Though commonly referred to as “muscle confusion” or simply “mixing it up,” the concept of changing your workouts regularly to ramp up muscle growth actually has a scientific name: “daily undulating periodization,” or DUP. Studies show that DUP—changing the sets, reps, and loads you use each workout—prevents your body from ever adapting to your training, and forces consistent muscle growth.

That’s the approach we took this month to unstick your bench press and bulk-up your pecs. It’ll set you up for a new personal best in the lift in just three weeks. More muscle, less confusion.

How it works

To use DUP to increase strength, we're setting up three different workouts per week. You’ll do a “heavy day,” on which you’ll use heavy weights to stimulate your central nervous system and recruit maximum muscle mass. Then you’ll do a “volume day,” performing multiple sets with lighter loads to build work capacity. Finally, you’ll have a “power day,” during which you focus on pushing weights as quickly as possible to help you overcome any sticking points in your bench-press range-of-motion.

While more traditional programs like linear periodization, which prescribes starting with lighter weights and gradually going heavier over time, remain more popular, research has been showing DUP to be more beneficial. In fact, a University of Arizona study found it to be twice as effective as the linear approach for building subjects’ bench-press strength.

Directions

Perform each workout (Days I, II, or III) once a week. (You can do your lower-body training on the days in-between.) Complete all sets for one exercise before moving on. Note that the sets and reps for some exercises change weekly.