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Get New Size and Strength With Wave Loading

7307-smart1Q: I’ve heard the term wave loading tossed around the gym. What is it?

A: With a wave-loading cycle you work up to a maximum weight for a specific number of reps, back down in weight for one or more sets and then back up again to even heavier weights. Especially effective with elite athletes, this method enables you to handle heavier weights than you could otherwise.

I saw an elite weightlifter who competed in the lighter bodyweight classes use this method with front squats. On his first wave during the workout he barely completed 350 pounds, but after several waves he was able to lift 413!

Although you would think that an athlete would be tired after such a first wave, what happens is that the undulation of intensity stimulates the nervous system in such a manner that it allows you to use heavier weights as the workout progresses—so much for that kooky idea of achieving maximum overload with just one set!

To show you an example of this method, let’s say a male powerlifter can bench-press 400 pounds. His wave-loading cycle might progress as follows:


First wave: 135 x 5, 225 x 3, 315 x 3, 355 x 2, 375 x 2, 390 x 1, miss 400

Second wave: 325 x 3, 365 x 2, 385 x 2, 400 x 1, miss 405

Third wave: 335 x 3, 390 x 2, 405 x 1

As a side note, if this athlete had used small magnetic weights [such as PlateMates, available at]on the second wave, he could have made a personal record of 400.5 pounds, thereby psyching himself up for the 405 (or more) on the next wave.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad in this issue.   IM


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