T Nation

Overreaching and Supercompensation


Alright, I'm on my third year of a BSc Kinesiology at the U of A and I'm seeing some conflict between 99% of strength training routines I've ever seen and what I'm learning in PEDS 335: Advanced Conditioning Methodology.

Most routines from articles seem to be based on the principle of complete recovery between training sessions.

Research covered in PEDS 335 shows that training programs based on buildup, shock, and recovery microcycles have a greater training effect in the long term than do routines based on total recovery between sessions.

So from what I've gathered from a fitness/strength training background you're supposed to improve from one session to the next "or else you're overtraining".

From what I'm getting from a course preparing me to train elite athletes, for the first week of a mesocycle performance should be relatively constant, the second should see a slight decrease in performance, the third should see severe decreases in performance, and the fourth week, the unloading week, should be the only one to see increases in performance

What does this mean? An ideal program for overreaching and supercompensation would be something like this?

Week 1: 5 sets of 3-5, 3x / week
Week 2: 10 sets of 3, 3x / week
Week 3: EDT or "Russian Bear" Training
Week 4: 3 sets of 3-5
Week 5: Repeat 4 week cycle

Whaddaya think?


I don't have a background in Kinesiology, but this statement seems incorrect. You will not always improve from one session to the next. There will be times that you stagnate or are perhaps slightly weaker but I wouldn't equate that directly to "overtraining". The goal is to improve either in strength or form, but it won't always happen.


Concerning Strenght & Elite Athletes...here is a recent interview with a Champion Powerlifter (Jeffrey Vaughn):

I want to thank Carlo Buzzichelli for giving me the opportunity to write a technical interview to be published in an Italian fitness magazine. He offered some complex questions and was a well informed interviewer...

I hope you all enjoy:
1) Most of today's weightlifters and powerlifters use high frequency programs, you, on the other hand, use an infrequent program with great results. What brought you to this choice?
The choice was made due to a variety of factors. The frequency of training that I have elected has allowed me to progress at a very rapid rate even with the absence of drugs (501 squat in 2002 to 950 in 2005). Through trial and error, I have come to the concussion that I can only participate in 3 squat, 2 deadlift and 4 bench press workouts per month. More frequent training in the past has lead me to symptoms of over-training and injury. The infrequent training sessions also allow me to have a high volume routine as far as weight and sets during a particular workout. I like to do between 9-12 singles for the squat, bench and deadlift. I do speed work before my heavy lifts so the end result is more sets than most lifters typically elect to do in one session. In my opinion, speed work on a separate day just lengthens recovery time and increases caloric expenditure between heavy workouts; neither of which I find to be very appealing. I concentrate on bar speed after warmups. The speed work is done at about 60, 65, 70, 75, and 80%. My heavy lifts take place at about 85, 90, 95, 97.5 and 100%. These percentages are derived from past workouts with a particular variation of an exercise. The 100% mark is set a above the past best lift at that particular variation.

The other factor that allows me to train at very high percentages is the use of accommodating resistance. My training partner and I have used accommodation as a method of continual weight overload. We rarely finish a day with a weight on the bar that is lighter than our best lifts. Of course with bands and chains we are exposed mainly to these weights at the top of the motion. The incorporation of bands and chains allows me exposure to maximal or even super-maximal weights but not always through the entire range of motion.

Also, I can get away with training so heavy in all workouts because the emphasis on a particular section of a movement is focused on separately while still working through a full range of motion. For example, I rotate from working the bottom section of an exercise (such as box squat with no accommodation) to the top of a movement (reverse bands with super-maximal weights).
2) In the interview on Joe Skopec's site you state that you and your training partner Charles Bailey have used long linearly periodized programs for a while. What did you learn from the implementation of such programs?

We learned many things from the use of long linear routines. The most important thing we learned is that there are much more efficient and effective ways to make rapid progress in our lifts. I guess it was the overwhelming feeling between the two of us to start making drastic changes in our lifting routines. As I have said before, I give most of the credit to Charles for breaking down the mental blocks we had developed over the years about how great long linear routines were. The key for us was developing the willingness to change and change drastically.

Almost overnight we went from using 12-16 week peaking cycles to using the concept of mini-maxing every 3 weeks. We figured, why peak one time with a long routine in which you may or may not be able to finish, when you can have mini-peaks every 3 weeks. We typically peak on week 3 and take week 4 off all together to completely recover. During my experience with the long linear routines, I became bored in the beginning and over-trained in the end. The routines usually have you doing light weight for far too many weeks and heavy work is incorporated over too long of a period of time. This leads to an increased potential for injury and over-training.

We found that peaking 3 times over 12 weeks rather than one large peak in 12 weeks lead to gains that were far beyond the projection of the long linear routine. Most lifters look at a 12-16 week routine and they can not imagine moving the weights projected in the later weeks. It became where we would look at the linear routines and say " 12 weeks of work, and that is all we are going to get?". After making the changes and seeing the progress we knew this was the only way to train where we would be satisfied with our gains. I was able to add 474 pounds (215 kg.) to my squat in 30 months and Charles added about 350 pounds (158 kg.) to his squat in the exact same time frame. These gains were not aided by the use of drugs or any specialized training equipment such as a mono-lift.

There are some more complex issues we have also made drastic changes to such as the use of boxes, platforms, accommodation of resistance and the cycling of training volume relating to both sets and weight. These components are involved in the overall method of training but the general overview and perspective of the routine is outlined above.

3) Can you give our readers a template of your program?
This is the work I do on for every workout. I do speed before ME work. I workout every M, W and F. I do not squat every 4th Friday and I do not deadlift every 3rd Monday. 33% of my squats are done on a low box. I bench every week but I rotate minicycles of some variation every 4 weeks. I love floor presses and miniband work on the bench.

We have made gains lately by pulling off of platforms (2-3"). This can be effective in combination with the lightened method but it is very taxing on the low back and hips. I do this platform deadlifting on the cycles where I am not doing box squats. Every 3rd 3 week minicycle is done on a 15" box (speed and ME all in the same day as always).

This is how I train all my lifts:
warmup: 35%, 40%, 45% speed sets: 55%, 65%, 75% heavy max-effort: 85%, 90%, 95%, 97.5%, 100%
The percentages are not taken from a current max because I never max in the gym. The percentages are taken from the last time I performed that particular mini-cycle. Let's say that a PR on a reverse band deadlift was 800; the next time I come around to training the same exercise with the same band, I would set the 100 percent mark higher than what I was able to do before. The 100 percent mark would be moved up by about 1-2 percent and the other working weights would be set accordingly. The first time through a particular mini-cycle it is a shot in the dark but if you track your last set then the next time through it can be very exact.

I repeat the same bunch of mini-cycles so it can be calculated easily over time. I have about 4-5 mini-cycles that I love for each exercise.
The percentages remain the same but the weights are progressively heavier. Some of the other weights that I track like top, bottom and average weight are complex and used so I can not only cycle the variation of a particular exercise but also the overall volume of weight. I reduce accommodation and increase the average weight throughout all cycles but that takes some time and it had not been important to me until lately. I use charts for chains and bands so I can go to the chart and find the bar weight and amount of accommodation to easily find the average of the weight. This took time to measure the bar distance of all my exercises and weigh out all my bands and chains to determine the exact weight at the bottom and top of each one. In the past I used the bottom weight as my opener in a meet.
Here is an example of a mini-cycle recently completed (single ply brief and wraps only):

week 1 - black bands from bottom + 650 x 1
(990/top, 750/battom) 870
week 2 - blue bands from bottom + 750 x 1 (930/top, 805/ bottom) 867
week 3 - green bands from bottom + 800 x 1 (905/top, 845/ bottom) 879
week 4 - off

The average weight is about: 870 / week 1, 867 / week 2, and 879 week 3. This is a good indicator of the amount of actual work done in a particular week. It looks like the most work was done on week 3.

These are important factors to track while training. You can take it a step further and do analysis using your body weight in comparison to the top, bottom and average weights for a given week.

Notice how the top weight decreases and the bottom weight increases during this mini-cycle. That is important. Also, notice how the amount of accommodation (difference between the top and bottom) decreases throughout the three weeks. We have made huge gains doing this. I can not recommend these three week cycles enough. If I were preparing for a contest I would have done an exact cycle using much heavier weight and a suit with the straps up. The weight at the top would have been over my projected weight for the meet all three weeks. This exposure to the supermaximal weigh is important.

After the 4 week cycle (3 on and 1 off) we would deload on a below parallel box for two weeks and them take the week off before the meet. By deloading, I mean singles at about 85-90% of a current box max. With the supermaximal exposure at weeks 5, 6, and 7 out from a meet and the nervous system recovery by deloading on a box on weeks 2 and 3 out, you are ready to roll.
This technique has been tested over and over again. Progress is a science and the more progress you make the more detailed it becomes.
What we have found is that the benefit of a particular variation is maximized between week 2 and week 3. The benefit is great at week 1 and is best at week 2. Week 3 is also very good and the benefit tapers off almost completely at week 5. So the most benefit can be realized by doing the variation for up to 3 weeks. I do not do any variation more than 2 weeks because I can realize more benefit from week 1 of a new variation than I can from week 3 of the same variation. The benefit may peak more quickly for advanced lifters. That is just a theory of mine...I do not know this for sure. It may be that a low level lifter can have the benefit peak at week 4 or even 5 but the only two subjects have been elite level lifters that adapt very quickly to change.
Only one variable has to be changed but I prefer to alter 2 variables. Variation can be very subtle. It does not have to be drastic but the higher the degree of variation the more net benefit over time.

4) Your latest answer was amazing. You have indeed a scientific approach to training, and I mostly mean the way you manipulate the variables. It's not a surprise that you have such great results. Your program seems a mix of HIT (for the infrequency), Westside (accommodation and minicycles) and periodization. Some HIT authors write about the "simplicity" requirement of training, what do you think about it?
Simplicity is an adjective than can describe my training routine from a distant perspective. When I say distant I mean from a general view. From a general view, my routine is very simple; we deadlift on Mondays, bench on Wednesdays and we squat on Fridays. Other than cycling off days the routine is the same every week as far as exercise selection. We all know which exercises to perform that maximize strength and power. As individual lifters we need to determine the frequency in which we can perform these exercises to conform to our individual attributes. The largest hurdle in developing an ideal training routine is frequency. We all know ideal frequency differs among lifters.

From a distance all powerlifting routines are simple; for the most part they all consist of the same exercises. If you take a look at all drug-free lifters, we all squat heavy about 1 time per week. As we take a closer look at various lifting routines, we can see the detailed differences that make some routines great and some not so great. The beauty of the routine I choose to use is in the details. The details relating to band tension, chain weight, percentages, box heights, and recovery cycles. An effective routine for an advanced lifter is both simple and complex at once, depending on how close you choose to analyze the details.

5) Do you think that the infrequency of your training has something to do with your size? If so, how would you suggest to adapt the frequency for lighter lifters?

I can not say for sure if one of the reasons I can train infrequently is my size or not. I would imagine it has some bering on the matter. The manner in which I train requires an extended recovery period. This is not a one size fits all routine by any stretch. This is just what works for me and most of it comes from the trial and error method. The small number of training days in a month that I elect to participate in (8-9 workouts in 30 days) is the ideal number for me. I know this because of tracking progress, sleep patterns, soreness and frequency of injury. I lift injury free the majority of the time and I can attribute this to the frequency in which I train and also the absence of drugs. Steroids cause physical changes in muscle, tendon, and ligaments, making them more susceptible to failure under load or repetitive use. Many of todays routines are developed by lifters that are on drugs and we all know that the recovery periods are much shorter with the addition of drugs. Drug-free lifters need to take this into consideration when embarking on a new routine of any type.

6) Can you comment on high volume routine vs. spread the volume with high frequency? Why did you opt for the former? (I know you addressed this a little in previous answers, can you expand?)

I have a preference for not spreading training volume for a few reasons. First off, I do not participate in any light lifting days. A light lifting day is better spent at home resting and recovering for the next heavy day. I typically perform 4 sets at 90% or above each and every workout day subsequent to warmup and some speed sets. Having said that, I require long recovery periods. As I mentioned before, speed work or any lighter work on a separate day just lengthens recovery time and increases caloric expenditure between heavy workouts; neither of which I find to be very appealing. I am a firm believer that many lifter spread them selves too thin in the gym by training too many days during the week. The amount of training volume is also dependent upon if you are drug-free or not. Many lifters can excel with much higher training volume than I use and if drugs are a part of the equation then higher training volume would be the recommendation.

Another advantage of performing higher volume in one day as opposed to over the course of many days, is that typically more sets are performed each workout. I have found with heavy lifting that smaller jumps in weight from set to set better prepare me physically for the increase in load. Huge jumps in weight may increase the risk of injury and smaller jumps are not as much of a shock to the CNS (central nervous system).

7) What are your thoughts about going to failure? Should it be limited to novice powerlifters?

I was no different from any other lifter when I started going to the gym to lift weights. The "more is better" method was the most common mistake for most beginners and I was no exception. Many sets, all to failure and I think the result was always soreness, injury and confusion about why we are not reaping expected rewards for all the efforts we have put in.
Failure is overrated and I try not to fail on any set. If I fail I head home unless it was a missed rep due to a technical error. I think there is a decent amount of information promoting muscle failure for novice lifters but it is not something to make a habit of in my opinion. As the weights get heavier the risk that is associated with muscle failure goes up. This also includes the obvious dangers that go along with failing and having to recover. 8) Why did you opt for a week completely off as an unloading microcycle? Did you do any hormonal test to make sure this was the best way to go? By the way, did you use any testing device to find your personal supercompensation curve, or you based the program on educated guess and experience?

It took some time for my training partner to convince me that the weeks off incorporated into my routine was the best way to go. I guess at first it was a strong suggestion that payed off big-time. I was getting hurt less and my lifts were taking off like they never had before. I have always thought that most of the strength world including powerlifting is overtrained. I have never meet a lifter that trains less than I do. I did not use any scientific forms of measure other than the way I felt and performed.

Performance is the absolute best form of measure in this sport. The days off increased in frequency as I moved to a higher level as a lifter. I do not see the need to take anymore time off than I do currently.

My supercompensation curve has been measured by feel and performance. I think that the 2 on, 1 off deadlift cycle and the 3 on, 1 off squat cycle is just about perfect for realizing most of the potential gains form the work I put forth. It could possibly be improved upon by changing to a routine that is not based on a 7 day week but it seems to work out well. If I had to label myself as a lifter I would have to say i am slightly more undertrained than overtrained. This is the best side to the fence in my opinion. I would rather be constantly striving to make gains than constantly striving to heal and feel more positive about lifting. There are many unhappy lifters out there due to overtraining.

9) Back to practice, do you do one set of one single rep at every mentioned percentage (55%, 65%, 75%, 85%, 90%, 95%, 97.5%, 100%) in a workout per exercise? What about assistance?

I perform my speed sets at the 55-85% and they are performed with reps in the 1-3 range depending on how I feel. The sets in the 85-100% range are done with singles the majority of the time. I will incorporate doubles on occasion but mainly after a contest to keep the weight volume down a bit.

My assistance work consists of hip exercises and heavy side bends after the squat; military press, close-grip press and light rows after the bench and heavy rows after the deadlift. They take up about 5% of the time and effort for me in the gym.


And to follow with up an article from Kelly Baggett (from his website):

The Path of Champions
Understanding variations in training frequency, volume, and intensity over time

by: Kelly Baggett

One question I seem to get asked very often is the question about training frequency. What do I think of high frequency low volume routines like Pavels? What do I think of low frequency high intensity routines like HIT? What do I think of autoregulatory training? And what do I think of others?
They All Can Work!

The truth is, they all can work and they all can be ideal, just not at the same time or all of the time. What you need to do is determine what type of training will be most productive for you at any given time. That's what I hope to do here.

Generally speaking, a beginner progresses well off of greater frequency and lower volume. A beginner could put together a program consisting of strength, endurance, and speed work performed all in the same workout, at the same time, as often as 3-6 days per week. At this point, the biggest factor holding him back will be general fitness as well as technical and tactical issues. Therefore he needs constant stimulation, movement rehearsal, and basic fitness.

Such a program might look something like this:

Beginner Training

Workouts would consist of the following, 3-4 days week. Just pick a handful of 5-6 movements and go after them. When doing bodyweight movements such as these, it's easy to handle the volume.





Hanging leg raises

Back raises

Bodyweight Squats



One leg squats (or pistol squats)

Standing Long jumps

Dynamic flexibility movements

agility movements


low intensity jumps

Form work on squat and bench press.

Once an athlete has built a solid foundation they would then progress into more of a traditional routine of squats, deadlifts, benches, sprints etc. They would train the movements at least 3 times per week at a lower session volume.

There are 5 phases with regard to frequency and volume that almost every athlete goes through to reach the peak of his abilities. The opimal approach that works through one phase will probably not be the same optimal approach in a different phase. The beginner phase is phase I.

5 phases

Phase I- Is the beginner phase and is characterized by the above.

Phase II- Is the intermediate phase and is characterized by a general lean towards lower frequency. The magnitude of performance will increase substantially during this phase.

Phase III - Is the high-intermediate phase and is characterized by a humongous increase in the magnitude of performance with a subsequent decrease in volume tolerance.

Most people who have been training for 2 or more years are stuck in between phase II and III. They are stronger, faster, and more powerful then when they were beginners and they probably find they can train maximally less frequently. Yet they aren't anywhere near approaching the limits of their ability. They tend to do too much junk volume and lean towards overtraining rather then undertraining.

There are 2 more phases but before we cover them let's talk about the transition from beginner to intermediate.

Intermediate Phase

When one advances into the intermediate phase, he increases his ability to create stress, yet the ability to recover from that stress doesn't improve to the same extent. This is why a more advanced sprinter might need more time off after a hard session then a beginning sprinter. It's why a really strong lifter might need an entire week to recover from a heavy lift but a beginning lifter can max out and then come back the very next day and max out again. It's why a pro football player needs 2 weeks off to fully recover after a game yet jr. high kids can play tackle football without pads every day and never complain. It's why NBA players piss and moan about playing a game every other day and high school kids say "I can't believe their complaining, - I can play EVERY day without getting worn down." It's why some of the strongest men in the world only go heavy on a lift once every 10 days. It's why the worlds biggest bodybuilders only train a bodypart once per week. The list goes on and on.

Greater Intensity Initially Means Reduced Recovery

The greater the magnitude of performance you can generate the less training you tend to tolerate, at least initially. Before the nervous system can adapt to intensity and volume, it has to be able to put out intensity, or close the gap between "potential" performance and "current" performance. Therefore, as one becomes better able to "turn it on" they no longer recover from the frequency as well. So, during the intermediate phase this will initially necessitate a reduction in frequency. Instead of training 3-6 times a week he might only be able to handle twice a week, yet he will have improved across the board.

As he improves the absolute magnitude of his efforts further he might only be able to handle training once every 4-7 days. This is the high intermediate phase. All this is assuming one is using distributed loading, with full recovery in between sessions.

To put it in descriptive terms, let me give you a history of one of my athletes squatting, vertical jumping performances, and training frequency, and show you what they look like through each phase.


185 lbs squat at 140 lbs bodyweight/ 27 inch vertical jump/ Training 3 times per week


300 lb squat at 145 lbs bodyweight/34 inch vertical jump/ Training 2 x per week

High Intermediate

405 lb squat at 155 lbs bodyweight/41 inch vertical jump/training 1 x every 5-7 days.


405 squat at 155 lbs bodyweight/41 inch vertical jump/training 2-3 x per week + sports practice


455 squat at 160 lbs bodyweight/43 inch vertical jump/training 2-3 x per week + sports practice

So you can see that after the beginning stage his squat went from 300 lbs to 405 lbs. His VJ went from 34 to 41 inches. Yet his ability to tolerate volume decreased. In the advanced stage he built up the ability to tolerate volume and in the elite stage he once again intensified his performances. This athlete was a martial artist thus his sport necessitated he compete in a weight class. I'm sure most of you would be satisfied with what he was able to do in the "high-intermediate" phase.

Now, as mentioned above, many people are stuck in between the intermediate and high intermediate phase. The magnitude of their performance may not be as good as the guy in the above example, or it may be better, yet it's the same situation.

Most of these people who are at the Intermediate stage will immediately benefit more in their chosen endeavor, be it powerlifting, speed/vj training, and even bodybuilding, if they focus on improving their ability to generate high intensity efforts. Therefore, they will make immediate gains with a low frequency full recovery setup where their focus is on breaking personal records as often as possible. They'll train 100% balls to the wall rather infrequently, highly intensive, and then recover fully. They'll do better with a limitation on anything that isn't absolutely necessary such as any conditioning or endurance work. In short, the motto should be "improve or go home" and the training should be balls to the wall each session.

The reason many struggle reaching the 3rd phase is becuase they use too many conflicting demands without the ability to adapt to those demands (too much junk volume and not enough focus on constant improvement).

Make Progress or Go Home

Now, I know people love to rag on HIT training but it's basic tenet of "make progress every workout and recover 100% completely", does offer some positives. It does teach a person how to display a peak effort and how not to hold back. It fosters the ability to generate mental intensiveness. Other programs that emphasize full recovery combined with peak efforts like inno-sport's AREG scheme are very valuable here. If we look to bodybuilding, saying "HIT" is a no-no, yet we do have Doggcrapp training with an emphasis on doing one extended set per body part every 5 days and beating records every workout. That program could be called HIT and people make excellent gains.

We have Poliquin training, where "go heavy or go home" is the mantra and cardiovascular exercise is shunned. Poliquin will usually have guys train a muscle grouping once every 4-5 days.

Where They Go Wrong

Where people go wrong with some of these approaches is avoiding general fitness activity and thinking they have to recover 100% to train at all. But that's not to say these approaches don't have their advantages, especially when taking an athlete from intermediate to the high-intermediate phase.

Going From High Intermediate to Advanced

However, once one reaches the high intermediate stage the only way they will progress past this point is if they increase their ability to tolerate volume. During the high intermediate phase the ability to maintain volume of performance will suffer. If you want a prime example of an athlete at this point think of David Boston a couple of years ago. At the high-intermediate stage, one may become very fast and explosive, yet lack endurance. They will probably need to recover several days after a hard effort. They may become very strong yet find they have to rest an eternity in between training sessions to fully recover. They will probably find that pretty much anything makes them sore and anything not related to their specific ability interferes with that ability. For example, a football or basketball specialist will probably find that any conditioning work will cause immediate decreases in their speed or vertical jumping ability.

Constant high intensity or injury?

It's important to note that an athlete at this stage who continues to try to hammer intensity, intensity, intensity, with full recovery, full recovery, full recovery WILL become injured. If training at this level is prolonged, the training is infrequent enough, and low intensity work is nonexistent enough, that connective tissue will become too weak for the muscles as it will not receive enough blood flow and begin to lose it's proper functional ability. That's why HIT style routines often cause injury and burnout.

Ok, now let me emphasize that one of my prime initial objectives with the majority of athletes I work with is to get them to what I call this "high intermediate" level ASAP. I do it a little differently though. I never get away from low intensity "circulatory" and general fitness work and I provide more intensity manipulation to avoid stagnation and deconditioning. However, the focus is still on breaking records every heavy workout or at least as often as possible. In general that will often take an initial reduction in overall training volume.

Now this "high-intermediate" training does have it's disadvantages but there are more advantages. Any basic and semi-intelligent setup incorporating a good mix of general fitness, strength, flexibility and conditioning can get a person to the intermediate level but most will start running into plateaus around that point. Remember, before you can generate intensity and maintain that intensity (volume), you gotta be able to generate that intensity. In other words, you can't have everything all the time.

Now obviously the next stage would be Phase IV.

Phase IV - The advanced phase

Phase IV is the advanced phase and is characterized by maintaining the ability to generate increased intensity from the high-intermediate phase, while tolerating greater volumes of work.

This would be the ideal time to switch to a more advanced CONJUGATE PERIODIZATION type setup if the athlete has not done so already. This will enable an athlete to not only maintain the heightened intensity, but also perform and train at a much higher frequency. During this phase, one will add in quite a bit more training designed to boost the work capacity. Volume will fluctuate much more. The end result is that, instead of having to rest days in between training sessions, one will recover much quicker and still be able to maintain a heightened effort. This makes it necessary for all team sports because sport requires:

  1. repeated near maximal efforts

  2. frequent training

  3. frequent practice

  4. strength and power endurance

  5. fast recovery

In a sport where the deciding factor does not require endurance and is determined soley by the magnitude of the performance (shotput, high jump, long jump, 60 m sprint, o-lifting, powerlifting etc.), one important thing about being able to tolerate increasing volumes is that you can then intensify performance by tapering or dropping volume. Before you can intensify through tapering you have to have some volume built up so that you have something to taper into.

Real World Examples

Now if you take around at some other sports like powerlifting you'll see that they've caught on to this work capacity. Westside guys have caught on with the introduction of sled work and extra workouts etc. Bodybuilders haven't caught on yet but they will. Sprinters and swimmers built up a lot of volume and then "taper" the volume heading into a meet. Any setup that follows the basics of Conjugate periodization "concentrates", or increases volume, and then lowers that volume to heighten performance. When you can train with increasing volumes you increase your adaptation ability.

With the high intermediate athletes I work with, I'll bring in extra work and it'll be designed to build up the working capacity. This work could take many forms. It could be increased training frequency and volume at reduced load and volume. Or alternate loading and volume(concentrated strength loading). It could be "tempo" work, sled dragging or any number of other varieties. It could also be additional hypertrophy and technical work, as muscle mass gains will mean a given amount of neural energy will translate into a stronger contraction. Improved technique will allow the more efficient use of energy.

But what we're going to do here is build the ability to tolerate volume. If we were to add something like interval sprints we'd put them in for a month or so and then back off. When we do back off, the ability to maintain performance will have drastically increased and there will also usually be an intensification of the absolutes. So not only are you running around faster, jumping higher, and lifting more weight then before, but you're able to keep it up play after play and day after day.

Finally, as one continues down this path, not only only can he train at a high intensity but also at a high intensity and high volume. This is phase V.

Phase V- The Elite

Phase V- is the Elite phase and during this phase one will be near the peak of their natural abilities.

High level olympic lifters are a good example of athletes that reach the "elite" level through precise frequency and volume management. If you'll notice, olympic weightlifters train under government sponsored programs and many of them would be champion level powerlifters even though they don't do squats etc. for maximum weight. They also train with dramatically higher volumes. The likely reason for this is, because of their support and coaching, they are able to put into practice the best of what science has to offer and the exact things I'm talking about here. A powerlifter is disadvantaged because there are no government sponsored powerlifting programs that I'm aware of so they have to figure out all this stuff on their own, thus, as of now, most champion powerlifters operate in Phase III mode although we're seeing more phase IV's because of smart coaches.

Individual Roadmap

Your goal is probably to eventually get to the elite level. Now, getting to the elite level doesn't mean that your performance will necessarily be "elite" in your chosen sport. It just means that you're able to perform near the peak of your natural ability. At least you now have a general idea what that roadmap looks like.

If you think about your performance and compare it to what I described above it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out where you are.

If you haven't trained at least a couple of years then you're most definitely a beginner or intermediate.

If you can train maximally every day or several days per week, yet the magnitude of your performance is less then impressive, then you're an intermediate who needs to get to high-intermediate.

If the magnitude of your performance is fairly impressive, yet you struggle with work capacity and frequency of training, then you're a high-intermediate who needs to get to advanced.

If the magnitude of your performance is impressive AND you do well with high volumes then you're probably ready for intensification through reduced volume.

So that about sums it up! See where you're at right now, identify your current training to see if it meets up with your needs, and plan out your path!



Don Alessi's "20 Pounds of Untapped Muscle" talk about what he refers to as overreaching.

Hope it helps.


paging CT... hellow CT?

I beleive he's talked about this in a few of his articles, use that badass updated search feature, it's kickin.


I am definitely interested in what Christian Thibadeau and, if possible, John Davies would have to say about this.


Looks like this is as far as my thread is going to go. Thank you DeepSouth, Robert, CU, and Prof X for your comments.

  • Beef


Right. And I also don't think you fully recover on most programs. Particularly if you're doing higher frequency work such as Waterbury's programs. But you recover enough so that you can have a hard and effective workout the next time. The huge benefit many people receive after taking a back-off week or active recovery week is testament to the fact that full recovery is not always occuring on traditional programs. But the excellent progress that the diligent make is testament that it doesn't need to.


OK, so there are two primary different kinds of loading in a cycle: concentrated and distributed.

Distributed loading is a plan that allows a person to fully recover between workouts. Concentrated loading consists of a loading/frequency cycle that does not allow a trainee to completely recover before he gets hit again by a workout or another microcycle.

There are many ways to do this, from a concentrated loading or "shock" week/microcycle, to a month or so of balanced concentrated loading in a mesocycle (what you were referring to in your advanced methodology course). And you are correct, much research does in fact show that for advanced trainees/athletes a concentrated loading scheme produces better results than a distributed loading scheme. However, you should not necessarily see a "severe" decrease in performance. That should generally tip you off to the fact that something is wrong and the athlete is overstressed or overtrained (two different things).

The key things that should occur to you are these:

1) These plans are for advanced, elite, or at the very least athletes that have solid well balanced experience and form. They are not, ON THE WHOLE, advised for beginners or people who just want to be healthy or just "tone up". Most of the time these kinds of people should be fully recovered between workouts, based on their experience level, their goals, or their fear of hard work.

2) Concentrated loading SHOULD be a planned event. Many trainees, and uncoached (and coached) athletes UNintentionally fall into this pattern of concentrated loading by accident through any of a variety of factors--inexperience, overwork, inappropriate coaching, high competitive drive (my personal fault; this is what causes me to overstress myself, sometimes with an injury resulting.), etc.

3) Personal trainers, gurus, and much of the "fitness" industry misunderstand the term overtraining/overreaching, most often they think it means concentrated loading/that you train through soreness, or that you have to avoid hard work and basic exercises to focus on "functional" training, etc. heh.

4) Most of the fitness industry is based on distributed loading because of their target market, and the fact that a lot of them don't have a bloody clue.

5) There is a time and place for both kinds of loading, even in advanced athletes. Especially for maintenence work on a certain aspect of training, to allow specialization or whatnot in another aspect.

You should read both "Supertraining" by Siff, and "the Science of Sports Training" by Kurz.

Hope that helps.


Thanks Aragorn. You = The Man.


which magazine?


Deep South,

That was a very interesting read, I thank you!