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I've been working out for about 5 years but really only the last few have been productive and gainful. I have a respectful amount of muscle, about 165lbs of lean mass or more. So I'm not sure if I'm a beginner or intermediate weightlifter because I'm still making progress simply adding weight each week to my rep schemes. I started doing 4 day pull/push, 2x frequency workouts.. I'm curious if a typical linear periodization rep scheme would work better or if I should change reps each week and make it weekly undulating periodization.. doing reps such as 12-15, 6_8, 9_11,etc... Rather than 12-15,8-10,4-6? I know one is better for staying fit among each rep scheme but it makes it hard to progressive overload when you change reps each week too.. any ideas?

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I'm curious if a typical linear periodization rep scheme would work better or if I should change reps each week and make it weekly undulating periodization

TLDR: You will likely gain strength faster with undulating periodization, at least for a while. There seems to be no difference with hypertrophy, so if strength is your goal, it is definitely worth a shot. After 12 weeks there is no evidence that undulating periodization outperforms linear in strength gains though.

It turns out there are a LOT of studies that compare different Weekly/Daily Periodizations. I read several before I stumbled across this non formal meta-analysis, which includes all that I had read, and then some. It is definitely worth reading in full, below is a short summary.

  • Linear vs. Undulating Periodization Overall

On average undulating groups gained strength about 17% faster.

  • Linear vs. Undulating Untrained

No analyses revealed any differences that were remotely close to significant, and all effect sizes were trivial (d<.12).

  • Linear vs. Undulating Trained

On average, groups employing undulating periodization gained strength about 28% faster.

  • Potential diminishing returns for undulating periodization.

No study that ran longer than 12 weeks found a difference between periodization styles. Several 12-week studies found that undulating models outperformed linear models though.

  • Hypertrophy

The author links a meta-analysis and a systematic review of the effects that UP and LP have on hypertrophy, both done by Grgic et al. The results indicate periodization and periodization style do not affect hypertrophy to any meaningful degree in the short term.

  • Conclusion

Studies indicate on average, undulating periodization will outperform linear in the short term, with the biggest difference being 0-6 weeks. There have been no long term studies that I know of.

Something of note, in Rhea et al. it says

"In our study all subjects reported following a program equivalent to LP for 2 years before recruitment."

In that study they saw much faster UP development than LP. They also mentioned:

"The neuromuscular system may become accustomed to a periodized program when followed for an extended length of time."

I wonder if one of the main driving factors between UP and LP is simply that it is different from what you were doing before. I want to see a study that compares 3 groups. One that runs UP, another running LP, and the last one which swaps between the two every 12 weeks or so to see if there is a large difference when switching.

The author includes Interpretations and Problems With The Data, of which you should read there. It will get a bit winded if I try to summarize them all here.

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  • Just to be clear, your studies are on weekly undulating and not daily undulating, right? – Ace Cabbie Mar 21 at 5:20
  • Apologies, no. This article combined DUP and WUP. The author mentioned that the studies had a lack of standardization, where the terms were mixed and mingled a bit, so he listed what they were in his spreadsheet, but grouped them in his calculations. After reviewing his data for only the WUP, there were 4/15 bench studies evaluated which used WUP. 3/4 of those showed increased rate of strength gains with WUP. From a quick glance, it doesn't look like the data is much different for WUP vs LP to DUP vs LP. Both on average outperform LP to a certain extent. – Eric Warburton Mar 21 at 7:49
  • This doesn't change my answer above, nor the reason I gave my answer. I said that it will likely increase your strength faster for a while is because you said you had already been training for 5 years and that you were following a program that sounds more like LP. (This is my own interpretation and could very well be wrong.) Currently I believe the data suggests that switching periodizations is more important than which periodization style you are using, for a couple reasons. There is no difference found in new lifters for UP at all. – Eric Warburton Mar 21 at 7:50
  • If any form of UP was better, I believe we would see better results on everyone, not just experienced lifters. Although there were considerable advantages in studies up to 12 weeks long, there is not a single study longer than 12 weeks that has found a positive correlation for UP and continued increased strength gains. – Eric Warburton Mar 21 at 7:50

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