Question: I’m trying to put together a training program that will allow me to gain muscle, strength and endurance at the same time, but I have some concerns. As it is I’ve divided the month as such: 1st week endurance, 2nd week strength, 3rd week strength, and 4th week mass. It seems as though it could work, but I wonder if I wouldn’t be sabotaging myself.
I wonder if training endurance only once every month for example, will make it hard to make progress, or if the 2 week break in my strength training weeks will make it hard to make progress.
What would you recommend? Is there a better way to integrate all my needs or will I simply have to choose one over the other?
– Fran (Portland, OR)
Answer: Hi Fran, that’s a great question. Creating a truly effective program to simultaneously improve three different biomotor capacities (i.e. strength, hypertrophy, endurance) is certainly bit of a challenge.
As you likely realize, this type of training approach inevitably dilutes your potential gains for a given capacity, compared to if your training focus was specifically on improving that given capacity.
For instance, you wouldn’t gain as muscle when training for strength, hypertrophy and endurance, as you would if you instead trained for hypertrophy only. But, of course, the opposite is also true: When you train for only one biomotor capacity (e.g. hypertrophy), your other capacities (e.g. endurance, strength) wane, or at least remain relatively stagnant.
Having said that, there are various strategies to achieve your aim. The ones I’ll talk about on this page are non-linear periodization and concurrent periodization. I won’t go into too much detail on these, but will provide resources for further information.
An approach using non-linear periodization involves multiple short cycles (e.g. 3 weeks per cycle). Each cycle focuses on a certain biomotor capacity. Depending on your goals, you could train the other capacities at maintenance; or avoid training them altogether (at least directly) – Whether you do this maintenance training or not will depend on your goals and preferences.
Once one cycle ends, the next begins, with a focus on a completely different capacity.
For example, a 3-week strength cycle would focus on the rep range for strength training (~1-5). If you were to include the maintenance training option, then you’d also add a small number of sets with a hypertrophy rep range (~8-15) and an endurance rep range (~15-20+) to your workouts. If you forgo maintenance training, then you simply do no sets with hypertrophy and endurance rep ranges. (Again, your decision on the maintenance training option depends on your goals and preferences).
Once the 3 weeks is up, you’d then switch from strength to, say, endurance. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Concurrent training seeks to maximize all biomotor capacities, at essentially the same time. That is, you train with a focus on each biomotor capacity each week and throughout the year. That is, you’ll be actively focus on all rep ranges each week, even during the same workouts.
This is different than non-linear periodization, where the focus on each capacity is done in cycles. (Though, in concurrent periodization, you can still put more time and emphasis into/on certain capacities, when needed).
My Advice to You
The example you gave me – “1st week endurance, 2nd week strength, 3rd week strength, and 4th week mass” – resembles the non-linear periodization strategy outlined above. However, your “cycles” are only 1 week in duration (2 weeks for strength). That really isn’t a sufficient amount of time to give to each capacity, before switching to the next cycle. If you were to stick to the non-linear approach, I would recommend using 3 week cycles. Focus on one capacity per cycle, but also include some maintenance training for the other capacities.
Before deciding on your strategy, though, I suggest you read the resources listed below on both training strategies. This way, you’ll be able to choose the approach that best fits your needs and preferences. And you’ll learn the more technical aspects (not explained here) of setting up each type of program.
Resources for further reading: