 8–10 reps per exercises for the next four weeks, and 4 sets of 3–5 reps per exercise in the final four weeks of the study. The undulating group used those same three set and rep ranges but cycled them each time they trained.


      While the group following the undulating plan increased triceps size by about 5%, the linear group saw no such increase. The undulating group also increased their biceps size by 10%; the linear group only increased their biceps size by 5%. The undulating group also increased their bench press strength by more than 25%; the linear group only increased by 10%.


      Undulating periodization where weights and rep ranges change frequently, but not in a specific pattern, are superior to linear periodized programs that hold each rep range for four weeks. This is not surprising as maintaining one
 rep range for four
 weeks may help you 
build strength in 
that particular rep
range, but you may 
lose some of the
 benefits you gained 
from the previous 
rep ranges. With the undulating plan, you cycle so frequently through the rep ranges that you get the benefits of each rep range without losing the benefits you gain from the other rep ranges.


      Although the researchers changed the rep ranges in the undulating group every time they trained, they were using a full-body workout that trained all major muscle groups in one workout. Since most bodybuilders use a weekly training split that takes 4–5 workouts to train the entire body, you should change the rep range only after cycling through all workouts. This study only used three rep ranges, but we suggest you try at use at least 4 rep ranges, such as 12–15, 9–11, 6–8, and 3–5. A sample 12-week plan for someone who trains each muscle group once per week can be found in the chart above.

      Reference: R. Simão et al., J Strength Cond Res., 26(5):1389–95; 2012.
      Comments 4 Comments
      1. y0lked's Avatar
        y0lked -
        Pretty basic article. I'm currently trying to come up with undulating workout plan in my training. Currently doing 2 heavy workouts a month per muscle group while maintaining hypertrophy rep ranges on a daily basis.
      1. AZMIDLYF's Avatar
        AZMIDLYF -
        Similar method to the Y3T set up by Hill
      1. Tictactactica's Avatar
        Tictactactica -
        I've trained this way for as long as I can remember, though I always referred to it simply as instinctive training, as I base my rep range on how I feel rather than some preconceived range. This style has always made me a "Lone Ranger" of sorts b/c no one else trained this way, but I rarely ever experience any lasting plateaus, which is a claim that the others could not make!
      1. y0lked's Avatar
        y0lked -
        I too have done this. I think it promotes listening to your body, being able to recognize things about your body that linear progression does not offer on an intermediate/advanced level.

        Granted, this training should not be implemented by beginners as I think structure is one of the most important aspects for learning at a basic level.

        I think it also promotes freedom and excitement knowing every workout is going to be different. I know I always enjoy creating and trying new workouts on a weekly/monthly basis and eventually I accidentally adapted the undulated philosophy.
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