Serving too many masters is an issue that most people have with their overall training programs. I often get emails from individuals looking for program design assistance and find that they are trying to do everything all at once.They want to be fast, strong, lean, and muscular, have good anaerobic capacity and be a great olympic lifter all at the same time. Their program looks like a huge mish-mash of lots of different training variables with no consistent theme or concept.
The problem with this is that you become a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
Concurrent training is a training concept, where the individual attempts to train all of their qualities at the same time – strength, speed, endurance, etc – typically without a clear focus on one specific quality during a given training cycle.
While training all of these qualities at the same time is not an issue when one quality is trained at a higher volume/frequency and the other qualities are trained at more of a “retention” volume/intensity, to prevent them from becoming de-trained. Training them all at the same time without a clear focus or theme leads to less than desirable results.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research evaluated the results of concurrent training on the endurance performance of well-trained cyclists. The athletes were placed in two groups for the duration of the 6-week study:
1. Control Group – The control group performed their usual cycling training 2. Resistance Training Group – The resistance group performed a lifting program, in addition to their usual cycling training. The program was a nonlinear periodization program, where each of the three training days, separated by at least 24-hours, had a different focus
Day 1: Power – 3 sets x 6 reps
Day 2: Hypertrophy – 3 sets x 12 reps
Day 3: Strength – 4 sets x 5 reps
While the resistance-training group improved leg strength (1RM squat), they did not improve on markers of endurance performance, endurance cycling, or sprint performance when compared to the control group.
There are several potential reasons why the resistance-training group did not show a favorable outcome with regard to cycling performance; however, based on the results of the study, the researchers concluded that:
“Although concurrent resistance and endurance training in well-trained cyclists enhanced 1RM strength, it did not improve overall cycle time trial performance and in fact was shown to reduce 1-km final cycle spring performance compared with a control group performing their normal cycle training.”
The researchers noted that the cyclists in the resistance training group may not have tested well because the post test was conducted immediately following the 6-week training period, and it may take 7-14 days for the elevated fitness levels that one may achieve from a training program to manifest themselves (allowing the fatigue they also gained through the training to dissipate).
One issue I see in the program is the potential for over-training the lower extremity. The athletes in the resistance-training group were asked to complete a strength training program in addition to their normal cycling program. While the strength training group did end up decreasing their cycling training slightly (3%), there is still a relatively high amount of training volume taking place, especially when you consider that the entire resistance training program was comprised of lower-extremity exercises (many of them being single-leg exercises).
Additionally, you get what you train for! While the resistance training group lowered their cycling training (3%) to accommodate for the extra resistance training workouts they were doing, the control group ended up increasing their cycling training by 8% during the 6-week testing period. If you want to be a great endurance cyclist, you need to have time in the saddle, especially as a competition (or in this case a testing day) draws near. This is the basic concept of periodization. Perhaps the resistance-training group would have done better with only 2-days of resistance training, or maybe a more balanced resistance training program?
Furthermore, perhaps the results would have been better if the program was periodized to target specific training objectives. I understand that 6-weeks is a relatively short period of time for doing something like this, but ideally the 6-week phase leading to the competition (or in this case the testing) should be highly specific to what the athlete hopes to accomplish. Perhaps this sort of concurrent program would be more beneficial in the offseason when the athlete is performing less cycling and devoting more time to cross-training and/or improving other qualities (strength, power endurance, etc) that may be a limiting factor in their performance. In addition, a concurrent training program may have more benefit for an inseason athlete who participates in a sport that has many competitions over a long period of time (IE, baseball, basketball, football, hockey, etc). In this case, the athlete has less time to devote to training due to the intense competition/travel schedule and increased number of practices. So, concurrent training can be a great way for the athlete to work on the necessary things in the gym, without worrying about doing too much and overtraining.
Training can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. At the end of the day, the program just needs to make sense and it needs to get you to where you want to be. Training is a highly individual process and what works for one may not work for another. Use the research as a means to develop ideas/concepts on how you structure your training and then tweak things so that they are specific to your situation.
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About the Author:
Patrick Ward holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and a USA Weightlifting-Certified Club Coach. In addition, Patrick is a licensed massage therapist focusing on Neuromuscular therapy and Active Release Techniques (ART). He lives in Chandler, Arizona and is the owner of Optimum Sports Performance and the Co-founder of Reality Based Fitness. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit website: optimumsportsperformance.com