Variable Resistance Weight Training

Utilizing Light / Heavy Workloads

Introduction

  • Alternate high and low repetition ranges or workloads
    • Also known as Daily Undulating Periodization or Variable Resistance Training
    • Each workout cycle or every two workout cycles (e.g. alternate every week)
      • or alternative sample programs:
3 Day a Week (full body workout)
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat
X W X W X W X
  Heavy  

Light

  Medium  
4 Day a Week (2 day split workout)
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat
X A B X A B X
Heavy Light Light Heavy
Alternatively, XHHXLLX

Potential Applications

Barbell Shoulder Press

Example Workload Variations

Dumbbell Push Sit-up

  • Power option
  • Strength program:
  • Endurance / strength program:
    • Heavy days: 8-10 reps, light days: 12-15 reps
    • or Heavy days: 6-9 reps, light days: 10-15 reps
  • Endurance option:
    • Heavy days: 20-30 reps, light days: 40-50 reps
    • or Heavy days: 15-25 reps, light days: 30-50 reps
    • Suitable for abdominal training
  • See low volume method and Periodization

Sample Log

  • Initial Resistances
    • Record initial trial resistances and repetitions achieved in correct form
    • Estimate or calculate initial resistances for first workout with varied workload (ie: Medium Load)
    • Record resistances for other workloads (Light & Heavy Days)
  • Progressions
    • Increase weight on respective workout approximately 2.5% - 10% when the upper repetition range has been achieved
    • Examples
      • Pink "4" on exercise (5) below signifies minimum repetition range has not been achieved
      • RED repetitions mark reaching upper repetition range
      • BLUE numbers mark new resistances recorded for the next time that particular repetition range is performed

Low Volume Undulationg Periodization

A low-volume approach for those with greater than one year of consistent training involves alternating between two workout sets on heavy days (with longer rests between sets) and one workout set on lighter days (with shorter rests). Progressions can be achieved using merit based and proxy methods on both heavy and light workouts. On heavy workouts, If a progression is not warranted after the first workout set, an optional microload can be implemented if a slightly greater, yet achievable weight may be used during the second heavy workout set. See efficacy studies. Also see light / heavy training and Shorthand Logs for Varying Workloads.

  Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
Workout   A B   A B  
Workload  
Heavy
 
Light
 
Rep Range  
6-8
 
10-12
 
Workout Sets  
2
 
1
 
Rest  
Longer
 
Shorter
 

As with traditional programming, new workouts are introduced monthly (see Restimulating Progress by Changing Exercises). At the beginning of a new program when new exercises are introduced, a warm-up set with a single workout set can still be performed for the first few micro-cycles. The amount of effort exerted each microcycle can be increased as the exercises are reintroduced. This can permit more complete acclimatization to the new exercises, familiarizing oneself to the motor-skill, and serving as a period of active recovery. After this introductory period, undulating workloads should be introduced, alternating workloads and sets every micro-cycle.

Sample Log

  • Initial Resistances
    • Record initial trial resistances and repetitions achieved in correct form
    • Estimate or calculate initial resistances for first workout with varied workload (ie: Medium Load)
    • Record resistances for other workloads (Light & Heavy Days)
  • Progressions
    • Increase weight on respective workout approximately 2.5% - 10% when the upper repetition range has been achieved
    • Examples
      • Pink "4" on exercise (5) below signifies minimum repetition range has not been achieved
      • RED repetitions mark reaching upper repetition range
      • BLUE numbers mark new resistances recorded for the next time that particular repetition range is performed
Sample Medium - Light - Heavy Log
Trial Medium Light Heavy Medium Light Heavy
Exercise Reps 8-10 11-15 5-7 8-10 11-15 5-7
1) Barbell Deadlift 495 / 6 475 / 8 455 / 13 495 / 7 475 / 455 / 535 /
2) Lever Seated Leg Curl 180 / 9 180 / 10 155 / 12 200 / 5 190 / 155 / 200 /
3) Barbell Step-up 180 / 15 245 / 8 210 / 12 275 / 6 245 / 210 / 275 /
4) Lever Seated Calf Press 350 / 13 400 / 9 350 / 15 450 / 6 400 / 375 / 450 /
5) Lever Seated Reverse Calf Press 200 / 8 200 / 9 175 / 11 240 / 4 200 / 175 / 225 /
Endurance Option Reps 25-35 40-50 15-20 25-35 40-50 15-20
6) Incline Leg Hip Raise 30deg/30 30deg/31 horiz / 40 vert / 15 30deg/ horiz / vert /
7) Cable Kneeling Crunch 12 / 40 15 / 30 12 / 42 18 / 20 15 / 12 / 18 /

Short Hand Log Options

  • Consider using one of three variations of a shorthand log
    • Multiple columns to right of exercise
      • Designated Light columns and heavy columns
      • Only record new workout weight if upper rep range has been achieved for each varying load
    • Multiple lines under exercise name
      • Exercise name on first line
      • Record weights for light day on second line under exercise name
      • Record weights for heavy day on third line
      • Subsequent exercises follow
        • Each exercise occupies multiple lines
    • Record a single number representing base weight for each exercise

Theoretical Full Body Weight Training Program for Athlete

Exercises Mon Wed Fri
Power Clean L H
Power Snatch H L
Jerk or Military Press L H
Deadlift L H
Squat H L
Overhead or Front Squat, or Plyo Jumps L H
Bench Press or Chest Dip H L
Incline Press or Jammer H L
Rows H L
Pulldowns or Pull-ups L H
Leg Curls L H
Four-way Neck Machine L H
Sit-ups, Twisting Sit-ups, or Leg Hip Raise L L L
  • Exercises are not necessarily performed in order listed
  • L (light): <80% 1RM
  • H (heavy): >80% 1RM

Also see:


Suggested Readings

Rhea MR, Ball SD, Phillips WT, Burkett LN., 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.

Rhea MR, Phillips WT, Burkett LN, Stone WJ, Ball SD, Alvar BA, Thomas AB., A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for local muscular endurance., J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Feb;17(1):82-7.

Hunter GR, Wetzstein CJ, McLafferty CL Jr, Zuckerman PA, Landers KA, Bamman MM. High-resistance versus variable-resistance training in older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Oct;33(10):1759-64.

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