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Effects of Linear vs. Daily Undulatory Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal and Submaximal Strength Gains

Miranda, Fabrício; Simão, Roberto; Rhea, Matthew; Bunker, Derek; Prestes, Jonato; Leite, Richard Diego; Miranda, Humberto; de Salles, Belmiro Freitas; Novaes, Jefferson

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Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 7 - p 1824-1830
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e7ff75
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Periodization has been applied to resistance training (RT) since 1950 and continued to grow in popularity since 1990. Some comparative studies on periodized vs. nonperiodized programs have been published. These studies showed that periodized programs result in a higher strength increase than nonperiodized programs (2,18). However, few studies have shown the effects of periodization in different training status, level of fitness, and gender (13,18).

Currently 2 periodization models are under analysis: the linear periodized (LP) training (18) and the daily undulating periodization (DUP). Linear periodized training focuses on training volume and intensity variations gradually throughout the year, dividing training into specific mesocycles of 3-4 months (18). In this model, the first mesocycle involves a higher training volume, and throughout the training period, intensity is increased while volume decreases every 1-4 weeks.

Another model, initially proposed by Poliquin (9) involves a systematic variation of training volume and intensity in shorter periods of 2 to only 1 session. This model was adapted by Rhea et al. (14) labeled daily undulating periodization to depict large changes in volume and intensity with each workout. The volume and intensity variation in shorter periods are aimed to maintain high performance levels during longer training periods, whereas LP is designed for a peak performance at a planned time.

Studies have compared LP vs. DUP and showed superior gains in strength, power, and muscular endurance after DUP training program (7,8,14,15). On the other hand, other studies found no significant differences between these periodization systems (2,3,6), suggesting a lack of agreement in the literature. The higher increase in maximal strength observed in DUP programs has been attributed to a more frequent manipulation of volume and intensity, allowing a better stress/recovery ratio, and overtraining prevention, which could be caused by the linear increase in intensity proposed by the classic model (8,9,18). The studies that found no differences between these 2 periodized models attributed the strength gains promoted by the DUP training program to the higher total training volume and suggest that LP should be used when a peak performance is desired (2,3).

Moreover, little is known about the effects of the periodization on recreationally trained individuals who wish to develop endurance strength and esthetical objectives. Thus, it is necessary to compare different periodization models to evaluate the best periodization model for strength gains in trained and sedentary individuals. For example, it has been shown that DUP and LP were effective training programs to increase maximal strength in recreationally trained individuals (10,11).

Based on the lack of agreement in past research, and the need for more studies comparing LP and DUP training programs under different RT methodological manipulations, the objective of this study was to compare the effect of LP and DUP RT programs on 1 repetition maximum (1RM) and 8RM strength gains of upper and lower body exercises performed by recreationally trained men. Our initial hypothesis was that DUP would result in more pronounced 1RM and 8RM gains than LP would.


Experimental Approach to the Problem

Twenty recreationally trained men were randomly assigned to 2 groups. One group trained with an LP training program and the second group trained using the DUP training program. Subjects performed 1RM and 8RM tests on 4 none consecutive days for leg press and bench press (BP) exercises using a counterbalanced order to establish pretest strength measures. During the following 12 weeks, both training programs were performed with 4 sessions per week, and after that, 1RM and 8RM were retested. In this study, the total volume and intensity of both periodization programs were equated such that only the alterations in training variables differentiated the programs. One important difference of this study compared with that of previously published articles is the training weekly frequency; although previous studies used 2/3 weekly sessions, we have used 4 sessions per week. Thus, in this study, we have a higher frequency and this requires further elucidation. It is very common for individuals as training progresses the use of more training sessions per week.


Twenty recreationally trained men volunteered to participate in this study and were randomly assigned to 2 groups: LP and DUP. There were no statistically significant differences (p > 0.05) between groups in height, body mass, and previous RT experience (Table 1). Study inclusion criteria were (a) at least 2 years of strength training, 3 times per week. The individuals were considered trained in RT according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (1) before the beginning of the study; (b) no additional regular physical activity during the study besides the prescribed RT; (c) no muscular or joint limitations for RT or the 1RM and 8RM tests in the exercise selection; (d) no medical condition that could influence the training program; and (e) no use of nutritional supplementation. The study was approved by a research ethics committee of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and all subjects gave informed consent. The nutrition and hydration were not controlled, and this was a limitation of this study.

Table 1:
Baseline groups characteristics.*†

One-Repetition Maximum and Eight-Repetition Maximum Testing

After 2 weeks of 1RM and 8RM familiarization period (2 sessions for each test) in leg press and BP, all participants completed 4 familiarization sessions of the test protocol with at least 72 hours between sessions. The 1RM and 8RM tests were then performed on 4 nonconsecutive days for both exercises using a counterbalanced order. The heaviest load achieved in the test days was considered as the initial 1RM and 8RM. No exercise was allowed in the 48 hours between tests so as not to interfere with the test-retest reliability results. To minimize the error during tests, the following strategies were adopted according to Simão et al. (16,17): (1) standardized instructions concerning the testing procedure were given to the participants before the test; (b) participants received standardized instructions on exercise technique; (c) verbal encouragement was provided during the testing procedure; (d) the mass of all weights and bars used were determined using a precision scale. The 1RM and 8RM were determined in fewer than 5 attempts with a rest interval of 5 minutes between attempts, and 10 minutes was allowed before the beginning of the test in the next exercise. The tests and retests were performed at the same time of the day according the daily individuals training schedule. After the 12 weeks of training, the 1RM and 8RM tests were performed similarly to the pretraining tests to compare the strength gains in those exercises.

Training Procedures

After obtaining the 1RM and 8RM loads for leg press and BP, the subjects were randomly assigned to LP or DUP training protocols. The sets and repetitions and their manipulation on a daily or monthly basis were conducted according to the model of periodization assigned (Figure 1). The training program was performed in alternated sessions for upper (session A: chest, shoulder and triceps) and lower body (session B: leg, back and biceps). Session A was conducted on Mondays and Thursdays and was composed of the following exercises: BP, chest fly, inclined BP, shoulder abduction, upright deltoid rows, shoulder press, triceps extension, barbell triceps press, and abdominal crunches. Session B was conducted on Tuesdays and Fridays with the following exercises: leg press, leg extension, leg curl, lat pull-down, seated row, fly back, arm curl with free weights, biceps preacher curl, and back extension.

Figure 1:
Training program (4 workouts·per week). LP = linear periodization; RM = repetition maximal.

The training program had a 4 sessions per week frequency, which comprised 2 sessions per week for each muscular group with at least 72 hours of interval between them. For all listed exercises, 3 sets until voluntary concentric failure were performed, and the number of repetitions ranged according to the intensity prescribed for a training session. All sessions were supervised individually by an experienced RT professional.

The models of periodization used in this study were applied only for the first exercises of the sessions: leg press and BP. This strategy was used to allow a better observation of the effect of LP and DUP on load development in the same exercises before and after 12 weeks of training. The other exercises were used as assistance exercises, so the normal training routine of the volunteers was not modified. For all assistance exercises, 3 sets of 6-8RM was used.

In the LP program, training intensity was increased each 4-week microcycle, and the volume was decreased. In this study, the LP group followed the volume and intensity pattern as presented in Figure 1. In the first 4 weeks, participants performed 3 sets of 8-10RM, from weeks 5-8, they performed 3 sets of 6-8RM, and from weeks 9-2, 3 sets of 4-6RM. In the DUP program, the intensity was modified in the same week so that participants trained with 3 different volumes and intensities in the same microcycle. During the 12-week DUP program, on day 1 were performed 3 sets of 8-10RM, on day 2, were performed 3 sets of 6-8RM, and on day 3 were performed 3 sets of 4-6RM. The DUP periodization applied was based on previous studies published in the literature (10,14).

When the subjects performed >2 repetitions above the programmed repetitions training range for the exercise, the load was increased to maintain repetitions in the set training zone. Before each training session, the subjects performed a specific warm-up, consisting of 20 repetitions with 50% of the weight load used in the first exercise of the training session. During the exercises performance, the subjects were verbally encouraged throughout the sets to reach the concentric failure, and the same movement pattern used during the 1RM and 8RM tests was used. The repetitions cadence was not controlled, and the adherence to the training program was 100% for both groups.

Statistical Analyses

All data are presented as mean ± SD. The Shapiro-Wilk normality test and a homoscedasticity test (Bartlett criterion) were used to test the normal distribution of the data. All variables presented a normal distribution and homocedasticity. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were used to determine 1RM and 8RM test-retest reliability. A 2 (pre- baseline and post-12 weeks training) by 2 (periodization models—LP and DUP) analysis of variance was used to analyze the difference between periodization models, followed by Tukey's post hoc test when necessary. The independent t-test was used to verify the difference between total work (sets × repetitions x load) between both groups of training. The calculation of the effect size (ES) in strength (the difference between pretest and posttest scores divided by the SD of pretest), and the scale proposed by Rhea (12) was used to examine the magnitude of the treatment effect. The independent t-test was used to verify the difference in ES among training groups for the dependent variables. The significance level adopted was p ≤ 0.05 for all tests. The Statistical software version 8.0 (Statsoft, Inc., Tulsa, OK, USA) was used in all analyses.


There were no statistically significant differences between groups in the pretraining variables: body mass, height, age, and time of training (Table 1). The ICC presented good results to pretraining for 1RM (BP r = 0.95 and LP r = 0.95) and 8RM (BP r = 0.93 and LP r = 0.98). The same occurred post training for 1RM (BP r = 0.94 and LP r = 0.92) and 8RM (BP r = 0.96 and LP r = 0.98).

There were no statistically significant differences between groups in the total training work (sets × repetition × load [kg]) performed after 12 weeks of training for leg press and BP (Tables 2 and 3).

Table 2:
Leg press 1RM and 8RM loads at baseline and after 12 weeks, % change, ES, and total training volume (sets × repetition × load [kg]) after 12 weeks of training.*
Table 3:
Bench press 1RM and 8RM loads at baseline and after 12 weeks, % change, ES, and total training volume (sets × repetition × load [kg] after 12 weeks of training.*

Both LP and DUP groups exhibited a significant increase in the 1RM and 8RM tests for leg press and BP after 12 weeks of training. However, there were no significant differences between groups. The 1RM and 8RM loads and the respective percent improvements can be seen in Tables 2 and 3.

The DUP group showed greater size magnitudes than the LP group did for 1RM and 8RM loads in leg press and BP after 12 weeks of training (Tables 2 and 3).


The main objective of this study was to compare the effects of 12-week LP training vs. DUP training on the evolution of 1RM and 8RM loads for lower and upper body in resistance trained individuals. Both periodization models resulted in significant increases 1RM and 8RM loads for lower and upper body, without statistically significant difference between them. However, because of a higher mean baseline test among the DUP group on all measures, a more effective comparison between the groups was the ES, which showed greater magnitudes of 1RM and 8RM loads for DUP training. Therefore, our initial hypothesis was partially confirmed.

Rhea et al. (14) also compared LP and DUP influence on strength gains in previously trained individuals with 3 sessions per week of whole-body program. The authors (16) found significant increases in leg press and BP maximal strength after LP and DUP. However, DUP induced superior percentage increase in maximal strength than LP, 55.8 vs. 25.7% for leg press and 28.8 vs. 14.4% for BP. The main difference between the Rhea et al. (14) study and this study is that we have used a divided A and B training program in accordance with the recommendations of the ACSM (1) for advanced lifters that train 4-6 days per week. However, the results of Rhea et al. (14) are similar to those of this study, where superior percentage strength increase and ES were found for DUP in both analyzed exercises. These findings were recently confirmed by other studies when comparing DUP vs. LP (7,18).

Another comparison between the effects of LP and DUP during 15 weeks of training showed that both periodizations increased maximal knee extension strength (9.8% for DUP and 9.1% for LP) with no statistically significant difference between programs (15). Although the authors used loads to improve local muscular endurance (15-25RM), and the increase in strength was similar, a higher percentage increase and ES for DUP was observed (15). Prestes et al. (11) found that DUP induced a higher percent increase in BP, 45° leg press and arm curl maximal strength after 12 weeks of training (DUP 25.08, 40.61, and 23.53% vs. LP 18.2, 24.71, and 14.15%, respectively). Another interesting aspect was that after 8 weeks, the DUP group showed significant increases in 45° leg press and arm curl maximal strength, which was not shown by the LP group. Moreover, DUP periodization increased 45° leg press maximal strength from week 8 to week 12, which was not shown by the LP. Taken together, these results indicate that DUP training may increase maximal strength to a higher magnitude during the first weeks of training and result in more consistent strength gains as training progresses.

Another recent study also reported that DUP training produced greater strength gains in upper and lower body, power, and jumping capacity than LP in trained firemen (8). This result highlights the superiority of DUP training, because RT professionals and coaches can adapt the different intensities to the specific training goals, which would be more difficult with linear models. These findings were corroborated by the study of Monteiro et al. (7) that compared LP, DUP, and nonperiodized programs. After 12 weeks, DUP training resulted in higher strength increases than LP and the nonperiodized training programs did. Additionally, Foschini et al. (5) showed that the DUP vs. LP training produces more pronounced improvements in some of the metabolic syndrome risk factors in obese adolescents with regard to the ES.

On the other hand, when comparing LP, weekly and DUP, Bufford et al. (3) showed that the percent increases in BP were 24% for LP, 17% for DUP, and 24% for weekly undulating; whereas in leg press, it was 85, 79, and 99%, respectively. No statistically significant differences between models were observed. However, the subjects of the Bufford et al. (3) study were submitted to a detraining period of 2 months before the RT intervention, and this may have influenced the magnitude of strength gains after training. The recovery of muscle strength after a detraining or an active recovery period is fast in trained subjects, mainly because of neural adaptations (6). This mechanism has been shown by Hoffman et al. (6) that compared strength regain in football players, with PL and DUP, and found no significant difference between periodization models.

Conflicting data with regard to the comparison between strength gains of different periodization models can be found (2,3,7,8,14,18). This fact may be related to the suggestion of some authors that total work may be the most important factor to elicit training adaptations (2), while others authors claim that the manipulation of volume and intensity has the most relevant influence (18). Although both periodization models are efficient to increases upper and lower body strength, the lack of agreement induces further scientific discussions.

In this sense, statistical significance may confound data interpretation, mainly when sample size is reduced, and the SD is higher after the intervention (13). Through the calculation of the ES, it is possible to verify the modifications caused by the same treatment on independent groups or different treatments in the same group, which has a strong relevance to detect the efficiency of each method (12). According to the ES scale of individuals with 1 to 5 years of training experience suggested by Rhea (12) in the leg press DUP group presented 1.55 (large) value compared with the linear group 1.03 (moderate), indicating the advantage of DUP over LP training. For the BP, the ES was 1.0 (moderate) in the DUP and 0.75 (small) in the LP. These data present important practical outcomes, suggesting that DUP is a positive strategy for those with strength increases goals during a 12-week training period. These data were previously confirmed by other studies with equated total training work (7,8,14,18).

Another objective of this study was to compare the effects of DUP vs. LP on muscular endurance evaluated by the 8RM leg press and BP tests. The results revealed a significant increase in the 8RM loads for both training programs. The muscular endurance percent gains were 17.6 and 19.7% for leg press, 18 and 19.4% for the BP to LP and DUP, respectively. Although no statistically significant difference was observed, the ES was superior for the DUP. The values were LP = 1.0 (moderate) for the leg press and 0.9 (moderate) for the BP, DUP = 1.5 (high) for the leg press and 1.1 (moderate) for the BP.

Rhea et al. (15) compared the muscular endurance improvements evaluated by a maximal repetitions test with 50% of leg extension 1RM. Again, there was no statistically significant difference between LP, DUP, and reverse linear periodization (RLP), but a higher ES for the RLP was observed. This difference may be related to the test and training specificity, because the authors used a high number of repetitions, and in this study, the test was for 8RM. An 8RM test was employed in this study in an attempt to verify the effect of periodized RT on a repetition zone commonly used in programs designed for muscle hypertrophy. In this sense, the relevance of this verification resides in the increased load volume as a favorable adaptation to hypertrophy (4).

In summary, the means by which the volume and intensity is manipulated during a RT period exerts influence on the magnitude of strength and muscular endurance gains. Both, LP and DUP are efficient, but, some advantage on 1RM and 8RM gains may take place during a 12-week DUP, when applied to individuals with similar characteristics to those from our study.

Practical Applications

In view of the importance in manipulating training volume and intensity, more research on the comparison between periodization models is necessary to establish the best model to each particular goal. Our study suggests that, at least in trained subjects and during a 12-week training period, the DUP can be used to elicit superior maximal strength and muscle endurance improvements than the classical LP model. Additionally, more studies comparing periodization models for different objectives and populations should be conducted.


Dr. Roberto Simão would like to thank the Brazilian National Board for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).


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resistance training; periodization; muscular strength

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