Concurrent Periodization – Making Gains in All Areas of Training
The most common problem we see at the gym is paralysis by analysis. Far too often when people start hitting the gym regularly, they’re overly concerned with what they’re doing, instead of how they’re doing the exercises. We’ll see questions such as:
What the best training program out there?
My program isn’t working, what should I do?
I’ve plateaued, what program helps bust plateaus?
The iterations of the simple question, “what’s the best program” are endless. But, suffice it to say, people generally tend to focus on only one aspect of performance – speed, power, strength, hypertrophy or endurance – during a given phase of training.
While this does yield results in that specific area, people often hit a plateau and stop progressing, or worse, get bored and lose their enthusiasm for training. But what if there was a method of training that allowed you to improve ALL aspects of athletic performance, while shattering plateaus and defeating boredom?!
You’d probably say there’s no such program. Well, as it turn out, there is!
It’s called concurrent periodization, and we’ve got a full rundown of how you can implement this style of training ASAP!
What is Concurrent Periodization?
Simply put, concurrent periodization is training for multiple goals at the same time. To really grasp what we mean, it would help to understand how “traditional” training programs use a more structured periodization, organized into macrocycles.
You see in more traditional training protocols, you focus merely on improving on facet of your athletic prowess at a given time. Over the course of an entire year (or “macrocycle”), you would dedicate a separate block of training, or “mesocycle”, to each separate area. To where a year of training would be organized as follows:
- January – March – Endurance
- April – June – Strength
- July – September – Hypertrophy
- October – December – Power / Explosiveness
Following such a carefully thought out progression allows you to target your training to accomplish a specific goal at a set amount of time. Essentially, think of this traditional was a method to “peak” for a sporting event or competition.
The problem is focusing solely on one method of training gets your exceptionally good at that particular modality of training, but the other areas of your performance start to slip. Case in point, if you spend 12 weeks devoted solely to endurance training, you’ll lose some of your base strength and explosiveness.
Then when you enter your strength mesocycle, you have to spend the first few weeks gaining your base strength back before improving upon it. Basically, this translates to a one step forward, two steps back type approach over the long haul.
Sure, you’ll make significant gains in a particular specialty during the given mesocycle, but over the long haul, you’ll keep experiencing minor regressions and having to re-establish base levels of each component as you enter that respective training block. This is where “traditional” training programs come up short in our opinion.
The solution to this is to train for multiple goals at the same time, so you’re constantly progressing, and that’s where concurrent periodization comes into play.
Concurrent Training Setup
Now that you understand the what and why of concurrent periodization, you’re probably wonder about the how. Specifically, how do you design a training program to accommodate all of the goals at the same time?!
Easy, just do everything all in the same workout!
Well, that’s not quite right – pursuing that idea would be counterproductive and lead to the most horrific DOMS you could imagine.
The more complicated (i.e. “thoughtful”) method to structuring concurrent periodization is to vary your sets, reps, and intensities throughout the week so that you’re hitting all of the various rep ranges associated with each training goal.
Generally speaking, here’s the “best rep range” to work in for your particular goal:
- Power = 1 to 5
- Strength = 1 to 6
- Hypertrophy = 6 to 12
- Endurance = 20 to 25+
Again, these are more of a general recommendation for ranges, as you can easily make gains in hypertrophy by working in lower rep ranges or much higher (30-35 reps). Think of these as the “best practices” guide to rep schemes, nothing more.
Back to Program Design
Now that you’ve got a working idea of rep schemes for particular performance goals, it’s time to put that knowledge to use and figure out a way to train for multiple goals at the same time, without wrecking your body.
There’s a couple of different ways we can go about this, and we’ll give a few examples of ways to organize your training so you’re hitting all desired areas of training in a given macrocycle.
Alternate Heavy and Light Days
This approach works well if you’re following a 6 day Push / Pull / Legs routine or 4 day Upper/Lower Split. The way this works out is that you’ll do your power and strength training on one day, and your hypertrophy and endurance work the following day. So, a typical week would look something like this:
- Monday – Lower Heavy
- Tuesday – Upper Heavy
- Wednesday – OFF
- Thursday – Lower Light
- Friday – Upper Light
- Saturday – Conditioning work
- Sunday – REST
For an excellent example of how this translates into a fully designed program, check out this training program!
Or for a 6 day push/pull/legs approach you could do:
- Monday – Legs Heavy
- Tuesday – Push Heavy
- Wednesday – Pull Light
- Thursday – Legs Light
- Friday – Push Light
- Saturday – Pull Heavy
- Sunday – REST
Note: If lifting 6 days in a row is too much for you, make Thursday a rest day, and proceed to take one day off after every 3rd training session. Training is a LIFELONG marathon, not a sprint Don’t burn yourself out right off the bat!
All in One
We’re calling the method of concurrent periodization because you’ll hit each rep range during your workout. This setup is ideal if you’re following more of a traditional bro split of Chest on Monday, Back on Tuesday, etc.
The goal here is to spend some portion of each training session using each rep scheme so that you’re training for all aspects of athleticism in the same workout. So, how does that look?
Here’s an example of leg day using the All in One approach for concurrent periodization:
- Squats – 4 sets x 2
- Leg Press – 4 sets x 8-12
- Reverse Lunges – 4 sets x 10-12 per leg
- Leg Extensions – 3 sets x 20
- Leg Curls – 3 sets x 20
In this example, you can see how this breaks out. The first exercise is developing power and strength, while the middle portion of the workout is devoted to hypertrophy work, and the last bit is focused on increasing your endurance.
Structuring your workout in such a way allows you to get the heavy/CNS-draining work done first when your “freshest” and proceed to lighter rep work to accommodate the decline in strength that occurs over the course of the workout.
Each workout of the week would be set up in a similar manner as this so chest day would start out with heavy bench, then proceed to dumbbell presses and Hammer Strength presses for hypertrophy, then end with cable flyes (or pec dec) and push-ups for the “burner” endurance sets.
Each muscle group is giving its separate day of training, so you can put it through the ringer and give it a full week to recover essential from the beat down you just gave it.
This one is a little more complicated and probably best saved for the more experienced lifters out there. Rather than rotating rep ranges and training goals within a given workout or week, this approach has you training in each modality for a week, and then move to a different rep range the following week. So, this basically looks like:
- Week 1 – Strength/Power Work. All workouts this week will be done in the low rep ranges of 1 to 6 reps per set.
- Week 2 – Hypertrophy Work. All workouts this week will be done in the muscle-building rep range of 6 to 12 reps per set.
- Week 3 – Endurance Work. All workouts this week will be done in the higher rep range of 20-25+ reps per set.
- Week 4 – Strength/Power Work
- Week 5 – Hypertrophy Work
- Week 6 – Endurance Work
You’ll eventually hit all desired rep ranges, but this method may be the least efficient way to progress in multiple goals simultaneously as it’ll be a little bit harder to gauge progress given the 3 week span between strength session, hypertrophy sessions, etc.
Overall though, as long as you’re doing more work per session than the previous one (you are keeping a training log, right?!) than you’ll be making GAINS, and no one can dispute that!
Wrapping up Concurrent Periodization
There’s a dozen other way we can spin this training philosophy, but suffice it to say the old way of only training for one goal at a time is rather antiquated for the modern athlete. Modern times call for a modern man, and that means being great at a bunch of things, not just stellar at one.
Concurrent periodization is a great way to improve ALL aspects of your athleticism and physique while avoiding boredom, injury, and plateaus.
Is concurrent periodization the “best training program” out there? We won’t say for certainty, but it sure ranks up there among the top ones for effectiveness and enjoyment!
Have you tried concurrent periodization? What were your experiences on it? Leave a note below with your feedback!