Concurrent Training Optimization: Planning for the Unknown & Unknowable

by Evan Peikon
In this article I’m going to delve into concurrent training models and how to optimize them for better adaptations in strength & Energy Systems Training. But first we must define what concurrent training is…

Concurrent Training- Different types of training (i.e.- aerobic training & strength training) carried out during the same training session or within hours of one another. Concurrent training sessions need to be well designed to maximize the beneficial effects of each type of training and to minimize interference.
**Definition from the “Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science.”

However, for the purposes of this article we are going to refer to concurrent training as trying to increase strength and energy system performance within the same cycle.

Concurrent Training: Pro & Cons
Contrary to popular belief training in the aerobic pathway while simultaneously trying to increase strength is not disadvantageous. Which, is depicted in the following study:
Resistance exercise induced mTORC1 signalling is not impaired by subsequent endurance exercise in human skeletal muscle
Next we can examine the results of a meta-analyis and extrapolate it to our sport:
Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises.
Interestingly enough positive adaptations to endurance exercise were found to be equal between the concurrent and non concurrent training group. However, these measured adaptations were in regards to VO2 Max which is not in fact a key indicator of performance (another post on its own).

Another result reported by the study was that running hammered strength/ hypertrophy gains while cycling did not. From this statement we can conclude that it was the high volume of eccentric loading from running and not the aerobic training that hindered gains in strength (this may be why people often associate aerobics with strength loss, since most people default to running as their main source of aerobic training).

Now for The negatives:
To start, the aforementioned meta analysis did find that while aerobic training did not hinder gains in strength/ hypertrophy it did decrease power productions (which we can extrapolate to hinderance in both olympic lifts and Anaerobic Alactic training).

Another negative (although not mentioned in the meta-analysis) is that regarding the signaling pathways of both resistance and aerobic training. As you can see in the diagram below, Energy systems training (specifically aerobic) causes a signaling pathway that leads to mitochondrial biogenesis , while strength training (and some anaerobic Energy systems training) causes a signaling pathway that leads to protein synthesis/ muscle hypertrophy. Now, the issues here lies in the fact that AMPK (an enzyme used in the aerobic singling pathway), is an inhibitor for mTOR which is a protein used in the strength training signaling pathway.

*I know I said strength/ aerobic training do not interfere with each other a few paragraph or two ago, but it is important to understand that they have the potential to if not programmed correctly due to their subsequent signaling pathways. If the training is prescribed at the proper dose response though, the interfering effects will be negated and both training modes will be optimized. 

Picture Taken From 8WeeksOut.com

So… Whats The Issues?
So theres this sport called Crossfit, and to be a high level competitor you need to have a high level of absolute strength, a large aerobic base, good maximum Aerobic/ Anaerobic Power, a high lactate threshold, powerful CP Battery and so on…
If you still don’t see the issue then I honestly don’t think this article is enough to help you.
However, for those with a brain larger than their adrenal glands it should be obvious that competitors in the Sport of Fitness must train concurrently to reach the highest levels of competition.
So that brings us to the next point….

How To Optimize Concurrent Training Models:
Regardless of if you follow OPT, Outlaw, CFNE, Peak Athletic Development, or Enhanced Human Performance these simple fixes can still be applied to your training.

Planning & Periodization
If you take one thing from this article let it be that you’re training should follow some form of periodization. Here at P.A.D we follow OPT’s methods and structure the year in phases such that we program an Accumulation, Intensification, Pre-Competition, & Competition phase for our athletes in order to peak them for Opens, Regionals or the Games.
However, there are many periodization models and you just need to find what works for you.

The next step would be to program focused blocks into your training (also known as meso-cycles) which allow you to focus a training cycle on a specific goal.

And the last step would be to have focused training sessions. Most programs for competitive cross fitters follow the typical strength +metcon layout for each day of training. However, we believe athletes will get the best adaptations from having focused days. So for example we may Squat/Pull on mondays, do Lactic endurance work on tuesdays, then do maximum aerobic power training on Wednesdays. Training in this style allows an athlete to not only recover better, but also to put their full attention on one task at a time.

Monitor Volume and Intensity
While this is on the same track and planning and periodization, it is just a bit more specific in regards to the training phases.

Accumulation Phase:
-Build volume in all energy systems (especially your weakness/priority)
-Focus on structural strength work over intensity.
-Focus on Speed effort over Max effort (for strength training).

Intensification Phase:
-Find potentials of all Energy Systems
-Set up for peak by increasing intensity
-Vary Volume via wave loading

Pre Competition:
-Focus on game pace (high intensity)
-Decrease volume
-Maintain or Increase Intensity

Competition Phase:
-Decrease Volume
-Increase Intensity
-Test Out !

Cyclical (Mono-Structural) Training
Cyclical training included running, rowing, biking, swimming, skipping etc.
As we already discussed earlier in the article it is smart to do a lower % of your cyclical training as running due to the high volume of eccentric loading. However, sprinting is fine in lower quantities due to its mechanical advantage over slower paced running.
A good substitute to running would be rowing. Not only would you get similar effects in regards to aerobic capacity but rowing is also great for lactate tolerance training. Another benefit of rowing is the high number of contractions on pulling movements which carries over to our sport well.
However, our favorite tool for aerobic (and anaerobic for that matter) training is the Airdyne due to the fact that it places no eccentric loading on the body whatsoever and can be used for anything from Anaerobic Alactic training to 60+ recovery sessions.

Get Specific
Though our sport is known for being “unknowable”, we’ve now seen enough high level competitions that we know exactly what to expect. Because of this we not only know what we have to be good at, but more importantly what we don’t have to be good at. The idea here is that the bulk of your training should be directly applicable to sport and you don’t need to focus to many of your efforts doing things that won’t have direct carry over.

General Concurrent Programming Split
Monday- ATP/CP work (strength)
Lower Body Push + Upper Body Pull

Tuesday- Anaerobic
Anaerobic Alactic –> Lactic Endurance (accumulation –> intensification)

Wednesday- Aerobic
Maximum Aerobic Power (mixed modal)

Thursday- Rest

Friday- ATP/CP
Lower Body Pull + Upper Body Push

Saturday- Aerobic
Maximum Aerobic Power (cyclical modalities)

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