December 08, 2023 2 min read


Wave Periodization

Wave Periodization is a training setup that involves increasing intensity (percent of 1RM) on a frequent basis to a top “overreaching” week, before reducing the weight and starting the wave over again with some kind of overload applied. In other words, building up in weight, then back down, and back up again, for multiple “waves”. When graphed out, this resembles a wave in the ocean. The reduction in intensity acts as a sort of natural deload for the lifter, potentially allowing for longer periods of training without full deloading being necessary.

This style of periodization originated in Eastern Europe through the works of the great strength coaches like Medvedev, Bumpa, Arosiev and used extensively by weightlifting powerhouse Vasily Alexeyev. This approach aims to prevent accommodation (where a lifter gets weaker after too much exposure to the same movement or load) to a movement or load by having such frequent changes, even if they are small.

The frequency of change can vary, though it is most common to change weekly for 3-4 weeks. The percent of change can also vary week to week, though usually it is constrained to a 10-15% bracket. Anything much bigger starts to become more of an Undulating (or Non-Linear) Periodization approach. Each increase in intensity can keep reps the same or drop the reps to accommodate the higher weight. The dropback load can then increase or the volume at the same load can increase, i.e. 4 sets to 5, or 8 reps to 9, etc.

Some programs that use wave periodization include Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, Juggernaut method, The Cube Method, The Sports Palace System, and Westside Barbell speed work.

A simple wave program might be laid out like this:

Week 1: 4x6 @75%
Week 2: 4x5 @80%
Week 3 4x4 @85%
Week 4: 4x6 @75% +5-10lbs or 5x6
Week 5: 4x5 @80% +5-10lbs or 5x5

This is not to be confused with wave loading, which is a system used within a training session and is not a form of periodization, though it can be combined with wave periodization (or other forms) to be effective in that regard.



    • Less boring than other plans
    • Regular exposure to heavier loads
    • Great for strong lifters who need more recovery
    • Easy to progress
    • Hard to plan correctly for potentiation 
    • Not the best for beginners 
    • Easy to do too much


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