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Undulating Sets

The term “undulate” can be defined as: to move with a sinuous or wavelike motion, or to display a smooth rising-and-falling or side-to-side alternation of movement. In undulating sets, the reps of an exercise increase or decrease from set to set—typically in an alternating fashion. For example:


75% 1.2.1
80% 2.1.2
85% 1.2.1
(rest as needed between sets)

The alternating rep scheme allows for a shift in focus between sets. A single at 85% of a 1rm snatch is very different than a double. The single allows for a slight mental break and a greater focus on execution. The doubles can be a bit more challenging, both mentally and metabolically. Undulating sets also permit more volume without committing fully to a higher number of reps or sets.

This flexibility allows for subtle manipulation of training volume. For instance:

Assuming a 100kg 1RM:

Training Session 1
75% 1.2.1 (4 reps – 300kg)
80% 2.1.2 (5 reps – 400kg)
85% 1.2.1 (4 reps – 340kg)
(Total of 13 reps – 1040kg)

Training Session 2
75% 2.1.2 (5 reps – 375kg)
80% 1.2.1 (4 reps – 320kg)
85% 2.1.2 (5 reps – 425kg)
(Total of 14 reps – 1120kg)

The training sessions are completed using the same weight. By shifting the number of reps, the second session increases the total reps from 13 to 14, and increases total load from 1040kg to 1120kg. This can be an effective way to overload the athlete by a relatively small amount.

Potential Progression Over Six Workouts
Workout 1
70% 1.2.1
75% 2.1.2
80% 1.2.1

Workout 2
70% 2.1.2
75% 1.2.1
80% 2.1.2

Workout 3
75% 1.2.1
80% 2.1.2
85% 1.2.1

Workout 4
75% 2.1.2
80% 1.2.1
85% 2.1.2

Workout 5
80% 1.2.1
85% 2.1.2

Workout 6
80% 2.1.2
85% 1.2.1
90% 2.1.2

Undulating Pyramids
This structure can be used to develop skill, develop speed, practice transitions and develop a good sense of work capacity. The placement of the lower rep sets between the higher rep sets allows for additional recovery and more practice at performing the first rep of a set.

For time:
Ring Muscle-ups
(Each set must be unbroken)

For time:
Strict Ring Muscle-ups
Deficit Strict Handstand Push-ups
(Alternate rounds with a partner)

Extreme Undulations
In this rep structure, weights will typically vary between sets. The objective of the workout below is to lift as much weight as possible on each set. The score can be calculated by totaling the overall weight used. This format combines heavy loads and muscular endurance. This can be useful for developing general fitness and becoming accustomed to lifting heavy loads in a state of fatigue.

For load:
(Rest as needed between sets)

In the case that an athlete used the following weights:

Their score would be

Undulating Sets and Wave Sets Can Be Combined
The following example undulates between 2 and 4 reps. It also alternates load between 75% and 85% of 1RM. This structure has the characteristic of “undulating reps” between sets. It also has a wave-based structure in that the athlete will work through the same sets several times. The sets of 2 reps at 75% focus on power development. The sets of 4 at 85% focus on strength. This structure alternates between power and strength.

Joe Kenn Wave
Bench Press
3 Waves
75% 1×2
85% 1×4


August Schmidt

-Bachelor of Science, Auburn University 1997
-Master of Education, Northern Arizona University 2005
-USA Weightlifting Club Coach 2001
-CrossFit Level 1 Instructor 2009
-USA Weightlifting National Coach 2012
-EVCF Regional Team Coach 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
-EVCF CrossFit Games Team Coach 2014
-Masters National Record Holder: Snatch 130kg & Total 287kg (105kg 40-44)
-5 x American Masters Weightlifting Champion
-5 x American Masters – Best Lifter (2 x 35-39yrs, 3 x 40-44yrs)
-3 x Masters Nationals Weightlifting Runner-up
-President of Arizona Weightlifting Federation – LWC 48, 2016-current

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