Balancing Training Stress

When you want to achieve a specific training goal you need to make sure that your training is designed to allow for the adaption to occur maximally. A lot of people end up stuck in a grey area which leads to fatigue, burn out or injury. This is because they are constantly stressing themselves without any regulation of intensity or recovery.

A simple concept that you can apply to your training to help avoid this is High/Low training. This is a method of alternating the relative intensity of a session each day to allow proper recovery, adaptation and skill development. This applies to lifting weights, aerobic/cardio work, sports, anything where you are stressing your body in order to create a positive adaptation.

The main man, Charlie Francis, was known for using High/low training days with elite level sprinters. Below is an outline of his description of each training zone. These are specific to sprinting so may not directly translate to lifting. But there are some areas that do crossover.

Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell, known for training some of the strongest power lifters also utilized something similar. His max effort (high) days are usually 2x per week with 2x per week being dynamic (low) days.

Medium intensity days were discarded by Charlie Francis, but do have their place within a lifting program. There are common phases of training; Accumulation (grey area between low-medium), Intensification (grey area between medium-high) and Realization (High day).

The main thing to realize is that you are not able to continually spend multiple days in a row in medium-high training zones. Sooner or later this is often accompanied by a feeling of not being able to ‘go there’ or weights feeling extremely heavy. There are individual differences, but if each Medium-High day was followed by a low day then a person would be on the right track to getting the balance right between training stress and recovery.

This chart shows a potential difference in readiness to train following the different methods over the course of the week. The y-axis is readiness to train expressed as a percentage. The blue line never backs off, red line alternates their intensity.

  1. Blue and Red hit a High Day and drop to 75% readiness. Recover 10% overnight

  2. Blue hits a High Day drops to 60% recovers 10% overnight, Red hits a Medium Day drops to 75%, recovers 15% overnight.

  3. Blue hits a high day, drops to 45%, Red hits a high day and drops to 65%, both recover 10% overnight.

  4. Blue does nothing, gains 10% recover during day and night. Red does active recover and skill work, gains 15% recover during and 10% overnight and is back to 100%

  5. Blue hits a High day, drops to 50%, recovers 10% overnight. Red hits a medium day, drops to 90% because they want to crush Saturday. Recovers 10% back to 100% overnight.

  6. Blue and Red crush Saturday. Blue drops to 30%, goes on the beers, drops to 25%. Red drops to 70%, goes out for dinner, still recovers 10%.

  7. Blue is in a heap, gets zero recovery, 10% overnight to be starting Monday at 35%. Red goes for a hike, gets 15% recovery and recovers overnight to be starting Monday at 100%.

The low days have huge importance in training. These are the days that prepare you to come back and do a Medium-High day. They do this by assisting the recovery process, building good patterns through high volume of repetitions without creating fatigue. It’s these days that earn you the right to train with more volume.

People spend too much time in the Medium zone. Not learning how to maximally express themselves, creating high levels of fatigue, not recovering, not developing skills, burning themselves out. It’s not the optimal way to train.

If you’d like to book a call to talk about your training and how to balance training to optimize results get in touch at

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