Strength Plateau? Try Daily Changing Loads: In Advanced Trainees, A, B, C-Days W/ 15, 10, 5 Reps at 70, 80, 90% 1RM Boost 6-Week Strength Gains on All Major Lifts by ~40%

DCL, i.e. using daily changing loads worked for both, men and women.
The object of today's SuppVersity article comes almost from around the corner: a study conducted by Christoph Eifler, a scientist from the Department of Applied Training Science at the German University of Applied Sciences for Prevention and Health Management (DHfPG) in Saarbrücken (Germany) that is supposed to provide "evidence based training recommendations to the 8.55 million recreational athletes [who] perform fitness-related resistance training in German [gyms]" (Eifler. 2016) - advice that's valid for US boys & girls, Frenchmen & -women and even the Brexiters, too ;-)

As the relatively unspectacular abstract says, "[t]he purpose of this investigation was to analyze the short-term effects of different loading schemes in fitness-related resistance training and to identify the most effective loading method for advanced recreational athletes" (Eifler. 2016)... not exactly something other studies hadn't done before, right? Well, I agree, but...
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Not only was the study "designed as a longitudinal field-test study", it also included two hundred healthy mature subjects with at least 12 months experience in resistance training and 4 groups of 50 subjects, each (equal gender distribution), who were randomly assigned to train according to the following four load-schemes for six weeks (see Table 1 for a detailed breakdown):
  • constant load (CL) with constant volume of repetitions, 
  • increasing load (IL) with decreasing volume of repetitions, 
  • decreasing load (DL) with increasing volume of repetitions, 
  • daily changing load (DCL), and volume of repetitions 
As Eifel highlights, "[a]ll participants performed a standardized resistance training protocol" which comprised an entire resistance training protocol with 8 resistance training exercises for different muscle groups in a systematic and standardized order.
Table 1: Study design: constant and variable loading parameters | *TS = training session; CL = constant load; IL = increasing load; DL = decreasing load; DCL = daily changing load; 1RM = 1 repetition maximum (Eifel. 2016).
Exercise collocation and exercise order in pretest, posttest, and training period were, as Eifel highlights, chosen to be "representative as possible for a recreational resistance training program at commercial fitness clubs" (Eifel. 2016).
Where's the DEXA scanner? That's exactly the question Eifler probably asked himself when he did this field study... all jokes aside: Germany is a rich country, but we still don't have a DEXA at each gym. This is why "[i]n this investigation, training effects were exclusively quantified by testing strength performance (10RM, 1RM)", even though the author knows that "[m]ost clients of a commercial fitness club perform resistance training for preventive or aesthetic aspects" (Eifler. 2016). Ah,... and before you start complaining, I should remind you of the number and training experience of the subjects: N=200 advanced trainees - that gives the study an almost unique statistical power and high practical relevance for trainees like you and me.
More specifically, both, in testing and training, the following resistance training exercises were performed (in the given order): horizontal leg press, chest press, butterfly, lat pull-down, horizontal row, dumbbell shoulder press, cable triceps push-downs, and dumbbell biceps curls - all done on standard gym equipment from various manufacturers (Gym80, Technogym, Lifefitness, Panatta, Nautilus, Precor, David, Schnell, MedX by Delphex, Cybex, Ergofit, and Matrix) and/or with customary dumbbells.
Figure 1: Cumulated effect sizes (Cohen’s d) in 10RM & 1RM (Eifel. 2016); %-ages = rel. difference to DCL | * p < 0.05 for DCL vs. DL and IL & p < 0.001 for DCL vs. CL; p < 0.001 for the mean difference of DCL vs. others (Eifel. 2016).
Unsurprisingly, significant effects on muscle strength gains (p < 0.001) "could be noted for all resistance training exercises" (Eifel. 2016). What may not be that self-evident, on the other hand, is that Eifel also observed significant inter-group differences for both dependent variables (10RM, 1RM), with daily changing load (DCL, EDIT of which I previously falsely claimed that it was fundamentally different from undulating periodization, as it was assessed in e.g. Foschini. 2010; Monteiro. 2009; Rhea. 2002; Simão. 2012 - it's obviously the same, but with the order of the three workouts being reversed every week) in which the analysis of the effect sizes indicates "significantly higher strength gains (p < 0.001) than CL, IL, and DL.

It is furthermore worth mentioning that a comparison of constant, increased and decreasing load patterns did not yield any statistically significant differences. This is likewise an important result, because it explains why most previous studies indicate that changing the load scheme will not significantly affect the performance outcomes of resistance training protocols. After all, said studies mostly lacked a DCL scheme, i.e. a training program in which the loading patterns changed according to Table 1 on a daily basis (or rather from session to session).
Another alternative to try is classic pyramid training, I suggest that you (re-)read my 2012 article "Up & Down The Rack: Study Compares Strength & Size Gains from Good Old Double-Pyramid and Reverse Loading" which discusses a study that confirms its efficacy and suggests that especially the thighs will benefit.
"No gainz, bro?" I am quite certain that there were muscle gains in all subjects. They were just not evaluated in the study at hand (cf. red box). With that being said, the evidence that "resistance training following DCL is more effective for advanced recreational athletes than CL, IL, or DL" (Eifel. 2016), is conclusive enough to assume a similar advantage will exist for other study outcomes, including your beloved "gainz". After all, this well-powered study leaves no doubt that with DCL, which "is widely unknown in fitness-related resistance training", there's "potential for improving resistance training in commercial fitness clubs" (Eifel. 2016) - and let's be honest: isn't training w/ different reps / intensities sets (increasing load) on each workout and reversing the order of the days every week also more fun than classic linear periodization? Comment!
  • Foschini, Denis, et al. "Treatment of obese adolescents: the influence of periodization models and ACE genotype." Obesity 18.4 (2010): 766-772.
  • Eifler, C. Short-term effects of different loading schemes in fitness-related resistance training. J Strength Cond Res 30(7): 1880–1889, 2016
  • Monteiro, Artur G., et al. "Nonlinear periodization maximizes strength gains in split resistance training routines." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23.4 (2009): 1321-1326.
  • Rhea, Matthew R., et al. "A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength." The Journal of strength & conditioning research 16.2 (2002): 250-255.
  • Simão, Roberto, et al. "Comparison between nonlinear and linear periodized resistance training: hypertrophic and strength effects." The Journal of strength & conditioning research 26.5 (2012): 1389-1395.
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