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Training with different weights each week works fastest

Strength athletes will gain strength faster if they train with different weights each week, and do more reps one week and fewer the next, write sports scientists from the University of Sao Paulo in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Weekly variation in the rep range produces better results than always training with the same number of reps. It also works better than changing the number of reps according to a fixed schedule.

The researchers did a 12-week experiment with just under thirty strength athletes. The athletes were divided into three groups: all groups trained four times a week. They trained their upper body twice a week and their lower body twice a week.

Training with different weights each week works fastest
The first group followed a non-periodized routine. They did sets of 8-10 reps throughout the entire experiment. This is how most gym goers train.

The second group followed a linear periodized routine. For the first four weeks the athletes did sets of 12-15 reps, the following four weeks sets of 8-10 reps, and lastly four weeks of sets of 4-5 reps.

The non-linear periodized group started with a week of sets of 12-15 reps. After that the group did a week with 4-5 reps, followed by a week with 8-10 reps sets. Then the group went back to 12-15 reps, and so on.

In each case the athletes tried to complete as many reps as possible within their rep range.

Training with different weights each week works fastest

After twelve weeks the researchers measured strength gains of the test subjects. The figures below compare the progression of the three groups for the bench press and the leg press. The non-periodized group made hardly any progression; the linear periodized group did better. But the progression of the non-linear periodized group surpassed that of the other groups.

Training with different weights each week works fastest

Training with different weights each week works fastest

The researchers also measured the test subjects' body composition. No statistically significant relationships emerged from this.

The Brazilians stress that their results are only valid for athletes who need more than one workout to train all their muscle groups. "Intermediate-advanced resistance-trained individuals and athletes usually use split routines in their training programs", they conclude.

"Thus far, there was no recommendation on the most appropriate periodization model when using these routines. Our data clearly demonstrated that non-linear periodization is more effective than the linear periodization and non periodization models to increase strength combined with split training routines. Thus, individuals seeking for fitness improvement should use non-linear periodization when using split routines."

J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jul; 23(4):1321-6.

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