DUP for Powerlifting: What Is It? Does It Work? Should You Do It

daily undulating periodization is a flexible method of managing intensity or volume proven to accelerate the rate of strength gains

Daily undulating periodization has become so popular in recent years that it is the dominant periodization model in powerlifting, especially among intermediate/advanced level lifters.

What is Daily Undulating Periodization? Daily undulating periodization (DUP) is a flexible method of managing intensity/volume proven to accelerate the rate of strength gains. Unlike linear periodization that brings intensity up and volume down over the course of many months, DUP varies intensity/volume daily within all phases of training.

In this article, I’ll discuss how you can apply DUP to your training if you’re a powerlifter or someone who is interested in gaining maximal strength in the gym. I’ll also dig into the research, provide a list of pros and cons, and give you some workout examples to consider.

Linear Periodization vs Daily Undulating Periodization 

Oftentimes, we compare daily undulating periodization with linear periodization.  Here are the differences: 

Linear periodization

Linear Periodization is the traditional model that involves a gradual decrease in volume and increase in intensity over a given training period, usually over 3-4 months of training.

So, at the start of a training cycle you have periods of high volume and low intensity, which slowly transforms to low volume and high intensity by the end of the training cycle. 

linear periodization is the traditional model that involves a gradual decrease in volume and increase in intensity over a given training period

Daily Undulating Periodization

Daily Undulating Periodization is a non-linear approach that undulates volume and intensity throughout the week across all phases of training.

So, within a single training week, you will have both high volume and high intensity sessions, combined with low volume and low intensity sessions. 

daily undulating periodization is a non-linear approach that undulates volume and intensity throughout the week across all phases of training

How Does DUP Training For Powerlifting Work?

DUP has been shown to be a highly effective method in cultivating long term progress. It allows for flexibility and variation within your workout routine. Unlike linear periodization, you are able to manage volume, frequency, and intensities throughout the week.

Here I will describe how we can manipulate these components by utilizing DUP to create a successful program:

Volume & Intensity

Volume is commonly measured in Sets x Reps, which is paired with a percentage of one’s 1 rep max (Intensity).  

For example: 3 sets of 3 reps @ 85% of 1RM.

  • High reps are used under lighter loads to get more practice with technique, greater exposure to an exercise, and build mass. 
  • Low reps are commonly used under heavier loads to attain a neural response and improve strength. 

Contrary to traditional periodization styles, DUP allows us to undulate these high and low volume days throughout a given week of training. 

The benefit of this is that we can contrast our high volume/low intensity days with low volume/high intensity days to attain greater exposure to different types of strength adaptations.

Whereas in a linear periodization model, we wouldn’t touch heavier weights until later in the training cycle, in a DUP model, we can start lifting heavy much earlier in order to adapt to that stimulus (and get stronger!).

Frequency

Frequency is the rate that you train an exercise in a given week. 

Typically, you would want to incorporate as many doses of an exercise within a week while maintaining optimal recovery. Greater frequencies of training can lead to greater exposure and adaptations to an exercise.

DUP allows us to train more within a given week. 

This is because we can undulate between extremely taxing days and lighter intensity days to maximize recovery and exposure to a given exercise.

We cover more of these concepts in our powerlifting frequency articles: 

Fatigue Management

DUP allows the benefits of both lighter and heavier loading to occur within a given training week. 

Because you have sessions that target different adaptations throughout the week (strength days, hypertrophy days, power days, technique days), you don’t have competing resources when adapting to these different stimuluses.   

As a result, DUP specifically allows for a greater variety of stimulus and training volumes to both prevent training plateaus and overtraining.

For example:  If a high intensity day is placed earlier in the week, then we might want to place a lower intensity day in the middle of the week. This would allow for greater technique practice and allow for active recovery to occur.

Research Studies On DUP For Powerlifting

There is plenty of research out comparing DUP to various other programming styles. 

If you don’t want to read each of the studies, you can get the quick takeaways below.  

Make sure to scroll below the research studies to get the more practical advice on how to implement DUP into your training program.  

Key Takeaways

  • DUP has been shown to be slightly more effective in people who are more resistance trained (i.e. those who are intermediate/advanced lifters).
  • When compared to non periodized training, DUP has been shown to be more effective, i.e. compared to a ‘random’ training approach.
  • When compared to linear periodization, DUP has been shown to be more effective if not just as effective.
  • Linear periodization and DUP have been shown to produce similar results when volume is equated.  So it’s important to track your volume no matter what approach you use. 
  • The best periodization model is going to be the one that you stick to long term, as consistency over time is the greatest determining factor to improving performance. 

DUP Vs Non Periodized Training

A study by Soares et al. (2020) compared DUP with non periodized training or non structured training in 41 sedentary participants who were diagnosed with HIV. 

Participants followed a 12 week training program that implemented the squat, bench, leg press, lat pull-down, and various other assistance exercises.

The DUP group undulated their reps and intensity from 3 x 4 – 6 on Monday, 3 x 15 – 20 on Wednesday, and 3 x 8 -12 on Friday. The non-periodized group maintained the same reps and sets of 3 x 8 – 12 on all days.

So, what did they find?

They found that the DUP group saw greater gains than the non periodized group in strength and power on all exercises except for bench press.

If sedentary individuals saw greater strength gains utilizing DUP, how would more experienced lifters respond to the DUP style of training?

A study by Eifler (2016), compared the strength gains of a protocol with a daily changing load, a constant load, an increasing load, and a decreasing load over 6 weeks. 

200 participants with 12 months of experience in resistance training were split up into each of these groups evenly.

The daily changing load group, which is most similar to DUP, followed a weekly changing order of undulations from a volume of 15,10, and 5 total repetitions each training day throughout the week.

The constant load, increasing load, and decreasing load group changed intensity according to name and maintained a fixed number of sets and reps scheme each week

What were the results?

They found that the group that changed their loading every day, which is most similar to DUP, was seen to be most beneficial for advanced or “trained”  athletes.

Contrary to this, Baker et. al (1994) found that total work mattered the most. In this study, each group was prescribed the same relative intensity and total volume. 

They found that all groups experienced the same level of progress when training volume and relative intensity are equated.

However, DUP is often associated with being able to work at higher volume and higher frequencies year round. Consequently, total volume and relative intensity should be more when incorporating DUP over other styles of periodization.

DUP Vs Linear Periodized Training

Ahmadizad et al. (2014) compared the linear periodization to the daily undulating periodization model. 

32 sedentary overweight men trained 3 days a week on an 8 week program. 

Maximum strength for the bench press and leg press increased following this program in all groups.

Additionally, It’s worth noting in this section that Baker et. al (1994) compared linear periodization to DUP as well and found similar results with equal total volume and intensities.

Bringing it together:

These two studies suggest that linear periodization and daily undulating periodization will produce similar results. However, the subjects tested were all untrained individuals.

Let’s take a look at how trained individuals respond differently to DUP and LP.

Monteiro et al. (2009) compared strength gains after 12 weeks of non periodized, linear periodized, and nonlinear periodized training.

27 resistance trained individuals were recruited for this study and assigned to one of those three groups.

They found that nonlinear periodization, which is most similar to DUP, was most effective in increasing both upper body and lower body strength.

Schoenfeld et al. (2016) recruited 19 trained men who were assigned to either a constant rep routine or a varied rep routine.

The constant medium repetition group used 8-12 RM per set. Whereas the varied rep group trained with 2-4 RM per set on day 1, 8-12 RM per set on day 2, and 20-30 RM on day 3 for 8 weeks.

They found that both varied and constant loads lead to improvements in muscular adaptations in trained young men.

DUP Powerlifting: Pros & Cons

pros and cons of DUP powerlifting

Pros

  • DUP allows for a variety of volume and intensity adaptations. Due to daily undulations, you will be able to adapt to a greater range of intensities and rep ranges. Due to this, transitioning from a volume block to a strength block becomes more seamless.
  • DUP allows for flexibility in training. Training sessions can be long and taxing when you are at the gym. Imagine being short on time, and you have to be somewhere within an hour. The duration of your workout is strongly dependent on volume and intensity. DUP allows you to plan for this by placing a 3×3 over a 3×8 on this day.
  • DUP allows for confidence with heavier weights. Mental preparedness is huge in the sport of powerlifting. Being able to approach the bar every session knowing that you can hit the numbers that are prescribed can be a game changer. Greater exposure to heavier loads will allow you to be more confident with those numbers. 
  • DUP allows for more practice with heavier loads. Ultimately, the goal of powerlifting is to lift as much weight as possible at a meet. DUP allows you to incorporate practice with heavier loads year round. This will allow you to be prepared when you peak for a meet.
  • DUP allows greater autoregulation. Fatigue and performance fluctuate throughout the week. DUP allows you to adjust volume and intensity to optimize recovery between lifts.

Cons

  • DUP style of training can expose a downswing of progression. Performance will not alway be at its peak. On weaker days, higher intensity loads will move much slower and feel heavier. This could cause you to potentially doubt the direction your training is going in.
  • DUP is more complex. You are juggling way more variables when you use DUP. This makes it much more challenging to incorporate into your programming. Managing varying intensities and loads is a more advanced tactic that can be effective if you have experience.

How To Structure Your DUP Workouts For Powerlifting

how to structure your dup workouts for powerlifting

Rather than maintaining the same sets, reps, and intensity throughout the week. DUP allows one to have a scale from low to high intensity and high to low volume all in one week:

Depending on whether we are looking at the squat, bench, or deadlift how we schedule the week is going to shift.

How To Structure DUP For The Squat

The most important thing to think about when you are structuring your workouts is recovery. Squats are taxing to the posterior chain and require 48 – 72 hours of recovery. This allows us to train squats 2-3x a week.

 Squat Example:

  • Monday: High intensity day: 5 x 3 @80%, 
  • Wednesday: Moderate intensity day: 4 x 4 @75% 
  • Friday: Light intensity: 3 x 5 @70%

Each week you could add 2.5-5kg to the barbell.

How To Structure DUP For The Bench

Bench is less fatiguing because less stress is placed on the posterior chain and less muscles are involved. Bench press involves pectoralis major, minor, deltoid, and triceps brachii. 24-48 hours of recovery are often needed which allows us to train 2-4x a week.

Bench Example:

  • Monday: High intensity day: 5 x 3 @80%
  • Tuesday: Moderate intensity day: 4 x 4 @75%
  • Thursday: High Intensity day: 3 x 2 @ 82.5% 
  • Friday: Light intensity: 3 x 6 @70%

Each week you could add 2.5-5kg to the barbell.

How To Structure DUP For The Deadlift

Deadlifts are often incorporated with less intensity than the other lifts. It is common for this lift to have a higher absolute load which can affect recovery more than the other lifts. Deadlifts are commonly incorporated into workouts 1-3x a week.

Deadlift Example:

  • Monday: High intensity day: 5 x 3 @80% 
  • Friday: Light intensity: 3 x 6 @70% 

Each week you could add 2.5-5kg to the barbell.

3 Example Programs That Use DUP Powerlifting Principles

3 example programs that use dup powerlifting principles

Brandon Tietz Submax DUP Powerlifting Program

Brandon Tiets submax DUP powerlifting program is a 12 week program that undulates training sessions throughout the week.

About Brandon Tietz Submax DUP Program:

  • 4 week long blocks
  • 3 blocks long
  • 5 sessions per week

Squat Template Example:

Squat Workout 1Squat Workout 2Squat Workout 3
Block 11 x 5, 3 x 51 x 7, 3 x 75 x 3
Block 22 x 3, 3 x 41 x 5, 3 x 65 x 2
Block 32 x 1, 3 x 31 x 3, 3 x 55 x 1

This program utilizes both RPE and percentages to regulate intensity throughout the week. 

  • Day 2: Low intensity day. Each week the RPE of the top set goes up by 1 and back offs progress by 2.5 lbs each week.
  • Day 3: High intensity day. Each week the load on the bar progresses by 2.5 lbs.

The progression in this program is pretty straight forward. Each week there is a static 2.5 or 1 point in RPE progression or a 2.5 lbs increase.

DUP Percentage Program by The Strength Athlete

DUP Percentage Program by The Strength Athlete is a single block that programs for 3 days a week of training.

Each of the lifts are split up into different energy system days. We have a power day, strength day, and a hypertrophy day. 

About the DUP Percentage Program by The Strength Athlete:

  • 3 weeks long
  • 3 sessions per week
  • Hypertrophy day, strength day, power day

Squat template example:

  • Day 1: Power Squats: 5 x 3 is prescribed for this day with a 2.5 kg weekly increase.
  • Day 2: Strength Squats: 4 x 4 is prescribed for this day with a 2.5 kg weekly increase.
  • Day 3: Hypertrophy Squats: 4 x 8 is prescribed for this day with a 2.5 kg weekly increase. 

This is a more simple approach because the program doesn’t address these lifts with different frequency and intensities. Each exercise has the same volume and prescribed frequency.

However, you can see that the volume and intensity are undulated each day of the week!

Layne Norton PH3 Program

The Layne Norton PH3 Program is a 12 week program that builds you into a test day.

About the Layne Norton PH3 Program:

  • 4 week long blocks
  • 5 sessions per week
  • 3 phases: Accumulation phase, Intermediate phase, and Intensity phase

Squat template example:

BlocksSquat 1Squat 2Squat 3
Accumulation PhaseWk1:2×9
Wk2:3×9
Wk3:3×9
Wk4:4×4
Wk1:3×7
Wk2:3×7
Wk3:3×7
Wk4:3×5
Wk1:3×5
Wk2:4×5+
Wk3:3×5
Wk4:AMRAP
Intermediate PhaseWk1:2×8
Wk2:3×8
Wk3:4×8
Wk4:5×3
Wk1:3×6
Wk2:4×6
Wk3:5×6
Wk4:4×4
Wk1:4×4
Wk2:5×4+
Wk3:5×4+
Wk4:AMRAP
Intensity PhaseWk1:3×7
Wk2:4×7
Wk3:5×7
Wk4:5×7
Wk1:3×5
Wk2:4×5
Wk3:5×5
Wk4:6×5
Wk1:4×3
Wk2:4×3+
Wk3:5×3+
Wk4:6×3+

Here you can see how squats progress each day, week, and block. The first block we see that one day has 9 reps at lighter load, then 7 reps with a slightly heavier load, then a heavier day where you’ll do 5’s.

When assessing this program, you should be looking at the general trend in numbers. Each block decreases by one rep but increases in intensity.

  • Accumulation phase: here you will be doing higher volume. This program is doing sets of 9, 7, and 5 with lower intensities to build practice and muscle fatigue.
  • Intermediate phase: here there will be a slight taper in volume as the intensity begins to increase. You will be doing sets of 8, 6, and 4 with slightly higher intensities and lower volume.
  • Intensity phase: As you begin your final phase volume will taper to promote greater recovery as your body is adapting to heavier loads. Volume is decreased to sets of 7, 5, and 3 at higher intensities.

Contrary to the other programs, here we saw volume and rep changes that can be made within the block to create weekly and daily undulations.

Should You Use DUP Powerlifting Training?

DUP for powerlifting is a superior model that allows us to adjust volume and intensities throughout the week

Like I said earlier, DUP for powerlifting is a superior model that allows us to adjust volume and intensities throughout the week. As we read earlier, any style of programming can contribute to well earned gains. 

Research has proven that intermediate to advanced lifters can benefit greatly from introducing a DUP style approach.

Benefits are earned in varying intensities and volume throughout the week. This allows for greater preparation when transitioning to different blocks and greater practice with heavier loads and intensities

Related Article: 10 Tips For Powerlifting With A Physical Job

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to DUP for powerlifting!

What Does DUP Mean In Fitness?

Daily undulating periodization is the process of undulating different volumes and intensities throughout a week of training. This way you can maximize strength, power, and hypertrophy all in the same block.

What Is Weekly Undulating Periodization?

Weekly undulating periodization is where volume and intensities are undulated each week. Undulations can look like week 1: 3 x 8 @60%, week 2: 3 x 6 @70%, week 3: 3 x 8 @62.5%. As you can see, we maintained the same volume for week 1 and 3 but changed the volume for week 2.

Is DUP Training Effective?

DUP is greatly effective if you can manage your intensities and volumes properly throughout the week. This system allows for a greater frequency of novel stimuli, practice, and variety of loading.

Final Thoughts

If you’re choosing a style of program, you can’t go wrong with linear periodization or DUP. However, DUP can help cultivate long term progress by allowing flexibility and variation within your workout routine. In comparison to linear periodization, DUP allows you to manipulate volume, intensity, and frequency in a way that can help maximize recovery and long term strength gains.


About The Author

Javad Bakhshinejad

Javad Bakhshinejad was born and raised in the Washington Area. Currently, he is a student at Seattle University where he’s been pursuing an MS in Kinesiology, and has been a Strength Coach in the athletic department. He was a competitive bodybuilder for 8 years where he later transitioned to competitive powerlifting for 4 years. Currently, He has his own personal coaching business, where he works with powerlifters and bodybuilders.