Concurrent Periodization - The Development of Strength and Muscle Size

Concurrent Periodization - The Development of Strength and Muscle Size

Concurrent periodization is simply training to achieve multiple goals at the same time. In this article we will only reference the goals of muscle size and strength.

Powerbuilding is my specialty and love. It is the pursuit of raw muscle mass, and the desire to back up this size with brute strength. I want to look like a bulldozer and function like a bulldozer.

Big. Brutal. Unstoppable.

Related: Massive Freak 4 Day Powerbuilding Split

Most hardcore gym rats have the same goal. They might not want the strength of a powerlifter, but having a 350 pound bench press sure isn't a bad thing.

Beyond this, if you just searched Google for the term concurrent periodization you're likely looking to increase your strength. I'm guessing you're an intermediate lifter who's made decent progress, but is hungry for more.

Concurrent Periodization - Digging Deeper

Typically concurrent periodization is run within the confines of a microcycle, or one week block of time. This means that during the course of the next seven days, you will be performing some kind of specific volume training work aimed at improving hypertrophy (muscle building) and lower rep work aimed at increasing big lift strength.

In most cases the big lifts that we seek to improve are squats, deadlifts, and bench press. They can also include overhead presses, and big lift variations like good mornings, close grip benches, and front squats - to name a few.

There is a quality synergy that exists between muscle size and strength. Building more muscle size creates a foundation for future strength gains. The process of building strength, or progressive overload, also works to induce hypertrophy.

A concurrent method of training is often less monotonous and boring. You won't be performing the same workout, exercises, and rep ranges over and over again.

In the following section I am going to breakdown several methods of approaching concurrent periodization. I will start by looking at concurrent periodization through the typical lens - a one week training cycle.

Next, I will show you how to tweak cycles and move outside of the one week box. This is an especially important section, because it will open doors for those of you who find training a specific lift with both volume and intensity during a given week to be too much for your recovery skills.
Bench Press

One Week Cycles of Concurrent Periodization

Most workout routines, be them frequency training or body part/lift splits, revolve around a standard week. It's easier to perform the same workout on the same day each week.

You will be performing two workouts each week for a specific body part/lift. While it is possible to do this in more of a bro split style, perhaps a push/pull/legs workout, you would be in the gym six days per week. Obviously, because of the overall volume and intensity, this isn't a viable split for 99% of the population.

Concurrent Periodization - 6 Day Legs/Push/Pull Split
  • Day 1 - Legs Volume (Squat)
  • Day 2 - Push Heavy (Bench Press)
  • Day 3 - Pull Volume (Deadlift)
  • Day 4 - Off
  • Day 5 - Legs Heavy (Squat)
  • Day 6 - Push Volume (Bench Press)
  • Day 7 - Pull Heavy (Deadlift)
Concurrent Periodization - Upper/Lower Split
An easier way to attack concurrent training is via an upper/lower split. This is a viable method of training for lifters of all experience levels.
  • Day 1 - Lower: Squat Heavy, Deadlift Volume
  • Day 2 - Upper: Bench Press Heavy
  • Day 3 - Off
  • Day 4 - Lower: Deadlift Heavy, Squat Volume
  • Day 5 - Upper: Bench Press Volume
  • Day 6 - Off
  • Day 7 - Off
The problem with this approach is the deadlift. I only recommend training it twice a week, and within certain parameters:
  • Your deadlift heavy day should never involve sets using 90% of your one rep max, or greater. I see little added benefit in training the deadlift this heavy, this frequently.
  • If you do train the deadlift twice a week, I recommend that your heavy day is not from the floor. Pull from 3" to 7" blocks. This will save your lower back some wear and tear, For your volume day, don't overdo the volume. Your volume deadlift day could even involve a high rack pull and power shrug combination.
You may want to consider cycling the intensity of your heavy day deadlifts from week to week. Here is one possibility:
  • Week 1 - 3 sets x 1 rep, 87.5%
  • Week 2 - 4 sets x 2 reps, 82.5%
  • Week 3 - 5 sets x 3 reps, 77.5%
Your volume work could either be two to three sets of 10 reps on dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts, or several sets of power shrugs.

Here is a sample workout.
Lower: Squat Heavy, Deadlift Volume
Upper/Lower Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  4  2
High Pack Pulls + Power Shrugs  2  8
Good Mornings  2  8
Leg Extensions  3  10
Leg Curls  3  10
Ab Wheel Roll Outs  3  10-15

Lower: Deadlift Heavy, Squat Volume
Upper/Lower Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts - *See Cycle Above  3  1
Squats  3  10
Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift  2  10
High Box Step Ups - (Reps are per leg)  3  10
Reverse Hack Squat - Good Morning Style  3  8
Plank  3  60-120 sec

Upper: Bench Press Heavy
Upper/Lower Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press  4  2
Dumbbell Row  2  12
Military Press  3  8
Seated Cable Row  3  10
Push Ups  2  25
EZ Bar Cable Triceps Extensions  2  12-15
Reverse Grip Lat Pull Down  2  12-15

Upper: Bench Press Volume
Upper/Lower Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press  4  10
Pendlay Row  2  10
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press  3  10
Lat Pull Down  3  10
Cable Crossover  2  12-15
Close Grip Bench Press  2  12
Seated Dumbbell Curls  2  10-12


Unconventional Concurrent Periodization Protocols

Now let's consider other options. Perhaps volume training workouts are requiring more recovery time. We have the option of expanding concurrent periodization cycles as long as we'd wish.

Typically, following an intensity workout there are two full days of rest before attacking a volume day. Following a volume day, there are three full rest days before the next intensity workout. The week-centric mesocycle is as follows:
  • Day 1 - Heavy Day
  • Day 2 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 3 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 4 - Volume Day
  • Day 5 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 6 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 7 - Rest Day #3
If we needed to add an extra recovery day, our cycle would expand to 8 days:
  • Day 1 - Heavy Day
  • Day 2 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 3 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 4 - Volume Day
  • Day 5 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 6 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 7 - Rest Day #3
  • Day 8 - Rest Day #4
And adding in another recovery day after our volume work, we could push the concurrent periodization cycle out to 9 days:
  • Day 1 - Heavy Day
  • Day 2 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 3 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 4 - Volume Day
  • Day 5 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 6 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 7 - Rest Day #3
  • Day 8 - Rest Day #4
  • Day 9 - Rest Day #5
Adding in another recovery day after our intensity workout, we arrive at a 10 day cycle:
  • Day 1 - Heavy Day
  • Day 2 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 3 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 4 - Rest Day #3
  • Day 5 - Volume Day
  • Day 6 - Rest Day #1
  • Day 7 - Rest Day #2
  • Day 8 - Rest Day #3
  • Day 9 - Rest Day #4
  • Day 10 - Rest Day #5
I could keep going, but you get the point. There are many ways to slice and dice concurrent periodzation protocols. If a week cycle isn't working, make tweaks. Add in rest days slowly and find your sweet spot.

The seasoned lifter who prefers training a body part or lift once a week can go as far as cycling between intensity weeks and volume weeks. I like this approach. It allows plenty for plenty of volume and recovery.
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Greg Berk - January 11, 2019

Steve, for the 4 sets of 2 on bench, what is the percentage of the 1RM that we should be using?

Brennen Pacheco - January 11, 2019

What can I do on the off days? I can’t imagine resting 3 days a week.

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