Concurrent Strategies in Strength Training

FIRST PUBLISHED ON ELITEFTS.COM INC IN 2008

AUTHOR: Mladen Jovanovic

Concurrent training by definition means training to achieve multiple training goals at the same time. Concurrent training in the iron game was made popular by the Westside Barbell Club and Louie Simmons, who erroneously called it “conjugate’ (which is a term coined by Yuri Verkhoshanski to describe a method that utilizes a delayed training effect, training residuals, and other fancy adaptational terms) instead of concurrent. Parallel and mixed training are synonymous with concurrent.

Why is concurrent training such a hot topic lately? Because, in theory, when you utilize sequential training (traditional or linear training), you constantly move away from the qualities you’ve just developed, and going by the rule “use it or lose it,” you start detraining those qualities (if there is no maintenance work aimed at maintaining those qualities).

Block training (conjugate training or the conjugate sequence system), which was developed by Yuri Verkhoshanski, is a special form of sequential training organized into blocks. Each block is aimed at producing strong, delayed training effects by utilizing concentrated loading (which induces overreaching). The blocks are “conjugated” into specific sequences so the training residuals and delayed training effects are maximally used at the most important time of the year (competition period, meets, matches, etc.).

On the other hand, concurrent training tries to develop all important qualities at the same time. This approach, as any other, has its own pros and cons. The biggest advantage of the concurrent approach is the parallel development of all qualities. The biggest disadvantage is after some time (or with the most advanced athletes), you simply can’t develop all of the important qualities at the same time without risking overtraining and limiting potential training effects.

This is where a modification of concurrent training comes into play. The modification is simple and is based on training emphasis. You still train all of the qualities, but you emphasize only a few of them while maintaining others. Then you switch. In my previous articles, I confused this modification of concurrent training (emphasis methods) with the conjugate sequence system and block training. That was my mistake. Although it is very similar to block training, it is not block training, nor is it the conjugate or conjugate sequence system. It is modified concurrent training.

This little rant of mine is aimed at “solving” (or confusing you even more) this concurrent versus conjugate problem, which is the topic of this article—concurrent strategies in strength training. So stay with me because the fun is just about to start.

Basically, there are numerous goals that can be achieved with strength training. Depending on the author, there can be a different number of goals with different names for them. For the sole purpose of this article, I will define those goals, mostly relying on Westside terminology.

Maximal and relative strength

  • The goal is the development of maximal strength.
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the maximal effort (ME) method.

Explosive strength

  • The goal is the development of explosive strength or the ability to produce great force in the least amount of time.
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the dynamic effort (DE) method.

Muscular hypertrophy

  • The goal is the development of muscular hypertrophy (without going into the debate about sarcoplasmatic versus myofibrilar hypertrophy).
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the submaximal effort (SE) method (mostly for functional or myofibrilar hypertrophy) and the repetition effort (RE) method (mostly for total or sarcoplasmatic hypertrophy).

Muscular endurance

  • The goals are muscular endurance development, fat loss, anatomic adaptation, and sarcoplasmatic hypertrophy (depending on the context). Some also put vascularization, glycogen depletion, and mitochondria development as goals for this method.
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the repetition effort (RE) method.

As you can see, even in this classification, there are conflicting areas regarding the goals and methods used. I know this classification can be criticized, broadened, and reduced, but it’s useful for the purpose of this article, which is to describe how to use the different concurrent schemes to develop all of those goals at the same time. (And time is a very relative term. Just ask Einstein.)

Achieving these four goals (and thus motor qualities) is based on utilizing the different loading protocols (weight, reps, sets, tempo, rest) or methods. Each of the four methods (ME, SE, DE, and RE) utilizes different loading protocols. This is based on the repetition continuum or the idea that different goals can be achieved utilizing different reps per set. There is a dynamic interaction between the variables of reps, sets, and loads. The load used (percentage of 1RM) ultimately determines how many reps per set are done. The reps per set used (or set time) ultimately determines how many total sets must be done. The interaction between the three will affect what adaptation is realized. Although not all authorities agree, some believe that there is a continuum of adaptations, which may occur with different repetition sets. This continuum is called the repetition continuum.

According to Christian Thibaudeau (one of the coaches who’s had much influence on my philosophy), this repetition continuum changes as the athlete advances. Here is the modified table from The Black Book of Training Secrets—Enhanced Edition.

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

Strength (ME)

5–9 reps/set

3–7 reps/set

1–5 reps/set

Functional hypertrophy (SE)

10–12 reps/set

8–10 reps/set

6–8 reps/set

Total hypertrophy (RE)

13–16 reps/set

11–14 reps/set

9–12 reps/set

Strength endurance (RE)

17–24 + reps/set

15–22 + reps/set

13–20 + reps/set

Another repetition continuum is presented by Lyle McDonald. Here is a modified classification of loading protocols (motor qualities) from his article, “Periodization for Bodybuilders.” (It can be downloaded from Lyle’s website at www.bodyrecomposition.com.)

Type of training

Reps (%1RM)

Rest

Tempo

Time under tension (TUT)

Strength training (ME)

1–5 (85% +)

3–5 min

3/0/X

20 sec or less

Intensive bodybuilding (SE)

4–6 (80–85%)

2–3 min

3–4/0/1

20–30 sec

Extensive bodybuilding (RE)

6–8 (75–80%)

10–15 (70–75%)

1–2 min

1–2 min

3/0/2

3/0/2

30–40 sec

40–60 sec

Really extensive bodybuilding (RE)

n/a (60–65%)

1 min

2/0/2

60–120 sec

Here is the repetition continuum from James Smith, author of High/Low Sequences of Programming and Organizing Training.

ME → (+ 90%) 1–3RM depending on strength preparedness

SE → (80–90%) 4–7RM depending on strength preparedness, 4–10 repetition range

RE → (<80%) + 8RM, >8 repetitions

DE → (up to 80% for Olympic lifts/derivatives; up to 70% for classic powerlifts/derivatives)

As I pointed out earlier, each author utilizes slightly different classifications. However, look for the common denominator. Every one of them classified the goal that they wanted to reach (motor quality), the method they used to reach it, and the loading protocol that determines that method (based on the repetition continuum).

But guess what? Different people respond differently to rep ranges. Some may “grow” by doing triples and doubles (three and two reps per set with 2RM and 3RM loads) and some may grow doing 15 sets. You won’t grow if you don’t eat though. The same goes for strength. Some may increase their strength by doing maxes while some may increase it by doing six sets. As coach Thibaudeau pointed out, those responses depend on the athlete’s level. However, I’d like to add that it depends on the athlete’s characteristics (muscle fiber dominance) and nutritional status (caloric deficit, maintenance or deficit level, amount of protein and carbs). You may grow doing 5 X 5 or you may not. It depends on how much you eat, what other training you are doing, how you are sleeping, and many other factors.

What is the point of this? The point is that I am NOT negating the existence of the repetition continuum, but rather I am trying to point out that it must be put into context (other training, athlete’s characteristics, nutritional status, recovery). With the concurrent approach to strength training, you are doing all of the mentioned methods (maybe not all of them depending on your philosophy) and you’re trying to develop all of the qualities at the same time. It is possible to develop muscular hypertrophy and strength, but it is nearly impossible (except for fat beginners and those coming from a long lay off) to develop strength and lose fat. And it’s even more impossible to lose fat and increase muscle mass.

This is why I said that things must be put into context and they must be goal oriented for a given athlete. These problems are universal to other methods as well (sequential, alternating). They don’t solely cause issues for just the concurrent method. The concurrent method solves some drawbacks of the sequential method (“use it or lose it” law) and utilizes the “crossover” effect between methods.

What I mean by the “crossover” effect is that doing ME training will increase the number of reps or weight used during RE and SE training, and RE and SE training will produce different stimuli to the muscles and central nervous system (variety) as well as increase

FIRST PUBLISHED ON ELITEFTS.COM INC IN 2008

AUTHOR: Mladen Jovanovic

Concurrent training by definition means training to achieve multiple training goals at the same time. Concurrent training in the iron game was made popular by the Westside Barbell Club and Louie Simmons, who erroneously called it “conjugate’ (which is a term coined by Yuri Verkhoshanski to describe a method that utilizes a delayed training effect, training residuals, and other fancy adaptational terms) instead of concurrent. Parallel and mixed training are synonymous with concurrent.

Why is concurrent training such a hot topic lately? Because, in theory, when you utilize sequential training (traditional or linear training), you constantly move away from the qualities you’ve just developed, and going by the rule “use it or lose it,” you start detraining those qualities (if there is no maintenance work aimed at maintaining those qualities).

Block training (conjugate training or the conjugate sequence system), which was developed by Yuri Verkhoshanski, is a special form of sequential training organized into blocks. Each block is aimed at producing strong, delayed training effects by utilizing concentrated loading (which induces overreaching). The blocks are “conjugated” into specific sequences so the training residuals and delayed training effects are maximally used at the most important time of the year (competition period, meets, matches, etc.).

On the other hand, concurrent training tries to develop all important qualities at the same time. This approach, as any other, has its own pros and cons. The biggest advantage of the concurrent approach is the parallel development of all qualities. The biggest disadvantage is after some time (or with the most advanced athletes), you simply can’t develop all of the important qualities at the same time without risking overtraining and limiting potential training effects.

This is where a modification of concurrent training comes into play. The modification is simple and is based on training emphasis. You still train all of the qualities, but you emphasize only a few of them while maintaining others. Then you switch. In my previous articles, I confused this modification of concurrent training (emphasis methods) with the conjugate sequence system and block training. That was my mistake. Although it is very similar to block training, it is not block training, nor is it the conjugate or conjugate sequence system. It is modified concurrent training.

This little rant of mine is aimed at “solving” (or confusing you even more) this concurrent versus conjugate problem, which is the topic of this article—concurrent strategies in strength training. So stay with me because the fun is just about to start.

Basically, there are numerous goals that can be achieved with strength training. Depending on the author, there can be a different number of goals with different names for them. For the sole purpose of this article, I will define those goals, mostly relying on Westside terminology.

Maximal and relative strength

  • The goal is the development of maximal strength.
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the maximal effort (ME) method.

Explosive strength

  • The goal is the development of explosive strength or the ability to produce great force in the least amount of time.
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the dynamic effort (DE) method.

Muscular hypertrophy

  • The goal is the development of muscular hypertrophy (without going into the debate about sarcoplasmatic versus myofibrilar hypertrophy).
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the submaximal effort (SE) method (mostly for functional or myofibrilar hypertrophy) and the repetition effort (RE) method (mostly for total or sarcoplasmatic hypertrophy).

Muscular endurance

  • The goals are muscular endurance development, fat loss, anatomic adaptation, and sarcoplasmatic hypertrophy (depending on the context). Some also put vascularization, glycogen depletion, and mitochondria development as goals for this method.
  • The method used for developing this motor quality is the repetition effort (RE) method.

As you can see, even in this classification, there are conflicting areas regarding the goals and methods used. I know this classification can be criticized, broadened, and reduced, but it’s useful for the purpose of this article, which is to describe how to use the different concurrent schemes to develop all of those goals at the same time. (And time is a very relative term. Just ask Einstein.)

Achieving these four goals (and thus motor qualities) is based on utilizing the different loading protocols (weight, reps, sets, tempo, rest) or methods. Each of the four methods (ME, SE, DE, and RE) utilizes different loading protocols. This is based on the repetition continuum or the idea that different goals can be achieved utilizing different reps per set. There is a dynamic interaction between the variables of reps, sets, and loads. The load used (percentage of 1RM) ultimately determines how many reps per set are done. The reps per set used (or set time) ultimately determines how many total sets must be done. The interaction between the three will affect what adaptation is realized. Although not all authorities agree, some believe that there is a continuum of adaptations, which may occur with different repetition sets. This continuum is called the repetition continuum.

According to Christian Thibaudeau (one of the coaches who’s had much influence on my philosophy), this repetition continuum changes as the athlete advances. Here is the modified table from The Black Book of Training Secrets—Enhanced Edition.

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

Strength (ME)

5–9 reps/set

3–7 reps/set

1–5 reps/set

Functional hypertrophy (SE)

10–12 reps/set

8–10 reps/set

6–8 reps/set

Total hypertrophy (RE)

13–16 reps/set

11–14 reps/set

9–12 reps/set

Strength endurance (RE)

17–24 + reps/set

15–22 + reps/set

13–20 + reps/set

Another repetition continuum is presented by Lyle McDonald. Here is a modified classification of loading protocols (motor qualities) from his article, “Periodization for Bodybuilders.” (It can be downloaded from Lyle’s website at www.bodyrecomposition.com.)

Type of training

Reps (%1RM)

Rest

Tempo

Time under tension (TUT)

Strength training (ME)

1–5 (85% +)

3–5 min

3/0/X

20 sec or less

Intensive bodybuilding (SE)

4–6 (80–85%)

2–3 min

3–4/0/1

20–30 sec

Extensive bodybuilding (RE)

6–8 (75–80%)

10–15 (70–75%)

1–2 min

1–2 min

3/0/2

3/0/2

30–40 sec

40–60 sec

Really extensive bodybuilding (RE)

n/a (60–65%)

1 min

2/0/2

60–120 sec

Here is the repetition continuum from James Smith, author of High/Low Sequences of Programming and Organizing Training.

ME → (+ 90%) 1–3RM depending on strength preparedness

SE → (80–90%) 4–7RM depending on strength preparedness, 4–10 repetition range

RE → (<80%) + 8RM, >8 repetitions

DE → (up to 80% for Olympic lifts/derivatives; up to 70% for classic powerlifts/derivatives)

As I pointed out earlier, each author utilizes slightly different classifications. However, look for the common denominator. Every one of them classified the goal that they wanted to reach (motor quality), the method they used to reach it, and the loading protocol that determines that method (based on the repetition continuum).

But guess what? Different people respond differently to rep ranges. Some may “grow” by doing triples and doubles (three and two reps per set with 2RM and 3RM loads) and some may grow doing 15 sets. You won’t grow if you don’t eat though. The same goes for strength. Some may increase their strength by doing maxes while some may increase it by doing six sets. As coach Thibaudeau pointed out, those responses depend on the athlete’s level. However, I’d like to add that it depends on the athlete’s characteristics (muscle fiber dominance) and nutritional status (caloric deficit, maintenance or deficit level, amount of protein and carbs). You may grow doing 5 X 5 or you may not. It depends on how much you eat, what other training you are doing, how you are sleeping, and many other factors.

What is the point of this? The point is that I am NOT negating the existence of the repetition continuum, but rather I am trying to point out that it must be put into context (other training, athlete’s characteristics, nutritional status, recovery). With the concurrent approach to strength training, you are doing all of the mentioned methods (maybe not all of them depending on your philosophy) and you’re trying to develop all of the qualities at the same time. It is possible to develop muscular hypertrophy and strength, but it is nearly impossible (except for fat beginners and those coming from a long lay off) to develop strength and lose fat. And it’s even more impossible to lose fat and increase muscle mass.

This is why I said that things must be put into context and they must be goal oriented for a given athlete. These problems are universal to other methods as well (sequential, alternating). They don’t solely cause issues for just the concurrent method. The concurrent method solves some drawbacks of the sequential method (“use it or lose it” law) and utilizes the “crossover” effect between methods.

What I mean by the “crossover” effect is that doing ME training will increase the number of reps or weight used during RE and SE training, and RE and SE training will produce different stimuli to the muscles and central nervous system (variety) as well as increase muscle mass, which will in turn improve ME performance. The same thing goes for the ME and DE methods. However, this “crossover” may become negative if the recovery capacities of the athlete are exceeded, and RE/SE work may impair ME/DE performance and vice versa (as visible with advanced lifters). This is why smart planning with the concurrent approach is a must, and after some time (with most advanced athletes) a modified concurrent method must be used (emphasis on switch and maintenance loads).

If you are still reading this and you’re not confused or sleepy and because I described everything I needed to describe, I can start talking about different strategies toward implementing the concurrent approach in real life strength training. Based on my current knowledge, I’ve identified three groups of these strategies:

  • rep schemes
  • daily undulating periodization (DUP)
  • priority lifts

Rep schemes

The simplest method of utilizing the concurrent approach to training is simply to do the whole rep continuum on a given exercise. In the following table, there is an example of straight sets (or sets across), which are most commonly used in strength training.

Straight sets or sets across utilize the same number of reps with the same weight used. They are very popular and famous for their strength increasing and muscular mass building effects. Some of the variations of the straight sets may be a narrow pyramid, descending and ascending sets, narrow stages, and narrow waves. The only prerequisite is that the load and the reps done STAY in the SAME rep bracket (intensity zone) of the repetition continuum. This way the work is aimed at achieving only one adaptation effect (motor quality). Coach Charles Poliquin in his awesome book Reps and Sets proposed a “10 percent rule” where he suggests that the load used in a given exercise should stay within a 10 percent zone of your 1RM. This way you aim for only one adaptation effect and you avoid confusing the body.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that straight sets are pretty boring. I’ve also noticed that I have psychologically easier gains in strength when some kind of rep and load fluctuation (loading protocols) is used. But that’s just me. I also believe in Poliquin’s recommendation of a 10 percent intensity zone. Some people don’t. This is why they utilize most, if not all, of a repetition continuum on a given exercise. The most common methods to achieve this are wide pyramids, wide stages, and wide waves.

A great number of lifters have increased their strength and muscular mass utilizing straight sets (and being under the 10 percent rule without knowing it). However, a great number of them increased both their strength and muscular mass doing wide pyramids. Is their body confused? Hell, I don’t know!

The “wide” variations of stages, pyramids, and waves are based on utilizing all of (or most of) the repetition continuum (or more than a 10 percent load fluctuation). Basically, you do a couple of sets in the ME zone, a couple of sets in the SE zone, and a couple of sets in the RE zone. How you organize the stuff is actually what differs between those methods. However, the common thing is that you do all of the reps from the repetition continuum and aim at increasing maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy, and muscular endurance at the same time, which is the major idea of concurrent training. Some examples of wide pyramids follow.

 

 

Waves are very similar to pyramids.

Here’s an example of the wide wave loading protocol:

Set Reps
Set 1 15 reps
Set 2 10 reps
Set 3 5 reps
Set 4 15 reps
Set 5 10 reps
Set 6 5 reps

Stages or plateau loading are a combination of pyramids and straight sets. Here are a couple of examples:

Set Reps
Set 1 15 reps
Set 2 15 reps
Set 3 10 reps
Set 4 10 reps
Set 5 5 reps
Set 6 5 reps
Set Reps
Set 1 10 reps
Set 2 10 reps
Set 3 10 reps
Set 4 3 reps
Set 5 3 reps
Set 6 3 reps

For more examples regarding loading protocols, I highly recommend reading Christian Thibaudeau’s, Black Book of Training Secrets–Enhanced Edition. Most of these graphs are taken from there. Another interesting book to consider is Joe Kenn’s, Coach’s Strength Training Playbook, which is another awesome read.

My opinion regarding waves, pyramids, and stages is that they are very useful when the load stays within 10 percent of 1RM. In other words, narrow variants are ok. But I think wide variants (those explained) are mostly crap (although a gross amount of liters still use it so I guess they haven’t read Zatsiorsky’s book from 95 or Poliquin’s stuff). It is ok if you utilize reps and loads from two near repetition zones (ME/SE, SE/RE), but if you try to utilize whole repetition continuums, I guess you are confusing your body (whatever that would be). Also, you don’t have appropriate volume within each zone to drain potential adaptational effects compared to narrow variants. I again highly suggest looking at Black Book for great ideas on how to organize narrow variants for different levels of athletes. To conclude, rep schemes (utilizing whole repetition continuums) on a given exercise as a form of concurrent training is a bad choice. Avoid it.

Daily undulating periodization (DUP)

The idea of daily undulating periodization (or what is also called non-linear periodization in some circles) is to basically devote a whole training session toward a given goal (maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance). Suppose you have two different training sessions—training A and training B.

Training A Training B
1. Squat2. Bench press3. Romanian deadlift4. Pull-ups 1. Front squat2. Inclined bench press3. Lunges4. Horizontal rowing

Now, you identify different training goals that you want to concurrently (parallel) achieve at the same time. Suppose they are maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy, and muscular endurance. To achieve them, you plan to use ME, SE, and RE methods and loading protocols. Now, you can mix and match and get this kind of training organization:

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4 Session 5 Session 6
Training A B A B A B
Protocol ME SE RE ME SE RE
Reps/Sets 5 X 1–3 4 X 6–8 3 X 10–12 5 X 1–3 4 X 6–8 3 X 10–12

You have six combinations of training sessions combining training A and B and the three different loading protocols ME, SE, and RE. If you do three training sessions per week, you have two weeks to pass the full circle.

This kind of planning allows for week long loading waves (or undulations) that may provide variety and some kind of integrated unloading. There are a couple of studies (which I’m too lazy to find) that show better goal achievement with DUP than with linear (or traditional) periodization. I don’t want to open a huge can of worms discussing the study design and subjects, but I guess this kind of concurrent training organization has its place under the sun for a given individual aiming to achieve specific goals under a specific situation.

Coach Alwyn Cosgrove believes in DUP. I trust Alwyn Cosgrove. So, I guess I find DUP a good tool in your toolbox. Use it when you find it appropriate. To be honest, I haven’t used it yet, not on me, nor on the people I coach. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will not use it one day. Now, let’s discuss priority lift strategies.

Priority lifts

I openly admit it. This is my favorite approach to concurrent strength training. I don’t know if anyone called it priority lifts before me or if anyone knows what the hell I’m talking about here, but I’ve called it that somehow. Because we are going to differ between different exercise categories and give them priorities, I hope that calling this method priority lifts was a smart idea. If you think it is not, feel free to contact me and curse me.

According to its importance, each exercise can be classified into a separate group. Depending on the author, there could be different classifications of the exercises. For example, Joe Kenn, in his book, The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook, uses the following classification of exercises:

  • Foundation exercises
  • Supplemental exercises
  • Major assistance exercises
  • Secondary assistance exercises

One classification of exercises that I will use here is the classification that Christian Thibaudeau presented in his series of articles entitled, “How to Design a Damn Good Program” published at T-Nation.com. If you haven’t read this series of articles (and actually everything this guy has ever wrote), you are missing a lot because there is more practical information in those couple of pages than in 500 plus pages in a strength training textbook. It is an awesome article and one of my favorites.

Exercise classification by Christian Thibaudeau
Primary exercises This category includes a small number of multi-joint, multi-muscle, free weight, and preferably multi-plane movements. These movements allow you to use the most weight for each muscle group and place the highest demand on the body and nervous system.
Secondary exercises This is similar to the above except that the exercises in this category place a slightly lower demand on the body and central nervous system.
Auxiliary exercises This very broad category includes the isolation movements and most machine exercises. These exercises allow the use of considerably less weight than exercises in the first two categories and so place far less demand on the nervous system.
Remedial exercises This category contains movements, mostly isolation, whose purpose is to correct problems such as muscle imbalances or very specific weak points. Rotator cuff work, balance, and proprioception drills also fall into this category.

Basically, Joe Kenn and Chris Thibaudeau use the same classification with some minor differences between groups. Most coaches usually reduce exercise classification to core and assistance exercises, which is more practical and easier to use. Again, everything depends on the goal of training and the context and so does the exercise classification that you use. If exercises are tools, their classifications can be different types and organizations of the toolbox. Be flexible with classifications. They are not set in stone.

According to your sport and goal, different exercises may be considered under a given group. For example, Olympic lifters may use the following classifications:

Olympic lifter
Primary exercises Clean and jerk, snatch, squat, deadlift, press, push press
Secondary exercises Hang clean, hang snatch, high pulls, front squat
Auxiliary exercises Romanian deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, bench press, chins, rows, shrugs
Remedial exercises Rotator cuff, adductors/abductors, calves

This could be an example of exercise classification for a powerlifter:

Powerlifter
Primary exercises Squat, bench press, deadlift
Secondary exercises Front squat, box squat, sumo deadlift, good morning; Romanian deadlift, wide/narrow grip bench press, military press, floor press, chains, bands, incline/decline bench press
Auxiliary exercises Pull-through, glute ham raise, lunges, step-ups, rows, chins, Bulgarians, reverse hypers, dumbbell variations and isolational stuff (delts, triceps, biceps, calves)
Remedial exercises Rotator cuff, shoulder stability work, TKE

For an average athlete looking for strength training, the following classification could be used:

Athlete
Primary exercises Clean, squat, deadlift, bench press
Secondary exercises Front squat, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, military press, chins, rows, dumbbell variations
Auxilary exercises Dips, delts, calves, biceps, triceps, grip
Remedial exercises Shoulder, ankle, and knee pre-habilitation, neck

Please note that different classifications may be used depending on the weak and strong points of the athlete, his level of development, training period, emphasis and other stuff. Those classifications are used to help the coach organize the training system and prioritize things according to the demands of the sport and position. With average athletes, the primary exercise would be those that give the most bang for the buck and have the greatest transfer to the field while other exercises will aim to assist that transfer and provide whole body development and injury prevention.

Because exercise categories can (or should?) have their own planning (different loading, progression, and periodization plans for different exercise categories and their usage/rotation in the training system), concurrent training can be easily achieved. For example, a powerlifter would build explosive strength with DE box squats, chains and bands, bench presses, and speed deadlifts. He would build maximal strength with ME squats, presses, and deadlifts and their special variations (secondary exercises), and he would build muscular hypertrophy with SE and RE single-leg exercises and dumbbell variations of presses, some chins, and rows.

With an average athlete, explosive strength would be developed with Olympic lift variations, plyometrics, and explosive jumps, and maximal strength would be developed with ME/SE squats, benches, and deadlifts. Muscular hypetrophy would be developed with SE/RE single leg stuff, dumbbell variations, isolation stuff, chins, and rows.

In other words, primary exercises may use the ME loading protocol. Secondary exercises may use the SE loading protocol, and auxiliary and remedial exercises may use the RE loading protocol to achieve concurrent training approach.

Concurrent training with priority lifts
Exercise group Training goal Loading protocol
Primary exercises Explosive strength, maximal strength DE, ME
Secondary exercises Maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy ME, SE
Auxiliary exercises Muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance SE, RE
Remedial exercises Muscular endurance, anatomic adaptation, pre-habilitation RE

However, if someone wants to nitpick (and that would be me), this can be considered concurrent training as a whole (because all loading protocols are present). It may not be considered concurrent training depending on which movement pattern or muscle groups we are talking about. For example, in the athlete’s situation mentioned earlier, the legs would receive explosive strength work, maximal strength work, and muscular hypertrophy work. The situation is similar for the upper body “push” muscles, but the upper body “pull” muscles (used for chins and rows) will receive only muscular hypertrophy work. Ring a bell or not?

To be considered totally concurrent, all movement patterns must receive the same treatment (ME, SE, and RE work; not necessary for DE) in a training program or it would be only partially concurrent. For this reason, most, if not all, concurrent powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and athletic training programs are partially concurrent because only the legs and push muscle groups receive concurrent treatment (with the exception of upper body pull muscles). Is this a bad thing? Certainly not! I’m just pointing it out, and because most sports revolve around legs and push muscles, this is a fine situation for me.

However, in bodybuilding, this would under develop certain muscle groups. That’s for sure. And because goals in athletic training, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting are not bodybuilding in nature and because I don’t talk about bodybuilding here (although some ideas can be certainly used with minor modifications), there shouldn’t be much concern about it anyway. Certainly, it would be very usable to classify exercises for every movement pattern (or muscle group) in addition to the sport classification already explained.

This way we could differ between:

  • Sport-based or athletic-oriented classification of exercises (according to the greatest transfer to the field or event or the most used muscle groups/movement patterns in sport)
  • Movement pattern or muscle group (bodybuilding) based classification of exercises

Because I’ve already given hypothetical examples of the exercise classifications for Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and average athletic training, here is a modified exercise classification based on movement patterns taken from the already mentioned awesome article by Christian Thibaudeau, “How to Design a Damn Good Program.”

Knee dominant pattern (or quads)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Olympic back squat (hip width stance, upright torso), power squat (wide stance, moderate torso lean), front squat
Secondary Lunge variations, split squat variations, leg press, barbell hack squat, dumbbell squat
Auxiliary Machine hack squat, step-up variations, leg extension variations, sissy squat
Remedial Terminal knee extension (with band), band leg extension
Hip dominant pattern (or hams/glutes)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Deadlift, Romanian deadlift, stiff-leg deadlift, sumo deadlift, snatch grip deadlift
Secondary Good morning variations, glute ham raises, leg press (feet high on pad), single leg Romanian deadlift
Auxiliary Reverse hyper, pull-through, leg curl variations, cable hip extension, hyperextension
Remedial X-band walks, Cook lift, Swiss ball leg curl, band leg curl
Upper body horizontal push (or pecs)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Bench press
Secondary Incline bench press, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell incline press, neck press, plate loaded push-ups
Auxiliary Cable cross-over, flyes variations, pec deck machine, chest press machine
Remedial Swiss ball push-ups, wobble board push-ups
Upper body vertical pull (or back width, lats, and teres major)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Pull-ups, chin-ups
Secondary Parallel pull-ups, mixed grip pull-ups, towel pull-ups
Auxiliary Lat pull-down variations, straight arm lat pull-down, pull-over
Remedial External/internal shoulder rotation, scap push-up
Upper body vertical push (or shoulders/ delts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Military press, push press
Secondary Press behind the neck, log press, seated press, dumbbell press variations, Bradford press
Auxiliary Machine shoulder press, lateral raise variations, front raise variations, lateral raise machine
Remedial Cuban press, external shoulder rotation
Upper body horizontal pull (or back thickness—rear delts, traps, rhomboids)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Barbell rowing, log row, chest supported rowing, seated rowing
Secondary One-arm dumbbell row, corner row, fatman pull-ups, dumbbell chest supported rowing
Auxiliary High pulley cross-rowing, low pulley cross-row, bent over rear delt raise, machine rear delt, chest-supported incline rear delt raise
Remedial Chest-supported incline dumbbell shrugs, seated cable shrugs (scapular retraction), traps three raise, YTWL, Cuban row
Elbow flexion (or biceps)
Category Sample Exercises
Primary Standing barbell curl, Scott bench barbell curl
Secondary Hammer curl, seated dumbbell curl variations, Scott bench dumbbell curl, reverse barbell curl (standing or Scott bench), Zottman curl
Auxiliary Machine curl, cable curl variations, concentration curl
Remedial Upper arm supination with sledgehammer or Thor's hammer
Elbow extension (or triceps)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Close grip bench press, close-grip decline press, triceps dips
Secondary Close-grip incline press, reverse-grip bench press, JM press, decline barbell triceps extension, decline dumbbell triceps extension, flat barbell triceps extension, flat dumbbell triceps extension
Auxiliary Overhead dumbbell triceps extension, overhead bar triceps extension, cable triceps extension variations, triceps extension machines
Remedial Close grip push-up on Swiss ball, close grip push-up on wobble board
Total body (Olympic Lifts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Clean and jerk, snatch
Secondary Hang clean, hang snatch, push press, pulls, shrugs
Auxiliary Jump squats, depth jumps, split squat jumps, step-up jumps
Remedial Dumbbell clean and snatch variations

Using this movement pattern-based exercise classification, different goals can be achieved via different distributions of loading protocols. I will give an example using Chris Thibaudeau’s classification of loading protocols.

Distribution of loading protocols according to the goal selected
Relative strength Absolute strength Muscular hypertrophy
Primary Strength Strength Functional hypertrophy
Secondary Strength Strength; functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy; total hypertrophy
Auxiliary Strength; functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy; Total hypertrophy Total hypertrophy
Remedial Strength endurance Strength endurance Strength endurance

The training sessions for intermediate lifters can be easily designed using the presented information. The attribute, “intermediate” is based on the work of Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, authors of Starting Strength and Practical Programming. Both books are a must in your training library. For more information, please read my review, “What I Have Learned from Practical Programming” published at EliteFTS.com.

I will give two examples aimed at increasing explosive strength (via Olympic lifts and explosive jumping), maximal strength, and muscular hypertrophy. One is based on the whole body split and the other is based on a lower/upper split. Here is the example of the whole body split:

Whole body: Training session A
Movement Pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Auxiliary Step-up jumps DE
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
C2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
D. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlifts SE
E1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
E2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Whole body: Training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
B2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D1. Vertical push Secondary Dumbbell press SE
D2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
E. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlifts RE
Whole body: Training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
C2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E1. Vertical push Auxiliary Dumbbell l-rises RE
E2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull-over RE

Here is the lower/upper split:

Training A: Lower body squat
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Training B: Upper body horizontal
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
A2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
B1. Vertical push Secondary Dumbbell press SE
B2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
C1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
C2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Training C: Lower body deadlift
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Training D: Upper body vertical
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
A2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
B1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
B2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
C1. Vertical push Auxiliary L-rises RE
C2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull-over RE

Once we arranged the training sessions, we can plan progressions for loading protocols.

Weekly progressions for loading protocols
Loading protocol Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 unload
ME 5 X 3 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1 6 X 1 4 X 1, 10% weight
SE 4 X 6 5 X 5 5 X 5 3 X 5, 10% weight
RE 3 X 12 3 X 10 3 X 8 2 X 10
Olympic lifts ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5

This is part three of a three-part series.

Please note that different classifications may be used depending on the athletes’ weak and strong points, level of development, training period, emphasis, and additional items. Those classifications are used to help the coach organize the training system and prioritize things according to the demands of sport and position. With the average athlete, primary exercises are those movements that give the “most bang for the buck” and have the greatest transfer to the field while other exercises aim to assist that transfer and provide whole body development and injury prevention.

Because every exercise category can (or should) have its own planning (different loading, progression, and periodization plans for different exercise categories and their usage/rotation in the training system), concurrent training can easily be achieved. For example, powerlifters build explosive strength with dynamic effort (DE) box squats, bench presses, and speed deadlifts with chains and bands; maximal strength with max effort (ME) squats, presses, and deadlifts and their special variations (secondary exercises); and muscular hypertrophy with repetition effort (RE) single leg exercises and dumbbell variations of presses, chins, and rows.

With the average athlete, explosive strength is developed with Olympic lift variations, plyos, and explosive jumps. Maximal strength is developed with ME/SE squats, benches, and deadlifts, and muscular hypertrophy is developed with SE/RE single leg stuff, dumbbell variations, isolation stuff, chins, and rows.

In other words, primary exercises may use ME loading protocols, secondary exercises may use SE loading protocols, and auxiliary and remedial exercises may use RE loading protocols to achieve the concurrent training approach.

Concurrent training with priority lifts
Exercise group Training goal Loading protocol
Primary exercises Explosive strength, maximal strength DE, ME
Secondary exercises Maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy ME, SE
Auxiliary exercises Muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance SE, RE
Remedial exercises Muscular endurance, anatomic adaptation, (pre-) habilitation RE

However, if someone wants to nitpick (and that would be me), this can be considered concurrent training “in a whole” (because all loading protocols are present) and may not be considered concurrent depending on which movement pattern or muscle groups we are talking about. For example, in the above mentioned athletes’ situation, the legs would receive explosive strength work, maximal strength work, and muscular hypertrophy work. The situation is similar for upper body “push” muscles, but upper body “pull” muscles (used for chins and rows) will receive only muscular hypertrophy work. Ring a bell or not?

To be considered “totally” concurrent in a training program, all movement patterns must receive the same treatment (ME, SE, and RE work; not necessarily DE), or it would be only partially concurrent. For this reason, most, if not all, concurrent powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and athletic training programs are partially concurrent because only legs and push muscle groups receive concurrent treatment. The upper body pull muscles are the exception. Is this a bad thing? Certainly NOT! I am just pointing it out, and because most sports revolve around legs and push muscles, this is a fine situation for me.

However, in bodybuilding, this would underdevelop certain muscle groups. And because goals in athletic training, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting are not bodybuilding in nature and because I don’t talk about bodybuilding here (although some ideas can certainly be used with minor modifications), there shouldn’t be much concern about it. It would be very useful to classify exercises for every movement pattern (or muscle group) though in addition to the sports classifications already explained.

This way we could differ between:

  • sport-based or athletic-oriented classification of exercises (according to the greatest transfer to the field or event or the most used muscle groups/movement patterns in sport)
  • movement pattern or muscle group (bodybuilding) based classification of exercises

Because I have already provided hypothetical examples of exercise classifications for Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and average athletic training, here is a modified exercise classification based on movement patterns taken from an awesome article by Christian Thibaudeau called, “How to Design a Damn Good Program.”

Knee dominant pattern (or quads)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Olympic back squat (hip width stance, upright torso), power squat (wide stance, moderate torso lean), front squat
Secondary Lunge variations, split squat variations, leg press, barbell hack squat, dumbbell squat
Auxiliary Machine hack squat, step-up variations, leg extension variations, sissy squat
Remedial Terminal knee extension (with band), band leg extension
Hip dominant pattern (or hamstring/glutes)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Deadlift, Romanian deadlift, stiff leg deadlift, sumo deadlift, snatch grip deadlift
Secondary Good morning variations, glute ham raises, leg press (feet high on pad), single leg Romanian deadlift
Auxiliary Reverse hyper, pull-through, leg curl variations, cable hip extension, hyperextension
Remedial X-band walks, Cook lift, Swiss ball leg curl, band leg curl
Upper body horizontal push (or pecs)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Bench press
Secondary Incline bench press, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell incline press, neck press, plate loaded push-ups
Auxiliary Cable cross-over, flies variations, pec deck machine, chest press machine
Remedial Swiss ball push ups, wobble board push-ups
Upper body vertical pull (or back width, lats, and teres major)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Pull-ups, chin-ups
Secondary Parallel pull-ups, mixed grip pull-ups, towel pull-ups
Auxiliary Lat pull down variations, straight arm lat pull down, pull-over
Remedial External/internal shoulder rotation, scap push-up
Upper body vertical push (or shoulders/ delts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Military press, push press
Secondary Press behind the neck, log press, seated press, dumbbell press variations, Bradford press
Auxiliary Machine shoulder press, lateral raise variations, front raise variations, lateral raise machine
Remedial Cuban press, external shoulder rotation
Upper body horizontal pull (or back thickness—rear delts, traps, and rhomboids)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Barbell rowing, log row, chest supported rowing, seated rowing
Secondary One arm dumbbell row, corner row, fat man pull-ups, dumbbell chest supported rowing
Auxiliary High pulley cross rowing, low pulley cross row, bent over rear delt raise, machine rear delt, chest supported incline rear delt raise
Remedial Chest supported incline dumbbell shrugs, seated cable shrugs (scapular retraction), traps three raise, YTWL, Cuban row
Elbow flexion (or biceps)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Standing barbell curl, Scott bench barbell curl
Secondary Hammer curl, seated dumbbell curl variations, Scott bench dumbbell curl, reverse barbell curl (standing or Scott bench), Zottman curl
Auxiliary Machine curl, cable curl variations, concentration curl
Remedial Upper arm supination with sledgehammer or Thor’s hammer
Elbow extension (or triceps)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Close grip bench press, close grip decline press, triceps dips
Secondary Close grip incline press, reverse grip bench press, JM press, decline barbell triceps extension, decline dumbbell triceps extension, flat barbell triceps extension, flat dumbbell triceps extension
Auxiliary Overhead dumbbell triceps extension, overhead bar triceps extension, cable triceps extension variations, triceps extension machines
Remedial Close grip push-up on Swiss ball, close grip push-up on wobble board
Total body (Olympic lifts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Clean and jerk, snatch
Secondary Hang clean, hang snatch, push press, pulls, shrugs
Auxiliary Jump squats, depth jumps, split squat jumps, step-up jumps
Remedial Dumbbell clean and snatch variations

Using this movement pattern-based exercise classification, different goals can be achieved via the different distribution of loading protocols. I will give an example using Chris Thibaudeau’s classification of loading protocols.

Distribution of loading protocols according to the goal selected
Relative strength Absolute strength Muscular hypertrophy
Primary Strength Strength Functional hypertrophy
Secondary Strength Strength, functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy, total hypertrophy
Auxiliary Strength, functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy, total hypertrophy Total hypertrophy
Remedial Strength endurance Strength endurance Strength endurance

The training sessions for intermediate lifters can be easily designed using the presented information. The attribute “intermediate” is based on the work of Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, the authors of Starting Strength and Practical Programming, both of which are a must for your training library. For more information, please read my review entitled, “What I Have Learned from the book, Practical Programming” published at EliteFTS.com.

Here are two examples aimed at increasing explosive strength (via Olympic lifts and explosive jumping), maximal strength, and muscular hypertrophy. One is based on a whole body split, and the other is based on a lower/upper split. Here’s the example of the whole body split:

Whole body—training session A
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Auxiliary Step-up jumps DE
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
C2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
D. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift SE
E1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
E2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Whole body—training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
B2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D1. Vertical push Secondary DB press SE
D2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
E. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift RE
Whole body—training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
C2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E1. Vertical push Auxiliary Dumbbell L-rises RE
E2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull over RE

And here is the lower/upper split:

Lower body squat—training session A
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Upper body horizontal—training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
A2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
B1. Vertical push Secondary Dumbbell press SE
B2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
C1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
C2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Lower body deadlift—training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Upper body vertical—training session D
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
A2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
B1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
B2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
C1. Vertical push Auxiliary L-rises RE
C2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull over RE

Once we arranged the training sessions, we can plan progressions for loading protocols. For example:

Weekly progressions for loading protocols
Loading protocol Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 unload
ME 5 X 3 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1 6 X 1 4 X 1, 10% weight
SE 4 X 6 5 X 5 5 X 5 3 X 5, 10% weight
RE 3 X 12 3 X 10 3 X 8 2 X 10
Olympic lifts ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5

Different types of weekly progressions can be implemented, with or without the unload period. You can use a modified Poliquin accumulation/intensification scheme for ME and DUP for SE to name a few. You could also use narrow pyramids, waves, stages, or whatever crosses your mind that allows an increase in defined goals concurrently and avoids injury and overtraining. Please note that the mezocycle (usually one month) progressions depend on goals, context, and the level of the athlete so don’t get too creative. Keep it simple stupid.

One may also implement the Starr Texas method into the proposed system. For example, for ME work, you would do primary lifts for a 1 X 5 scheme (ramp up), and for SE work, you would also do primary lifts but for 5 X 5 (sets across). For RE work, you would do secondary/auxiliary exercises with less weight as recovery. This scheme uses intensity/volume/recovery instead of ME/SE/RE, and it is not considered concurrent training. So it isn’t the subject of this article, but I’m still going to present a modified system (just to show that it can be done).

Here is a modified whole body split:

Whole body—training session A
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Auxiliary Step-up jumps DE
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat Intensity (1 X 5)
C1. Vertical push Primary Military press Intensity (1 X 5)
C2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups Intensity (1 X 5)
D. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift Recovery
E1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups Recovery
E2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban rows Recovery
Whole body—training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press Intensity (1 X 5)
B2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row Intensity (1 X 5)
C. Knee dominant Primary Squat Volume (5 X 5)
D1. Vertical push Primary Military press Volume (5 X 5)
D2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups Volume (5 X 5)
E. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift Recovery
Whole body—training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift Intensity (1 X 5)
C1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press Volume (5 X 5)
C2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell rowing Volume (5 X 5)
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges Recovery
E1. Vertical push Auxiliary Dumbbell L-rises Recovery
E2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull over Recovery

As I have pointed out earlier, this concurrent solution will work very well for intermediate lifters. Some of the characteristics of intermediate lifters are as follows (taken from my review article entitled, “What I Have Learned from the Book, Practical Programming”).

  • They progress from week to week (hit PRs) due to a greater need for recovery.
  • This is why ME work is done only once per week for a movement pattern.
  • They need regular off days during the week or within week load fluctuations (wave-like).
  • The DE/ME/SE/RE rotations within a week provide variety and unload (in some cases). Also, the lower/upper split provides this kind of unload during the week.
  • This doesn’t necessarily mean total unload, but rather unload for a particular movement pattern.
  • They need longer unloads (mostly a week) with a greater reduction in load.
  • Unloading week every 4–6 weeks may be beneficial.

Dave Tate gave the following recommendations in one of his Q&A posts on EliteFTS.com.

Loading protocol Average cycle length Deload
Dynamic work (DE) 3–4 weeks After 1–2 cycles
Max effort work (ME) 1–3 weeks Every 3–6 weeks
Supplemental work “main” (ME/SE) 5–8 weeks Every 8–10 weeks
Supplemental “hypertrophy” work (SE/RE) n/a Every 6–8 weeks
Accessory Work "Prehab" (RE) 8–12 weeks Every 8–12 weeks

The average cycle is the duration of the usage of the specific exercise. After this cycle, the exercise rotates, and the lifter uses another exercise from the movement pattern group.

Please note that those numbers are just estimates, and they will be different for everyone because we all have different recovery needs and training backgrounds. Some abilities may be deloaded while others are pounded. This should be the way it goes for most of the year. Before a meet or when worn down, a full blown deload should take place. A full blown deload involves deloading all abilities.

The art of deloading is a topic in itself, and I guess Eric Cressey did a fine job explaining it in his new manual titled, The Art of the Deload: Special Report, although I haven’t read it yet. You can use a larger number of exercises and their variations. This is why the usage of primary, secondary, auxiliary, and remedial exercises has its place.

For beginners, this is too complex. Beginners can improve at a much faster rate and with less complexity using programs designed for beginners. These programs utilize only the primary lifts with a higher frequency during the week (they can hit PRs every time that they take the bar) and much less volume.

Lucky for me, almost all of my athletes never left the intermediate stage. This is because their other obligations (skill work, speed work, plyometrics, general and specific conditioning) and priorities limited their strength increases compared to those athletes in the iron sports.

Advanced athletes are notorious because of the following characteristics:

  • They can’t develop everything at once. They need to prioritize their training goals, or they will suffer from overtraining and limited progress.
  • The cumulative/delayed training effect of a series of workouts becomes more and more important.
  • Training must be organized into longer periods of time, and those periods progress from higher volume and lower intensity toward lower volume and higher intensity.

I must admit that I haven’t had a chance to work with advanced lifters yet so the text that follows is my opinion based on other’s work (as is most of the text anyway), not my own experience.

I advise you to explore block training (conjugate sequence system). Although it is sequential in its nature (and also criticizes concurrent or mixed training), it is a valid form of training for advanced athletes who utilize cumulative/delayed training effects and training residuals. I suggest reading Vladimir Issurin’s article, “Block Periodization Versus Traditional Training Theory: A Review,” published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. In my opinion, it is far more readable and understandable than most of Verkhoskansky’s stuff.

In the mentioned programs for intermediates, lifters seek to improve everything at once—Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts, benches, chins, presses, and rows—while also pounding secondary and auxiliary movements for muscle mass. This will work for a decent amount of time (if the week structure is optimally organized based on the athlete’s adaptability and recoverability), but after some time, you will soon find out that you can’t do everything at once. Trying to increase your clean performance will leave you fatigued for squats. Squats will leave you fatigued for presses and so on. This is the time when you need to prioritize your training. You need to focus on a couple of things while maintaining others (unless you utilize block training where you are using training residuals instead of maintaining them). This is the basis for the emphasis method (modified concurrent training)

In my humble opinion, there are three things that may direct prioritization in strength training:

  • Movement pattern: One may decide to pursue Olympic lifts (or the clean, snatch, or jerk), concentrate on improving his bench press, or concentrate on developing his deltoids. In the bodybuilding world, this is called “muscle specialization.”
  • Physical quality: One may decide to pursuit relative strength and maintain his hypertrophy or one may maintain fat levels and strength while aiming for maximal muscular hypertrophy.
  • A combination: One may decide to pursue his speed in the bench press and work on his sticking points while also maintaining strength and hypertrophy in his pectorals and the rest of his body.

Lyle McDonald, a man whom I quoted earlier, in his article, “Periodization for Bodybuilders,” presented loading guidelines for loading and maintaining different strength qualities.

Lyle McDonald’s loading guidelines
Type Training load Maintaining load
Strength training 6–10 sets 2–3 sets
Intensive bodybuilding 2–8 sets 1–2 sets
Extensive bodybuilding 3–6 sets 1–2 sets
Really extensive 1–2 sets 1 set

Certainly this depends on many factors such as the level of the lifter, the number of exercises per movement pattern/muscle group, and so on. But you get the point. Thanks Lyle.

Implementing this idea would be pretty easy. For example, a lifter may use a couple of training blocks (note the similarity with block training; don’t let me confuse you because this is not block training per se, although there are some similar points) to develop muscular endurance, muscular hypertrophy, and maximal strength.

Emphasis method
Block #1 Block #2 Block #3
Emphasis Muscular endurance (RE) Muscular hypertrophy (SE) Maximal strength (ME)
Maintenance Muscular hypertrophy (SE) Maximal strength (ME) Muscular hypertrophy (SE)
Maintenance Maximal strength (ME) Muscular endurance (RE) Muscular endurance (RE)
Loading recommendations ME: 2–3 sets of 1 rep over 90% 1RMSE: 1–2 setsRE: 3–6 sets ME: 2–3 sets of 1 rep over 90% 1RMSE: 2–8 setsRE: 1–2 sets ME: 6–10 setsSE: 1–2 setsRE: 1–2 sets

Weekly progressions can be utilized for the ME/SE/RE loading protocols for each training block and easily implemented into either the whole body split or lower/upper body split examples that I gave earlier. This would allow advanced lifters to concentrate on a given physical quality while maintaining others without overtraining and limited progress.

Another solution for a powerlifter would be to devise special blocks toward improving the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

Example for advanced powerlifter
Block #1 Block #1 Block #2 Block #3
General bulking Squat Bench press Deadlift
Increasing whole body muscle mass and GPP; maintaining ME qualities in bench, squat, and deadlift with maintenance loads Aimed at increasing ME, SE, and RE in squat; maintaining strength in bench and deadlift; maintaining muscle mass and GPP Aimed at increasing ME, SE, and RE in bench press; maintaining strength in squat and deadlift; maintaining muscle mass and GPP Aimed at increasing ME, SE, and RE in deadlift; maintaining strength in squat and bench press; maintaining muscle mass and GPP

It’s pretty easy for me to get creative with this emphasis switch, utilizing training loads and maintenance loads. However, once again, I must repeat, I haven’t done this yet! Take my words with caution.

Another solution that can be utilized with advanced lifters is based on a volume/intensity interaction. Accumulation phases (where the aim is to accumulate training volume and elicit cumulative/delayed training effect) may be rotated with intensification phases (where the aim is to express the delayed training effects and utilize maximal training intensity with lowered volume). This is similar to the volume/recovery/intensity solution from the Starr/Texas method for intermediate athletes, although with intermediates we are talking about workouts and here we are talking about weeks and even months. The more advanced the lifter, the longer the durations of the phases.

Accumulation/Intensification with no emphasis
Strength quality Phase 1accumulation Phase 2intensification Phase 3accumulation Phase 4intensification
ME 6 X 3 1 X 3 8 X 1 1 X 1
SE 5 X 7 1 X 7 5 X 5 1 X 5
RE 4 X 12 1 X 12 3 X 10 1 X 10

I guess this may kill someone so we could rotate between accumulation/intensification for a particular strength quality.

Accumulation/intensification with no emphasis
Strength quality Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4
ME Accumulation6 X 3 Intensification1 X 3 Accumulation8 X 1 Intensification1 X 1
SE Intensification1 X 7 Accumulation5 X 7 Intensification1 X 5 Accumulation5 X 5
RE Accumulation4 X 12 Intensification1 X 12 Accumulation3 X 10 Intensification1 X 10

Advanced athletes may use 1–2 week phases while the most advanced athletes may use longer phases up to 4–6 weeks to accumulate and express strength potential. In addition, the classical linear scheme (higher volume/low intensity to low volume/high intensity) may be used in the ME block. This is just an example.

Linear scheme in ME block
Quality Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
ME 7 X 5 6 X 4 5 X 3 4 X 2
SE 3 X 6–8 3 X 6–8 2 X 6–8 2 X 6–8
RE 2 X 10–15 2 X 10–15 1 X 10–15 1 X 10–15

Various other schemes may be developed for advanced athletes utilizing the three mentioned requirements. For more valuable information, I suggest checking out Mark Rippetoe’s book, Practical Programming. I fulfilled my need to “spare my wisdom,” although I haven’t tried this advanced stuff yet. I love to have pre-planned plans of action if I find myself in that situation. Maybe I won’t use it as written here, but I guess it is ok to have some starting opinions and solutions from which you build on depending on the situation and experience.

As Mark pointed out in his book, the programming of strength training for advanced athletes is so complex that it must be approached individually without any generalizations. To be honest, talking about programming for advanced athletes is way out of my league. I deal with a bunch of kids who can’t even squat well.

muscle mass, which will in turn improve ME performance. The same thing goes for the ME and DE methods. However, this “crossover” may become negative if the recovery capacities of the athlete are exceeded, and RE/SE work may impair ME/DE performance and vice versa (as visible with advanced lifters). This is why smart planning with the concurrent approach is a must, and after some time (with most advanced athletes) a modified concurrent method must be used (emphasis on switch and maintenance loads).

If you are still reading this and you’re not confused or sleepy and because I described everything I needed to describe, I can start talking about different strategies toward implementing the concurrent approach in real life strength training. Based on my current knowledge, I’ve identified three groups of these strategies:

  • rep schemes
  • daily undulating periodization (DUP)
  • priority lifts

Rep schemes

The simplest method of utilizing the concurrent approach to training is simply to do the whole rep continuum on a given exercise. In the following table, there is an example of straight sets (or sets across), which are most commonly used in strength training.

Straight sets or sets across utilize the same number of reps with the same weight used. They are very popular and famous for their strength increasing and muscular mass building effects. Some of the variations of the straight sets may be a narrow pyramid, descending and ascending sets, narrow stages, and narrow waves. The only prerequisite is that the load and the reps done STAY in the SAME rep bracket (intensity zone) of the repetition continuum. This way the work is aimed at achieving only one adaptation effect (motor quality). Coach Charles Poliquin in his awesome book Reps and Sets proposed a “10 percent rule” where he suggests that the load used in a given exercise should stay within a 10 percent zone of your 1RM. This way you aim for only one adaptation effect and you avoid confusing the body.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that straight sets are pretty boring. I’ve also noticed that I have psychologically easier gains in strength when some kind of rep and load fluctuation (loading protocols) is used. But that’s just me. I also believe in Poliquin’s recommendation of a 10 percent intensity zone. Some people don’t. This is why they utilize most, if not all, of a repetition continuum on a given exercise. The most common methods to achieve this are wide pyramids, wide stages, and wide waves.

A great number of lifters have increased their strength and muscular mass utilizing straight sets (and being under the 10 percent rule without knowing it). However, a great number of them increased both their strength and muscular mass doing wide pyramids. Is their body confused? Hell, I don’t know!

The “wide” variations of stages, pyramids, and waves are based on utilizing all of (or most of) the repetition continuum (or more than a 10 percent load fluctuation). Basically, you do a couple of sets in the ME zone, a couple of sets in the SE zone, and a couple of sets in the RE zone. How you organize the stuff is actually what differs between those methods. However, the common thing is that you do all of the reps from the repetition continuum and aim at increasing maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy, and muscular endurance at the same time, which is the major idea of concurrent training. Some examples of wide pyramids follow.

 

 

Waves are very similar to pyramids.

Here’s an example of the wide wave loading protocol:

Set Reps
Set 1 15 reps
Set 2 10 reps
Set 3 5 reps
Set 4 15 reps
Set 5 10 reps
Set 6 5 reps

Stages or plateau loading are a combination of pyramids and straight sets. Here are a couple of examples:

Set Reps
Set 1 15 reps
Set 2 15 reps
Set 3 10 reps
Set 4 10 reps
Set 5 5 reps
Set 6 5 reps
Set Reps
Set 1 10 reps
Set 2 10 reps
Set 3 10 reps
Set 4 3 reps
Set 5 3 reps
Set 6 3 reps

For more examples regarding loading protocols, I highly recommend reading Christian Thibaudeau’s, Black Book of Training Secrets–Enhanced Edition. Most of these graphs are taken from there. Another interesting book to consider is Joe Kenn’s, Coach’s Strength Training Playbook, which is another awesome read.

My opinion regarding waves, pyramids, and stages is that they are very useful when the load stays within 10 percent of 1RM. In other words, narrow variants are ok. But I think wide variants (those explained) are mostly crap (although a gross amount of liters still use it so I guess they haven’t read Zatsiorsky’s book from 95 or Poliquin’s stuff). It is ok if you utilize reps and loads from two near repetition zones (ME/SE, SE/RE), but if you try to utilize whole repetition continuums, I guess you are confusing your body (whatever that would be). Also, you don’t have appropriate volume within each zone to drain potential adaptational effects compared to narrow variants. I again highly suggest looking at Black Book for great ideas on how to organize narrow variants for different levels of athletes. To conclude, rep schemes (utilizing whole repetition continuums) on a given exercise as a form of concurrent training is a bad choice. Avoid it.

Daily undulating periodization (DUP)

The idea of daily undulating periodization (or what is also called non-linear periodization in some circles) is to basically devote a whole training session toward a given goal (maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance). Suppose you have two different training sessions—training A and training B.

Training A Training B
1. Squat2. Bench press3. Romanian deadlift4. Pull-ups 1. Front squat2. Inclined bench press3. Lunges4. Horizontal rowing

Now, you identify different training goals that you want to concurrently (parallel) achieve at the same time. Suppose they are maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy, and muscular endurance. To achieve them, you plan to use ME, SE, and RE methods and loading protocols. Now, you can mix and match and get this kind of training organization:

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4 Session 5 Session 6
Training A B A B A B
Protocol ME SE RE ME SE RE
Reps/Sets 5 X 1–3 4 X 6–8 3 X 10–12 5 X 1–3 4 X 6–8 3 X 10–12

You have six combinations of training sessions combining training A and B and the three different loading protocols ME, SE, and RE. If you do three training sessions per week, you have two weeks to pass the full circle.

This kind of planning allows for week long loading waves (or undulations) that may provide variety and some kind of integrated unloading. There are a couple of studies (which I’m too lazy to find) that show better goal achievement with DUP than with linear (or traditional) periodization. I don’t want to open a huge can of worms discussing the study design and subjects, but I guess this kind of concurrent training organization has its place under the sun for a given individual aiming to achieve specific goals under a specific situation.

Coach Alwyn Cosgrove believes in DUP. I trust Alwyn Cosgrove. So, I guess I find DUP a good tool in your toolbox. Use it when you find it appropriate. To be honest, I haven’t used it yet, not on me, nor on the people I coach. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will not use it one day. Now, let’s discuss priority lift strategies.

Priority lifts

I openly admit it. This is my favorite approach to concurrent strength training. I don’t know if anyone called it priority lifts before me or if anyone knows what the hell I’m talking about here, but I’ve called it that somehow. Because we are going to differ between different exercise categories and give them priorities, I hope that calling this method priority lifts was a smart idea. If you think it is not, feel free to contact me and curse me.

According to its importance, each exercise can be classified into a separate group. Depending on the author, there could be different classifications of the exercises. For example, Joe Kenn, in his book, The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook, uses the following classification of exercises:

  • Foundation exercises
  • Supplemental exercises
  • Major assistance exercises
  • Secondary assistance exercises

One classification of exercises that I will use here is the classification that Christian Thibaudeau presented in his series of articles entitled, “How to Design a Damn Good Program” published at T-Nation.com. If you haven’t read this series of articles (and actually everything this guy has ever wrote), you are missing a lot because there is more practical information in those couple of pages than in 500 plus pages in a strength training textbook. It is an awesome article and one of my favorites.

Exercise classification by Christian Thibaudeau
Primary exercises This category includes a small number of multi-joint, multi-muscle, free weight, and preferably multi-plane movements. These movements allow you to use the most weight for each muscle group and place the highest demand on the body and nervous system.
Secondary exercises This is similar to the above except that the exercises in this category place a slightly lower demand on the body and central nervous system.
Auxiliary exercises This very broad category includes the isolation movements and most machine exercises. These exercises allow the use of considerably less weight than exercises in the first two categories and so place far less demand on the nervous system.
Remedial exercises This category contains movements, mostly isolation, whose purpose is to correct problems such as muscle imbalances or very specific weak points. Rotator cuff work, balance, and proprioception drills also fall into this category.

Basically, Joe Kenn and Chris Thibaudeau use the same classification with some minor differences between groups. Most coaches usually reduce exercise classification to core and assistance exercises, which is more practical and easier to use. Again, everything depends on the goal of training and the context and so does the exercise classification that you use. If exercises are tools, their classifications can be different types and organizations of the toolbox. Be flexible with classifications. They are not set in stone.

According to your sport and goal, different exercises may be considered under a given group. For example, Olympic lifters may use the following classifications:

Olympic lifter
Primary exercises Clean and jerk, snatch, squat, deadlift, press, push press
Secondary exercises Hang clean, hang snatch, high pulls, front squat
Auxiliary exercises Romanian deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, bench press, chins, rows, shrugs
Remedial exercises Rotator cuff, adductors/abductors, calves

This could be an example of exercise classification for a powerlifter:

Powerlifter
Primary exercises Squat, bench press, deadlift
Secondary exercises Front squat, box squat, sumo deadlift, good morning; Romanian deadlift, wide/narrow grip bench press, military press, floor press, chains, bands, incline/decline bench press
Auxiliary exercises Pull-through, glute ham raise, lunges, step-ups, rows, chins, Bulgarians, reverse hypers, dumbbell variations and isolational stuff (delts, triceps, biceps, calves)
Remedial exercises Rotator cuff, shoulder stability work, TKE

For an average athlete looking for strength training, the following classification could be used:

Athlete
Primary exercises Clean, squat, deadlift, bench press
Secondary exercises Front squat, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, military press, chins, rows, dumbbell variations
Auxilary exercises Dips, delts, calves, biceps, triceps, grip
Remedial exercises Shoulder, ankle, and knee pre-habilitation, neck

Please note that different classifications may be used depending on the weak and strong points of the athlete, his level of development, training period, emphasis and other stuff. Those classifications are used to help the coach organize the training system and prioritize things according to the demands of the sport and position. With average athletes, the primary exercise would be those that give the most bang for the buck and have the greatest transfer to the field while other exercises will aim to assist that transfer and provide whole body development and injury prevention.

Because exercise categories can (or should?) have their own planning (different loading, progression, and periodization plans for different exercise categories and their usage/rotation in the training system), concurrent training can be easily achieved. For example, a powerlifter would build explosive strength with DE box squats, chains and bands, bench presses, and speed deadlifts. He would build maximal strength with ME squats, presses, and deadlifts and their special variations (secondary exercises), and he would build muscular hypertrophy with SE and RE single-leg exercises and dumbbell variations of presses, some chins, and rows.

With an average athlete, explosive strength would be developed with Olympic lift variations, plyometrics, and explosive jumps, and maximal strength would be developed with ME/SE squats, benches, and deadlifts. Muscular hypetrophy would be developed with SE/RE single leg stuff, dumbbell variations, isolation stuff, chins, and rows.

In other words, primary exercises may use the ME loading protocol. Secondary exercises may use the SE loading protocol, and auxiliary and remedial exercises may use the RE loading protocol to achieve concurrent training approach.

Concurrent training with priority lifts
Exercise group Training goal Loading protocol
Primary exercises Explosive strength, maximal strength DE, ME
Secondary exercises Maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy ME, SE
Auxiliary exercises Muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance SE, RE
Remedial exercises Muscular endurance, anatomic adaptation, pre-habilitation RE

However, if someone wants to nitpick (and that would be me), this can be considered concurrent training as a whole (because all loading protocols are present). It may not be considered concurrent training depending on which movement pattern or muscle groups we are talking about. For example, in the athlete’s situation mentioned earlier, the legs would receive explosive strength work, maximal strength work, and muscular hypertrophy work. The situation is similar for the upper body “push” muscles, but the upper body “pull” muscles (used for chins and rows) will receive only muscular hypertrophy work. Ring a bell or not?

To be considered totally concurrent, all movement patterns must receive the same treatment (ME, SE, and RE work; not necessary for DE) in a training program or it would be only partially concurrent. For this reason, most, if not all, concurrent powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and athletic training programs are partially concurrent because only the legs and push muscle groups receive concurrent treatment (with the exception of upper body pull muscles). Is this a bad thing? Certainly not! I’m just pointing it out, and because most sports revolve around legs and push muscles, this is a fine situation for me.

However, in bodybuilding, this would under develop certain muscle groups. That’s for sure. And because goals in athletic training, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting are not bodybuilding in nature and because I don’t talk about bodybuilding here (although some ideas can be certainly used with minor modifications), there shouldn’t be much concern about it anyway. Certainly, it would be very usable to classify exercises for every movement pattern (or muscle group) in addition to the sport classification already explained.

This way we could differ between:

  • Sport-based or athletic-oriented classification of exercises (according to the greatest transfer to the field or event or the most used muscle groups/movement patterns in sport)
  • Movement pattern or muscle group (bodybuilding) based classification of exercises

Because I’ve already given hypothetical examples of the exercise classifications for Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and average athletic training, here is a modified exercise classification based on movement patterns taken from the already mentioned awesome article by Christian Thibaudeau, “How to Design a Damn Good Program.”

Knee dominant pattern (or quads)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Olympic back squat (hip width stance, upright torso), power squat (wide stance, moderate torso lean), front squat
Secondary Lunge variations, split squat variations, leg press, barbell hack squat, dumbbell squat
Auxiliary Machine hack squat, step-up variations, leg extension variations, sissy squat
Remedial Terminal knee extension (with band), band leg extension
Hip dominant pattern (or hams/glutes)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Deadlift, Romanian deadlift, stiff-leg deadlift, sumo deadlift, snatch grip deadlift
Secondary Good morning variations, glute ham raises, leg press (feet high on pad), single leg Romanian deadlift
Auxiliary Reverse hyper, pull-through, leg curl variations, cable hip extension, hyperextension
Remedial X-band walks, Cook lift, Swiss ball leg curl, band leg curl
Upper body horizontal push (or pecs)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Bench press
Secondary Incline bench press, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell incline press, neck press, plate loaded push-ups
Auxiliary Cable cross-over, flyes variations, pec deck machine, chest press machine
Remedial Swiss ball push-ups, wobble board push-ups
Upper body vertical pull (or back width, lats, and teres major)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Pull-ups, chin-ups
Secondary Parallel pull-ups, mixed grip pull-ups, towel pull-ups
Auxiliary Lat pull-down variations, straight arm lat pull-down, pull-over
Remedial External/internal shoulder rotation, scap push-up
Upper body vertical push (or shoulders/ delts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Military press, push press
Secondary Press behind the neck, log press, seated press, dumbbell press variations, Bradford press
Auxiliary Machine shoulder press, lateral raise variations, front raise variations, lateral raise machine
Remedial Cuban press, external shoulder rotation
Upper body horizontal pull (or back thickness—rear delts, traps, rhomboids)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Barbell rowing, log row, chest supported rowing, seated rowing
Secondary One-arm dumbbell row, corner row, fatman pull-ups, dumbbell chest supported rowing
Auxiliary High pulley cross-rowing, low pulley cross-row, bent over rear delt raise, machine rear delt, chest-supported incline rear delt raise
Remedial Chest-supported incline dumbbell shrugs, seated cable shrugs (scapular retraction), traps three raise, YTWL, Cuban row
Elbow flexion (or biceps)
Category Sample Exercises
Primary Standing barbell curl, Scott bench barbell curl
Secondary Hammer curl, seated dumbbell curl variations, Scott bench dumbbell curl, reverse barbell curl (standing or Scott bench), Zottman curl
Auxiliary Machine curl, cable curl variations, concentration curl
Remedial Upper arm supination with sledgehammer or Thor's hammer
Elbow extension (or triceps)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Close grip bench press, close-grip decline press, triceps dips
Secondary Close-grip incline press, reverse-grip bench press, JM press, decline barbell triceps extension, decline dumbbell triceps extension, flat barbell triceps extension, flat dumbbell triceps extension
Auxiliary Overhead dumbbell triceps extension, overhead bar triceps extension, cable triceps extension variations, triceps extension machines
Remedial Close grip push-up on Swiss ball, close grip push-up on wobble board
Total body (Olympic Lifts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Clean and jerk, snatch
Secondary Hang clean, hang snatch, push press, pulls, shrugs
Auxiliary Jump squats, depth jumps, split squat jumps, step-up jumps
Remedial Dumbbell clean and snatch variations

Using this movement pattern-based exercise classification, different goals can be achieved via different distributions of loading protocols. I will give an example using Chris Thibaudeau’s classification of loading protocols.

Distribution of loading protocols according to the goal selected
Relative strength Absolute strength Muscular hypertrophy
Primary Strength Strength Functional hypertrophy
Secondary Strength Strength; functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy; total hypertrophy
Auxiliary Strength; functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy; Total hypertrophy Total hypertrophy
Remedial Strength endurance Strength endurance Strength endurance

The training sessions for intermediate lifters can be easily designed using the presented information. The attribute, “intermediate” is based on the work of Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, authors of Starting Strength and Practical Programming. Both books are a must in your training library. For more information, please read my review, “What I Have Learned from Practical Programming” published at EliteFTS.com.

I will give two examples aimed at increasing explosive strength (via Olympic lifts and explosive jumping), maximal strength, and muscular hypertrophy. One is based on the whole body split and the other is based on a lower/upper split. Here is the example of the whole body split:

Whole body: Training session A
Movement Pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Auxiliary Step-up jumps DE
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
C2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
D. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlifts SE
E1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
E2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Whole body: Training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
B2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D1. Vertical push Secondary Dumbbell press SE
D2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
E. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlifts RE
Whole body: Training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
C2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E1. Vertical push Auxiliary Dumbbell l-rises RE
E2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull-over RE

Here is the lower/upper split:

Training A: Lower body squat
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Training B: Upper body horizontal
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
A2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
B1. Vertical push Secondary Dumbbell press SE
B2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
C1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
C2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Training C: Lower body deadlift
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Training D: Upper body vertical
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
A2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
B1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
B2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
C1. Vertical push Auxiliary L-rises RE
C2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull-over RE

Once we arranged the training sessions, we can plan progressions for loading protocols.

Weekly progressions for loading protocols
Loading protocol Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 unload
ME 5 X 3 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1 6 X 1 4 X 1, 10% weight
SE 4 X 6 5 X 5 5 X 5 3 X 5, 10% weight
RE 3 X 12 3 X 10 3 X 8 2 X 10
Olympic lifts ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5

This is part three of a three-part series.

Please note that different classifications may be used depending on the athletes’ weak and strong points, level of development, training period, emphasis, and additional items. Those classifications are used to help the coach organize the training system and prioritize things according to the demands of sport and position. With the average athlete, primary exercises are those movements that give the “most bang for the buck” and have the greatest transfer to the field while other exercises aim to assist that transfer and provide whole body development and injury prevention.

Because every exercise category can (or should) have its own planning (different loading, progression, and periodization plans for different exercise categories and their usage/rotation in the training system), concurrent training can easily be achieved. For example, powerlifters build explosive strength with dynamic effort (DE) box squats, bench presses, and speed deadlifts with chains and bands; maximal strength with max effort (ME) squats, presses, and deadlifts and their special variations (secondary exercises); and muscular hypertrophy with repetition effort (RE) single leg exercises and dumbbell variations of presses, chins, and rows.

With the average athlete, explosive strength is developed with Olympic lift variations, plyos, and explosive jumps. Maximal strength is developed with ME/SE squats, benches, and deadlifts, and muscular hypertrophy is developed with SE/RE single leg stuff, dumbbell variations, isolation stuff, chins, and rows.

In other words, primary exercises may use ME loading protocols, secondary exercises may use SE loading protocols, and auxiliary and remedial exercises may use RE loading protocols to achieve the concurrent training approach.

Concurrent training with priority lifts
Exercise group Training goal Loading protocol
Primary exercises Explosive strength, maximal strength DE, ME
Secondary exercises Maximal strength, muscular hypertrophy ME, SE
Auxiliary exercises Muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance SE, RE
Remedial exercises Muscular endurance, anatomic adaptation, (pre-) habilitation RE

However, if someone wants to nitpick (and that would be me), this can be considered concurrent training “in a whole” (because all loading protocols are present) and may not be considered concurrent depending on which movement pattern or muscle groups we are talking about. For example, in the above mentioned athletes’ situation, the legs would receive explosive strength work, maximal strength work, and muscular hypertrophy work. The situation is similar for upper body “push” muscles, but upper body “pull” muscles (used for chins and rows) will receive only muscular hypertrophy work. Ring a bell or not?

To be considered “totally” concurrent in a training program, all movement patterns must receive the same treatment (ME, SE, and RE work; not necessarily DE), or it would be only partially concurrent. For this reason, most, if not all, concurrent powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and athletic training programs are partially concurrent because only legs and push muscle groups receive concurrent treatment. The upper body pull muscles are the exception. Is this a bad thing? Certainly NOT! I am just pointing it out, and because most sports revolve around legs and push muscles, this is a fine situation for me.

However, in bodybuilding, this would underdevelop certain muscle groups. And because goals in athletic training, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting are not bodybuilding in nature and because I don’t talk about bodybuilding here (although some ideas can certainly be used with minor modifications), there shouldn’t be much concern about it. It would be very useful to classify exercises for every movement pattern (or muscle group) though in addition to the sports classifications already explained.

This way we could differ between:

  • sport-based or athletic-oriented classification of exercises (according to the greatest transfer to the field or event or the most used muscle groups/movement patterns in sport)
  • movement pattern or muscle group (bodybuilding) based classification of exercises

Because I have already provided hypothetical examples of exercise classifications for Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and average athletic training, here is a modified exercise classification based on movement patterns taken from an awesome article by Christian Thibaudeau called, “How to Design a Damn Good Program.”

Knee dominant pattern (or quads)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Olympic back squat (hip width stance, upright torso), power squat (wide stance, moderate torso lean), front squat
Secondary Lunge variations, split squat variations, leg press, barbell hack squat, dumbbell squat
Auxiliary Machine hack squat, step-up variations, leg extension variations, sissy squat
Remedial Terminal knee extension (with band), band leg extension
Hip dominant pattern (or hamstring/glutes)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Deadlift, Romanian deadlift, stiff leg deadlift, sumo deadlift, snatch grip deadlift
Secondary Good morning variations, glute ham raises, leg press (feet high on pad), single leg Romanian deadlift
Auxiliary Reverse hyper, pull-through, leg curl variations, cable hip extension, hyperextension
Remedial X-band walks, Cook lift, Swiss ball leg curl, band leg curl
Upper body horizontal push (or pecs)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Bench press
Secondary Incline bench press, dumbbell bench press, dumbbell incline press, neck press, plate loaded push-ups
Auxiliary Cable cross-over, flies variations, pec deck machine, chest press machine
Remedial Swiss ball push ups, wobble board push-ups
Upper body vertical pull (or back width, lats, and teres major)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Pull-ups, chin-ups
Secondary Parallel pull-ups, mixed grip pull-ups, towel pull-ups
Auxiliary Lat pull down variations, straight arm lat pull down, pull-over
Remedial External/internal shoulder rotation, scap push-up
Upper body vertical push (or shoulders/ delts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Military press, push press
Secondary Press behind the neck, log press, seated press, dumbbell press variations, Bradford press
Auxiliary Machine shoulder press, lateral raise variations, front raise variations, lateral raise machine
Remedial Cuban press, external shoulder rotation
Upper body horizontal pull (or back thickness—rear delts, traps, and rhomboids)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Barbell rowing, log row, chest supported rowing, seated rowing
Secondary One arm dumbbell row, corner row, fat man pull-ups, dumbbell chest supported rowing
Auxiliary High pulley cross rowing, low pulley cross row, bent over rear delt raise, machine rear delt, chest supported incline rear delt raise
Remedial Chest supported incline dumbbell shrugs, seated cable shrugs (scapular retraction), traps three raise, YTWL, Cuban row
Elbow flexion (or biceps)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Standing barbell curl, Scott bench barbell curl
Secondary Hammer curl, seated dumbbell curl variations, Scott bench dumbbell curl, reverse barbell curl (standing or Scott bench), Zottman curl
Auxiliary Machine curl, cable curl variations, concentration curl
Remedial Upper arm supination with sledgehammer or Thor’s hammer
Elbow extension (or triceps)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Close grip bench press, close grip decline press, triceps dips
Secondary Close grip incline press, reverse grip bench press, JM press, decline barbell triceps extension, decline dumbbell triceps extension, flat barbell triceps extension, flat dumbbell triceps extension
Auxiliary Overhead dumbbell triceps extension, overhead bar triceps extension, cable triceps extension variations, triceps extension machines
Remedial Close grip push-up on Swiss ball, close grip push-up on wobble board
Total body (Olympic lifts)
Category Sample exercises
Primary Clean and jerk, snatch
Secondary Hang clean, hang snatch, push press, pulls, shrugs
Auxiliary Jump squats, depth jumps, split squat jumps, step-up jumps
Remedial Dumbbell clean and snatch variations

Using this movement pattern-based exercise classification, different goals can be achieved via the different distribution of loading protocols. I will give an example using Chris Thibaudeau’s classification of loading protocols.

Distribution of loading protocols according to the goal selected
Relative strength Absolute strength Muscular hypertrophy
Primary Strength Strength Functional hypertrophy
Secondary Strength Strength, functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy, total hypertrophy
Auxiliary Strength, functional hypertrophy Functional hypertrophy, total hypertrophy Total hypertrophy
Remedial Strength endurance Strength endurance Strength endurance

The training sessions for intermediate lifters can be easily designed using the presented information. The attribute “intermediate” is based on the work of Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, the authors of Starting Strength and Practical Programming, both of which are a must for your training library. For more information, please read my review entitled, “What I Have Learned from the book, Practical Programming” published at EliteFTS.com.

Here are two examples aimed at increasing explosive strength (via Olympic lifts and explosive jumping), maximal strength, and muscular hypertrophy. One is based on a whole body split, and the other is based on a lower/upper split. Here’s the example of the whole body split:

Whole body—training session A
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Auxiliary Step-up jumps DE
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
C2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
D. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift SE
E1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
E2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Whole body—training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
B2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D1. Vertical push Secondary DB press SE
D2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
E. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift RE
Whole body—training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
C2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E1. Vertical push Auxiliary Dumbbell L-rises RE
E2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull over RE

And here is the lower/upper split:

Lower body squat—training session A
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat ME
C. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift SE
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Upper body horizontal—training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press ME
A2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row ME
B1. Vertical push Secondary Dumbbell press SE
B2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups SE
C1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups RE
C2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban row RE
Lower body deadlift—training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift ME
C. Knee dominant Secondary Front squat SE
D. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift RE
E. Abs and pre-habilitation stuff RE
Upper body vertical—training session D
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A1. Vertical push Primary Military press ME
A2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups ME
B1. Horizontal push Secondary Dumbbell bench press SE
B2. Horizontal pull Secondary Seated rowing SE
C1. Vertical push Auxiliary L-rises RE
C2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull over RE

Once we arranged the training sessions, we can plan progressions for loading protocols. For example:

Weekly progressions for loading protocols
Loading protocol Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 unload
ME 5 X 3 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1 6 X 1 4 X 1, 10% weight
SE 4 X 6 5 X 5 5 X 5 3 X 5, 10% weight
RE 3 X 12 3 X 10 3 X 8 2 X 10
Olympic lifts ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5 ME: 5 X 1SE: 4 X 2RE: 3 X 5

Different types of weekly progressions can be implemented, with or without the unload period. You can use a modified Poliquin accumulation/intensification scheme for ME and DUP for SE to name a few. You could also use narrow pyramids, waves, stages, or whatever crosses your mind that allows an increase in defined goals concurrently and avoids injury and overtraining. Please note that the mezocycle (usually one month) progressions depend on goals, context, and the level of the athlete so don’t get too creative. Keep it simple stupid.

One may also implement the Starr Texas method into the proposed system. For example, for ME work, you would do primary lifts for a 1 X 5 scheme (ramp up), and for SE work, you would also do primary lifts but for 5 X 5 (sets across). For RE work, you would do secondary/auxiliary exercises with less weight as recovery. This scheme uses intensity/volume/recovery instead of ME/SE/RE, and it is not considered concurrent training. So it isn’t the subject of this article, but I’m still going to present a modified system (just to show that it can be done).

Here is a modified whole body split:

Whole body—training session A
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Auxiliary Step-up jumps DE
B. Knee dominant Primary Squat Intensity (1 X 5)
C1. Vertical push Primary Military press Intensity (1 X 5)
C2. Vertical pull Primary Chin-ups Intensity (1 X 5)
D. Hip dominant Secondary Romanian deadlift Recovery
E1. Horizontal push Auxiliary Push-ups Recovery
E2. Horizontal pull Auxiliary Cuban rows Recovery
Whole body—training session B
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Primary Clean DE/ME
B1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press Intensity (1 X 5)
B2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell row Intensity (1 X 5)
C. Knee dominant Primary Squat Volume (5 X 5)
D1. Vertical push Primary Military press Volume (5 X 5)
D2. Vertical pull Secondary Pull-ups Volume (5 X 5)
E. Hip dominant Auxiliary Single leg Romanian deadlift Recovery
Whole body—training session C
Movement pattern Category Example Loading protocol
A. Total body Secondary Hang clean DE/SE technique
B. Hip dominant Primary Deadlift Intensity (1 X 5)
C1. Horizontal push Primary Bench press Volume (5 X 5)
C2. Horizontal pull Primary Barbell rowing Volume (5 X 5)
D. Knee dominant Auxiliary Lunges Recovery
E1. Vertical push Auxiliary Dumbbell L-rises Recovery
E2. Vertical pull Auxiliary Pull over Recovery

As I have pointed out earlier, this concurrent solution will work very well for intermediate lifters. Some of the characteristics of intermediate lifters are as follows (taken from my review article entitled, “What I Have Learned from the Book, Practical Programming”).

  • They progress from week to week (hit PRs) due to a greater need for recovery.
  • This is why ME work is done only once per week for a movement pattern.
  • They need regular off days during the week or within week load fluctuations (wave-like).
  • The DE/ME/SE/RE rotations within a week provide variety and unload (in some cases). Also, the lower/upper split provides this kind of unload during the week.
  • This doesn’t necessarily mean total unload, but rather unload for a particular movement pattern.
  • They need longer unloads (mostly a week) with a greater reduction in load.
  • Unloading week every 4–6 weeks may be beneficial.

Dave Tate gave the following recommendations in one of his Q&A posts on EliteFTS.com.

Loading protocol Average cycle length Deload
Dynamic work (DE) 3–4 weeks After 1–2 cycles
Max effort work (ME) 1–3 weeks Every 3–6 weeks
Supplemental work “main” (ME/SE) 5–8 weeks Every 8–10 weeks
Supplemental “hypertrophy” work (SE/RE) n/a Every 6–8 weeks
Accessory Work "Prehab" (RE) 8–12 weeks Every 8–12 weeks

The average cycle is the duration of the usage of the specific exercise. After this cycle, the exercise rotates, and the lifter uses another exercise from the movement pattern group.

Please note that those numbers are just estimates, and they will be different for everyone because we all have different recovery needs and training backgrounds. Some abilities may be deloaded while others are pounded. This should be the way it goes for most of the year. Before a meet or when worn down, a full blown deload should take place. A full blown deload involves deloading all abilities.

The art of deloading is a topic in itself, and I guess Eric Cressey did a fine job explaining it in his new manual titled, The Art of the Deload: Special Report, although I haven’t read it yet. You can use a larger number of exercises and their variations. This is why the usage of primary, secondary, auxiliary, and remedial exercises has its place.

For beginners, this is too complex. Beginners can improve at a much faster rate and with less complexity using programs designed for beginners. These programs utilize only the primary lifts with a higher frequency during the week (they can hit PRs every time that they take the bar) and much less volume.

Lucky for me, almost all of my athletes never left the intermediate stage. This is because their other obligations (skill work, speed work, plyometrics, general and specific conditioning) and priorities limited their strength increases compared to those athletes in the iron sports.

Advanced athletes are notorious because of the following characteristics:

  • They can’t develop everything at once. They need to prioritize their training goals, or they will suffer from overtraining and limited progress.
  • The cumulative/delayed training effect of a series of workouts becomes more and more important.
  • Training must be organized into longer periods of time, and those periods progress from higher volume and lower intensity toward lower volume and higher intensity.

I must admit that I haven’t had a chance to work with advanced lifters yet so the text that follows is my opinion based on other’s work (as is most of the text anyway), not my own experience.

I advise you to explore block training (conjugate sequence system). Although it is sequential in its nature (and also criticizes concurrent or mixed training), it is a valid form of training for advanced athletes who utilize cumulative/delayed training effects and training residuals. I suggest reading Vladimir Issurin’s article, “Block Periodization Versus Traditional Training Theory: A Review,” published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. In my opinion, it is far more readable and understandable than most of Verkhoskansky’s stuff.

In the mentioned programs for intermediates, lifters seek to improve everything at once—Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts, benches, chins, presses, and rows—while also pounding secondary and auxiliary movements for muscle mass. This will work for a decent amount of time (if the week structure is optimally organized based on the athlete’s adaptability and recoverability), but after some time, you will soon find out that you can’t do everything at once. Trying to increase your clean performance will leave you fatigued for squats. Squats will leave you fatigued for presses and so on. This is the time when you need to prioritize your training. You need to focus on a couple of things while maintaining others (unless you utilize block training where you are using training residuals instead of maintaining them). This is the basis for the emphasis method (modified concurrent training)

In my humble opinion, there are three things that may direct prioritization in strength training:

  • Movement pattern: One may decide to pursue Olympic lifts (or the clean, snatch, or jerk), concentrate on improving his bench press, or concentrate on developing his deltoids. In the bodybuilding world, this is called “muscle specialization.”
  • Physical quality: One may decide to pursuit relative strength and maintain his hypertrophy or one may maintain fat levels and strength while aiming for maximal muscular hypertrophy.
  • A combination: One may decide to pursue his speed in the bench press and work on his sticking points while also maintaining strength and hypertrophy in his pectorals and the rest of his body.

Lyle McDonald, a man whom I quoted earlier, in his article, “Periodization for Bodybuilders,” presented loading guidelines for loading and maintaining different strength qualities.

Lyle McDonald’s loading guidelines
Type Training load Maintaining load
Strength training 6–10 sets 2–3 sets
Intensive bodybuilding 2–8 sets 1–2 sets
Extensive bodybuilding 3–6 sets 1–2 sets
Really extensive 1–2 sets 1 set

Certainly this depends on many factors such as the level of the lifter, the number of exercises per movement pattern/muscle group, and so on. But you get the point. Thanks Lyle.

Implementing this idea would be pretty easy. For example, a lifter may use a couple of training blocks (note the similarity with block training; don’t let me confuse you because this is not block training per se, although there are some similar points) to develop muscular endurance, muscular hypertrophy, and maximal strength.

Emphasis method
Block #1 Block #2 Block #3
Emphasis Muscular endurance (RE) Muscular hypertrophy (SE) Maximal strength (ME)
Maintenance Muscular hypertrophy (SE) Maximal strength (ME) Muscular hypertrophy (SE)
Maintenance Maximal strength (ME) Muscular endurance (RE) Muscular endurance (RE)
Loading recommendations ME: 2–3 sets of 1 rep over 90% 1RMSE: 1–2 setsRE: 3–6 sets ME: 2–3 sets of 1 rep over 90% 1RMSE: 2–8 setsRE: 1–2 sets ME: 6–10 setsSE: 1–2 setsRE: 1–2 sets

Weekly progressions can be utilized for the ME/SE/RE loading protocols for each training block and easily implemented into either the whole body split or lower/upper body split examples that I gave earlier. This would allow advanced lifters to concentrate on a given physical quality while maintaining others without overtraining and limited progress.

Another solution for a powerlifter would be to devise special blocks toward improving the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

Example for advanced powerlifter
Block #1 Block #1 Block #2 Block #3
General bulking Squat Bench press Deadlift
Increasing whole body muscle mass and GPP; maintaining ME qualities in bench, squat, and deadlift with maintenance loads Aimed at increasing ME, SE, and RE in squat; maintaining strength in bench and deadlift; maintaining muscle mass and GPP Aimed at increasing ME, SE, and RE in bench press; maintaining strength in squat and deadlift; maintaining muscle mass and GPP Aimed at increasing ME, SE, and RE in deadlift; maintaining strength in squat and bench press; maintaining muscle mass and GPP

It’s pretty easy for me to get creative with this emphasis switch, utilizing training loads and maintenance loads. However, once again, I must repeat, I haven’t done this yet! Take my words with caution.

Another solution that can be utilized with advanced lifters is based on a volume/intensity interaction. Accumulation phases (where the aim is to accumulate training volume and elicit cumulative/delayed training effect) may be rotated with intensification phases (where the aim is to express the delayed training effects and utilize maximal training intensity with lowered volume). This is similar to the volume/recovery/intensity solution from the Starr/Texas method for intermediate athletes, although with intermediates we are talking about workouts and here we are talking about weeks and even months. The more advanced the lifter, the longer the durations of the phases.

Accumulation/Intensification with no emphasis
Strength quality Phase 1accumulation Phase 2intensification Phase 3accumulation Phase 4intensification
ME 6 X 3 1 X 3 8 X 1 1 X 1
SE 5 X 7 1 X 7 5 X 5 1 X 5
RE 4 X 12 1 X 12 3 X 10 1 X 10

I guess this may kill someone so we could rotate between accumulation/intensification for a particular strength quality.

Accumulation/intensification with no emphasis
Strength quality Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4
ME Accumulation6 X 3 Intensification1 X 3 Accumulation8 X 1 Intensification1 X 1
SE Intensification1 X 7 Accumulation5 X 7 Intensification1 X 5 Accumulation5 X 5
RE Accumulation4 X 12 Intensification1 X 12 Accumulation3 X 10 Intensification1 X 10

Advanced athletes may use 1–2 week phases while the most advanced athletes may use longer phases up to 4–6 weeks to accumulate and express strength potential. In addition, the classical linear scheme (higher volume/low intensity to low volume/high intensity) may be used in the ME block. This is just an example.

Linear scheme in ME block
Quality Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
ME 7 X 5 6 X 4 5 X 3 4 X 2
SE 3 X 6–8 3 X 6–8 2 X 6–8 2 X 6–8
RE 2 X 10–15 2 X 10–15 1 X 10–15 1 X 10–15

Various other schemes may be developed for advanced athletes utilizing the three mentioned requirements. For more valuable information, I suggest checking out Mark Rippetoe’s book, Practical Programming. I fulfilled my need to “spare my wisdom,” although I haven’t tried this advanced stuff yet. I love to have pre-planned plans of action if I find myself in that situation. Maybe I won’t use it as written here, but I guess it is ok to have some starting opinions and solutions from which you build on depending on the situation and experience.

As Mark pointed out in his book, the programming of strength training for advanced athletes is so complex that it must be approached individually without any generalizations. To be honest, talking about programming for advanced athletes is way out of my league. I deal with a bunch of kids who can’t even squat well.

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