Muscle Progress: Reverse Linear Daily Undulating Periodization

Ask yourself, do you have a muscle building masterplan or are you just aimlessly meandering towards failure?

In all walks of life, any plan is better than no plan. We’ve all heard the quotes and clichés about failing to plan equating to planning to fail. Well, there is a reason that these types of sayings are used so frequently. They are true. So, ask yourself, do you have a muscle building masterplan or are you just aimlessly meandering towards failure?

In all walks of life, any plan is better than no plan. We’ve all heard the quotes and clichés about failing to plan equating to planning to fail. Well, there is a reason that these types of sayings are used so frequently. They are true. So, ask yourself, do you have a muscle building masterplan or are you just aimlessly meandering towards failure?

Having a plan when it comes to training is known as periodization. The term periodization often scares people. They believe it is a super-complex, Soviet training scheme that can only be interpreted by those with a PhD, and is reserved for use by elite athletes.

While periodization did, in fact, originate from a Russian sports physiologist named Leo Matveyev, it is not as complicated as you think. Periodization simply means, the “Planned manipulation of training variables to maximize adaptations” (Buford et al., 2007).

For you that means, having a plan to gradually adjust your training to maximize your level of hypertrophy.

Optimal Periodization for Hypertrophy

As previously mentioned, any form of plan is better than none and any form periodization is superior to none. Research supports this with various studies finding strong and significant effect sizes of periodization. You don’t just want any plan though. You want a plan that optimizes everything towards your goal.

In Why Linear Periodization Sucks for Hypertroph, I outlined why I prefer a reverse linear model for hypertrophy. Reverse linear simply means you gradually increase training volume and decrease intensity (as %1RM) over time. Following this approach allows you to progressively overload the body through training volume. Training volume has a dose-response relationship with hypertrophy and is the key determinant of muscle gain.

To fine-tune your reverse linear plan and maximize your hypertrophy I suggest you incorporate elements of Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP). Research indicates that undulating periodization models are superior to traditional linear models (Rhea, 2002 & Williams et al., 2017).

Furthermore, these positive effects are likely more pronounced in intermediate to advanced lifters. At this stage of development, progress is far harder to come by and using an optimal periodization scheme can make all the difference.

The concept of DUP is relatively simple. Looking at each individual component tells the story…

Daily Every day you train
Undulating Sets/reps/intensity waves up and down
Periodization The long-term plan you use to progress towards your goals

When taken together this means that you have a long-term plan which undulates training loads, reps, and sets on a daily basis.

Undulating periodization has the benefit of allowing you to have a primary focus, yet maintain other qualities by incorporating them into the training week. In this example, hypertrophy is the goal, but strength work is included throughout.

Combining this with a reverse linear model means that over time the loads lifted will be at a lower relative intensity, but you’ll be doing more sets and reps. This protocol allows you to do ever-increasing amounts of hypertrophy specific training.

From a practical standpoint, the variety provided by DUP keeps training interesting. This is key to motivation and adherence. The best program in the world is useless if you do not enjoy the challenge and are not motivated to give your best.

DUP a misconception

Despite its popularity, there is quite a lot of confusion about DUP. Its utility for powerlifting has created some of this confusion. Most people are aware of DUP because they’ve heard about some of the world’s top powerlifters using it.

As a result, they think that DUP is a 3 day a week program, which requires you to squat, bench and deadlift every session. They believe DUP is just for strength and they think there is such a thing as THE DUP. This is all wrong! If you have a heavy and light day each time you train a muscle group that’s DUP. It’s that simple.

DUP is not a one-off, set, pre-planned routine. It is a periodization concept based on an overarching theme which allows for almost endless variants within its conceptual framework.

The Best of Both

Earlier this year I attended a seminar by Dr. Mike Zourdos. Mike is one of the world’s leading researchers on periodization and a proponent of DUP. Despite this, he was keen to point out that periodization schemes shouldn’t be viewed in an “either, or” mentality.

He said “you don’t have to choose between them. You can combine them to get the best of both.” Mike does this himself with the powerlifters he coaches.

On a day to day basis he undulates, but on a macro level (the whole training block) he follows a linear pattern (e.g., intensity increases and volume decreases over the course of several months). As a result, his programming follows a linear DUP model. He uses this approach to maximize a powerlifter’s performance on the platform.

I took inspiration from his approach when setting up a hypertrophy periodization scheme to get the best results for my clients. I settled upon a Reverse Linear DUP (RL-DUP) model for the reasons discussed in my previous article on reverse linear periodization. The RL-DUP builds upon this to create a powerful hypertrophy specific training methodology.

Much of the research on DUP has been based on strength outcomes. Dr Zourdos covered using DUP for hypertrophy in his seminar and emphasized that when training for size volume should be prioritized over intensity (further support for the reverse linear approach). So, with size being the main goal you would have more volume than intensity blocks.


  • Accumulation
  • Accumulation
  • Intensification
  • Accumulation
  • Accumulation
  • Intensification
  • Hypertrophy
  • Hypertrophy
  • Strength
  • Hypertrophy
  • Hypertrophy
  • Strength

This ratio of volume to intensity could also be apparent during a training week where several days are dedicated to volume style workouts, but only one day is considered a strength/intensity day. For example,

Monday 3×10
Tuesday 4×8
Thursday 5×5
Friday 3×12

From a theoretical standpoint, it is easy to make a case for the benefits of DUP. To build on that, seeing some real-world evidence is also useful support for its efficacy. The success of Brian Whitacre does just that. When Brian won the WNBF and IFPA bodybuilding world championships he was coached by Dr. Zourdos and followed a DUP scheme.

Now that we have a background of both reverse linear and daily undulating periodization it is time to put them together into a coherent and usable plan for hypertrophy. Below is a three-month block of RL-DUP. Blocks 1 & 2 being accumulation blocks which progressively increase training volume. In block 3 intensity is emphasized.

The training plan is set-up following an Upper/Lower split with one ‘heavier’ day and one ‘lighter’ day each week.

Ideally, the sessions would be completed on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule.

Block 1 – Accumulation 1

Day 1 – Upper Heavy

A1 Bench Press, 4×5
A2 Pull-Ups, 4×5
B1 Incline DB Bench Press, 3×6
B2 DB Rows, 3×6
C1 DB Shoulder Press, 3×8
C2 Seated Face Pulls, 3×8
D1 Close Grip Bench Press, 3×8
D2 Incline DB Curls, 3×8

Day 2 – Lower Heavy

A Front Squats, 4×6
B Hack Squats, 3×8
C GHR, 3×8
D RDLs, 4×8
E Leg Press Calf Raise, 4×8

Day 3 – Upper Light

A1 Incline Bench Press, 4×8
A2 Cable Low Rows, 4×8
B1 Cable Flyes, 3×10
B2 Lat Pulldowns, 3×10
C1 Upright Rows, 3×10
C2 Rope Pressdowns, 3×10
D1 Lateral Raise, 3×10
D2 Preacher Curls, 3×10

Day 4 – Lower Light

A Back Squats, 4×8
B Leg Press, 3×10
C Lying Leg Curls, 4×10
D 45 Degree Back Extensions, 3×10
E Seated Calf Raise, 4×12

Block 2 – Accumulation 2

Day 1 – Upper Heavy

A1 Bench Press, 4×8
A2 Neutral Grip Chins, 4×8
B1 Incline DB Bench Press, 3×8
B2 DB Rows, 3×8
C1 DB Shoulder Press, 3×10
C2 Seated Face Pulls, 3×10
D1 Rope French Press, 3×10
D2 Incline DB Curls, 3×10

Day 2 – Lower Heavy

A Front Squats, 4×8
B Hack Squats, 3×10
C Lying Leg Curls, 3×8
D RDLs, 4×10
E Leg Press Calf Raise, 4×10

Day 3 – Upper Light

A1 Incline Bench Press, 5×8
A2 Low Incline Cable Flyes, 5×12
B1 Cable Low Rows, 5×8
B2 Lat Pulldowns, 5×12
C1 Upright Rows, 3×8
C2 Machine Rear Delt Flyes, 3×12
D1 EZ Bar Reverse Curls, 3×8
D2 Preacher Curls, 3×12
E1 Rope Pressdowns, 3×10
E2 Close Grip Push-Ups, 3xAMRAP

Day 4 – Lower Light

A1 Back Squats, 4×8
A2 Leg Press, 4×12
B Leg Extensions, 3×15-20
C1 Lying Leg Curls, 4×8
C2 45 Degree Back Extensions, 4×12
D Alternating Lunges, 3×15-20 (each leg)
E1 Leg Press Calf Raise, 4×10
E2 Seated Calf Raise, 4×15

Block 3 – Intensification 1

Day 1 – Upper Heavy

A1 Bench Press, 6×4
A2 Pull-Ups, 6×4
B1 Military Press, 3×5
B2 T Bar Rows, 3×5
C1 Dips, 3×6
C2 Seated Face Pulls, 3×6

Day 2 – Lower Heavy

A Front Squats, 6×4
B RDLs, 5×5
D GHRs, 3×6
E Standing Calf Raise, 5×6

Day 3 – Upper Light

A1 Incline Bench Press, 4×6
A2 Cable Low Rows, 4×6
B1 DB Bench Press, 3×8
B2 Lat Pulldowns, 3×8
C1 Upright Rows, 3×8
C2 Close Grip Bench Press, 3×8

Day 4 – Lower Light

A Back Squats, 5×6
B Bulgarian Split Squats, 3×8
C Lying Leg Curls, 4×6
D BB Goodmornings, 4×8
E Seated Calf Raise, 4×10

Just to be clear the above is not the DUP. Nor is it the DUP for hypertrophy. It is just a way to structure your training utilizing a combination of reverse linear and DUP. It adheres to the overarching principles of both to allow you to overload yourself via training volume.

Following the intensification phase, you would return to an accumulation phase. This sequence has several benefits. Firstly, you are able to progressively overload via training volume for two blocks.

Then, when your body begins to adapt to high volumes and you experience diminishing returns you switch to the intensification block. At this point, your body is somewhat resistant to volume as a stimulus. Focusing on intensity, however, is a novel stimulus to the body and will spark progress.

In block 3 you are focusing on strength development and training with lower overall volumes. During this phase, your strength will increase and you will also allow the body to recover from the beating it took during the previous two high volumes routines.

When phase 3 is finished you will be bigger, stronger and fresh for more high-volume hypertrophy work. Essentially, you have set the scene for further growth. I love it when a plan comes together!


1. Buford, T.W., et al., A comparison of periodization models during nine weeks with equated volume and intensity for strength. J Strength Cond Res, 2007. 21(4):1245-50.

2. Rhea, M.R., et al., A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. J Strength Cond Res, 2002 May;16(2):250-5

3. Williams, T.D., et al., Comparison of Periodized and Non-Periodized Resistance Training on Maximal Strength: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 2017 May;47:2083

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