Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Optimal strength training: alternate heavy and light days

Strength athletes get more out of their gym time if they do periodised training. This means training for a couple of weeks for example with weights at which you can just manage 12 reps, and then doing a couple of weeks with weights you can manage 6 reps with. Say. But maybe it works even better to vary your weights each time Ė so one session with heavy weights followed by lighter weights the next, and so on.

Researchers at the Federal University of Sao Carlos reach this conclusion in the article they published recently in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. The researchers did an experiment with 40 male students, all of whom had been training for at least one year.

The researchers divided the students into two groups. One group did classical linear periodised resistance training. [LP] These students first trained for a week using weights with which they could just manage 12 reps (12RM). The next week they trained at 10RM, the week after that at 8RM and the fourth week at 6RM. In the fifth week the students went back to 12RM.

The second group did daily undulating periodised resistance training. [DUP] This meant that they did something different in each training session. There was a system, but itís easier to show this in the form of a schedule like the one below.

After 8 (T2) and 12 weeks (T3) the researchers measured their subjectsí progression. As you can see from the table below, both groups had made considerable progress.

And below weíve drawn up a table summarising exactly how much progression the two groups had made in 12 weeks.



Bench press

+ 15.0 kg

+ 28.4 kg

Leg press

+ 65.5 kg

+ 93.0 kg


+ 6.1 kg

+ 10.0 kg

The DUP group showed much more progression than the LP group. Despite this, the variation was too great for the results to be statistically significant. Nevertheless the researchers conclude that itís more effective to vary the weights you train with on a daily basis rather than weekly.

A few months ago we wrote about research on more effective ways of periodising. That study concluded that itís better not to use a training scheme in which you gradually increase the weights each week, for example from 12RM to 10RM to 8RM and then 6RM. One week of light weights, then a week of heavy weights, followed by another week of intermediate weights worked better. A shock effect seems to help muscles grow faster.

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec; 23(9):2437-42.

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