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The Ultimate Guide to Daily Undulating Periodization [DUP]


Jan 18, 2023
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Daily Undulating Periodization is exactly what it sounds like (surprising huh?).

Let’s break it down:

Daily: literally we are talking about days.

Undulating: Ok now we are getting into some technical sounding terms. Don’t be afraid, undulation simply means a flowing motion, up and down in a wave like pattern. In reference to training it means sets and reps progressing in a nonlinear fashion. Just picture a wavy line, not a straight line.

Periodization: The logical and systematic sequencing of training factors in an integrative fashion in order to optimize specific training outcomes at pre-determined time points.

I hear crickets…

Sorry, I had to give you the definition straight out of the text titled “Periodization” by Tudor Bompa. I mean, if a guy is going to write an entire textbook on periodization he should at least get referenced for the definition.

In layman terms, periodization is just a way of organizing your training. Periodization is having a training plan.

Before we go any further I want you to clear your mind of a few training principles your bodybuilding magazine education taught you about lifting.

Bodybuilding Magazine Myths

1- To build muscle you need to exclusively hit the 8-12 rep range.

2- Only train each muscle once a week to ensure optimal recovery.

3- Hit every muscle from a variety of angles/exercises. Spend a ton of time on assistance work.

4- You have to “confuse” a muscle to make it grow/get stronger.

5- Intensity principles are the key to progress (pre exhaust, super sets, giant sets, high rep drop sets, etc.)

6- Overtraining will make you lose all of your gains.

The reason I wanted you to get those myths out of your head is because the core principles of DUP are going to contradict most of what is considered “conventional” training wisdom.

In order to learn anything new, you need to open your mind up to the new ideas.

Daily Undulating Periodization Core Principles

1- There is a benefit to EVERY rep range.

One of the key points of DUP is the use of multiple rep ranges. A DUP training cycle may have you hitting reps of 10, 5, and 2 all in consecutive training days. There is a benefit to every rep range. You never want to find yourself married to one specific rep range because then you will be missing out on the benefits of the others.

With that being said, it’s important to understand that there is a carryover effect between rep ranges. In fact, the training effect is more about outside factors such as volume, than it is the actual rep ranges. This is why research has shown similar muscle building responses between high and low rep training as long as volume is equated. Basically, you can gain muscle by using heavy weight for low reps or moderate weight for moderate reps. I talked a lot about this in my article “In Defense of Powerlifting: Why It’s Not Hurting Bodybuilding“.

2- High frequency training is best for building muscle and strength.

This is an ongoing debate between the “evidence” based guys and the “bros”. There are a couple reasons why higher frequency training works better.

For one, you get increased motor learning capabilities with more frequent exposure to the lifts. Lifting is a skill, and like any skill you get better at it with more practice. Getting better at the lifts allows you to dial in your form and become more efficient with the movement patterns. As your form gets better and more efficient it becomes easier to make progress.

Another benefit is the more often you stimulate a training response (through muscular contractions), the more often you create an anabolic response and boost protein synthesis. It makes sense that the more often you can create a training response the better off you are going to be.

3- Focus on the main lifts.

This is a major pet peeve of mine. Let me ask you. What is the best exercise for building muscle and/or strength?

The Squat? How about the Deadlift? Maybe a bodyweight exercise such as the Pull-up?

I know that is a loaded question and hard to answer. There are a lot of “best” exercises depending on the individual, but I can guarantee seated calf raises or leg extensions didn’t immediately come to mind. That is because deep down we know there are certain exercises that just work better than others. We know squats are “better” than leg extensions when it comes to building muscle and strength. If we know this, why is it that we spend the same amount of time each week (sets x reps) on squats as we do leg extensions?

I call this majoring in your minor. Don’t spend as much time on assistance work as you do the main exercises. You don’t need to hit your quad from 10 different angles for it to get bigger and stronger.

There are just not that many “angles” to hit a muscle group from. If you are wondering how you will be able to isolate your brachialis without your favorite curl variation, read on.

4- Limit assistance / isolation work

When I say focus on the main lifts I mean focus on the main lifts. With DUP style programs it’s not uncommon to do the main lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) three times a week or more.

You may be wondering how you will be able to hit every muscle without doing a lot of assistance and isolation work.

Notice I said limit, not exclude. You can still do assistance work on a DUP program, it’s just going to take a backseat to the big compound lifts. I actually recommend adding assistance work in to help bring up your weaknesses. Do what you suck at. Just remember the big picture. Don’t let your assistance work take away from what really matters.

With that being said, it’s a self regulating system. After hitting squat, bench and deadlift 3 or 4 times per week with a ton of volume, you won’t have much energy left for wrist curls…I think you will be alright though.

What about exercise variation for muscular confusion?

The fact is muscles don’t need to be “confused” in the typical bro sense in order to make progress. You don’t need to do flat barbell bench one week, dumbbells the next, and decline the week after in order to “confuse” a muscle to make progress.

There is nothing wrong with changing up exercises. Actually that is a big part of conjugate style training. I love throwing in variations. However, progress is driven by progressive overload not doing a ton of different exercises to make sure your muscles are confused.

5- Progressive overload is the key to progress

When I talk about progressive overload I am really talking about progressing volume or tonnage.

Volume (tonnage) = sets x reps x weight

Weight plays a huge role here. Most bro training styles create more volume by just adding sets and reps and calling it progressive overload.

Bro logic – want to make an exercise harder? Just do a crazy drop set of 40, 50, or 100 reps. Yeah that is hard but what did you achieve? If your goal is to build muscular endurance great, like I said there is a benefit to every rep range but if your goal is maximum muscle and strength you would be better off focusing on adding more weight.

Volume is the major driver of strength and muscle building. A well designed training program has a means of built in progression that increases volume over time.

It’s easier to increase volume when you combine it with increased frequency.

6- Supercompensation

DUP training is hard. Somewhere along the way hard training got shamed, but like DUP, it’s making a comeback.

Training hard fell out of favor around the same time the fear mongering around overtraining started.

Overtraining is real, but 99% of people do not need to worry about it. The fact is this. I have trained in gyms all over the country, I have worked with hundreds of clients and have talked to other coaches who have also worked with hundreds of clients and I have came to this conclusion – Far more people under train, than over train.

Let me put it another way. If you are actually training hard enough to be “overtrained”, chances are:

1- You are an elite athlete and you need to push the boundaries to compete at the highest level.


2 – You are experienced enough to over train /over reach on purpose.

It’s called supercompensation. You train hard for a period of time, push your training to the limit, possibly even past your recovery ability (over reach) and then you deload to reap the rewards of the training cycle.

Over reaching is the training secret of the elite. You never know how far you can push until you push too far.