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Old 05-24-2010, 02:09 AM
ThePman220 ThePman220 is offline
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Default Training with high frequency

Hey folks,

I'm currently in the middle of an email discussion w/ a few folks (including Mathias Wernbom from Sweden) e-acquaintances that like to talk shop about this topic, and we're talking about the potential uses and effects of high training frequency - something on the order of training lifts and/or muscle groups (for the BBers) upwards of 5-6x (or more) a week.

I spoke to Glenn and Michael about this previously, so I figure we can use this thread to hash things out. I know the two of you have done a lot of work on how training stress affects athletes, and in particular Olympic weightlifters, which is pretty relevant to the discussion given some of the limitations in generalizing other research to this specific instance.

I've directed the other guys to this thread, so hopefully they'll join up, or I can pass along messages. Either way, we're all pretty keen on getting your feedback.

My own interest in high-frequency lifting came about recently thanks to John Broz. Some of his comments and methods seemed pretty outrageous at first glance, but instead of writing off what he was saying, I started thinking about it - what if he was right? I know I've personally trained with more of a powerlifting/power-bodybuilding kind of emphasis over the years, and we always just took it for granted that you should limit the number of sessions per week; if you didn't, you'd certainly overtrain, later if not sooner.

But after thinking about it, I can find quite a few examples of very strong or otherwise high-performing athletes that seem to train "entirely too much" based on orthodox training wisdom.

Of course it's easy to write this off as genetic freaks, or steroid users, or both. While I can't deny that there's almost certainly some of that involved, I think it's also disingenuous to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Absolute results may rely on genetics and drugs, but that doesn't mean the relative gains of an individual can't be assessed on a different scale.

I always think back to Bob Peoples, who pulled over 700 lbs weighing 165 back in the 1940s. The man supposedly deadlifted up to a max every single day, alternating that with occasional phases of squatting up to a max every single day. Steroids simply can't be entered into the equation, because of the time frame. I suppose you could argue that he was a genetic wonder, but there are some other factors that I think can contribute - I'll touch on that shortly.

After searching around the last few weeks, I've seen a lot of similar instances of this style of training. IPF powerlifters, namely the Russian national team, train with a ton of volume and moderate intensities (the Boris Sheiko programs floating around). Brian Siders, the only American with an IPF record, trains 6 days a week with insane volume.

Weightlifters are pretty widely known for this kind of thing. Broz was influenced heavily by Krastev and the entire Bulgarian method, which we probably all know for being very high volume/high frequency. Glenn, I saw some comments from you not too long ago RE: Broz and how you have some of your guys training upwards of (I think) 9 times a week. For that matter, the weightlifting team at my gym trains with not much besides the lifts and back/front squats five days a week (that I know of; it may be more).

The reasoning I've heard is that the snatch and C&J are fast lifts with little to no eccentric component, so it's easier to train them frequently. The three powerlifts are slow, grinding movements with a larger eccentric component, and this makes it harder to train them frequently.

The Russian lifters and Siders aside, this was also brought up in our email discussion: http://styrkeloft.no/nyheter/frekven...vensprosjektet (run it through the Google translator if you're not fluent in Norwegian). The entire paper should be published at some point, but even the preliminary results are quite interesting.

The authors apparently consider skill practice to be important even to the powerlifts - and that's also not unlike what Pavel Tsatsouline has been going on about: to consider strength as a skill to be practiced, instead of something to be "worked out".

Even some of Bill Starr's older writings suggested that, at some point, you'd have to start adding workouts in order to keep improving. The reasoning being that intensity, even cycled, can only be manipulated so much - and once you get to a stage where you have to consider monthly or multi-monthly progress, you don't have a lot of wiggle room. You can add volume each workout, but even that will eventually overwhelm you if you constrain the number of workouts. So realistically you don't have many options but to add workouts.

I like Starr's analogy of widening the base of the pyramid - you can only build so high for a given foundation. Once you've hit that limit, you have to widen the base - do more workouts and improve overall work capacity - to keep improving. It makes sense, at least given the workouts of high-level athletes. Not only do you see it in a lot of the high-level strength competitors, but even athletes in other sports tend to maintain a large number of weekly workouts, even if those workouts aren't all resistance-training.

We've also brought up some of the research showing advantages to breaking up a given volume of work into two (or more) daily workout sessions, in order to take advantage of a fresh state at each session.

Now so far I've only really covered the strength/skill component of the issue. What prompted the original discussion was talk about how this method could be used for purposes of stimulating hypertrophy, particularly in those that may be near that genetic asymptote of muscle-mass.

Of course you can't really separate strength from size, although you can certainly make a case that how you arrive at strength can make a huge difference. It would stand to reason that a similar approach could be used for this very purpose.

The biggest refutations I've seen to this approach are of course the classic appeal to overtraining - you'll certainly burn out sooner or later. Glenn & Michael, I've seen some of your older research into this, and you've noted that there's definitely a dropoff in both real performance and the test/cortisol ratio with several weeks of heavy loading.

This would seem like a pretty clear rationale to build in back-off/tapering weeks. The criticism leveraged against Broz is that he doesn't do that, just tells you to train through it. That sounds insane until you consider that he doesn't have his guys working up to pre-programmed numbers, nor does he have them going to psyched-up competitive-type maxes. Working up to a comfortable daily-max is an entirely different beast, at least in my experience - and I think his method actually does build in back-offs simply for the fact that an overreached athlete isn't going to be able (physically or mentally) to come in and knock himself out with an intensity-type stress.

I'd also like to think that this kind of method, where you just suck it up and keep coming back for more punishment, is a useful adaptation in its own right. It fits in with Starr's comments about widening the base of the pyramid. It fits with examples like Bob Peoples (a farmer who was doubtless in excellent condition and able to tolerate and thrive on large amounts of work). It even fits with what I've always heard about the older Russian/Soviet methods, which emphasized having their athletes "in shape" in a general sense.

It seems to me that there's a lot of data points that suggest this is a useful method for a variety of goals, and not a lot of concrete research to argue against it - indeed, most of the refutations are either entirely theoretical in nature; or they dismiss the method outright as being only useful for genetic freaks and/or steroid users; or they respond only to lifestyle factors, such as how being young/jobless/etc. can make it possible but no one else could possibly make use of such an approach.

I think there's certainly a kernel of truth to all of those refutations, but I also think there may be some utility. To that end, I've been trying the method myself the last few months (training everything four times per week and five sessions for the last two weeks), and I have to say I'm really enjoying it so far. There's been no loss of motivation, no burnout, no accumulated soreness, nothing like that. That may change given time, but I'm also being very careful about the volume I'm doing in each session to avoid that. I'm using RPEs to auto-regulate the peak weight each day, and being that I'm still breaking myself in, I can't say I'm anywhere near really taxing weights yet - but it's heading that direction.

In any case, I'd like to leave it open for any and all discussion or input on the subject, because I find this concept fascinating. After having more or less plateaued on most of my lifts for the last few years (partly due to injuries), I feel like I'm thriving on this particular approach.
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Last edited by ThePman220; 05-24-2010 at 04:23 AM.
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Old 05-24-2010, 11:26 AM
Michael Hartman Michael Hartman is offline
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Great topic, and first post, Matt. Thanks for joining.

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.

I really think higher frequency training is something that is not yet fully supported by research but the proof is really in the results. Research (mine, Glenn's, and others) will demonstrate 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, with the many examples you named and others, 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.

I will probably use this thread to unload many of my thoughts over the course of several posts as I am not sure I can do it in one. Glenn is currently in Guatemala serving as team leader Team USA in the Pan-Am championships but I think his insights will be great once he gets the time to post.
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Old 05-24-2010, 10:16 PM
ThePman220 ThePman220 is offline
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Good stuff Michael, I'll be glad to read more of your thoughts on the matter, and Glenn's when he has some time. It's honestly interesting to me to see this concept appear, after all these years of people just assuming you'd wind up overtraining if you trained more than is usually suggested. I guess we can all get locked into our ways and assume we know what we "should" be doing, but it's nice to question our assumptions too.

Thanks for the welcome.
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Old 05-24-2010, 11:25 PM
Derek Binford Derek Binford is offline
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This is great info guys. I myself have started training with higher frequency in the past year and a half mostly with the powerlifts. More often than not over the last year and a half I have trained squat, bench, and deadlift three times per week each. Usually training 4 days a week, performing the competition lifts or variations of the squat, bench, and deadlift three days per week, and accessory work 1 day a week.

I have done this with and without gear. With gear (multi-ply) it was much more difficult to keep up over longer periods of time, maybe 2 three week blocks with unload weeks at the end of each, but raw I feel it can be done almost indefinitely, as long as intensities are varied and unload weeks are implemented. And I am no genetic freak by any means, i'm about 5'8, 185lbs, and my best raw squat is 420, best bench 340, best deadlift 530. And all of these lifts have been done recently, except for the bench but I have hit 335 recently. I feel all of these will be broken again soon as well.

It's really amazing what the body can adapt to. Most of my training is high volume and sub maximal, or what I would consider sub maximal because I am not constantly taking max attempts. Mostly 5-8 sets of 1-3 reps between 80-95% depending on the week and day. I will also perform speed work somewhat westside style as a means of still training but with less intensity.

I think a ton of time spent on accessory work once a certain point of strength is reached is a waste of time and a mistake I think MANY american lifter make. I think accessory work for powerlifters should be just enough to keep them healthy because I really don't think its going to help add to your total once you reach a certain point, except that being healthy allows you to train hard to build your total.

My point of this post I guess is that I think higher frequency training is THE best way to become a stronger, more technical lifter in a shorter period of time. Most lifters that I come in contact with just really don't want to work that hard and won't consider it because its so far from the norm here in america. Whether high intensity and low volume, or high volume and moderate intensity is the way to go is hard to say. With powerlifting I think it would be much harder to max multiple days a week, week in week out than compared to weightlifting. This is why I think most higher frequency powerlifting programs use sub maximal intensities with higher volume.

Great thread though! Look forward to more guys.
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Old 05-24-2010, 11:59 PM
glennpendlay glennpendlay is offline
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Not going to be able to post a ton just now, as Michael said, I am in Guatemala with the US team, but I will try to put some stuff up during down times.

The first thing is how my ideas changed over time. Years ago as a powerlifter, I thought that anything more than once a week was a little on the crazy side for squatting... twice a week maybe if you werent trying to peak. Now I consider 3 times a week to be low frequency, and coach guys that do 7 to 9 squat workouts some weeks without feeling like they are being pushed all that hard.

I think Derek hit on some great points. Some of it is perception. If you think 3 times a week is high frequency, then it is. If you expect to be able to hit heavy weights 4 or 5 times a week, then after an adaptation period, you will.

Anyway, look forward to talking about this a lot more when I get the chance. One more thing to consider quickly, today I was watching some of the 56kilo lifters doing their last training session before competing at the Pan-Am championships Wednesday. A couple of the Guatemala lifters and the Dominican Republic lifters were doing what looked a lot like absolute max front squats... 2 days before competing. Food for thought. Evidently they are pretty well adapted to heavy front squats, huh?

Glenn
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:08 AM
Derek Binford Derek Binford is offline
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Glenn hit on another point that I think is interesting, about the lifters hitting max front squats 2 days before the comp. Alot of powerlifters these days will not even touch a bar for a week prior to their competition and may not squat above 90% within 3 weeks of the meet, and may not even pull at all within 2-4 weeks of the meet. I just can't see how this would have you in top form for the competition.

Sad to say but I guess if you take enough drugs you can sit on your ass for a week and get strong. Thats where I think powerlifters make another mistake is that they look at what top multi-ply powerlifters are doing to peak for a meet and then they follow that. It would be scary what drugged up top multi-ply powerlifters could do on meet day if they knew how to properly peak for a meet with training and not be solely dependent on the drugs to peak their strength.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:10 AM
leighton leighton is offline
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Just to balance this out, I have recently switched to a weightlifting split where I snatch and clean and jerk twice per week. Then twice per week squat (alternating front and back). Singles only in the lifts and squats.

Previous to this I'd been training everything 3 or 4 times per week with much higher volume (doubles and triples for lifts, fives for squats) but lower intensity than I train now.

See David Woodhouses article that prompted this change about Charlie Francis and the CNS.
http://weightliftingepiphanies.blogs...throwdown.html

This type of training seems to be suiting me much better as I have made PRs in the clean and back squats recently after having been plateued for about a year.

Maybe being mid thirties, my body simply couldnt recover from the higher volume training and I was permanently overtrained, so ended up doing a load of Medium intensity workouts which werent productive.
Its also worth mentioning I was doing judo twice per week also which obviously affects recovery (Ive lowered it to once per week now to allow me to recover and focus on my lifting)
I really wanted the higher frequency type of training to work for me as I love lifting but it just didnt seem to. Perhaps I was doing too much volume each day although I wasnt going crazy with the sets.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:16 AM
leighton leighton is offline
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Another point I have with regards to perhaps older lifters.
Snatch and Clean and Jerk are quite hard on the connective tissue ie of the wrists, knees, shoulders etc.
I have noticed that since I switched to doing multiple sets only twice per week that my wrists and knees feel much better.
Is it the case that connective tissue needs time to recover between lifting sessions. And that especially in older lifters the connective tissue takes much longer to recover than say the muscles.
So perhaps in older lifters they would be better off doing say 10 sets twice per week, than 4 sets 5 times per week. Although the overall volume is the same, the connective tissue is given the chance to recover between sessions.
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:25 PM
crackyflipside crackyflipside is offline
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To throw something into this discussion, I heard that high frequency/intensity training causes adaptations to the physical structure of the brain, regarding the hormonal glands. Abadjiev claimed his best lifters showed a much larger adrenal gland than normal. A talk with a neurobiologist says about the same thing and explains the reasons in a thread on another forum where they were talking to John Broz about his method, I was having a back and forth conversation with him asking him to explain the mechanism (dark times is what Broz calls the adaptation period):

Quote:
@crackyflipside - In the "dark times" it's just as I said, a lot like "withdrawl" from substance abuse. If you want the specifics, I'll try to lay them out for you as best I can. Maybe this will clear up some of the misconceptions people have over what actually happens when you lift weights. Then again, maybe monkeys will fly out of my behind...

Most people think the only part of the body to adapt to lifting are the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. In fact, the brain also adapts to whatever stress you put on the body. It physically changes its structure and ability to deal with chemicals which directly relate to your physical activity. If you are a runner, youll get better at making and using chemicals which deal with running.

One thing that pissed me off about IA is his insistence that the CNS fatigues in some way. Bulls**t. People are still taught that the nervous system runs off of electrical impulses like a power cable. It doesnt. The nerve impulses (synapses) run off of chemicals (neurotransmitters). If these chemicals are not present, there is no signal between brain and muscle. The reason you can measure electrical impulses in the nervous system is because the electrical impulse is a BYPRODUCT of this chemical reaction. Its called an electrochemical reaction.

A large part of how strong we are is the ability to create and deal with a higher concentration of these neurotransmitters. The nerves develop more receptor sites to connect with them, and the glands learn to make more of the neurotransmitters themselves. Only then do you get a stronger impulse.

When you start placing demands on the brain to lift maximum weights every day, it says "oh crap I need to learn how to make and use these chemicals or hes going to kill us"¯. So it goes through an adaptive period where it shuts down some functions and tries to upgrade. These are the "dark times".

The main chemical in muscle contraction is SEROTONIN. It actually regulates how HARD the muscle contracts, which is why only the heaviest weights seem to effect our mood, the reason why people shy away from maximal lifting and cower from the imaginary symptoms of overtraining¯.

Serotonin just happens to be the main feel good hormone in the body. It directly effects your mood and mental outlook, your happiness¯ and willingness to train. Your sleep, appetite, and also effects the cardiovascular system (your heart rate increases when you are supposedly overtrained¯ - this is why). The serotonin cycle in the brain gets screwed up when drug addicts go into withdrawl (most recreational drugs artificially influence the serotonin pathways, which is why they are so much fun). There are other neurotransmitters which get effected by this (acetylcholine for example), but serotonin is the big one.

So, when the body receives a demand to lift heavy things on a daily basis, the brain shuts down the serotonin receptors to upgrade¯ them. The brain structure changes take a few days to a few weeks. Changes in individual nerves happen quickly, a few days at most. This is why the dark times¯ occur. Its the adaptive period thats needed for the brain and body to get to the next higher level¯. Natures little joke is obviously making us feel like crap when we are actually improving.

The body is trying to get us to stop the stress so it isnt forced to remodel the whole place, but thats exactly what you want. Thats why its so important to keep pounding away through it all. You want the greatest adaptation to take place.

Guys who are afraid of this response are guys who are lifting because they like the way it makes them feel. If you do lighter workouts, this serotonin is raised, but there is no signal to adapt. You feel 'high'¯. Basically lifting weights becomes like a drug. People feel better doing light useless workouts, just like they feel better taking a hit of crack. I think this is why no one wants to try lifting the Bulgarian way. They are addicts.

You asked me about cortisol. There are no good and bad¯ hormones. There are only hormones specific to your physical activity. Do you know why cortisol is released in weight lifting? Cortisol controls the blood pressure and concentration of blood sugar.

With short bursts of intense lifting (singles and doubles), blood sugar is not the primary fuel. Blood sugar only becomes an issue when you are doing higher reps. Cortisol is released mainly as a way to cope with these high reps, a way to shuttle more fuel (blood sugar) into the muscle tissue by using higher blood pressure. This is one reason bodybuilders have their posing trunks in a bunch over it. Cortisol is dealt with just like serotonin. The body tries to adapt to using it, and all the bodybuilders run and scream. If they stuck with it theyd go through a response much like the 'Dark times'¯, and theyd be able to handle more high rep sets afterwards.

In this case, cortisol is specific to the activity bodybuilders, not power or olympic lifters. Keep your reps low and you never have to worry about it. (It has nothing to do with total volume, only reps in the set.)

Thats funny what you mentioned about the Bulgarians having huge adrenals. It makes sense. They adapt by getting larger and stronger just like anything else. Thats also a great argument against limiting 'genetics'¯. Someone else would look at normal sized adrenals and say they would obviously be overloaded by stress. The Bulgarians entire organism changed in response to their lifting. Form follows function. Awesome stuff.

The adrenals dont only release cortisol, they release adrenaline as well. Adrenaline acts as one of the triggers¯ to this adaptive period. You should go read the lecture by Ivan Abajiev here :

- weightliftingexchange.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=74&Itemi d=75

He explains this whole adaptive period and how it effects more than just the musculature. Go read the paragraphs which start with:

"So this is our aim when we are training athletes, that we would build up all those organs and muscles needed for a certain performance, not only the muscles, but the whole cardiovascular and other systems that support the working of the muscles in order for a better performance. The adaptive process however, does not only include all the lungs and the heart and the other organs that I mentioned."

So I hope I explained that all well enough. Bottom line, from a physiological standpoint - BROZ IS RIGHT. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Take care.

(p.s. - If you think maxing squats daily is tough, try typing all of this out on a phone!)
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:24 PM
Michael Hartman Michael Hartman is offline
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Really good information thus far.

The changes that occur within the brain with training are really interesting. About 4-5 years ago a study by Jensen demonstrated very different adaptations within the CNS and motor cortex when learning a motor skill vs. increasing strength. They summarized, similar to Pavel's quote (as Matt posted above), that learning to display strength is an actual skill. In a practical sense, the act of reproducing a skill (Snatch @ 50%max) is very specific and different than reproducing the skill with maximal force (Snatch @ 100%max) at the neural level. It makes sense from a training standpoint, if you want to get good a lifting maximal weights, you had better have enough practice actually lifting maximal weight.
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