The High/Low Approach to Training Athletes
In over 30 years of performance enhancement (training of athletes), I’ve had the opportunity to sit and discuss training and performance with some of the greatest minds in the field. I’ve visited Zatsiorsky on several occasions, Judd Logan , Bondarchuk, Issurin, Yessis, Dave Tate and Jim Wendler, Louie Simmons( who I’ve actually lived with he and Doris for a week plus countless visits) and the late Charlie Francis (whose cell phone number I still keep in my phone along with his wife Angela in honor), Val Nasedkin and Joel Jamieson. I’ve been in live surgeries with Dr. Freddie Fu, Dr. Vonda Wright, and Dr. Tony Miniaci. Spent countless hours at UPMC Sports Medicine and with my close friend, Michael Hope. I have hired assistants who are way smarter than me, Allan DeGennaro, James Smith, Tom Myslinski and many interns like Mike Guadango(freakstrength) , Andrew Sheaff , Anthony Mychal, and countless others whose names escape me. All in an effort to increase my knowledge and understanding of the human body and its vast abilities.
At the age of 55 my mind is cramped with information but always aware of the individual’s response to a stimulus is highly specific to that individual. With all this being said I have also used millions of periodization concepts to get my athletes bigger, stronger and above all, faster. The one concept I have used with unbelievable success is Charlie Francis’s vertical integration (high/ low) approach to performance enhancement (with some Westside revolved around it) .
Why high-low approach? Here’s why:
1. Football is an alactic-aerobic sport!!! That’s right I said aerobic because it is the development of the aerobic system that serves as the backbone of alactic work from a recovery standpoint and repeated high intense effort standpoint.
2. It will not confuse the body. If you want to confuse the body go do CrossFit. You got one ass you can’t ride multiple horses!
3. Allows the body to super compensate not just seek homeostasis.
4. As level of preparedness increases, the intensities must be separated into high and low to account for increasing recovery requirements from the high intensity training sessions. This is why I’m so critical of coaches who train high intense daily. For example speed mon/ thurs and agility tues/ fri. Are you kidding me ? Where is your brain?!?!
5. The high/ low approach will vastly improve absolute output with smaller volumes. It’s a no- brainer!!!!
Now you ask,” what are high and low intensity and I didn’t hear a mention of medium intensity???”
Let’s identify what constitutes each of these intensity zones.
1. High intensity or high CNS stress training (95-100% intensity). Intensity is defined as degree of effort when compared to maximum capacity. This is referred to alactic power and capacity work. It enables the athlete to rehearse the sporting activity at high intense efforts. It is anti- circulatory and sympathetic dominant. It increases neural demand and speed reserve and requires 48-72 hours of recovery between sessions. It produces a feeling of fatigue hours after completion, especially with power development.
2. Medium CNS stress training (76-94%). This is lactic power and capacity. This IS NOT the energy demand of American Football. It is not lactic based, so quit telling your athletes they lift weights after game day to clear lactic acid from their system! The problem with this intensity zone is the superimposed glycolitic and aerobic training effects that cause a profound impact on adaptation. It confuses the body. It’s too slow for alactic power/ capacity and too fast for recovery. Thus, as preparedness increases it must be accounted for as high intense CNS training. Plus according to Viru 1995/Volkov 1986, this type of training inhibits aerobic enzyme and mitochondria production.
3. Low CNS stress training (<75%) aerobic power and capacity. This is pro-circulatory and resets PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) tone. It increases capillary density slowing blood flow down. This enables blood to stay in contact with tissue longer increasing nutrient transfer and waste product removal. It also keeps motor neurons hot lowering electrical resistance and increasing MU activation. Low stimulus requires 12-24 hours of recovery between sessions. The athlete is also able to maintain muscular heat from the general warm up. Two of its most important properties is it secures the adaptation of the high CNS stressor all the while teaching relaxation as the athlete maintains sprint posture. If you can’t relax you can’t run fast!!!! It is this property that is overlooked and never mentioned.
Now you can see the value of the high/ low approach and why it is so beneficial to the training of power/ speed athletes. Go Train!!!