by Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS
Manager of Health Promotion
Aside from the unequivocally blatant topic of CrossFit, few issues within the strength and conditioning
industry are as contentious and perceptibly divisive. But plug a bunch of strength coaches and dedicated
iron warriors in a room together and float the subject of periodization by them and that war room will
metamorphosize into a war zone.
Debates involving periodization have seemingly raged on forever and those staking their claim to a
particular camp — linear or nonlinear — fervently grasp onto their beliefs as Bible belters protect their
party lines and devotion to their faith. Let’s leave politics and religion out of it as those topics are best
garbled by our delusional and propaganda powered media outlets.
Periodization remains a serious issue or scalably so.
And before a left click and save trigger happy coach entangles their athletes and clients in an
incongruous web of variables, let’s define periodization, vet its applicability, and broach an sect of non-
linear periodization — daily undulating periodization — which has gained considerable traction of late.
According to Zatsiorsky, periodization is the arrangement of training programs into longer periods of
training. Periodization involves the deliberate manipulation of variables, including loading parameters
(the good ol’ FITT principle applies here) and recovery, with the intention of evoking improvements in
physiological functional capacity and skill while mitigating injury risk.
While a myriad of offshoot periodization methodologies exist, the two biggies are linear and non-linear
Linear periodization is characterized by an ordinal and incremental arrangement of variables over the
course of training program or period. A prime example is progressive overload.
Remember when you were a novice? While everything seemed heavy, improvements came easily. The
only mathematical function required was simple addition. Add a 2.5 lb plate here, a rep there, and
sprinkle in an extra set, and almost magically you got stronger and developed greater work capacity.
But in the real world and in the weight room (which is the real world, for all you abstract gleaning, arm
chair quarterback types), progress is hardly linear.
Take college for instance. You may have held a part-time job prior to entering while you likely lived at
home. Well now that you’re forking over dough for tuition, books, and junk food and alcohol (sigh), you
probably have less money in your savings now than when you initially applied to school.
Training, unfortunately, is the same way. Wear and tear accumulates prompting arthritic issues that
have to be “worked around”. Competing demands interfere, such as school, competitive or recreational
pursuits, and alcohol metabolism — I’ll provide a snippet on that in a moment.
Alcohol converts to acetate, which leapfrogs ahead of carbohydrates as the body’s preferred fuel source.
Additional carbs, including those consumed while drinking, are then stored as fat. Not to mention,
alcohol blunts protein metabolism and interrupts sleep, reducing the body’s capacity to produce
hormones involved in anabolism or growth. And acutely, while intoxicated or hung-over, alcohol
significantly encumbers neuromuscular function.
When simple math no longer works, it might be time for long division or differential equations —
analogously, not literally.
Undulating periodization, which involves fluctuations in variables, namely loading parameters,
throughout the week or given period, is dedicated to those folks in possession discernible strength,
competing demands, and/or tangible musculoskeletal ailments.
Exercises change, as do loads, volume, and imaginably everything else during that predetermined span
But those variables need to monitored accordingly as to facilitate a substantive and sustainable training
Enter daily undulating periodization.
Daily undulating periodization or (DUP) can help athletes and lifters bridge the gap between
preparedness and readiness. How DUP differs from traditional undulation periodization is that it
providers athletes and lifters a greater degree of flexibility, for instance, loads can be slightly reduced
and exercises can be substituted either in preparation of or pursuant to a given competing demand.
In a recent study involving powerlifters, Zourdos and colleagues (2015) observed that those following a
modified configuration of DUP, averaged greater improvements in 1RM bench press and a concomitant
increase in total volume. These findings echo those of an earlier study comprising recreational lifters. A
DUP program involving alternating upper and lower body workouts with planned, fluctuations in load, or
deviations from an 8RM, was found to produce greater strength increases versus a linear program with
alternating upper and lower body workouts.
In order to cash in on its touted benefits, it is suggested that coaches build a pool of exercises and
training modalities for their athletes and lifters, that way training variables can be more closely
monitored. Powerlifters should stick with the big three or their close variants (supplementary exercises)
and Olympic lifters should keep the Clean and Jerk and Snatch and their regressions holstered in their
So don’t shy from linear oriented principles. Too much variety can amount to the death knell of
progress. Just look at novice CrossFitters — if they aren’t in PT, they are relegated to a purgatory of
Coaches should guide athletes and lifters through the programming they have created. Movement
velocity and quality should also be accounted for and examined by the watchful eye of a seasoned
DUP and other forms of undulating periodization are most appropriate for athletes and lifters with
greater training ages (i.e. intermediate and advanced athletes).
Miranda, F., Simão, R., Rhea, M., Bunker, D., Prestes, J., Leite, R.D., Miranda, H., de Salles, B.F., &
Novaes, J. (2011). Effects of linear vs. daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and
submaximal strength gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25, 1824-1830.
Zatsiorsky, V.A. (1995). Science and practice of strength training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Zourdos, M.C., Jo, E., Khamoui, A.V., Lee, S.R., Park, B.S., Ormsbee, M.J., Panton, L.B., Contreras, R.J., &
Kim, J.S. (2015). Modified daily undulating periodization model produces greater performance than a
traditional configuration in powerlifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. [Epub ahead of
print: 27 August 2015].
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