Is There a Best Repetition Training Zone to Optimize Hypertrophy With Undulating Periodization?

By Len Kravitz, PhD
Dec 7, 2015

ACSM’s 62nd annual meeting, held in May 2015 in San Diego, brought together thousands of professionals from around the globe in more than 70 disciplines to exchange research, present new clinical techniques and share scientific advancements in public health, physical activity, sports medicine and exercise science. This article covers just two of six studies reviewed. To read all of them, see “Six Takeaways From the ACSM Annual Meeting” in the online IDEA Library or in the September 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. One of the topics the column explored related to the optimization of hypertrophy, summarized here.


Two studies:

  • Volume-Equated High and Low Repetition Daily Undulating Periodization Models for Lower Body. C. Dolan et al., Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Volume-Equated High and Low Repetition Daily Undulating Periodization Models for Upper Body Muscle Hypertrophy. J. Quiles et al., Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

  • Methodology:

    Personal trainers perpetually debate which repetition zone is best for optimizing hypertrophy. This question has not been investigated using the popular undulating periodization model. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University conducted two 8-week studies (a lower-body study and an upper-body study) on this topic.

The lower-body study included 13 men (average age 23, average weight 182 pounds) while the upper-body study included 15 men (average age 23, average weight 183 pounds). In both studies, all the men had a minimum of 2 years of resistance training experience with regular resistance training frequency of at least 1 day per week. Daily undulating multiset protocols for both studies included randomly dividing the subjects into two groups:

  1. Daily undulating periodization HIGH repetition (DUP-HR): 12 repetitions (Monday), 10 repetitions (Wednesday) and 8 repetitions (Friday).
  2. Daily undulating periodization LOW repetition (DUP-LR): 6 repetitions (Monday), 4 repetitions (Wednesday) and 2 repetitions (Friday).

To equate training volume between the two groups, the researchers began by equating relative volume (sets

x

reps

x

intensity of each subject’s 1-repetition maximum). Below is an example how this is done:


DUP-HR

4 sets

x

12 reps @ 60% 1-RM

(4

x

12

x

0.6 = 28.8)

4 sets

x

10 reps @ 65% 1-RM

(4

x

10

x

0.65 = 26)

5 sets

x

8 reps @ 70% 1-RM

(5

x

8

x

0.7 = 28)

Equated to a relative volume of 82.8.


DUP-LR

8 sets

x

6 reps @ 75% 1-RM

(8

x

6

x

0.75 = 36)

9 sets

x

4 reps @ 80% 1-RM

(9

x

4

x

0.8 = 28.8)

10 sets

x

2 reps @ 85% 1-RM

(10

x

2

x

0.85 = 17)

Equated to a relative volume of 81.8.

Both studies lasted 8 weeks, with the first week devoted to familiarization and pretesting, followed by 6 weeks of training and concluding in week 8 with a taper and posttesting. Hypertrophy was assessed before and after training with measures of muscle thickness via ultrasonography (an ultrasound-based diagnostic imaging technique used to visualize internal body structures such as muscles). In the upper-body study, measurements were taken of the left chest and right chest and then summed for total chest. In the lower-body study, measurements were taken at the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis muscles in the left and right thighs and summed for total thigh-muscle thickness.

Results in the upper-body study showed that both groups made significant improvements in hypertrophy, with the DUP-HR group increasing 10.8% and the DUP-LR group improving 8.9%. However, the difference in hypertrophy increase between the groups was not scientifically significant. Similarly, in the lower-body study, the DUP-HR and DUP-LR groups increased muscle thickness 8.2% and 10.8%, respectively, but no significant difference was observed between groups.


Take-home message:

Both studies suggest that daily undulating periodization is very effective at increasing hypertrophy in previously trained individuals, and that results are not necessarily optimized by choosing a particular repetition zone.

To read more about the other topics explored at ACSM this year, please see “Six Takeaways From the ACSM Annual Meeting” in the online IDEA Library or in the September 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

Len Kravitz, PhD

Len Kravitz, PhD

"Len Kravitz, PhD, is a program coordinator and professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico where he received the Presidential Award of Distinction and Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. In addition to being a 2016 inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, Len has received the prestigious Specialty Presenter of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award from CanFitPro."

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