Wave loading is a training technique that originates from Eastern Europe. It varies the loading to allow adaptation to the stimulus and thus; improves performance. It can be used during a session, over the course of the week and long-term as well. This article will give examples of all three methods of wave loading.

Wave loading is best used for strength development. A classic example is performing 3 sets with progressively heavier weights. Each sets the reps drop eg. 5/3/1. Once you have completed the set of 1 you drop back down to 5 reps but at a sightly heavier weight than the first set. You then build up again, each time heavier than the previous sets. It is common to perform 2-3 waves. Some coaches, however recommend repeating until you can’t increase the load. The theory is that the heavy set potentiates the nervous system. So when you begin the next wave you can lift heavier for the 5 rep set. For strength-endurance, Verkhoshansky recommends 12/10/7, 12/10/7 beginning at 70/75/80% of 1RM.

Many strength coaches use wave loading on a weekly basis without even knowing it. Some call it Daily Undulating Periodisation. Mark Rippetoe and Pavel Tsatsouline are two strength coaches who have popularised the approach. It’s more simply known as the Heavy, Light, Medium approach. Rippetoe’s Texas Method is a great example of this. Monday is Heavy day where there is high volume (5×5). This is followed by Wednesday, which is a Light day. This allows recovery from the Heavy day but also an opportunity to practice technique. Finally, Friday is Medium day where there is low volume but a higher intensity. Following the light day the athlete should be fresh to lift heavy and their technique sharp. Over the weekend the athlete can recover from the Medium easily. This is an effective approach and is mentally stimulating from the variety.

The best example of long-term wave loading is Pavel’s Power to the People program. it is a simple program that entails performing 2 sets of 5 reps 5 days a week. All you do is increase the load each day and concentrate on perfect technique. At some point you won’t be able to increase the load and you will drop it back down. But yeah you guessed it, you drop it to slightly heavier than when you began. When you build up this time you should go heavier again then drop back again. Each time you will go a little heavier then drop back. Over time you will be increasing the load and over a duration that allows your body to adapt.

There you go, 3 ways you can use wave loading to help you get stronger. try applying some of these methods to your training and watch those number go up! Let me know your results in the comments below.

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