Clarifying Charlie's System

Someone sent me a PM regarding the structure of Charlie’s approach and I thought it would be helpful to others if I posted my response in a thread. Plus it will give Charlie a chance to jump in and clarify or correct my answers.

I will address each question in turn.

  1. Q: I was just wondering, how is GPP beneficial in a traditional sense? I thought that adaptations are very specific and so how would general exercises benefit the specific event? This said since Charlies GPP contains accelerations on the track is the GPP not actually that “general”? Also with vertical integration is everything trained year round but volumes vary?

A: Everything is trained year round…almost. Remember, the GPP/accumulation phase is designed to re-accumulate fitness after some type of break. During this period, each training element is reintroduced into the training program in a staggered manner to give the body time to adjust. In this sense it is general in nature because the first elements you introduce are the general, lower intensity exercises. Speed work is introduced last after you’ve acclimated to the other general components. For example, you don’t want to reintroduce the weights after the sprints because the soreness from the weights will screw up your sprinting and increase your risk of injury. Also, the speed work itself is of a lower intensity to re-acclimate the body to speed work. For example, the shorter acceleration distances naturally limit the top speed (and hence intensity) that you achieve in the early speed workouts. Regarding the benefit of general exercises, that’s really beyond the scope of what I can write here. There is a ton of discussion on the forum and in Charlie’s writings on this point.

  1. Q: With the progressions such as S-L and 3/1 are laid out…should you expect to be able to follow these very strictly? For instance on the S-L graph has specific numbers of reps and sets but is this not dependent on the individual? Also with the adaptation period graph wouldn’t it be expected that advanced athletes will plateau sooner than beginners? Or am I looking into this too much?

A: The work volumes and adaptation cycles will vary with the individual. In understanding the training phases and their setup, you have to think qualitatively, not quantitatively. The sample numbers are only thrown out as examples to understand qualitatively how training in progressed and altered from one phase to the next. Don’t get hung up on numbers in any one phase. Rather, compare the numbers in one sample phase with the next phase, to understand how training elements are adjusted and balanced against each other. Only you know how much work you can handle and adapt to optimally. Listen to your body. The optimal amount of work is usually significantly less than people think. My recommendation is to use the 80% rule, meaning you should try to limit yourself to about 80% of your perceived work capacity. You should always try to stop while you still have a couple good runs or lifts left in you for that day.

  1. Q: Does everything progress on a 3/1 scheme? 3 weeks intensification followed by a back off week? Whether it be medball, sprints, weights.

A: For the most part yes. The 3/1/3 scheme is more for the weightlifting element. During the middle back off week when you drop the weights below 80% intensity you can maintain or slightly increase the volume of speed and plyo/med ball work to compensate for the reduction in total high intensity volume. But at the same time you can reduce the intensity of the speed work for that week by limiting it to 95% for a given distance and/or emphasizing more speed endurance work (which is naturally lower intensity) while still staying within the high intensity range. This makes more of a difference the higher your performance level.

  1. Q: I was wondering how does high rep core work benefit sprinting? Aren’t these adaptations going to be very far from the demands of the event or are there indirect benefits such as with tempo?

A: The high rep core works does tie in with tempo. It’s part of the general split between high and low intensity work in the overall program. The high intensity element of core training is handled by the sprinting, weights and med ball throws. The low intensity core work is for building work capacity in these muscles and to facilitate recovery from the high intensity training just like tempo.

  1. Q: I was just wondering is there anything else I need to understand that is critical to Charlie’s system?

A: Don’t overcomplicate it. There are a couple major components to the training: speed/speed endurance, tempo, core, weights, med ball, plyos. Keep each one these components simple. Balancing the interaction between them is challenging enough. That’s the real key to success. The other major thing is emphasizing recovery. Do not add anything to the training program until you’ve figured out how you are going to recover from it. Will it require more sleep, more food, more massage, longer breaks between similar sessions, should some components be reduced to make room or spread out over more workouts?

for a gpp before a l-s program, should the accelerations be longer? and if so, then wouldnt top speed be less limited?

Actually, it’s the opposite for L->S. The key difference between L->S and S->L is which quality is advanced ahead of the other, speed or speed endurance. While this will obviously be reflected in relative volumes of each type of training, it will also be reflected in the length of acceleration used in each one, which will determine the intensity and progression of each element. The differences between the programs are more apparent during the early phases of training in fall and winter, whereas by summer they pretty much arrive at the same place, they just got there from different directions.

For example, in a S->L program, during the first SPP you might be accelerating out to 50-60m, which will pretty much put most people at top speed. At the same time, you can include, e.g., 300m SE runs, which typically would only require a 30m acceleration to run a PB.

For a L->S program, it is reversed. You can still include short accelerations and sprints along with the SE runs. However, in addition to using less volume than for SE, you would also limit your acceleration distance in these shorter sprints to less than that used in the SE runs. That way, the development of max speed trails behind SE until you get into the outdoor season.

In other words, in S->L you accelerate farther and reach higher intesities in the short speed work before doing so in SE work. In L->S, it’s the opposite; you accelerate farther and reach higher intensities in the SE work before progressing the short speed work to maximum speed.

At least that’s my understanding. I could be wrong.

thanks, that cleared up a lot for me but im still not clear on what would be included in a pre-L-S GPP. i understand now that the SPP is pretty much reversed, but as for the GPP, is it more or less identical in the two systmes?

Increase tempo volume, longer hills etc…

Mon: short hills
Tue: 4000+ tempo
Wed: long hills
Thur: 4000+tempo
Fri: short hills or int tempo
Sat: 4000+ tempo

and i assume hill days would count as the higher intensity days, so any heavy lower weights on mon,wed,fri?

lower mwf, upper tthsat.


clean pull
walk lunge



db ip


sorry, whats db ip? and thanks a bunch, i get it now :slight_smile:

dumbell incline press

i think dumbbell incline press

o, yup, that makes sense, thanks

Probably more tempo and core volume for a L->S GPP and a more gradual progression of weights.

The Structure of Training e-book does a really good job of describing the subtle differences between S->L and L->S. They don’t have to be as dramatically different as people seem to think. My description above is my attempt at an executive summary of the core concepts.