Guide to Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) Workout

Weight training with barbell !
Weight training with barbell !

There’s an interesting trend going on right now in the world of strength training and physical fitness. It’s called Daily Undulating Periodization, or DUP for short, and it’s been steadily gaining popularity over the past several years. For those who are involved in strength training than this article is certainly something you should check out because it may help you reach your fitness goals a bit easier than your current workout routine.

​It must be noted that DUP workouts are not for everybody, but those looking for something a bit different may become intrigued with what this workout plan has to offer. This article will explain what constitutes a DUP workout and why this trend has been steadily picking up steam over the past several years. So, without further delay, here is a quick and easy guide to daily undulating periodization workouts.

Beginnings

​Though the exact genesis of DUP workouts is a bit hazy, most experts trace it back to workouts created by Eastern European weightlifters in the 1950s and 1960s. Boasting some of the top weightlifters during this time period, Eastern European Olympians used their high-intensity training methods, which mirror DUP workouts, to capture many Olympic medals. Though some experts will argue that the use of performance-enhancing drugs also enabled these athletes to outshine their competitors, most simply acknowledge the fact that these individuals were just working harder than everyone else through their rather strenuous workout routines. No matter what you attribute their success to, the early foundations of DUP workouts were undoubtedly formed during this time period as the Eastern European athletes were performing DUP workouts six to seven days a week and up to three times a day.

​Workouts such as these were basically unheard of in the West as they pretty much went against everything that had been taught and learned from western coaches and athletes. The reason for this is that bodybuilding and weightlifting experts in the west were so committed to their routines and strategies that they believed it was the optimal way to train. This rather stubborn notion continually cost them Olympic titles to Eastern European athletes at which point they began to finally research what these European athletes were doing differently. What they discovered was the early stages of DUP workouts, which took everything that western coaches thought they knew about strength training and flipped it on its head.

​What they discovered was that you really don’t need as many rest days for certain muscle groups as previously thought. This certainly wasn’t the athletes or coaches fault, as muscle and bodybuilding experts had believed and adhered to a certain set of rules since the ‘90s. These rules include, exercising all your different muscle groups just once per week, doing a bunch of different exercises all targeting the same muscles, going to failure on every set, long rest periods after working a certain muscle group: typically 5–7 days at a time, and performing each exercises for 4 sets, 8–12 repetitions each time.

​These rules were the ones followed for many years and though they certainly will work, they aren’t the only method for strength training and muscle building. In fact, what the Eastern European athletes were doing was pretty much the exact opposite of these rather standard methods used by athletes in the west. They would exercise the same group of muscles several times a week and wouldn’t really think twice about exerting the same muscle group several days in a row (imagine doing leg day after leg day!). This completely changed the rules of strength training because before it was thought that you needed at least a couple of days rest in order to allow the muscles to rebuild themselves after a hard workout. Not only does a DUP workout completely ignore that rule, it also advises that you only use a limited number of exercises, workout maximally and submaximally with periods of overreaching programmed into the workout routine and workout with a variety of rep ranges and at varying levels of intensity.

Guide-to-Daily-Undulating-P

Definition

​Now that you’ve got a fairly detailed idea of how DUP workouts got their start, we can now accurately define what a DUP workout is. We’ll start with defining what DUP stands for as each letter signifies a particular aspect of the workout. The “D” in DUP stands for daily, as this type of workout is done every day. The “U” stands for undulating, meaning that your loads, reps and intensities will undulate meaning vary, every time you work out. Finally, the “P” stands for periodization, meaning that over a specific period of time, you would be able to increase your strength with small increases in your weight load. Put simply, DUP workouts simply involve a couple of exercises, more often and tricking your muscles by switching up the weight load or intensity of your workouts.

Are DUP Workouts Effective?

Considering that DUP workouts pretty much ignore everything that has been previously known about how to gain muscle effectively, most people interested in these types of routines will obviously ask whether or not they actually work. This question can be answered with an irrevocable yes because according to experts the popular belief that the level of intensity and a high volume of reps per session will allow you to achieve muscle growth can work for some individuals, it can also be done by focusing more on the total volume of training as opposed to the intensity of each work out session. Put more simply a DUP workout involves only training the same three or four lifts 95% of the time. This will be seen in greater detail when I outline a typical DUP work out later in this article.

To show that I’m not just making up the incredible results seen in DUP workout here are a few statistics that will undoubtedly back up this claim. According to a 2002 study, where DUP workouts were compared with other more linear routines it was seen that, that those on a DUP routine increased their bench press strength by 25.61% and their leg press strength by 55.78%, whereas those on a linear routine only increased by 14.37% and 28.78% respectively. These gains are somewhat stunning and in addition to simply lifting more weight, those on DUP routines also saw significant gains in their growth of fast twitch muscle fibers and an increase in muscle building and fat burning hormones.

Spotive man and woman lifting heavy barbells

What Does a Typical DUP Routine Look Like?

Now that we’ve discussed where the foundations of DUP workouts stem from and seen concrete facts showing that these workouts can be lead to muscle growth, let’s have a look at the actual workouts involved in DUP training. The routine I’m going to lay out is pretty basic and in order to get optimal results from this particular DUP workout, some facets may need to be altered. In order to get the most out of these workouts, I’d recommend talking with a personal trainer or doing a little research on the many great DUP workout websites as the routine below may need to be slightly altered for some individuals.

​It’s also important to remember that it’s fairly easy to get a bit carried away in with any DUP routine. Remember that when first starting out you should take it a bit easy for you and your body gets a better handle on the routine. This will help prevent injuries and allow you to slowly and steadily get the routine down without forcing anything. The routine laid out below will typically take around an hour.

The Routine

Day 1 –

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Load in week 1 (% of 1RM)

Load in week 2

Load in Week 3

Back Squat

​6

​3

​70

As week 1

As week 1

Deadlift

​5

​5

​80

Week 1 + 5kg/10 lbs

Week 2+ 2.5kg/5 lbs

Bench Press

​4

​8

​70

Week 1+ 2.5kg/5 lbs

Week 2+2.5kg/5 lbs

Day 2 –

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Load in week 1 (% of 1RM)

Load in Week 2

Load in Week 3

Deadlift

​6

​3

​70

As week 1

As week 1

Bench Press

​5

​5

​80

Week 1 + 5kg/10 lbs

Week 2+ 2.5kg/5 lbs

Squat

​4

​8

​70

Week 1+ 2.5kg/5 lbs

Week 2+2.5kg/5 lbs

Day 3 –

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Load in week 1 (% of 1RM)

Load in Week 2

Load in Week 3

Bench Press

​6

​3

​70

As week 1

As week 1

Squat

​5

​5

​80

Week 1 + 5kg/10 lbs

Week 2+ 2.5kg/5 lbs

Deadlift

​4

​6

​75

Week 1+ 2.5kg/5 lbs

Week 2+2.5kg/5 lbs

Day 4 –

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Load (RPE)

Chin-Ups or Pulldowns

4

6–8

8

Barbell Rows

4

6–8

8

DB Rows

3

10–12

9

Calf Raises

4

12–15

9

Curls

3

8–12

9

Pushdowns

3

8–12

9

 I’m obviously not just going to lay out this DUP routine without explaining some of the rather important details as to why it’s outlined the way it is. The first thing to mention is that each “core day” is set up so that you’re beginning with a power-based exercise that hits heavy on big muscle groups. The exercises are performed using a medium amount of weight and a low rep/high set combo. This means you won’t be compromising on technique and you’ll be getting the full benefit of the exercise.

Kettlebell One-Armed Rows

​The second set of exercises is outlined in such a way that they are all strength based on the third set being hypertrophy-based, meaning exercises specifically formulated for muscle growth. The deadlifts are a heavier lift load with fewer reps than either squats or bench presses, to help make you stronger by again ensuring you aren’t sacrificing technique for reps.

When I say to use a medium weight, I mean that if you’re already working out, take your maximum gym weight and then take 10% off. Again, this may seem counter-intuitive to you, but you’re better off working out a little too light but maintaining excellent technique than using a weight that’s too heavy and performing your exercises in a way that  A) doesn’t help you build muscles or gain strength B) could result in you’re getting hurt. 

​Additionally, in this four-week routine, you’re going to be making some significant weight increases. Though these can be rather large jumps (5 kg/10 lbs) in most cases, it’s vital that your first week is not overly demanding or the subsequent weeks will simply be too difficult.

​The last thing that must be noted is what the RPE numbers entail. These simply note what you believe your rate of perceived exertion to be. Below is a quality to guide to follow when determining that your RPE is. For this type of exercise program, your rate of perceived exertion should stay between 8 and 9 (remember, proper form is key).

RPE 10 = The hardest. You barely made it through and felt your form may have suffered.

RPE 9.5 = Very difficult, but felt form remained solid throughout.

RPE 9 = Difficult but not overly so. Probably could have done one more rep.

RPE 8 = Could have done 2 more reps.

RPE 7 = At least three more reps left.

​You’re probably wondering what you’ll need to do for the other three days of the week. Experts agree that after your initial four-day workout routine you’ll want to use Friday or Saturday as your max testing session day. You should be seeing some results at this point in the game and if not you may want to look at what you’re eating to figure out what’s going on.

There are many different styles of training. The main advantages of a DUP training style are that it will produce some pretty amazing results, both from a bulking perspective and for gaining strength, without spending two to three hours at a time in the gym at a time with your sets and reps. Have you tried DUP? How did you fare? Let us know in the comments below!

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