When it comes to creating a workout training program, the amount of choice can feel overwhelming. Should you do strength training? Resistance training? Is your focus on building muscular strength, or muscle mass?
Once you have set your fitness goal, you need to come up with a systematic periodization model to achieve it. But is a linear periodization or undulating periodization best?
This article will explore what an undulating periodization workout program is, its pros and cons, and tips for developing one.
What is an Undulating Periodization Workout Program?
You need to know what the two kinds of periodization training exactly are, so you can pick the training adaptation that will work best for you.
Linear undulating periodization involves increasing your training volume and intensity sequentially and progressively over a period of time. Typically, it involves increasing your volume and while decreasing the intensity.
For instance, if you are training for a 5k run, you can start with 3k and increase your running distance by 200m every training session. Or if you are strength training, you increase your load while reducing the rep range.
With this periodization method, you have to be smart when choosing the increment range to ensure that you are overloading progressively without overwhelming yourself.
Undulating Periodization, in comparison, is non-linear. While your ultimate goal is to improve the various fitness components, you don’t have to be sequential with your workouts. You can vary the exercise volume and intensity sporadically. For example, one day you might squat for 15 reps, squat 20 the next day, and 10 the day after.
Types of Undulating Periodization Programs
Undulating Periodization can be daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly. However, the two most common ones are weekly undulating periodization (WUP) and daily undulating periodization (DUP).
DUP includes varying your training volume and intensity within a week. For instance, if you have a 3-day splint, you can have a high intensity -high volume day, a moderate intensity day, and a light intensity workout all in one week.
For WUP, you maintain a given intensity one week and then vary it the following week. For instance, in a 6-week block program, you can have moderate intensity in week 1, high-intensity week 2, light intensity week 3, high-intensity week 4, moderate-intensity week 5, and high-intensity week 6. Your training variables are always shifting.
Pros of Undulating Periodization Programs
Great for Going Over Plateaus
Whether you are training to lose weight, build muscle strength, or improve muscle endurance, you will eventually hit a plateau with linear periodisation. Your body gets used to the pattern of exercising and becomes less responsive, and no matter how much you increase your volume and intensity, you do not see any strength gains or muscle growth.
This is where most people give up on their fitness goals or stop training. However, a simple adjustment in your fitness program will enable you to start seeing results. An undulating periodization workout plan keeps your body guessing, consequently preventing plateauing.
Unlike the traditional periodization whereby most programs are designed in blocks of 4,8, 10, or 12 weeks, undulating periodization offers you the freedom to choose your blocks. It accommodates unexpected changes in your life and helps to prevent boredom in your routine.
For example, you don’t have to worry if you are short on time at the gym on a given day. You can adjust your program to do 3X5 and then compensate with 3X10 or 3X12 in your next training session.
Unlike a linear program where you are constantly taxing the muscles, undulating periodization allows you to benefit from both heavy and light loading. If a high-intensity day taxes your body excessively, you can switch to light intensity in your next training session as a form of active recovery.
Or you can plan for higher intensities early on in the week, a low intensity in the middle of the week to allow you to recover, and then moderate or high intensity again towards the end of the week.
The great variety in training intensities and volumes helps to prevent overtraining. It also allows for autoregulation depending on your energy levels and performance.
Undulating periodization is as effective as linear periodization and in some cases more effective. It is the best option for people who have hit plateaus or intermediate and advanced lifters who are in a resistance training program and are looking to add some fun and novelty to their workout. The key to success with this periodization program is consistency and constantly tracking to ensure progress.
Enables Your Body to Adjust to a Range of Intensities and Volume
The periodized program trains your body to be efficient across a wide range of intensities and reps. As such, your muscle hypertrophy is not reliant on high-volume training, and it is easy to transition from one range to another.
This level of efficiency is paramount for your overall fitness. It is also suitable if you are preparing for different types and levels of competition throughout the year.
Not Suitable for Beginners
This periodization method is best suited for intermediate to advanced level lifters and athletes, as it can be confusing for beginners. You need a good understanding of your goals, your fitness level, and performance, and exercise science to build your own program.
You have to plan it out effectively to ensure you are on an upward trend towards your goal. In some cases, it is best that beginners follow a linear periodization workout program that focuses on full-body workouts.
It Can Downswing Your Progress
If you are not strategic about the program, you can end up compromising your results. You also need to hold yourself accountable so that you do not have too many low-intensity days or you do not underperform in your high-intensity workouts. On the flip side, you can overdo the high-intensity days compromising your recovery.
Steps for Planning Out an Undulating Periodization Workout Program
- Establish your goal and clearly pinpoint your desired results
- Determine your WUP/DUP training program timeline
- Assess the type of equipment you have
- Determine how much time you are willing to commit to the program on a weekly basis
- Establish the core exercises for your workouts
- Determine the splits, volume, and intensity
- Write down your workout program
Both undulating and linear periodization programs are effective. The choice between the two mainly depends on your preference and goals.
Undulating periodization offers flexibility and fun. It adds novelty to your workouts and enables you to adapt to different intensities. It also promotes better fatigue management. On the downside, it can be complex to plan and you need to be strategic to avoid a downswing of your progress.
You may also incorporate both systems in your long-term plan. Observe which works best for specific goals and tweak as need be.