Just let me know where to send it and I'll get it right over.
We always hear “low reps and heavy weight for strength” and “high reps for gaining muscle.” Well, recent studies show that it might not be that easy. There are different adaptations or changes that take place within the body, depending on what type of weight and rep scheme you are using. Let’s look at a few of these adaptations to understand how we can put together a (DUP) program that maximizes our results and makes sure progress never stops. Suck it, plateau!
What happens when we train?
Heavy Weight - Low Reps
First up, heavy weight and low reps (ex. 1 - 4 repetitions), or a powerlifting style of training, does a very good job of creating efficient neuronal networks. As the body learns different movement patterns through repetition, it can begin programming neuronal maps through every muscle involved in the lift. This allows nearly instantaneous muscle recruitment and provides the explosive movement necessary for lifting very large loads.
Rest periods during heavy lifting should allow for maximum recovery between sets. For most people that is 2 - 5 minutes. This prevents metabolites from building up and for energy stores (phosphocreatine) to replenish. Without a full recovery between sets, overall training volume would be limited due to quickly diminishing strength.
Moderate Weight - Moderate Reps
Next, working with a moderately heavy weight and in a moderate rep range (ex. 5 - 8 repetitions) allows for exhausting fast twitch muscle fibers and still provides enough resistance to create significant metabolic damage during controlled eccentric movements. Both of these lead to muscle hypertrophy and aid in neuronal networking.
Rest periods for moderate days can be variable. Moderate rep days provide a good combination of both strength and volume training. Try resting for 1 - 2 minutes on the compound movements and 45 - 60 seconds on the accessory work. Adjust the rest periods as needed to keep volume increasing on a regular basis.
Low Weight - High Reps
Finally, lower weight with higher reps (ex. 9 - 15 repetitions) leads to cellular expansion and accumulation of metabolic byproducts. With the higher rep range, fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers have a better chance of reaching exhaustion. All of these stressors result in triggering new muscle growth.
Rest periods here should be kept to a minimum. I'm talking 20 - 45 seconds MAX! After all, our goal is to increase metabolic accumulation and cellular swelling. These high-volume workouts are a good place to fit in some serious supersets. Luckily, you have an entire library of over 60 amazing supersets right here.
You want high rep high volume? Check out this 5-Minute Deltoid Dominator.
Of course, there is some cross-over between any and all rep ranges. You will still see progressions in strength and muscle size even if you choose to train exclusively within one weight or rep range. But you're here to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your workout, and that's what we're going to do.
I want it all!
So how do you know which rep range selection is right for you? Having explosive power sounds pretty cool but so does getting jacked. Luckily, this isn’t a choose one and move along elementary school cafeteria run by a Cruella Deville looking lady who serves you with a scowling smirk from years of pent-up anger since Buick removed the bench seat from their vehicle lineup (I can't be the only one that experienced this).
The result from each style of training complements the others nicely. Having more muscle allows the body to create larger neuronal networks. Greater strength gives the obvious benefits of training with heavier weights. I’ll show you how to put together a program that incorporates all the rep ranges and weights to maximize your results and improve efficiency using DUP.
Daily Undulating Periodization
DUP : a programming method that varies both weight and reps on a regular basis. Having days with low, moderate, and high reps (and corresponding weights) is a way to accomplish periodization. Obviously, it’s not that easy. There is a little more that goes into it, so let me explain.
From this point on we will refer to training days as high, moderate, and low. These refer to the rep ranges that will be targeted. Obviously, if it is a high day the training weight will be lower than the weight used on a low day.
Starting now, we need to pay attention to training volume, this will require a gym notebook and a working pen.
(weight x reps = volume)
As rep ranges for each exercise vary every workout, each exercise will have it’s own training volume. The ultimate goal is to continually progress the training volume each time you repeat an exercise on each specific day (high, moderate, and low). There are two ways to do this: either increase the weight or increase the reps. Be sure to check out the example below.
The biggest problem that keeps someone from progressing in volume is going to failure too early in a given set. Training to failure on every set or exercise is not necessary and I don’t recommend it. I discuss why training to failure may be the reason you're failing to see gains here.
If you enjoy training to failure, do so only on the last set of the exercise. Doing so any earlier will significantly decrease your total volume. The last rep of each set should be a struggle, but you should not be on the brink of absolute failure. If you are, decrease the weight and get busy.
Here is a DUP example schedule using deadlifts:
"I live for deadlifts.
Day A: High Rep Day 4 working sets of 8 - 15 reps with ~50% of your 1 Rep Max. Take 2 minute rest between sets.
(next back workout) Day B: Moderate Rep Day 4 working sets of 5 - 7 reps with ~80% of your 1 Rep Max. Take 2 minutes rest between sets.
(next back workout) Day C: Low Rep Day 4 working sets of 1 - 4 reps with ~95% of your 1 Rep Max. Take 3 minutes rest between sets.
(next back workout) Back to Day A: High Rep Day 4 working sets of 8 - 15 reps with ~50% of 1 Rep Max. Take 2 minute rest between sets.
Speaking of high volume... Check out this ridiculous 6-minute triceps superset.
* The 1 rep max is the max amount of weight you can lift for one rep while still using PERFECT form. If you haven't tried to find your one rep max, there is no need. Just make sure the weight you choose is appropriate for your desired rep range.
Each time “Day A” comes around, the goal is to increase the lifting volume (reps x weight = volume) compared to the previous “Day A.”
Each time “Day B” comes around, the goal is to increase the lifting volume compared to the previous “Day B.”Each time “Day C” comes around, the goal is to increase the lifting volume compared to the previous “Day C.”
Moving Along Through the Workout
After completing the deadlifts, you can move on and continue the remainder of your workout. DUP can be used for any exercise and even different exercises in the same workout. I have most of my exercises on a DUP schedule. Always start with the big compound movement (such as deadlift, squats, bench press, etc.) depending on the day and follow it up with a few supporting exercises.
If you haven’t done so already, get your free copy of Back to the Basics. You will learn the proper order of a workout and how to set up supporting exercises for maximum results and efficiency.
The goal with DUP is to increase your lifting volume each workout for that specific exercise. However, the volume increase should be as little as possible, while still making progressions in strength and/or muscle size. If you ramp up the volume too quickly, it will be nearly impossible to sustain and continue increasing for the long run and recovery can become a limiting factor.
No generic DUP program works for every single person.
Some may need to vary rep ranges and change in the % of 1 rep max for each set to complete the required reps. The example provided is simply to help you incorporate DUP into your program in a way that works best for you.
Be warned, if you are used to lifting the old fashioned way, 5 sets of 10-12 reps, you may experience a good amount of soreness following your first few low rep days.
LOOK: if you want high volume training, prepare to tear some sleeves at Superset Central.
- Different styles of weight training yield different adaptations in the body.
- Use appropriate rest periods for your style of training.
- The best way to gain the benefits of these different styles of lifting is to incorporate all of them into your program.
- DUP works great for heavy compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench press but it can be used for any exercise.
- Do not increase training volume any more than needed to see progressions in strength and muscle size.
- Training to failure too soon can significantly decrease overall training volume.
- I plan for continual periodization in my group training program. If you are interested in having efficient and effective workouts created for you, see what my group training package has to offer here.
The Next Step
Now that you've learned to avoid plateaus by incorporating DUP, learn to maximize your results by getting your nutrition on point. Join our next free 4-week online Flexible Dieting Class here.
Zach, when you say 75%-95%, are you doing all the same sets at the same weight? Or do you gradually increase the weight until the 4th set is whatever percentage of your 1 rep max?
Gradually increase your weight through a few warmup sets until you get to working sets. All of the working sets should be done at approximately the same weight within the given percentages. Obviously, your one rep max will increase as you get stronger or you may have an off day with little energy, so there may be a need to adjust the weight a little after your first working sets.