Lawrence Judd

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard of Daily Undulating Periodisation, or DUP.

In today’s fitness industry, you can’t miss it.

But, so often it’s misinterpreted, misapplied and you miss out on some of the benefits of using DUP within a training programme. That’s what this article aims to address – we’re talking periodisation, and a number of ways of improvements you can make to your application of DUP within your training.

A Reminder – What is DUP?

Daily Undulating Periodisation is a form of non-linear periodisation in which your training variables (volume and intensity) change on a per-session basis.

The other end of the spectrum is linear periodisation, in which you train at set volumes and intensities for “blocks” of time.

DUP LP

The Basics of DUP

Linear periodisation moves through blocks of training focusing on hypertrophy, strength and power in a cyclic fashion, as depicted below:

periodization

 

Non-linear periodisation incorporates each training focus (hypertrophy, strength and power) into each training block – usually either on a weekly or a daily basis, which would look like the following (let’s assume that the rep/set /% schema apply to each of the main compound exercises!)

Note – H/S/P refers to hypertrophy, strength and power* respectively.

Day

Weekly Undulating Periodisation Daily Undulating Periodisation

Monday

5×8 @ 65% (H)

5×8 @ 65% (H)

Wednesday

4×8 @ 67.5% 5×3 @ 80% (S)

Friday

3×8 @ 70%

6×1-2 @ 90% (P)

Monday

5×3 @ 80% (S)

4×8 @ 67.5% (H)

Wednesday

4×3 @ 82.5%

4×3 @ 82.5% (S)

Friday 3×3 @ 85%

4×1-2 @ 92.5% (P)

Monday

6×1-2 @ 90% (P)

3×8 @ 70% (H)

Wednesday

4×1-2 @ 92.5%

3×3 @ 85% (S)

Friday

2×1-2 @ 95%

2×1-2 @ 95% (P)

Monday

3×5 @ 65% (Deload)

3×5 @ 65% (Deload)

Wednesday

3×5 @ 65%

3×5 @ 65%

Friday 3×5 @ 65%

3×5 @ 65%

*Yes, I’m aware that a lot of the literature shows that power development is maximised at much lighter %1RM. However, in a powerlifting context it’s often more productive to practice at intensities that are more relevant to powerlifting meets.

 

Improvement #1 – HPS vs. HSP

Dr Zourdos’ lab at Florida Atlantic University wanted to discover if separating the hypertrophy and strength days by putting the lighter “power” day in the middle would lead to more favourable outcomes in terms of volume and strength than the standard model of hypertrophy on Monday, strength on Wednesday and power on Friday. They hypothesised that the HPS set up would allow for greater volumes to be performed if the strength day consisted of AMRAP sets, due to the subjects being less fatigued – they had performed the hypertrophy day 96 hours previously vs. only 48 hours previously in the HSP setup.

Picture3
A 2 week sample of the programme used (For the HPS set up, the power and strength days were simply swapped around). The difference in total volume was assessed by how many reps the subjects were able to achieve on the “strength” days.

They found that for the squat and bench, the HPS set up allowed for a lot more volume to be performed. The deadlift volume remained unchanged, however this isn’t so surprising given that it was only performed once per week.

Total bench volume performed (taken from SBS Module 3.6) Academy
Total bench volume performed (taken from SBS Module 3.6) Academy

In terms of 1RM improvements, there was a statistically significant improvement in bench 1RM for the HPS group vs the HSP group, and small (but not statistically significant) positive differences between the groups for squat and deadlift 1RM.

Picture5

Conclusion? Having a lighter day in between your hypertrophy and strength sessions (or simply allowing for a good balance between frequency of stimulation and recovery) may well be beneficial, especially for benching

Full text for this study (it’s Dr Z’s doctoral thesis, and well worth a read – http://www.vanguardbodybuilding.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Physiological-Responses-To-Two-Different-Models-Of-Daily-Undulati.pdf)

 

Improvement #2 – Programming vs Periodisation

We touched on this briefly back in a recent blog post, when we looked at the 2015 Klemp et al study – that was “DUP”, but didn’t incorporate anything that could be considered a “power” day in either study group:

This is classed as daily undulating “programming”, and helps to fit DUP more easily into a longer-term linear periodisation scheme – you still get the benefits of daily undulation vs a more strict linear model, but it allows for slightly greater increases specificity over time, if you need it.  Daily undulating programming utilises “undulation patterns” over the course of the week, as opposed to strict rep/set/% schemes for targeting hypertrophy, power or strength specifically.

For example, if we take a 3-month cycle leading up into a powerlifting meet utilising a daily undulating programming approach, we may see something like the following:

 

Week

Undulation Pattern (Monday/Wednesday/Friday)

% 1RM used (Monday/Wednesday/Friday)

1 (Not meet specific) 12/10/8

60/65/70

2

12/10/8 62.5/67.5/72.5
3 12/10/8

65/70/75

4 12/10/8

60/65/70 (deload)

5 (Starting to get a bit more meet specific)

8/6/4 67.5/72.5/77.5
6 8/6/4

70/75/80

7

8/6/4 72.5/77.5/82.5
8 6/4/2

75/80/85 (deload)

9 (Very meet specific)

5/3/1 77.5/82.5/87.5
10 5/3/1

80/85/90

11

5/3/1 82.5/87.5/92.5 (or set openers on Friday)
12 (Meet on Sunday) 3/1/1

85/82.5/80

 

The reason that we’ve dropped %1RM for the deload in week 4 but dropped reps for the deload in week 8 is one of specificity – in week 8, we’re closer to the meet, so we want to use weights that are more specific to the end goal and will cut volume using a drop in reps. In week 4, we’re still a way out from the meet so it can be considered appropriate to drop volume by cutting %1RM but keeping the reps the same.

Using the undulation pattern helps us to move seamlessly between blocks, and take advantage of the apparent benefit that daily undulation brings whilst linearly increasing the intensity that we’re working at from week to week up to the meet.

Another context in which a daily undulating programming approach may be more useful than a more standard HPS/HSP set up would be for a bodybuilder – an undulation pattern would likely increase total training volume relative to a HPS set up, which may lead to greater hypertrophy.

Combining DUP with DUP

It’s even possible to combine a HPS approach with a daily undulating programming approach. Remember that no periodisation scheme is ever “set in stone”, and your approach to programming needs to be flexible.

Let’s look at two scenarios to see 2 possible ways of combining them. These are by no means the only ways of combining these – the possibilities are pretty endless with this.

Scenario 1: We want to bring up our triceps whilst improving our competition bench technique

Solution: Use a low-RPE HPS set up for our competition bench work, whilst utilising a low-RPE daily undulating programming scheme for close grip bench press.

(A.k.a. use a HPS set up for the main lift, and an undulation pattern for the assistance lift)

E.g.:

Monday

Competition Bench 4×6 @ 70% 1RM/~6-7 RPE

Close Grip Bench 3×8 @ ~6-7 RPE

Wednesday

Competition Bench 5×1 @ 80% 1RM/~6-7 RPE

Close Grip Bench 3×6 @ ~6-7 RPE

Friday

Competition Bench 6×3 @ 85% 1RM/~8 RPE

Close grip bench 3×4 @ ~6-7 RPE

Progression: add the smallest weight increment possible to each session, each week for 3-4 weeks before deloading.

Scenario 2: We want to prioritise our squat for a block relative to our bench and deadlift

Solution: Utilise a daily undulating programming scheme to maximise our squat volume, a HPS scheme for our bench and drop deadlifts to 1x/week due to the increase in squat volume. We also use a lot of squat volume relative to bench in terms of working sets.

Monday

Squat – 6×6 @ 75%

Bench – 3×6 @ 75%

Wednesday

Squat – 8×4 @ 80%

Bench – 4×2 @ 80%

Friday

Squat – 10×2 @85%

Bench – 5×2 @ 85%

Deadlift – 3×1 @ 85%

 

Improvement #3 – Getting Flexible

The essence of Flexible DUP is simple – you pick the session you do on any given day, based on how recovered you are that day. It’s NOT the same as going into a gym and randomly picking the exercises, sets and reps based on how you feel; you have a plan, you have a progression scheme, but you don’t have set days for set sessions.

The Research

The concept of flexible periodisation is backed by a study done by McNamara and Stearne in 2010 on college-aged individuals. Over the course of 12 weeks, previously untrained subjects were split into 2 groups – one of which had their training planned each day (the “NL” group) and one who could choose which workout they did on any given day (the “FNL” group).

The workouts used either a 10RM, 15RM or 20RM for each exercise, and the FNL group had to rate their energy levels on a scale of 0-10 and choose the workout accordingly.

The subjects trained twice per week, in 4 week blocks:

  • For the first 4 weeks, subjects performed 7 total sets per session across 2 leg exercises, 3 upper body exercises and 2 ab exercises.
  • For the next 4 weeks, subjects performed 10 total sets per session across 4 lower body exercises, 4 upper body exercises and 2 ab exercises
  • For the last 4 weeks, subjects performed 15 total sets per session across 5 leg exercises, 6 upper body exercises and 4 ab exercises.

Total volume was equated by equating the total reps performed by both groups in each block of training. As a result of this, each group effectively had to complete the same number of 10, 15 and 20RM sessions in each 4 week period – which means that the “flexible” group did occasionally have to do a training session that they may not have chosen for the sake of equating volume.

So, how did they do?

The testing measures chosen were the leg press, chest press and standing long jump. The FNL group hugely outperformed the NL group on the leg press, but there was no difference between the groups for the chest press or the standing long jump.

On the face of things, this might seem a little disappointing – however, they didn’t do any worse than the group who stuck to a stricter programme. This means it’s a potentially viable option for you!

This concept was also explored in trained powerlifters in 2017 by Colquhoun et al. The results were similar, but there were no significant differences between groups in any of the test measures (1RM squat/bench/deadlift and fat free mass).  

How To Go About Setting Up A Flexible Programme

Step 1 – Decide Just How Flexible You Might Need To Be

To help decide this, I find overall motivation levels are a good thing to go by. As a general rule of thumb, the lower your overall motivation, the more options you need to give yourself – hack into the “autonomy” aspect of self-determination theory.

Rep ranges, set ranges, exercise selection, core vs accessory exercises, number of sessions per week – all of these are things that can be played around with.

Step 2 – Give Yourself A Basic DUP Set Up

This could be a HPS set-up or a Daily Undulating Programming set-up. 3 full body sessions should be enough to cover the basic HPS or DUP set up – but I would set up each session so that were you to do more than 3 sessions per week, it wouldn’t be too fatiguing.

For example, a hypertrophy session could look like:

Main  Lifts

Back Squat 3-5 sets of 6 to 8 reps @ RPE 5-7

Bench Press 3-5 sets of 6 to 8 reps @ RPE 5-7

RDL 3-5 sets of 6 to 8 reps @ RPE 5-7

Accessory Lifts

Military Press 3-5 sets of 6 to 8 reps @ RPE 5-7

Pullups 3-5 sets of 6 to 8 reps @ RPE 5-7

This way, if you were to do 4 of this hypertrophy session in a week you could easily mitigate fatigue by sticking to the lower set and rep numbers.

Using RPE is generally a good way of setting up a flexible programme – using %1RM is possible, but you will need to plan for progression. To do this, simply increase the %1RM used each time you complete each session.

Step 3 – Come Up With A Way Of Choosing Workouts

This is going to depend entirely on YOU – but here are a few options:

Simple: Simply picking the workout that you want to do that day. No scale, no objectivity – just looking at all the workouts available and going “Yeah, that one.”

A little more complex: Rating your perceived recovery on a scale of 1-10, as per the study, and choosing workouts accordingly (lower energy = lighter weights or a “power” day).

More complex still: Assess bar speed at a certain %1RM at the beginning of a training session and basing the session on that. Faster bar speed = more power = hit a heavier session that day.

Most complex: Using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) data to assess recovery, and choosing a session accordingly.

That’s it! We’re done here for today. You’ve read this far, so you’re probably really interested in improving your own training programme – if you’re UK-based and want us to give you a helping hand with your programming, check out our online coaching page and book a chat with us to find out exactly how we could help you.