hi-hi/low-low for competive weightlifting?

We have seen how hi-hi/low-low training is gaining traction in other sports e.g. swimming, middle-distance running, team sports. However, these sports are further to the right of sprinting on the F/T curve.

I’m interested in how this model can be used in competitive weightlifting, which is about as far to the left on the F/T scale as you get.

I guess a maybe naive mapping of the hi-hi/low-low model would be like this:

  • [primary day] Go very heavy on the competitive lifts (snatch and clean & jerk) and the most relevant assistance exercises (squats and pulls) three days a week. By necessity, the volume on these sessions will be low since the intensity is so high.

  • [secondary day] High-volume low intensity lifting for active recovery, three days a week, in between the heavy days. For example, body-building style weight training with high reps.

The problem with this approach is that almost all lifters need a higher volume of the competition lifts (and variations of them) in order to improve or retain lifting technique.


May be you could use a modified Westside approach:

Day 1: Maximum effort squat/deadlift day
Day 2: OFF
Day 3: Maximum effort bench press day
Day 4: OFF
Day 5: Dynamic effort squat/power clean
Day 6: OFF
Day 7: Dynamic effort power snatch

On the dynamic days you cxould also incorporate short sprints 10 to 20 m which compliment the lifts (knee bend)

For above am I correct in saying hi = primary day and low = secondary day?

If not could you briefly summarise hi-hi/low-low? And where is it gaining traction? All over the globe?


The CFTS approach of <75% and >95% intensitity, avoiding the middle ground (“too fast to recover from but too slow to increase speed”).

People here on this forum report that CFTS is increasingly used in a wider context than sprinting.

Why would a weightlifter have an entire day for max effort bench?

Just do what works. Do the competitive lifts, follow that with some pulls/squats, and then some supplementary lifts like reverse hypers.

On the low intensity days do general strength, medball, core work etc.

The program is not written in stone it’s just an example which has worked good for me (which i should have pointed out). Bench press has helped developed my tri’s for the jerk and the stabilizing muscles for overhead work (pecs)

That’s the problem – most lifting coaches would argue that you need more than three sessions a week (the high intensity days) training the snatch and C&J, since the lifts are highly technical.

I did a talk on this subject with Olympic weightlifting coaches. I presented Charlie’s concepts on high - low breakdowns and we agreed that it can be applied to weightlifting. Although, low to a weightlifter was much higher on the relative intensity scale when compared with lifting loads for other sports, being that they are further to the left when it comes to weightlifting itself. Their breakdown of assistances lifts (different types of pulls, RDL’s, etc.) throughout the week could also be classified as quite a bit less intense than the whole movement (full clean and jerk, and snatch).


Agreed, but these snatch and clean pulls, RDLs, etc, are CNS taxing (where are talking sets of 3-5 reps with weights at 90-100% of the full lifts) and basis of CFTS is to avoid CNS taxing work on low-intensity days, right?

One approach I have seen in weightlifting is heavy lifting (heavy full lifts, pulls and squats) every other day and power snatches, power cleans, power jerks, and some other assistance work on the other days. But although these power snatches, power cleans, etc, are less taxing on the CNS they are not at all as low-intensity as e.g. tempo running.

Olympic weightlifters are different animals than sprinters, so the comparison to tempo running is not appropriate. We discussed that some of the top lifters in the world are performing up to 16 workouts per week. How many of these are high intensity? Who knows. But you must examine the whole program and compare relative intensities, not compare to a sprinter’s workouts. Also, looking at exercises alone will not give you an assessment of true CNS cost when you have no information on load, velocity, recovery, etc. I can perform snatch pulls with a technical emphasis (or even velocity emphasis) over higher reps with significantly less cost to the CNS that a heavy single-rep routine with clean and jerks.

I would suggest the 65-35 (low to high) split that Charlie suggests applies for weightlifters - particularly at the highest level. But the work done in the 65% portion by olympic weightlifters may very well be classified as high or medium by other athletes - relatively speaking.

Does that imply that one or both of the CFTS rules

  • “48 hours is required for CNS recovery after a high intensity session”

  • “full CNS recovery is needed before the next high-intensity session”

does not apply to weightlifters? And other sports at the extreme left of the curve such as throwing?

Related question: Do you need to be born with extreme levels of CNS tolerance to be an elite weightlifter? Or can the body adopt also to CNS loads in the same way as muscles adopt (pardon my ignorance)?

To be elite at anything you need to be born with the characteristics necessary for the sport. The greatest feat elite athletes ever perform is choosing the right parents.

Of course you will adapt to training demands to an extent but your ultimate performance envelope is set by your genetics. If you have inferior genetics the training will have to be adapted to fit what you can tollerate at that point in time anything more and you will be toast. This is why simulating workouts done by elite performers often can be detremental to performance for developing athletes.

CNS demand is determined, not only by intensity, but by intensity x duration x the number of motor units involved. this is why partial lifts can have a much lower overall CNS demand, even when the weight is not a lot lower. You have to consider the whole picture, especially when the event is on the far left where the number of intensity options will be less.

I think both apply to the weightlifter but it’s the definition of high intensity which complexes the question.