Dan Pfaff General Strength Protocols

Maybe but that’s not what I’m doing in gpp… See below:

Mon/Thur: Hills/LB
Tue/Fri: Tempo/UB
Wed: GS circuit - low impact general fitness work

Sorry I probably wasn’t clear, they were done on tempo days AFTER the running portion of our tempo was completed, not in lieu of the running.

I thought they did a great job at developing general fitness. You can literally do almost every exercise from both of those circuits in your house if you wanted and they will definitely kick your ass if you do them properly.

I thought you guys were training Pfaff style - I understand Pfaff don’t like ext tempo runs.

Pfaff low intensity days may look something like below:

6-8x60-80m tech runs (optional)
GS circuits
MB circuits
Hurdle mobility

Man, it’s been a lot longer than I thought and my memory is apparently exceedingly poor. I just dug up one of our old workout sheets to verify and what do I see?


  1. Warm up
  2. 5-8 50 to 90m light runs
  3. Extended & Superior 2x40m
  4. G.S x15 Bataan & Pedestal - (on a Swiss ball)
  5. MB Gas & Tank x10
  6. Body building 2x10
  7. C.D

From what I understand this was their origin, Pfaff needed a way for traveling athletes to get a workout in while confined to a hotel room.

I’m currently in Austin, Texas for the summer working under a heavily Pfaff influenced coach. I am in a competition phase, and we do tempo runs followed by Pfaff GS circuits, though tempo seems to occur only once per week in Pfaff programs (correct me if I’m wrong).

They are not the 60 to 80 metre technical runs described above, they are basically Charlie style tempo runs, except not done in a big circuit / small circuit style. They are usually done in sets of 10, so currently we’re doing 1200 to 1400 metres of tempo, always in the format 10x 100 with 1 minute rest, 3 minutes rest between sets, 2-4x 100 with 1 minute rest, then 2x Pfaff GS circuits.

Charlie’s Big Circuit is definitely tougher and provides more of an aerobic workout. I like having 200’s mixed in, it provides an additional challenge.

The Pfaff GS differs from the Charlie style medball and abdominal circuits in that the volume of Pfaff’s GS circuits is lower, the intensity is higher, and each set takes only five minutes or less.

Charlie’s medball / ab work has higher volume, lower intensity and takes about 15 minutes per set and is tough, but a phenomenal full body flush. Overall for me, the full body flush I get from CF medball work is superior than the benefits from Pfaff GS work for recovery purposes. Pfaff GS work feels more like “work” than “recovery” after everything is complete, if that makes any sense.

When back in Toronto, I use CF tempo along with the medball circuit on tempo days. As was stated above, the Pfaff GS work is good quality. I use it in place of medball work if I’m running out of time and have an off day the next day, and is also good to use with developing athletes not ready for the weight room.

Monday – Short speed running (30 to 40 metres) and heavy weights.

Tuesday – Technical, focus on the smaller muscles.

Wednesday – Speed endurance running (90 to 150 metres) and heavy weights.

Thursday – Regeneration day. Long warm-up, stretching, bounding on grass.

Friday – Power speed running (30 to 40 metres) and heavy weights.

Saturday – Race day, or raw-speed day. Get up at 10 a.m. Three runs of 150
metres, with three-minute rests in between. Treats yourself to huge grilled
salmon at night.

Donovan seem to not have tempo or general strength was he simply different in that regard or did those things were only done in gpp back then?

Also how was he running one day before the meet? Were they only sub-max runs and activation lifting?

DP does not like slow ext tempo/road work. The pre-meet runs were only 4-6x20-40m+olympics-6x2@80-85%…

Never heard/seen DP do that much ext tempo - maybe a couple 100’s striders and even then the intensity was slightly higher then ext tempo…

thanks RB!!!

DP programs slightly different from Charlie but there are many many similarities. Almost like they came to the same conclusion through similar sources.

One thing DP will do different is he will use 100m up-backs on the Wednesday early in the year, This is basically extensive tempo as the volume will be around 1000-1200m roughly. This starts coming down in volume and going up in speed and becomes a max velocity/speed endurance day over time. Key point - as the year goes by volume goes down, intensity goes up and rests get longer.

In GPP I have seen some DP material with hurdle mob, 3xvarious GS circuits, medball then weight circuits. This is after doing the technical/conditioning type runs at less volume that Charlie. Not too much need for more tempo volume with that many GS circuits, then medball then weight circuits I wouldn’t think.

Even with those up-backs they are still faster then CF type tempo runs.

Makes sense that he’d like the tempo day runs faster and in lower volume, it follows the logic of the GS circuits being higher intensity and lower volume than classic CF tempo day work.

Let me clarify that I wasn’t trying to claim Pfaff does CF style tempo, just what I’m doing with a Pfaff loving coach. lr1400 knows who I’m talking about.

That said, if you have information specific to Donovan Bailey, you are right to be careful taking what was done with Donovan and applying it to anyone else, or Pfaff’s whole program philosophy. It’s pretty widely discussed that Donovan was a rather “unique individual” who would flat out refuse to do certain types of work, or make excuses (In one well known story in Austin, he claimed to “have to take a shit” four times in one workout to make the breaks longer).

My coach here does the same kind of thing the day before a race, warm up, build-ups 10-20m, then 4-6 runs out to 20-30 metres. More than I’m used to the day before a race coming from a CF style program.

Pfaff et al. have found their to be flat the day after a off day or purely general (slow movement) day. By doing a few accels and/or build ups they were able to stimulate the nervous system and not deplete the nervous system…Interesting enough, Oregon football uses the same philosophy and they are anything but slow on Saturday :).

I’ve evolved to doing such work the day before a meet and it has worked for me…


You are correct they also hold all practices early in the morning. I like the pre meet neural sessions but only for big meets or meets where my athletes need to be sharp in prelims.

Important to make the distinction between single effort CNS intensive efforts (ergo 100m repeats over the course of rounds) and multiple effort CNS intensive efforts (ergo the +80 plays a game that the Oregon offense averages).

The stimulation takes on a completely different dynamic.

I would argue that the benefits that Oregon may or may not receive from up tempo practice the day before the game has essentially zero to due with CNS stimulation (because their bioenergetic profile is no where near high intensive alactic power and is at best alactic capacity if the series is short [unless they’re rotating personnel every down]) and much more to do with metabolic factors.

Bottom line, their practice schedule doesn’t deserve much scrutiny in my opinion because if you assemble enough small fast players with good enough aerobic capacity and they’ll run around like that on any given Saturday regardless of what they do on Friday. More than what they do the day before the game, the team simply plays what they practice. Of course when they meet a big defensive line that can sprint it puts a damper on the run game.

Chip Kelly the head coach says these friday workouts helps them start out fast and avoid being flat. They also perform speed snatch jump squats and mb throws at times. Sorry for the short message on the blackberry.

They could just as easily go out and do some tempo activities and experience the same result. While American football operates in the dark ages, there’s nothing ground breaking about the fact that it isn’t productive to do zero physical activity the day before a contest that is constituted by speed/power.

I agree with James on the U of O example. Most of the work needs to be peripheral, not CNS directed, the day before. Everyone rants and raves about stimulating the CNS when one of two things are most likely to happen:

  • They overdo it and the CNS is shot and their performance suffers (much like many idiots were trying to do when Charles Poliquin was claiming that Ben did heavy squats right before the Seoul 100m final. I guess CP was likening himself to a “fluffer” before the big competition.).

  • They don’t do enough to even come close to stimulate the CNS, but they engage in a circulatory activity and get a metabolic jump-start – which is all they need

Go for a light run, do a few push ups, do some activity flexibility work. But please don’t overstate the efficacy of your specialized CNS warm-up routine. Sketchy recruiting practices probably do more for Oregon than Friday workouts!

I heard Radcliffe (U of O) speak last February and he briefly addressed this. He said their football team will normally lift Friday night for a Saturday afternoon game, since the Rose bowl was early evening they lifted that morning. He gave an example of doing snatches and said the goal was very much to stimulate the nervous system. From the sounds of it he has experimented over the years finding the right level of stimulus. That said, what Radcliffe presented and what this actually looks like in person remains to be seen. I do remember thinking after he said all this you better be Johnny on the spot or you’ll blow everything as NumberTwo said.

Another thing, it’s interesting Radcliffe’s name has now come into this discussion that started as general strength. His programming is largely based on general strength (body weight, med ball, hurdle mobility, etc). This was the main focus of his talk, that athletes coming into college are lacking a lot of basic athleticism that kids 15-20 years ago all had. One example he used is kids don’t grow up climbing trees anymore and even the playground equipment of today is too safe to let kids be kids. Basically every sport he programs for starts with really basic stuff, as they progress he’ll then add in Olympic and general lifts always choosing execution (e.g. full depth squats, overhead squats) over amount of weight used. He said it’s a big hit to kids egos who were big lifters in high school. The general strength exercises are always present and pull double duty as warmup.

Interesting guy, he’s also collected a ton of data over the past 25 years at Oregon. I wouldn’t trust him to speak about sprint mechanics though.