DUP – The Most Efficient Way to Build Muscle?

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How to use DUP to build muscle…

DUP may well go completely against the way you’ve been training or how you have been told to train to build size. DUP is pretty much the antithesis to the typical bro split. Rather than trashing a muscle group once per week you will hit it multiple times.

I believe that using the principles of DUP can help you to maximise your progress. Training following a DUP set-up will allow you build muscle in the most efficient manner possible.

What is DUP?

Given you are reading this then i’m assuming you are on the search for an optimal way to continue progressing in the gym. I’m guessing you are pretty well read when it comes to training and you are already at a decent strength/muscularity level.

Because of this you are probably aware of the term periodisation. Well DUP stands for Daily Undulating Periodisation.

The concept of DUP is relatively simple. Simply looking at each individual component tells the story…

Daily – Every day you train

Undulating – Sets/reps/intensity waves up and down

Periodisation- The long-term plan you use to progress towards your goals

What that all means is that you have a long-term plan which waves training loads, reps, sets and intensities up and down on a daily basis.

In practical terms a DUP routine will have you performing a core group of exercises, multiple times a week, with different rep ranges. So, day one might be 3×10, day two 4×8 and day three 5×6.

Quick Rant Alert!

Many people have become very dogmatic about what DUP is. They seem to think you have to squat, bench and deadlift if training using DUP. You must train 3 days a week on DUP. They believe DUP is just for strength. They think there is such a thing as THE DUP. This is all wrong! DUP is not a one-off fixed, set, pre-planned routine. It is a periodisation concept with almost endless variants within it’s overarching concept.

Rant over…on to the good stuff!

DUP allows you to achieve the following:

Train with a variety of reps ranges.

Train with a variety of intensities.

Train a muscle group multiple times a week.

To focus on a limited number of the biggest bang for your buck exercises.

To work both maximally and sub-maximally.

To train for hypertrophy, power and strength within one week.

If desired to train for power and strength within one session.

Program periods of controlled overreaching

What’s all the fuss about DUP?

Periodization has been around in the sports science community a while now. It was originated in the 1950’s by Russian physiologist Leo Matveyev.


The word periodization simply means…

“Planned manipulation of training variables to maximise adaptations” (Buford et al., 2007)


There are various forms of periodisation such as, linear, reverse linear, block, undulating, conjugate, and of course, DUP.

Firstly, it is important to note that any form of periodisation is superior to none. Various studies have found strong and significant effect sizes of periodisation.

Note. Effect size is a simple way of quantifying the difference between two groups that has many advantages over the use of tests of statistical significance alone. Effect size emphasises the size of the difference rather than confounding this with sample size.

Even more importantly, recent research indicates undulating models of periodisation have also shown superiority to traditional linear or block models (Rhea, 2002 & Williams et al., 2017).



These positive effects are likely more pronounced in intermediate or advanced trainees. AKA people like you. Once you reach intermediate/advanced training status progress is much harder to come by and periodisation is crucial to maximising your results.

As I alluded to in my earlier rant many people get caught up in black or white thinking. Yes or no, this or that, heavy versus light weights, clean or dirty foods, linear or undulating periodisation. Periodisation shouldn’t be viewed this way.

Dr Zourdos In Action

I recently attended a seminar by Dr Mike Zourdos (for a quick intro to DUP from the man himself go here). He is one of the worlds leading researchers on periodisation and a proponent of DUP. During his presentation Mike was keen to point out you don’t have to choose between linear or DUP. Instead combine the best of both. He highlights that while most of his programming undulates on a daily basis it is linear on a macro (overall) level.

Volume Undulates Down and Intensity Undualtes Upward in a Linear Fashion – AKA Undulating Linear Periodiation

So, you’ve heard a lot about the benefits of DUP and an overview of what is involved. To help illustrate how a DUP training program can be set-up here is an example week:

Monday – Hypertrophy at 4×8

Wednesday – Power at 5×6

Friday – Strength at 6×4

As you can see the sets, reps, and, therefore, intensities vary from day to day. In this example, the order is hypertrophy, power, strength (HPS).

The sequence of HPS has been found to result in greater overall volume and strength gains than a HSP sequence. This is likely due to the fact you are really fatigued from the hypertrophy day so having the lighter power day in between allows the fatigue to dissipate somewhat in time for you to give a good effort on your strength day. Conversely, if you follow the hypertrophy day with a strength day you are just too beaten up to put in a good performance.

Based on the weight of evidence it seems a really good idea to follow a HPS sequence if you choose to implement DUP in your training.

Progression of DUP over time:

In general the undulation pattern decreases by 1 or 2 reps from block to block. For example:

Block 1

3×10 4×8 5×6
Block 2 3×9 4×7 5×5
Block 3 3×8 4×6



Block 1 3×10 4×8 5×6
Block 2 3×8 4×6 5×4
Block 3 3×6 4×4 5×2

As reps gradually drop by 1 or 2 per block, RPE does the opposite and increase gradually from block to block so it might end up looking like this:

Block 1 3×10 @ 5-7RPE 4×8 @ 5-7RPE 5×6 @ 5-7RPE
Block 2 3×8 @ 6-8RPE 4×6 @ 6-8RPE 5×4 @ 6-8RPE
Block 3 3×6 @ 7-9RPE 4×4 @ 7-9RPE  5×2 @ 7-9RPE

Example Volume Block Courtesy of Dr Zourdos (Goal RPE across block is 5-8)

Week Monday Wednesday Friday
1 4×8 @ 70% 5×6 @75% 6×4 @ 80%
2 4×8 + 5kg 5×6 + 5kg 6×4 + 5kg
3 4×7 + 2.5kg 5×5 + 2.5kg 6×3 + 2.5kg
4 4×7 + 2.5kg 5×5 + 2.5kg 6×3 + 2.5kg

Now this is how the block might look if using RPE to set load and progression:

Week Monday Wednesday Friday
1 4×8 @ 5-7RPE 5×6 @ 5-7RPE 6×4 @ 5-7RPE
2 4×8 @ 5-7RPE 5×6 @ 5-7RPE 6×4 @ 5-7RPE
3 4×7 @ 6-8RPE 5×5 @6-8RPE 6×3 @ 6-8RPE
4 4×7 @ 6-8RPE 5×5 @6-8RPE 6×3 @ 6-8RPE

You’ll notice the RPE are relatively low for a lot of that phase. Well it was listed as a prep phase volume block during the presentation, indicating that it was early in the periodisation scheme and would be built upon. As a result, the RPEs are low to allow for a  high volume of training without accumulating excess fatigue as the lifter becomes accustomed to the volume of work. In the next phase you might choose to challenge them by pushing the volume a fraction higher and/or increasing the average RPE.

As a general rule RPEs in volume blocks are lower than in intensity blocks. Dr Zourdos provided these guidelines:

RPE in volume blocks = 5-8

RPE in intensity blocks = 7-10

You might be asking yourself why this is the case. Well, in a volume block the key driver of adaptation is overall training volume. Using higher RPEs in this phase might allow you to do more work in the first set, but will cause higher levels of fatigue and cause you to possibly do less volume per session. Also, woking super hard at high RPEs in a volume hypertrophy session will accumulate ungodly amounts of fatigue and limit the amount of you can do in later sessions that week. As a result, your overall weekly volume suffers and you are not getting the benefits the volume block is supposed to be delivering.

So be smart about how you spread overall volume through the week and how you use RPE to maximise volume over time.

Conversely, in an intensity block it is intensity which is driving adaptations. As a result, you want to be handling weights close to your max, keeping volume under wraps a little and focusing on quality over quantity. As a result, RPEs in a volume block are that bit higher.

DUP Just For Strength?

A lot of the work on DUP has been done with strength outcomes in mind. Dr Zourdos did, however, outline how the concepts of DUP applied to training for size. Simply put, volume is prioritised over intensity (this makes perfect sense and you can read why here).

So, if size is your goal you would train with more volume blocks compared to intensity blocks. E.g.,

Block Focus if Hypertrophy

is Goal

Hypertrophy Hypertrophy Strength Hypertrophy Hypertrophy Strength

You may also bias the ratio of your days from a 1:1:1 HPS ratio to a 2:1:1. E.g.,

Week 1 Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Week 2 Hypertrophy Power Hypertrophy
Week 3 Strength Hypertrophy Hypertrophy
Week 4 Hypertrophy Power Hypertrophy

The options are basically endless. The key is to use the concepts to build a plan which is specific to your goals and allows you to progressively overload the body.

Just to emphasis that DUP is not only for strength training Dr Zourdos discussed how he planned Brian Whitacre’s training as he prepped for the WNBF and IFPA world championships (which he won). That’s a pretty big indicator DUP is applicable to physique goals!

Brian Whitacre – Proof DUP Can Help To Build a Great Physique

Firstly, he outlined that Brian had some injuries that meant squatting wasn’t possible. Brian used Hack Squats instead. This proves two things:

  1. You don’t have to squat to build big legs
  2. You don’t have to squat on a DUP plan (in fact, you don’t have to bench or deadlift either despite what many keyboard warriors will tell you.)

Secondly, he explained that due to work and family commitments Brian could only train 4 days a week. So, an incredible physique can be built without having to live in the gym.  There is hope for busy people!

Without giving the whole programme away here is an overview of how he had Brian training:

  1. Trained 4 days a week
  2. Trained each body part 3 days a week
  3. Split training in the following manner: Day 1 & 2 – Whole Body, Day 3 – Upper Push, Day 4 – Legs & Upper Pull
  4. The last set of each exercise was almost always close to failure (8-9 RPE).
  5. While there was an emphasis on big compound movements, isolation exercises for most body parts. were included (e.g., leg extensions, leg curls, biceps curls, lateral raises etc.)

Right, we have established that DUP is an extremely effective approach to planning your training. It is backed by scientific results and real world results. So, how should you set-up an effective DUP program to build size?

Here is a template I like to use:

Week 1


A Squats, 3×10

B Legpress, 3×12

C Leg Curls, 3×10

D BB RDLs, 3×12,

E Calf Raise, 3×12

F1 Biceps Curl, 2×12

F2 DB Lateral Raise 2×12


A Bench Press, 3×10

B Inc DB Bench, 3×12

C Pull-Ups, 3×8

D Seated Rows, 3×10

E Upright Rows, 2×15

F1 Biceps Curls, 2×8

F2 Rope Pressdowns, 2×10


A Squats, 4×8

B Legpress, 4×10

C Leg Curls, 4×8

D BB RDLs, 4×10

E Calf Raise, 3×10

F1 Biceps Curl, 2×6

F2 DB Lateral Raise 2×8


A Bench Press, 4×8

B Inc DB Bench, 3×10

C Pull-Ups, 4×6

D Seated Rows, 4×8

E Upright Rows, 2×10

F1 Biceps Curls, 2×12

F2 Rope Pressdowns, 2×8

Week 2:


A Squats, 5×6

B Legpress, 4×8

C Leg Curls, 5×6

D BB RDLs, 4×8

E Calf Raise, 3×8

F1 Biceps Curl, 3×5

F2 DB Lateral Raise 3×6


A Bench Press, 5×6

B Inc DB Bench, 4×8

C Pull-Ups, 5×5

D Seated Rows, 5×6

E Upright Rows, 2×8

F1 Biceps Curls, 2×10

F2 Rope Pressdowns, 2×6


Repeat cycle starting with week 1 Monday…

Now just to re-iterate the above is not the DUP. It is not the only way to set-up a DUP plan, it is not even the only way to set-up a DUP plan for hypertrophy while training 4 days a week. It is simply a template that adheres to the principles of DUP which I have found to be particularly useful with several clients.

Feel free to give it a try as it is laid out if you want to pack on some muscle training 4 days a week. Alternatively, if 4 days a week doesn’t suit your schedule or you don’t have access to some of the equipment required just tweak the plan while staying true to the overarching concepts of DUP. If you do that then you will have learned a particularly useful programming methodology and how to manipulate it to suit yours or your clients need.

That was all IMHO FYI, from FWFW. So, good luck OD’ing on the DUP, don’t keep this on the DL, please share it with anyone you think it might help. Don’t keep them NFI to the DUP party. After all YOLO!


Want help with your own programming?

Go here.

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12 Week Periodised Training Plan, Auto-Correcting Diet Calc & Training Log Sheets all for £14.99


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