This is part two of a three-part series.

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 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:

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:

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

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

Stay tuned for part three!!

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