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Alternating Heavy & Light


Hey everyone,

I recently bought James's High/Low sequence book.

The basic concept is to alternate between High Intensity and Low intensity work outs.

This has been around for a while. Some just say the alternate between Heavy & Light days, others say the alternate between CNS intensive and Muscle Intensive.

I was wondering if anyone has used this organization of training with appreciatable gains. If so, please explain how "your" setup.

From a whole body split, I think I could approach would be something like this:

The training percentages and methods would vary.

Just a thought.


I'm back for a week, I'll see how much I can be around. This type of training reminds me of Medvedev's manual and how the coach here trains his guys. He doesn't use "high/low" per se though.

The Soviets would calculate volume and alternate heavy and low volume days, weeks, or even months. The strength coach here uses a high, medium, and low intensity scale for each of the main lifts (sq., bench, clean, sn., pulls, etc.).

The goal is never to do 2 consecutive workouts with a particular lift in the same zone. Ex: high, high, low, med., med. is ok, high, low, med., med, med is not. This is done for EACH lift, so you can lift in a variety of zones each workout.


Hey Yoda,

Thanks for chiming in. I sent you an PM, and was hoping you could get to it before you leave?

Anyway, Later on today, Ill be posting a sample training template. I like the templates, but rather configure my own exercises and rep/set scheme without compromising the nature of the concept.



You stated that they alternated Heavy and low volume days.

Did you mean high volume and low volume. If so, on the low volume days, would they increase the intensity.

I never liked lifting in anything below 80% and I don't know why. I was thinking that if I worked 2 high days and 2 low days in a training week, The intensities/Methods of each day would be different.

High-Strength (Cluster, Rest Pause, WL)
LOW-Size (Supersets, WL)

I believe you can also "emphasize" certain qualities in a high/low scheme. Say, 2 Low days and 1 High day during a training week to gain muscle mass?


Yes, I meant high and low volume.

Well, they would first calculate the volume in terms of the number of lifts. Then they would (relatively evenly) distribute the weight throughout the training year. For the prep. period they would do lower intensity, but they still had a minimum number of 90-100 percent lifts they performed, whereas in the comp. phase they performed more high intensity lifts, more lifts in the competition exercises, and less low intensity stuff.

Strictly speaking they didn't "alternate" high and low volume days. If h=high, m=med, l=low, then they may do weeks like this:
4 training days per week:

The point is that they distributed the loading to give the athlete variety (by switching the volume) and recovery (by now having too many high volume days in a row). It gets MUCH more technical than this, because they have recommendations about the volume of eah lift in terms of the total loading (i.e. classic snatch lifts were about 5% of the TOTAL loading of their athletes under Medvedev, while special snatch exercises made a greater percent (pulls, sn. squats, ect.)).

They also have recommendations about how many lifts in each exercise should be in each zone of intensity (60-70,70-80,80-90,90-100,100 plus), how to plan the workouts (a lot is common sense, like don't do high intensity lifts at the end of a workout), and which exercises to include in a particular stage of training for a particular class of weightlifter. Higher class athletes use more exercises in their training (similar to Westside).

Now, James' method is of alternating intensity, not volume, and I think your interpretation is essentially correct. If you want an upper/lower body split then you've basically walked into Westside, because that's how they train (DE one day, ME the next). For total body days you'll have to get a little more technical because you'll be working a lot more muscle. What you do will depend on your goals, in the end.


Hey Yoda,

I was wondering if you got my PM. If not, let me know so I can resend it. Thanks


Do you feel that using 80% of your 1RM would be considered a Hight or Low day?

I ask because I was wondering if I could work in this percentage area on a low day to promote size. I don't feel "stimulated" in anything lower. But I could be wrong.


Hey truth,

I personally like alternating high intensity/low intensity days (or strength day/muscle day or whatever). I've found having only one or two days per week that are neurally focused works better for me. I get burned out if every day includes really heavy work.

IE: Monday - Strength
Tuesday - Metabolic
Thursday - Strength
Friday - Metabolic



If you want to get a little better understanding of where James Smith developed his system, check out the Charlie Francis site and his book. This method of high-low was originally developed as training for sprinters where they stacked all of their neurally demanding exercises on alternating days.

So instead of:
Monday- Speed
Tuesday- Weights
Wednesday- Speed Endurance
Thursday- Weights
Friday- Speed

It would be:
Monday AM- Speed
Monday PM- Weights
Tuesday- Tempo + Abs
Wednesday- Speed Endurance
Thursday- Tempo + Abs
Friday AM- Speed
Friday PM- Weights
Saturday- Tempo + Abs

There's a great article by Kelly Baggett that really breaks it down and explains it simply. You can google to find it.

A setup for a guy looking to gain size and strength might be:

Monday- Total Body ME
Tuesday- Total Body Submaximal (high reps, stopping short of failure) + Abs
Wednesday- Total Body ME
Thursday- Rest
Friday- Lower Body "Bodybuilding" (moderate reps to failure on last sets)
Saturday- Upper Body "Bodybuilding"

To be honest, I think high-low is more effective when dealing with training for speed and power athletes. "Bodybuilding" training kind of blurs the line between high and low because it is fairly demanding on the CNS, but probably doesn't quite warrant every other day off. This is why so many bodybuilders have seen great results with body-part splits.

I think unless you're a speed/power athlete, trying to implement the high-low system is going to wind up confusing things more than helping, IMO.


Hey J,

Thanks for chiming in.

I read Kelly Bagget's article. Its a short nice read, but there are no specifics on how to set up a high/low program.

I also check out CF's site, but I can't find any articles on this topic. Would you mind posting a specific link?

The template looks great. High/Low is something for the summer.




Thanks for your inputs bro. It looks good. Would you mind posting your sample template?

Do you change the training means for each strength day and size day?

Say Strength Day 1 3-5 rep ranges
Strength Day 2 1-3 rep ranges
Size Day 1 8-12 rep ranges
Size Day 2 4-6 rep ranges



I actually have the book.

In some templates he combines running and lifting.

One day might be

Thats alot of work for the legs.


As far as CF's site goes, he doesn't really have any articles, you can find pretty much everything in the forums there or he sells his book on that site that basically outlines his training system.

It's kind of confusing if you don't have a track background though.


This is similar to the trainng style I have adopted over the last few months. It came from playing around with some Sheiko routines. I haven't really thought if as a strength versusu size really, but I think we're kind of on the same page. For example in a three session week, I go like this:

Squat heavy for 3s
Bench light for 5s or 6s
Squat or deadlift light for 5s
Upper back and Ab work

Bench heavy (mostly board presses in a bench shirt)for 5s,3s and singles(depending on which board height- for high boards, I do higher reps)
Mediums squats for 4s or 5s or
Light deads for 3s
Light bench for 5s
Upper back and Ab work

Deadlift heavy for singles and 3s
Medium bench for 3s
Light deads or squat for 3s or 5s
Upper back and Ab work


Haha, yeah. I don't do track.

But would you mind posting some specific links where he/they discuss High/low methods?

Thanks bro.


Anyone still on this thread?



I'm confused as to what you're asking about. James' manual shows pretty much how to apply the high-low system to fit the demands of other sports besides track. High-low really isn't THAT complicated.

The two basic tenents are:
-Alternate between high-stress days and low-stress days.
-Perform all types of training, but vary the volume so the emphasis is on one quality during a block.