I am currently researching and applying the principles of periodization and am fascinated at how the body responds to the different styles of training. In Allen Hedrick’s recent article, Undulating Periodization – Part 1, the end analysis of the different studies conducted throws up some interesting results. I've currently been training with a seasoned weight lifter and letting him design the training regimen, which has consisted of the following training pattern:
- 6 days per week at 60-90 minutes in duration
- 3 way split plan with Sunday as a rest day
- Days 1 & 4 - Chest and back
- Days 2 & 5 - Shoulders and arms
- Days 3 & 6 - Legs
The training plan consists of four exercises for large muscle groups, three exercises for isolation exercises. We use a pyramid scheme with weight selection, increasing weight for four sets and then performing a fifth set as a drop set using three to five drops during that last set. We've followed the above program for about 12 weeks, and I've noticed great gains in strength, size and definition. One thing that did intrigue me is how the body copes with training the same body parts on three consecutive days, as this is contrary to what we are taught here in the UK. Guidelines suggest a recovery period of anywhere between 24, 48 or 72 hours to allow full recovery. Does training on consecutive days lead to more muscular and neurological damage and hence an increase in adaptations and repair? I've found that during our 12 weeks of training, I've become accustomed to the intensity and volume aspect of the sessions, although I must say that the second rotation of the week is certainly harder! What's your opinion on the required rest period? Is one day enough in a week, or is it simply a case of listening to your body and not forcing sessions if excessively tired?
Thanks for your question. Let me get right to the point. First, let me point out that undulating periodization can be used in a variety of ways and with programs designed in a variety of ways. The example in my article was just one example. Also, be aware that undulating periodization is generally used when training athletes who are looking to develop various components of fitness (such as power and muscular endurance). At this point, it sounds like you are training more as a bodybuilder, primarily interested in training for hypertrophy, and if that is correct, undulating training may have less of a role in your training program. If you are training for strength and size, then you could utilize undulating periodization to help you with those goals. For example, using your current program, you could make the first training day of the week for each body part a strength day and the second training day of the week for that same body part a hypertrophy day.
As far as training the same muscle groups on consecutive days, the common recommendation is to not train the same muscle group on consecutive days. However, if you look at the sport of weightlifting, where athletes demonstrate tremendous strength and power, it is common for athletes in that sport to train multiple sessions per day training five or six days per week. Most of their training is focused on performance of the competition lifts (snatch, clean and jerk), either with those specific movements or associated training lifts. As a result, they are continually training the same muscle groups on consecutive days. It is important to make a couple of points, however. First, most of their training consists of low repetition work, often in the one to three rep range and rarely above five or six in most movements. This rep range is likely much lower than what you are currently performing. Secondly, this volume of training is something that they have to gradually work up to over a period of time. You would not jump into multiple training sessions per day, six days per week as a beginner and expect to be able to tolerate that training load. It is also important to note that athletes training at this level would also be spending a significant amount of time helping the body recover between training sessions.
Hopefully I was able to answer your question effectively for you, and I appreciate your enthusiasm over the information presented in the article.