Periodization is a way of linearly increasing training loads over a time period called a cycle. This cycle is divided into smaller increments called mesocycles. Two popular cycles include block periodization and weekly undulating (WUD) periodization. Block periodization involves two– to six-week mesocycles that go from moderate reps and loads to low reps and heavy loads. WUD periodization follows the same progression but in oneweek mesocycles.
Researchers from the University of Bologna, Italy, and the University of Central Florida put 17 recreationally strength-trained subjects through a 10-week program. Block periodization followed two-week mesocycles starting with 10 reps at 70% 1RM and progressed to three reps at 93% 1RM over 10 weeks. WUD periodization followed the same progression but in one-week mesocycles. Subjects completed the full cycle in five weeks before repeating. Both programs used the same exercises.
Both programs produced significant increases in strength and power, but improvements in lower-body strength were significantly greater using WUD (~28% stronger versus ~15% stronger). Both programs significantly increased arm size, but increases in thigh muscle mass were significant using only WUD (~6% bigger).
Compressing the time spent progressing from high-rep training to low-rep training (i.e., shorter training cycle) may produce faster gains.
Here’s an example of an eight-week cycle: Start the first week using loads that allow 12–15 reps. The second week drop to 10–12 reps, the third week to 8–10 reps, the fourth week to 6–8 reps, then repeat the cycle. – FLEX