Sunday, January 21, 2018

Q&A: Percentage Based vs. Concurrent Workouts for High School Athletes

October 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Q&A With the Coach's Coach, Recent Posts

Hey IYCA Members!

A few weeks back I posted a highlight video of our summer programs in action on the IYCA members forum. Here’s the video in case you missed it:

After posting on the members forum, I was asked if I would share some insight to the programs we use and maybe some insight as to how/why. So here it goes…

Here’s a look into two different programming options for high school athletes off-season. The first is percentage based (for the core lifts). The second is based on a concurrent mindset, although there are many variances built in. These samples only include what’s happening in the weight room portion of our workouts.

Click on the sheets below to view and print the workouts.

You’ll notice all key components to The FOCUS System ring true in each, incorporating the 8 steps of the system. The format and template is the underlying driver of each program while the execution differs.

Please take a look at each, notice the similarities and stark contrasts. I’m sure you’re gonna question some as it might go against everything you believe. You might see something that has you saying “right on” or “what the hell is he doing this for”. Any response or comment is much appreciated. Let’s work together and see how we can all get better.

* Please note… the workouts are designed and implemented with only high school athletes looking to increase performance in their given sport(s). These athletes still practice core fundamentals of being fit and active, but are actively training with purpose. My goals as a coach to my athletes and other aspiring performance coaches is to bridge the gap between: choosing and learning about this profession and finding ways to ‘get more clients’. Seems most info out there is either enticing people to get involved with this professions because of all the opportunities, or giving you advice on how to grow your business. The middle void.. the actual programming, day-in-day-out, in-the-trenches material seems to be a ‘given’ or rarely mentioned. Lets try like hell to fill the gap..

Percentage Based Key Points:

- Core lifts are tested on 5RM. We equate a 5RM to 80% of 1RM. This has been argued to be too low a rep range at 80% but proven successful over and over with our kids (who have less training age). I think an 80% 5RM is successful due to the lack of coordinated effort (firing) of inexperienced high school athletes.

- The athletes that used this particular workout were extremely consistent. They trained at our facilities at least 3x per seven days. I believe this is the only way percentage based workouts are successful, and is it’s biggest downfall. If you miss a workout, get sick, have tests at school, etc. and don’t feel 77% for the day, the entire wave can be compromised.

- The workouts are wrote on 3 week waves as you can see from the work sets. A very generic explanation of our waving percentages look like this:

Test 5RM to determine 80%

Week 1    67%

Week 2   72%

Week 3   77%

Week 4   70% (predetermined download)

Week 5   75%

Week 6   80% (re-test 5RM, adjust new percentages, and continue)

- I’ve had great success using these percentage waves for lower body core lifts, but haven’t found the right combination for upper body presses. This exact program put 55lbs on one of our track athlete’s back squat in 6 weeks – no kidding. See TJ here.

- Each workout sheet represents 3 weeks of training. The example program shows the first test week, 6 weeks of workouts, the retest for a new 80% 5RM, and a new workout wave at new percentages.

- I very sparingly use written percentage based programs for the reasons mentioned above. The schedules of high school athletes combined with most playing multiple sport doesn’t fit well over time.

Concurrent Program Key Points:

- Concurrent is big word that simply means to train multiple abilities (strength ,speed, conditioning, etc.) at the same time. The desired outcomes are elevated levels of physical fitness. The higher the level of fitness, the better prepared the athlete becomes for more specialized training in the years to come. Think GPP, SPP, then sport play.

- The rep scheme and volume allows the athlete to perform at max intensities for the given workout. If the athlete feels great, we let them push. If they feel like crap, we can pull off to a level they can handle for the day.

- When you see something wrote like 7-7-7, that’s what we call Tornados. These sets have produced the biggest gains is size of anything we’ve tried. Tornados are awesome, but should only be used in early offseason because of the demand.

- Each sheet represents 4 days of workouts. Each sheet needs to be completed every 7 days (4 lifts per 7 days). I use days and not days of the week. For example, most football programs are wrote Monday (lower) Tuesday (upper) Wednesday (off) Thursday (lower) Friday (upper). Better known as a four day upper/lower split. Works very well when matched to the right circumstance, but again, with busy schedules and training for multiple sports it’s limiting.

- Important to note that concurrent workouts can be used as long and progress is happening. Each sheet might last 3-4 weeks. We move on to the next sheet when progress stalls, or the kids ask for variety. Gotta appease the kids. After all, they’re the ones doing the work!

- The olympic lifts are used very sparingly and are not the drivers of our system. When used they’re for max bar speed, usually complexed with another bodyweight explosive movement.

- Yes, there are some Westside undertones within the program, but Westside isn’t the driver of our system either. I’m simply using what’s relevant, and some coaching cues that apply. If I tell a kid “I need max effort for these sets” the athlete instantly knows what needs done.


These are just two examples of about a million. In no way am I saying one style is better than the other – that’s up for you to test and decide. I will say concurrent has produced more physical gains, mental toughness, and respect for training than using percentages – in my experience.

There are plenty of origional thoughts here, but who am I kidding – you’ve seen a lot of this before. Right?

I challenge you to honestly answer these questions:

Are your programs thought out?

Do you have an answer to everything you’re doing?

Are you developing your own system?

Do you test and go against the grain?

Or are you a cloned robot who says ‘my directional training is Lee Taft, I do the Parisi warm up, I don’t use back squats because Mike Boyle said not to, and I use Olympic lifts because the head coach wants me to’?

I love these guys as much as the next person. But seriously, learn and take from them what you believe fits YOUR system. YOUR system should not be designed to fit theirs..


One Response to “Q&A: Percentage Based vs. Concurrent Workouts for High School Athletes”
  1. RedMango says:

    Very nice post!

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