Squatting with athletes 4x a week? What?
High frequency training for athletes sounds insane. Why would you have an athlete do squats 4x per week, they are athletes not powerlifters. Hell, on this very site we talk frequently about the fact that we are training athletes, not lifters, and athletes have a very different set of demands than powerlifters, weight lifters, bodybuilders or whatever, yet they derive the benefits of including aspects of those sports into their training program. But now I am here to tell you that high frequency training can have serious benefits for athletes if implemented sensibly and correctly.
Coaches will benefit greatly using this for an early accumulation period in that we are accumulating volume not through high reps and lots of sets, but through high frequency. To give you an example of my own use of a high frequency program, in a 3 week period I added thirty pounds to my squat in just over three weeks. On a qualitative note, I found my squat technique was significantly improved and my joints felt significantly better. There is also a significant amount of research, and growing, that shows higher frequency training and accumulating volume via multiple workouts contributes to strength gains significantly faster than linear periodization.
The first thing I want to point out is the purpose of high frequency training is to quicken the stimulus-adaptation response. Just like any other skill, the more you perform it, the better you get it. If you only squat once per week, you minimize the adaptive response of the body to that one stimulus cycle. This is one of the many benefits of the 1×20 protocol, which is a 3x per week program, athletes get better quicker at the exercises on the program. For more information on the research behind High Frequency training, read Squat Every Day by Matt Perryman, or research Daily Undulating Periodization. For this article we will stick with the practical implementation.
The second thing to point out is the ONLY way a high frequency program works for anyone, athletes or lifters alike, is slowly building up the volume and intensity over the course of time, using sensible training protocols. There is essentially two types of high frequency training: daily maxes, and daily undulating periodization. Daily maxing for athletes can be too taxing, given that the end goal for an athlete is not an increased squat, the athletes can benefit much more from using various percentages and speeds. Because of this, we will use a daily undulating periodization program. Nearly every set and rep you perform will be straight from Prilipens chart:
In addition to following this chart, all training maxes should initially be based on 90% of the athletes actual max. Please do NOT skip this part. Repeat, initial maxes should be based on 90% of the athletes max. The first misconception most people will have initially is that the weight and reps are too easy, that it doesn’t feel difficult enough. Doing 75% of 90% of their 1RM for 5×3 cant work, its not heavy enough, right? I can tell you with utmost confidence, that doing this program and nearly never grinding one single rep, your athletes numbers will explode, their joints will become extremely strong and stable due to the “grease the grooves” effect, and they will learn to love high frequency training.
So how do you implement? First, begin with developing your DUP plan. We are going to use the low end of prilipens chart as we develop a high frequency base, and can gradually move to the optimal or higher end. The following table is an example of a first cycle of high frequency programming:
We need to structure the program in a way that puts our most fatiguing work the day before a break. This puts most of our higher intensity effort work on Friday and our Lower body volume work on Tuesday, to minimize the effect of neural or muscular fatigue on the next day of training.
We want perfect reps, perfect sets, good speed and great technique. Nothing on this program will be a grind, especially from the start and lasting several weeks. Again, we are using this as our accumulation block of training, however with this program we can accumulate MUCH higher quality volume than doing 4×10 or 5×10. All reps will be fast, fatigue will be low, and the athlete’s technique and strength will improve tremendously.
This cycle can last 3 weeks, however each week instead of changing the training %, change the training max. For example, week 1, your training max is 90% of your real 1RM. For week 2, make it 95, week 3 100%. Stick to the weights exactly as they are for 3 weeks before making a change, even if it feels light. I cannot emphasize this enough: stick to the weights as listed early on. At the end of three weeks, re-evaluate. When developing the next training cycle, you could then re-adjust the training percentages and volume upwards if you felt so inclined, or even begin to implement more dynamic work. It’s a very flexible system, however the general rules of regulating volume and intensity to match the frequency must stay the same.
The next thing to evaluate is how to implement accessory work with this program. I can tell you from experience this is a very quad dominant program, and hamstring work MUST be implemented daily (also, potentially rotating your foot stance, with effort work being wide and volume work narrow could help alleviate this).
When all accessory work is programmed, it must be done in such a way to minimize the negative carryover to the next day. You would not want to put Eccentric emphasis movements such as an RDL on Monday, as the soreness it creates will negatively effect the next workout. It would be more appropriate on Tuesday or Friday. Doing a Swiss Ball leg Curl (which is concentric dominant) would be appropriate on Monday, RDL on Tuesday, GHR on Thursday, and Good Morning on Friday. In addition, you must program some sort of upper back work every day, as well as rotating auxiliary and specialized work.
Now a few things to consider, your athletes nervous system will get fatigued pretty well. John Boz calls these the “dark times” where the body has a general feeling of tiredness. You must push past these times, however using a daily undulating program will minimize this effect compared to a daily max protocol.
This program will become less applicable as you get further into pre-competitive part of the year, as the training stress will be too high to accommodate sport practice. For team and athletic sports, this would fit exclusively into the Accumulation phase, with volume and frequency being edged out in transmutation and realization phase. However the initial base it develops would allow you to keep a relatively higher frequency lift in pre-competitive season and still peak correctly. The quantity and quality of work is far superior to any other program, and would be extremely tough to match. If you need to develop technique, strength and have mentally resilient team, this program is worth a shot. On last note, once your weight programming is set, spend time planning the warmups, cooldowns and recovery, as they must be extensive. In order to fit in so much quality work, quality recovery will be just as important.
For more information on different types of high frequency training, check out:
Minimum effective Dose vs Maximal Recoverable Volume Are they they same thing? What are they? Minimum effective Dose vs Maximal
Part 2: Cardiovascular Training for Sport In part 1 of this article on aerobics, we took a deep dive into