I was amped up.

Months of planning, preparation, and carefully designed programming had gone into this - all leading up to today.

And now, it was time to crush it. It was squat and deadlift testing day for my client Pete.

He'd put in the hard work for the last 8 weeks, following the block periodization program I'd crafted for him, and today was the day we saw the results of both our efforts.

Then, my phone rang.

"Mike - it's Pete. 

I'm sorry buddy, Julie's just been called into work, and I have to look after the kids. 

I can't believe I'm missing our test day, I'm gutted. 

Look, I'm out of town next week on business, but how about we pick things up again the week after, say Tuesday?"

My heart sunk.

To Pete, it was a missed session. To me, it was a disaster. A whole training block ruined in seconds.

Pete would come back from his business trip, and would start training again. But that week-and-a-bit between the peaking phase and our next session was a killer.

There'd be no point testing his maxes after 10 days of no training.

That'd mean a whole block of training out the window.

A Brief Summary

sample training plan template | thePTDC | strength training periodization

Block periodization - the kind of programming I had Pete doing - involves dividing training into different sections.

Typically you start with a 4-6 week introductory block, where reps are higher, and weight is lower, and you'd use a wide variety of exercises.

A squat session for instance could look something like -

1. Squats - 5 x 8-10 @ 70% 1RM

2. Paused Squats - 6 x 3 @ 65% 1RM

3. Split Squats - 3 x [email protected] RPE 7

4. Cable Pull-throughs - 3 x 10-12 @ RPE 7

5. Standing Calf Raises - 5 x 12-15 @ RPE 8

You'd then add a little weight, or sets, or reps through the next 3-5 weeks.

The intensification phase ramps things up a gear in terms of weight, so you may get -

1.Squats - 4 x 5-8 @ 75-80% 1RM

2. Safety Bar Squats - 4 x 5 @ 80% 1RM

3. Reverse Lunges - 3 x 10-12 @ RPE 8

4. Calves - 5 x 8-10 @ RPE 9

Another 3-5 weeks of increasing load, sets, reps, or even RPE and you'd move on to the peaking phase for a week or two -

1. Squat - Test some kind of rep maximum (1, 3, 5 rep max, etc.)

2. Front Squats - 3 x 4-6 @ 80%

3. Lunges - 3 x 6-8 @ RPE 9

4. Calves - 4 x 8-10 @ RPE 9.5

A week or two there, then a deload, and you'd be back into another accumulation/ introductory phase, where you might increase your training maxes, or use another variation as your main lift. 

Those who make training come first will nail EVERY session in an accumulation block, EVERY session during the intensification phase, and then crush the realization/peaking phase.

But clients who have jobs, families, and priorities outside the gym can't make such a commitment. Nor will they may understand how a skipped workout can throw their whole pre-planned progression model into a spin.

As trainers, it's our responsibility to make sure our clients get outstanding results. That means block periodization is no longer the best way to program.

The Program for EVERY Client 

I recently found a paper by a guy named Mike Zourdos.

Zourdos had been researching Daily Undulating Periodization, or DUP.

To me, it looked fairly rudimentary, and almost far too basic.

The premise was that you trained only a few select exercises, and trained them multiple times per week, using different rep and set ranges, and different loads and intensities every workout.

This screamed one thing - overtraining.

The more I read though, the more I understood, and the picture became clearer.

  • Because of the nature of DUP (i.e. blending low, medium and high intensity workouts) you rarely train to complete fatigue or failure, meaning overtraining and over-reaching do not occur.
  • The set up is so simple. Unlike typical block periodization, you don't need a load of different accessory exercises.
  • By practicing a lift more frequently, you become far more skilled in it, and therefore, far stronger.
  • A missed session isn't an issue - there's no "set schedule" for a week, so tweaking a session's placement within a block, and even training on consecutive days won't hamper progress.
  • DUP is not one set routine. It can be varied so clients train two, three, four, five or six times per week. (You could even set them up with one or seven sessions if it was called for.)
  • Contrary to popular belief, DUP doesn't require anyone to do squats, deadlifts and bench presses. You can use it with any exercises.

That means if you have clients who aren't as mobile, have injury issues, or aren't comfortable on certain exercises, you could go with front squats, dumbbell presses and block pulls, or safety bar squats, overhead presses and trap bar deads - anything you see fit.

Above everything else though, what appealed to me was this - the programming was so easy, it would mean that clients could train without me.

Trainers can often get caught in a trap, whereby they feel they need clients to be reliant on them, otherwise, they fear the client will become too independent, and won't need their services any more.

To me though, I'd much rather educate the people I train, so that they feel comfortable going into the gym on their own and getting a proper workout in. And if one day they turn round to me, and say that they have enough knowledge, and enough motivation to go it alone, in my mind, that means I've done my job as a coach.

Additionally, from a selfish point of view - DUP is much quicker for trainers to program.

That means your clients still get results, but you spend less time planning and pouring over spread sheets.

An Example: 

We've established the premise of DUP -

  • Different intensities/ rep ranges within a block
  • Volume increases week by week and cycle to cycle
  • Lifts are usually trained multiple times per week
  • Limited exercise selection to improve skill-specific competency
  • Accessory sessions can be added as and when required

Here's a rough outline of a block, where a client may train the big lifts three times per week -

We'll use the typical rep ranges of

Strength = 3-6 reps @ 80% + 1RM

Hypertrophy = 6-10 reps @ 70-85% 1RM

Endurance = 10-12+ reps @ <75% 1RM

Day 1

Exercise Sets Reps Load Category
Squat 5 4 80% 1RM Strength
Trap Bar Deadlift 4 7 75% 1RM Hyper
Incline Bench Press 3 10 70% 1RM Endurance
Overhead Press 5 5 RPE 9 Accessory

 Day 2

Exercise Sets Reps Load Category
Incline Bench Press 5 4 80% 1RM Strength
Squat 4 7 75% 1RM Hyper
Trap Bar Deadlift 3 10 70% 1RM Endurance
Barbell Row 5 5 RPE 9 Accessory

 Day 3

Exercise Sets Reps Load Category
Trap Bar Deadlift 5 4 80% 1RM Strength
Incline Bench Press 4 7 75% 1RM Hyper
Squat 3 10 70% 1RM Endurance
Overhead Press 3 8 RPE 8 Accessory

 Accessory Day (To be done once or twice a week)

Exercise Sets Reps Load
Chin-Up or Pull-Down 4 8-10 RPE 8-9
Machine or Cable Rows 4 8-10 RPE 8-9
Face Pulls 3 12-15 RPE 8-9
Lateral Raises 3 12-15 RPE 8-9
Curls 3 10-12 RPE 8-9
Pushdowns 3 10-12 RPE 8-9
Calves 3 10-12 RPE 8-9

Editor's note:

Thought that I'd throw in a great deadflift tutorial here because it's such an important exercise to master:

How to deadlift properlyFor Personal Trainers, the deadlift is an exercise most of your clients will benefit from doing, covering a wide range of training goals from fat loss, to strength, to hypertrophy.It can also be one of the harder exercises to get your clients to understand, since the 'hip hinge' movement is used so much less than quad-dominant, knee flexion type in day to day life.This video from coach Tony Gentilcore explains how to set up for a deadlift properly, highlighting common errors and fixes that you can use in your next session.======This video is property of Tony Gentilcore and is used with permission. Learn More about Tony at www.tonygentilcore.com=========To learn more about the PTDC, go here:http://www.theptdc.com/about-us/

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Monday, May 4, 2015


Progressing is simple.

As above, the main way you're going to look to increase your or your client's strength and performance is by increasing volume week to week.

So for instance, if this set up was for the first week of your program, week two could involve any of the following -

  • Adding weight (either by using a slightly higher percentage to calculate your working weights, or by adding 5-10 lbs to week 1's weight.)
  • Adding a rep per set while staying within the strength/hyper/endurance range numbers.
  • Performing an extra set.
  • Making your last set on your strength exercise an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) one, where you get as many good quality repetitions as you can.

Find another way to progress in weeks 3 and 4, then take a deload. 

"So this is "The DUP" Routine?" 


The one big mistake many people make is thinking that DUP is a set routine.

It isn't - there are literally thousands (if not potentially millions) of ways you can vary this to suit your clients' needs.

You could introduce a power rep range for example, step up to four or five sessions per week, use sub-maximal work, or even just use a DUP structure for one or two lifts.

Just as an example, if you had a client who wanted to train for lower body hypertrophy, but increase their bench press max, you could do something like -

Day 1 

Exercise Sets Reps Load Category
Squat 4 8 75% 1RM Hyper
Deadlift 7 7 75% 1RM Hyper
Bench Press 6 1 90% 1RM Power

Day 2 

Exercise Sets Reps Load Category
Deadlift 5 3 (with an AMRAP on set 5) 85% 1RM Strength
Squat 3 10 70% 1RM Hyper
Bench Press 4 5 80% 1RM Strength

 Day 3

Exercise Sets Reps Load Category
Squat 5 3 (with an AMRAP on set 5) 85% 1RM Strength
Deadlift 3 10 70% 1RM Hyper
Bench Press 5 3 (with an AMRAP on set 5) 85% 1RM Strength

Editor's Note:

Here's a video going over 3 common mistakes with chin ups to help get the most out of the exercise:

3 Common Faults with Chin Ups... So in order to do a correct one, well, you're not doing any of these 3 things.Want more?Improve and master chin ups and chin up instruction with this article from James: http://www.theptdc.com/2015/01/do-you-want-to-improve-and-master-pull-ups/---This video is used with permission from James Cerbie of Rebel Performance

Posted by Personal Trainer Development Center on Saturday, January 17, 2015

Don't get me wrong - block periodization can work, and messing up the peaking phase slightly won't throw all your hard work down the drain - it's just not an optimal way to program for busy clients.

I've now introduced DUP with 75% of my training clients, and the results have been pretty impressive. I teach more about DUP in my course, The DUP Method.