Your Cure for Exercise Boredom!

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As an undergraduate student and intern, I couldn’t wait to work with people. Very few exercise science students decide to go into the personal training field; the entrepreneurship of the career usually scares a lot of students away. But I was pumped up for the opportunity to prove myself.

School had prepared me well. I was able to answer questions in an intelligent manner, and soon after that I managed to streamline my answers in a sensible presentation without using big words to make an impression. However, I had hit a roadblock with the art of training when I noticed clients were getting a bit bored. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do the same movements on the same days? As a trainer, I had no problem following the same program till the very end, but clients were different. Was I going to sit there and argue with them until we were blue in the face? Believe it or not, some trainers would actually do that and then scratch their head in bewilderment when they don’t have any clients.

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But clients aren’t trainers; they love working out but they need a bit more variety to what they’re doing. So I had a dilemma: I needed a sensible way to train my clients that would get results, but I also had to make sure they were looking forward to their workouts.

Enter non-linear periodization – also known as daily undulating periodization (DUP). With non-linear periodization, the training is switched every week. DUP takes it a step further by changing what you’re doing from workout to workout. Perhaps on Monday you do 4 sets of 5, on Wednesday you knock out a power program that involves 6 sets of 3, and you finish out the week with 3 sets of 10 on Friday. If you’re looking to get strong or gain muscle, then DUP might just be for you (it can be used for fat loss as well).

DUP gives the body a different stimulus each workout and may help make you a jack of all trades when it comes to training. If you’re experienced with training (and if you’re not, it’s okay….just get through this next part), then you could divide your training into strength work on one day, hypertrophy training another, and speed work another day. The possibilities are nearly endless and I myself have managed to find a great training system for those hardworking clients who tended to get bored easily.

The research tells us that DUP works. A study comparing DUP to linear periodization as well as no periodization found that DUP is superior. The study lasted for 12 weeks but subjects who completed a non-linear periodization protocol experienced strength increases every 4 weeks (1). At the end of the study researchers took note of a 28% increase in bench press strength. A similar study found that subjects using undulating periodization had greater increases in strength for the bench press, leg press, and biceps curl than a group who didn’t use it (2).

DUP also works well with endurance training (for those who like to run). Researchers discovered that soccer players who used a mixed protocol of distance running and interval training different days of the week had the greatest increase in their endurance (3).

Lastly, some sport scientists argue that DUP can be used for those tough days in which you want to work out but you feel terribly sluggish. You know those days – the ones where you move …..very…..s…l…o…w. With DUP, you can lighten the load or cut down on the sets to prevent overtraining (4). You still get to target some of your muscle fibers without annihilating your body. Remember, the whole point of training is to make continued progress – and one insane workout will not make a major difference in the long run

What you want to do with your training is where the real fun begins. Want to get stronger? Than you can divide your training days between a maximal effort, some speed work, and accessory movements. Your training would look like this:

Squat 3 x 3 (90%)
Paused Front Squat 4 x 2 (80%)

Squat with Bands – 8 x 2 (45% + bands)
Jump Squats – 4 x 6

Split Squat – 4 x 8
Walking Lunge – 4 x 12

If your goal is to develop muscle mass, then non-linear periodization is a valuable utensil in your toolbox. Maximal hypertrophy works when you can expose your body to different loads and thus stimulate different, and more, muscle fibers. Utilizing different muscle fibers means more chance for growth. Plus those who have been knocking out 3 sets of 10 since the Bush administration (take your pick of which Bush) would benefit from the change. A week of training could look like this:

Monday – 4 x 5

Wednesday – 5 x 10

Friday – 2 x 20

Lastly, you could use the above mentioned protocol for a fat loss circuit. Fat loss will work best when done in a circuit-like fashion; simply take one upper body movement and pair it with a lower body movement.

A good strength and conditioning training program takes everything into account: reps, sets, load, tempo and for some, monotony. Let’s just face it – some of us will stick with an exercise program if it has a bit of variety to it. Non-linear periodization may just be the cure for boredom that you’ve been looking for.


[toggle title=”References“]

1. Monteiro, A.G. et al. “Nonlinear Periodization Maximizes Strength Gains in Split Resistance Training Routines.” (2009) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23;4, 1321-1326

2. Presetes, J. et al. “Comparison Between Linear and Daily Undulating Periodized Resistance Training to Increase Strength.” (2009) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Rsearch 23;9, 2437-2442

3. Clark, James E. “The Use of an 8 Week Mixed Intensity Interval Endurance Training Program Improves the Aerobic Fitness of Female Soccer Players.” (2010) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24;7, 1773 – 1781

4. Haff, Gregory G. “Non Linear Periodization Versus Linear Periodization Models” (2001) Strength and Conditioning Journal 23;1, 42-44 [/toggle]


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