Sports Training & Conditioning Zone!

Are We Always Concurrent in Performance Training?

by Michael Boyle,

I really struggle with the concepts of periodization. Linear? Undulating? Concurrent? Conjugate?

Much of the periodization confusion comes from the fascination of many in our industry with the Westside Barbell philosophy. Westside advocates conjugate periodization, a term many, including me, don’t seem to truly understand. The one large differentiating factor for me is that training athletes is not like training powerlifters. This is the basic problem. Powerlifters are athletes but, athletes are not powerlifters. Trying to integrate the concepts used in training by elite powerlifters into the training of athletes is difficult.

An email exchange with Physical Therapist Bill Hartmann cleared a lot up for me. Bill stated:

"Concurrent" is training multiple qualities simultaneously.

Conjugated = linked

Conjugate is variant of concurrent programming and still trains multiple qualities but with an emphasis (greater portion of total training volume) on one while maintaining the others with limited volume in each training block. The point that I think a lot of folks miss is that each preceding training block of emphasis is designed to enhance the following which makes it conjugated or linked.

For example, if a high level athlete requires greater power output, a block emphasizing increased volume of maximal strength/maintaining power followed by a reduction in volume of maximal strength work and an increased emphasis/volume of power should raise power to a higher level than if both are worked on equally in consecutive training blocks.”

As I thought about these definitions, I realized why I was confused. In a sports training setting we are always concurrent or conjugate. We constantly, and out of necessity, train multiple quantities but, unlike powerlifters we train more than strength quantities. A powerlifter’s end goal is always strength. They may add dynamic days to develop explosiveness but, at the end of the day the goal is simply to lift more weight.

When I began to understand the concepts better I realized that training athletes is always concurrent and sometimes conjugate. The reason I failed to understand the concepts was because I had been doing conjugate or concurrent periodization for 20 years, I just didn’t know it.

In the off-season we train for power at least three different ways. Olympic lifts use heavy loads to train for power while plyometrics use primarily bodyweight. Medicine balls use small external loads in comparison to the significant loads used in Olympic lifting. While I am training my athlete for power, I am concurrently training my athlete for strength. At certain times ( notably pre-season) we will decrease the strength and power emphasis (are we now conjugate?) and have a greater energy system emphasis. Another concurrent thread?

On a interesting note I Iistened to Al Vermeil on the podcast ( I consider Al to be a wise man and Al simply said “keep a thread of everything in your program”.

As soon as he said it I stopped my car and wrote it in my notebook. Take your pick, concurrent or conjugate. I’m still not sure. Bottom line in sports training is that you can never train just for strength or just for power or, just for speed. We need to train concurrently for all of the above in the off-season and keep at least a thread of all of it in the program year round.