March 21, 2011

High Frequency Training (revisited)

Long live The Giant Killer

The idea of training the same movement or muscle group multiple times per week (usually working up to a maximal attempt) is something that is not fully supported by research, but is used by numerous champions in many strength-related disciplines.  For those who have been following the 8-week Training Course you have worked up to a maximal weight during most weeks of the course, and on some weeks (Weeks 4-6) multiple times during the week.  Despite the lack of concrete physiological "evidence" this period of overreaching is needed to maximize performance.  Pushing your body to the limit, and then allowing for sufficient recovery, is a technique that has been used for decades by coaches to ensure their athletes are fully prepared for competition. 

My first exposure to higher frequency training was in 2001. Prior to moving to Wichita Falls and working with Glenn, I had been training for ~6 years never once squatted more than 2x per week. My first week with Glenn we squatted 3 times, with what is now the "Texas Method". I remember thinking this was silly, but since he trained 12-year old kids who were squatting more than me, I would give it a legitimate shot. After some initial soreness, I was front squatting for 3 reps my previous best back squat after 4-weeks of training. 

Research (mine, Glenn's, and others) demonstrates decreased Testosterone:Cortisol ratio, increase peripheral and central fatigue, and decreased performance during periods of overreaching / overtraining which usually coincides with higher frequency training. But, at the same time, some of the most successful athletes in the world are training this way and improving dramatically over time. Even during my research, when T:C was at its lowest, we still had several lifters set all-time PRs at the end of a week in which we worked up to max 5 times. Research and physiology say one thing, results and performance say another. 

The key point for me in all of this is that I really do not "subscribe" to a specific training philosophy; other then to do what is needed to improve. In many ways I try to find the least amount of training necessary to make continuous improvements. There are many examples of athletes using this high frequency training, as well as athletes using higher volume less frequent approaches, so the next question is when do we prescribe each type of training, for how long, and how can we manipulate it to take advantage of the benefits from each type. However, switching from the different approaches will provide a significant training stimulus. We know the greatest adaptations occur, both positive and negative, at the extremes of training, so making the training as different as possible throughout the year might be a logical approach.

Example programs using High Frequency Training principles: Click Here

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