No Bullsh*t: Basic High/Low Training Approach for Athletes

TAGS: high/low training, team elitefts, david allen, training athletes, strength and conditioning

Before I go into the details of this training split, let me give some background information as to why I use it. My facility is a 24-hour, open member gym, which means that our members have access to the entire facility any time they want. Unlike a training facility dedicated to only training athletes, we have a lot more stuff going on throughout the day. On top of memberships, we also offer different personal and group training packages and have boot camps, powerlifting teams, and strongman groups training throughout the week. The facility itself is 3,600 square feet and includes a large percentage of the elitefts™ product line. In addition, the current athlete training environment in Memphis is one in which most public school athletes can’t afford training and most private school athletes have a strength coach at their facility. This being said, we still maintain a decent number of athletes from college and high school throughout the year with the numbers rising during the summer and winter breaks.

This means that we run multiple athletes of different ages (high school and college), experience levels, and sports and in different seasons of their sport in a single group throughout the year. This gives us the challenge of finding a quality training approach that allows multiple athletes to make progress without over or under training any of them.

After utilizing many different training approaches and talking with some of the elitefts™ team members, I decided to try out a high/low training split. The basic concept of the high/low split is to alternate days of high central nervous system stress with days of low central nervous system stress. This allows you to maximally stimulate and stress the different biological systems of the athlete while still allowing for maximal adaptation and recovery. This works out well for us because we have our athletes train four days a week—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We used to do five and six days a week, but we found that the athletes only came an average of four days. They usually missed Fridays and Saturdays due to school functions, family functions, camps, and other activities.

With all that being said, here is the basic schedule for our athlete group:

I set up the schedule like this for several reasons. The majority of our athletes participate in “speed” sports like football, baseball, and basketball. I’ve only had one cross country runner come through my doors looking for training. So I put the movements with the highest degree of carryover at the beginning of the week when the athletes are the most well rested (theoretically).

Depending on the athlete’s level of development, we will use different types of jumps and throws at the beginning of the session followed by some sprint technique work and different variations of sprints. Because of the high number of contacts on Monday and the high usage of the stretch shortening cycle, Tuesday consists of movements that are predominately lacking in eccentrics. We use different variations of sled movements and carries (sandbags, weighted vests) and some band movements on the hips and shoulder.

Here is one series that we use:

We will also have the athletes foam roll and perform some mobility and flexibility work on this day as well. By Wednesday, our athletes should be recovered from Monday and hopefully Tuesday helped alleviate any possible soreness caused by Monday’s workout. On this day, we do our strength building work. We will do different variations of the squat, bench, deadlift, and push press. Sometimes we will only do three of the movements instead of all four, and the reps are always in the one to five range, although we rarely do absolute maximal singles. Thursday is treated as a hypertrophy day and the volume is much higher. The athletes do different accessory movements like pull-up variations, row variations, single joint movements, and core work along with some foam rolling and stretching. The rep ranges are always in the eight to fifteen range with three to four working sets. Although the volume on this day is high, the athletes have three days to recover before restarting the microcycle.

We don’t do any agility work because I believe these movements need to be trained specifically for each individual’s sport and position. Having athletes of different sports makes this difficult. Also, the majority of the athletes we come into contact with need to get bigger, stronger, and faster and this method attacks all those areas. One of the cons to this set up is that we only strength train one day a week. This could be addressed by splitting up the high central nervous system days and training both strength and speed movements on both Monday and Wednesday. This is something we may change in the future, but for now, having the athletes focus on one individual training purpose each day seems to be working fairly well.

Hopefully, this look into our current training split can help you with your own training or the training of your athletes. Remember, there isn't any perfect training program, and many times you have to work with what you have in front of you. Adapting the training program to the needs of your athletes and the constraints you're faced with is part of every strength and conditioning professional’s job. Adapt and overcome.

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