I want to expand on a thought I had earlier this year regarding training. The concept is simple, yet also complex. It goes like this. What if we combine what we know about the High/Low system, meaning matching like CNS demands with like CNS demands with the Force Velocity Curve?
Most everyone is familiar with the FV curve. If not, a quick refresher goes like this. On the Y axis is Force (watts) and on the X axis is Velocity (meters per second).
The concept that I’m about to deploy is rooted in Charlie Francis’ aforementioned High/Low system which to drastically generalize essentially calls for having High CNS demanding movements in the field, so for him it would have been high velocity, intensive sprinting, combined with heavier, compound/multi joint movements in the weight room. The result would be a “matching” high CNS demand in the field as well as in the weight room..absolutely NO muscle confusion.
Backtracking a bit, the conventional wisdom for most strength coaches (and this is not always their fault, sometimes it’s demanded by the sport coaches) is to “take it easy” (relative term of course) in the weight room when the team has a hard practice day. However, even though that’s well intentioned, it does a disservice to the the athlete. Imagine the shape of a wave (as you draw it on paper), or a mountain if you will. Anyway, there are peaks and valleys. I look at that as up days and down days, high stress and low stress, high demand and low demand, etc. However, if you use conventional wisdom as I explained above the athlete(s) in question never get to realize that valley, that down day, that low demand day (or better put, super compensatory day). You might be thinking why, well take out that piece a paper and draw out your training demands…Hard day at practice (easy day in the weight room), most likely it’s followed up by an easier day at practice (or worse, another hard day at practice) and subsequently then a harder day in the weight room, then a harder day at practice followed by an easier day In weight room. See the pattern here? No matter what, on every day, using the conventional wisdom, there’s always a HIGH Demand, whether it be practice or weight room related.
The high/low system calls for high demand days to be symmetrical or paired so that once the nervous system is up and has been called into action (for lack of a better term) it can blast out all of it’s duties for the day, knowing full well that the next day will be a day that it doesn’t have to be in fifth gear (sounds pretty appealing from a psychological standpoint too!). Anyway, this was Charlie Francis’ method for when he worked with his sprinters. It’s not the purpose of this blog, but it’s material to my hybrid model.
What I’ve done, with beach volleyball in mind, is take the principles of the Charlies High/Low system and the neural demands of the movements as we place them on the force velocity curve and mold it into a three day strength and conditioning model.
As you can see on the picture, at the top of the curve are the highest force and slowest velocity movements. Exercises such as back squat and deadlift live in this realm. They’re bilateral, multi-joint/compound movements typically done with a higher relative percentage of our 1 rep max, and thus are considered highly demanding of the CNS. What I didn’t say earlier is that the high demands to the nervous system can come in multiple forms. They can be heavy squats or deadlifts. For obvious reasons those particular movements require a high level of neuromuscular coordination and high motor unit recruitment, which in term taxes the nervous system. That said, there are other activities, activities that are found at the far other end of the curve that equally tax the nervous system and require no external load at all. Guess it yet? Happens when you are being chased (and really don’t want to be caught)…Sprinting! Not to be confused with running or jogging or trotting or anything that looks like any 5k that I see along the bay every weekend. I mean full on, full throttle sprinting. Sprinting, while obviously requiring nothing but your own body weight does require a high level of muscular coordination and motor unit recruitment, very similar to the Squat, but sprinting is highly taxing to the nervous system due to it’s velocity, which is why its found on the opposite end of the curve.
So as I start to piece together my days, I know I want my high CNS athletic movements to be with my high CNS weight room movements. I also know that typically Monday’s (or Wednesdays) are a great day to have a demanding weight room/practice session. Typically you’ve either played (if you’re an athlete) or rested all weekend and nothing about the work week, workout week or practice week has started to chip away at you. So Monday is *usually a great day to put a high demand day. So what does this day consist of? Sticking with the rules explained above, this “High Demand” day is going to consist of Bilateral, Multi-joint/Compound movements typically done for fewer reps and heavier weight. Think of things like Trap Bar Deadlift, Back Squat/Front Squat, Hip Thrusts, Weighted Pull-ups, Bench Press, etc..Additionally on this I would add Sprinting. Might look like the following:
Whatever this looks like for you. I’d choose more of a transit, track style warmup
Timed 10’s or positional “get up” accelerations
Weight training (as follows)
1A. Trap bar deadlift
1B. Box Jumps
2A. Weighted Pushups or Bench Press
2B. BB RDL
3A. Neutral Grip Pullup
3B. BB Bent over row
3C. Ab wheel rollout
That’s a general outline of what a high demand day could look like. Notice that I didn’t put any rep schemes in there. That’s more up to your philosophical preference as well as what phase of training you’re in with your respective team or individuals.
I term the middle day of the week (again, this could also be the first day of the week) as the 3/4 of the way up and 3/4 of the way down the curve day, but that’s a mouthful so I’ve shortened it to “Coordination” Day. This day is primarily unilateral in nature and less demanding on the CNS. The rep ranges are likely higher on this day, however, the movements themselves are more limiting in terms of what they will allow from a load standpoint. A day such as this may look like the following:
Multi directional bounds and hops/low hurdle jumps in combination with MB Throws
1A. Hang Cleans or DB Hang Snatch (focus on speed)
1B. TGU/Reverse Crunch
2A. RFESS or Reverse Lunge
2B. SA DB Row (can be a KB as well)
3A. TRX Row
3B. Half kneeling Landmine or Bottoms Up KB Press or Alt DB Bench
3C. Side Planking variation
**1A/1B denote a superset. Perform 1A, then 1B with little rest in between, rest after 1B. Same goes for 2A/2B. The 3’s are a quad set….
The third and final day is the “Power Day.” Aligning with my thought process, this day lives in the middle of the FV curve (see above). The exercises I see falling into this day are ones that require velocity, however, you can use some weight with them. You may also term them “dynamic effort” if you’re in the conjugate crowd, others may view the following set up as a variation on “French contrast”…the effect that I want to elicit is a triggering of the nervous system because as I mentioned at the very beginning, this process was born with the beach vb athlete in mind. Most beach tournaments happen during the weekend or late in the week. This third and final day is meant to fire up the nervous system, not dampen or depress, so that the athlete or individual can reap the benefit of the stimulation for the following 24-48 hours (depending on the research that you read. The following is what this day may look like.
Sport specific movements or practice
Weight training (as follows)
A. Power Trio #1
1A. DB Snatch or Hang Clean
1B. DB Squat Jump
1C. Accelerated jump (with band)
B. Power Trio #2
2A. Trap Bar Jump
2B. Banded KB Swing
2C. Banded Broad Jump
The volume on this day must be kept low as well as any external resistance. The goal of this day is to stay fresh and that everything remains as fast as it should be with crisp form. Fatigue and technique break down should be avoided like the plague.
A couple additional considerations. Without the benefit of a velocity measuring tool (such as gymaware) you must manipulate sets and reps to achieve the desired speed output. If power endurance is your goal (think late offseason) then you must combine exercises, as I did on day 3 as well as monitor rest intervals and increase the number of sets. If you as the coach have determined that your athlete requires more general strength, then on that first day you need to adjust the reps down, consider adding more sets, and ensure that the weight being moved is challenging, however that the athlete is able to complete all of the prescribed sets and reps and again remains fresh. This is arguable, however failure, while a great teaching tool in life, is not a great builder of strength, mainly because it is very hard to recover from.
The above is something that i have no research on, no valid data, it’s merely an idea, a hunch, based off some solid principles and approaches that we know work…at least as Dan John would say, “for a while.” Again, there’s nothing new in strength and conditioning, simply people (such as me) taking familiar approaches and re-combining them in a different in hopes of eliciting a stimulus that the athlete can grow from and most importantly recover from. At the end of the day, we have to remember that our job is to augment the athletes sport, not overwhelm it. I hope this was interesting for you.