Is CFTS a CSS or Complex Periodization Method?

I know, I know… this was discussed milions of time at the forum (italian sprint training), but I got some things that bothers me and I hope that Charlie or James Smith are going to be so kind to help me solve this issue… Thanks in advance!

Complex/conjugate/concurent is a method of developing different abilities and skills at the same time with same training emphasis.

Conjugate Sequence System/Block (CSS) is a method similar to Complex, but is also stresses the need to concentrate on one ability (unidirectional loading), over some period of time, while maintaining other abilities-skills. After some time, emphasis is changed to another ability in sequential manner!

In CFTS “everything is done only the volume varies” which is very simmilar to CSS methodology, but is it? In CFTS there are no distinct blocks of emphasis on some training component, but they are rather “smoothed out”!

In CFTS there are 5 components of training, namely:

  • strength work (& EMS)
  • explosive jump and hops & skips
  • speed work
  • tempo work
  • core conditioning work

All these components are done all the time (in microcycle - week), without any “noticable” “unidirectional loading”, so this is more simmilar to complex method (please correct me if I missed something). But is it?

If we take a look only to SPEED WORK, Charlie uses “short to long” approach, which means he SEQUENTIALLY introduces longer distances during GPP and SPP, but somewhere in SPP, Charlie uses both Speed work and SpeedEndurance work in one week (S+T+SE+T+S+T+OFF), which is more simmilar to Complex method.

If we look at the “components” of speed (100m run) there are:

  • start
  • acceleration
  • max speed
  • maintenance of max speed
  • speed endurance
  • special ednurance (for longer that 100m)

But, do Charlie train them all at the same time? No! Charlie starts with acceleration and progress to speed endurance over time. But when, working with longer distances, all lower parts (start, acc, max speed) are implyed, so as time moves, training start to become more complex/concurent. After all, later in SPP, both SE and S are done in one training week.

So, on my opinions, CFS is both sequential in some degree with speed work, but if we look at all training parts, it is concurent method… Basically, this means that CFTS is nor Complex nor Sequential nor CSS… It is all of them in the same time…

One thing crossed my mind… If we want to engage into CSS training of speed part of training, then all the components of 100m run should be trained from the day one, but with switching emphasis, namely:

Phase one (week structure)
Speed work (starts and acc)
Intensive tempo (for preparing for SE later in prep period)
Speed work (starts and acc)

Phase two (week structure)
Speed work (acc and max speed)
SE (with varying speed and distances)
Speed work (starts and acc)

Phase three (week structure)
SE (with varying speed and distances)
Speed work (acc and max speed)
SE (with varying speed and distances)

Phase three (week structure)

Please, dont take this too serious, because I am just throwing some ideas here… After all my knowledge of CFTS comes from his books,, DVDs…
Please correct me if I missed something here!

For CFTS, all elements in a program are present at all times, all year. (Of course we are not talking about doing plyometrics during a competition season…but then again, for something like Bball or VBall, the component already is present in the game and practice).

Tnx Herb, but I already mentionned that in text! But the problem is in ALL and HOW that ALL is done… Is SE done all year from day one? NO! Are block done from day one? NO! They are no even maintained, and this is why all components of 100m run are not done all the time, altought all components of CFTS are done all the time…

I agree with you Duxx; it does seem that many systems of training (not all!) differ only by degree…i think this is what many find confusing. IMHO any rigid belief system can’t cater for all individual athlete.
You seem to have knowledge of differing training systems…apply them as you think fit. As CF says, observation and intuition count for a lot.

Ahh but the precursors to the skills required are trained. This is why the plyometrics and med ball drills are staggered with relation to the track training so that before you work something directly on track you have prepared for it using a different modality.

Remember when classifying speed endurnace, special endurance etc only the duration of that level of intensity change. I guess it all depends how you classify the components. Do you classify my movement, metabolic pathway, intensity, skill (for example, muscle relaxation) etc…

It seems CF classify’s both by intensity and position on the force-time curve… at least off the top of my head.

This idea of linear periodisation may have been misconstrued? Perhaps Prof V was just talking about the shift in focus rather than the complete change in skills? I think a lot of the differences just come down to how you explain it all… rather than how it may have actually been done…


Without being able to give an exact detailed CF training schedule (because it always depends on the individual athlete) I guess the question linear or concurrent is more a question how you define the “elements” of training.

The main intention behind Charlie’s system is more clear when you stick with more global elements like weight and speed.

Traditional approaches told you to do weight earlier and when you are strong you train for speed - in SPP you drop weight all entirely for example.
Charlie laid out his system in contradiction to that - I guess his main message is: “No, you should do weight and speed all the time with a strong emphasis on recovery.”
The “older” schemes seem to based on a very limited mechanical view (first you “build” something, later you “have” it and only use it specific) Charlie found out through experience that you do not only get faster when you get stronger, but you also get stronger when you do speed (and points like sprinting IS plyo etc)and you should keep working on your strenght concurrent to developing speed.
(Call it both just two different sides of the same system which is the developing athlete).
Just make sure you get enough recovery, do not stress your CNS so much that one side suffers, except for (or close to) competitions where of course speed is everything and nothing else counts.

But of course, if you break terms further down you have different forms of speed and strenghtening exercises through the season (like acceleration first and SE later).
(But periodization is manly controlled by intensity and position on the force-time curve like tc stated.)

I only expanded my believes about “the main intention” behind CFTS etc. because concurrent makes more sense if you look at that, in a very strict way there would be no “real concurrent” system at all except some absurd training like squatting and doing 100m runs every day the whole year round.

Exactly! It all depends how do you classify things!! But the main idea behind this is that (please correct me if I missed somethign here) kitkat1 in 400m training uses both speed, tempo and SE sessions from day one… And I thinked could this be implyed to 100m training, after all that would be “real” CSS… :confused:

And actually, this was my intention, to proove that there is no “real concurent”, no “real sequential”, no “real CSS”… It is allways a combination… and as you stated, if you go futher and break those 5 components of CFTS, the things become pretty “messed up”, and you cannot simply indentify what type of periodization is used (from the gloabal and local view)… There are a distincive types of periodizations of speed component, tempo, strength etc, but when you integrate all this into one organic whole… the you get, again, that the whole is bigger then the sum of its components! please fotgive me if I confused you, because I am comfused too…
To conclude, if we look at CFTS as a whole, then it is very simmilar to CSS method (because all components are done at the same time) but without any sharp blocks-unilateral conc loading (everything is smoothed out). But if we “break” those components, we soon realize that the things are not so simple with elements, thus there is more than one method used in periodiyation… Naimely, first introducing acc and then going to SE (which is simmilar to sequantial approach, very soone becomes complex because working on SE, you work both acc and max speed), using only 10-15RM in strength training in GPP and pogresing to higher ints in SPP and maintene etc…
Pretty “messed” situation with the components… So it all depends on the classification and the “zoom” level (looking at the components)…
Tnx for your replys guys!

Great thread so far!

Traditional approaches told you to do weight earlier and when you are strong you train for speed - in SPP you drop weight all entirely for example.

When you read Verkhoshanky’s work, he refers to “complex training” (not talking about strength+speed strength exercises here) as the method used traditionally before his way of planning. I.e. apparently it was common in the former Soviet Union to have coaches train all the components all the time.

This brings a couple of questions:
Have we been around long enough or are we knowledgeable enough (regarding sport sience history) to define what is the Tradition?

Are we experiencing a “progressive circle” in which older concepts come back, just improved?

Please consider the above as genuine questions (not rhetorical).

Traditional approaches told you to do weight earlier and when you are strong you train for speed - in SPP you drop weight all entirely for example.


Can you point out any author suggesting such approach?


‘Soviet Training and Recovery Methods’, book i have (i’ll post date and authors’ later) writes that soviet elite athletes were trained unidirectionally but with variative means. It states that the complex method of training where all elements used in a block(4-6 weeks) was only effective for beginner and intermediate athletes.
For top athletes there had to be heavy emphasis on only one element in a given block…they reported that each element becomes increasingly difficult (as we know) to improve as the athlete gets closer to their ultimate potential…therefore leading to the conclusion that each element had to have single focus in a given block to obtain any significant improvement within that element.
Thus;each block 4-6 weeks: 1st block-strength; 2nd block-acceleration; 3rd-speed; 4th-speed endurance

IMHO, the crux of the complex method is recovery and regeneration

I would consider it a conjugate sequence system.

Fully agree! Sometimes discussions about the definitions used (CSS etc.) can help clarify things, but somtimes they just show that they are usullay used in a very vague form and do not even exist in the strict meaning as you stated.

And sometimes it is useful to look at the whole thing from a more global view - that was what I was targeting: I do not want to over-simplify Charlies system, but looking at his writings (he never played the “genius” and always pointed out his sources and “teachers” - one aspect why he is the coach one can learn of the most…) his main idea seems to come mainly from one observation:
an athlete (training at a high level) gets injured (legs) and by weight-training (bench) he gets faster in sprints.
Sounds not very spectacular, but in fact it is - and Charlie was the one to find a valid explanation for that and ajust one’s training system to this “simple” fact.

Further the whole idea about looking at the CNS and it’s limitations being the limit to performance in sprints - that leads to the body-mind problem and the absurd fact that you have to learn something consciously you then do best only doing it subconsciously…

I would say my most basic observation was/is that Speed and Special Endurance are the most direct reflection of future results, so that’s what everything else must be adjusted to.

One other thing I seem to pick up on is that CF tries to avoid this by not actually teaching things conciously. He uses the idea of ‘paralysis by analysis’ to explain this. In NLP Richard Bandler (absolute nutter) does this all the time. Ask him a question and he will never answer it directly but somehow a few hours later you know the answer. Its just indirect communication which is perhaps the best method for complex tasks…

Same thing with “double knee bend” in Olys!!! Some thing cannot be learned conciously, while thinking on them… when all the fundamental factors come in order, the the technique is perfect! You cannot teach someone conciously to explode from the block like BJ if his strenght level (an other stuff) is poor, also you cannot teach someone to lift 100kg in perfect techniqu if he cannot lift 50kg! Same for sprinting… when all thing come in place, technique is great! Emphasising technique without optimal level of preparedness can only lead to injury, bad technique and frusration…

Charlie, what do you think on doing acc, max speed work, SE and SE SpecE from day one of GPP but with switching emphasis (CSS)? Did you have any experience with this method? Anyone? This method can be applyed to 400m run, but can it be applyed to 100m run? All parts of 100m run are done all the time but with fluctuation volume/emphasis… What do you think about solutions from post #1 - will it result in huge volume of work and less adaptations? Is sequential approach (shor to long) to 100m training the best?
Sorry for a lot of questions…

Well, I finally got here.

In the recent months, I have been analyzing to greath depths, concerning Conjugate Sequence System, Concurrent/Complex System, and Block training.

I think we can all agree that all our training means should be periodized into block form.

I have “designed specific blocks” that have certain primary emphasis, which are sequence for a cummulative training effect.

That is my definition of concentrated loading.
Having a emphasis on a certain ability, while the others are maintained using the concurrent system.

Without going into too much detail, my blocks are as follows:

  1. CON 1
  2. ME 1
  3. RE 1
  4. CON 2
  5. ME 2
  6. RE 2
  7. CON 3
  8. ME 3
  9. RE 3
  10. High/Low
  11. High/Low
  12. High/Low
    The Concurrent Blocks act a prep block for the following workloads.

Max Effort focused blocks are aimed for increases of maximal strength.

Repetition Blocks will take advantage of this new gained strength, which will result in greater mass development.

The Problem:

How does one emphasize a quality such as ME?

The total volume and workload is much less than that of RE.

What can we do to devote more of our volume and intensity towards this specific ability? Do we increase frequency?


Can we rotate between RE/DE lifts, while keeping ME constant?

Do you feel that using RE AND DE once a week each is enough to maintain it?

Right now, I am trying to learn how to wave the intensity and volume of ME work, while allowing RE/DE to have a linear progression.

Again, the problem is emphasis!

At first, I looked to Priplen’s table as a guideline to what is HIGH VOLUME/INTENSITY FOR ME work. I realized that this table was intended for OLY lifting, and this flawed for our purpose.

ME work should be waved from week to week. The higher the volume, the lower the intensity, the higher the intensity, the lower the volume.

This is just the tip of the ice berg.

Any thoughts?

Hi thruth,
Glad to see you here bro!

To develop ME, you should go above 90% of 1RM… maybe playing around with the intensity rather that playing with volume (as emphasis criteria) may open numerous possibilities?
I dont have time at the moment, but I will try to figure something out…

Hey Bro,

I feel though, that we can develop strength in the 85%+.

The only time I would utilize 80%+ for ME work, would be when I utilize waveloading. (5/4/3)

This is what James had said:

“Remember, if you are utilizing CNS stress as a perspective for planning then you must acknowledge the fact that it takes a greater volume of submaximal lifts to rival the CNS stress of maximal effort lifts. So just because you may perform a greater total volume of repetition effort lifts then ME lifts, for instance, does not mean that you have shifted the emphasize of the block to RE work.”

I’m not sure if you have kept up in that thread. If not, you should start at page 6. Some good stuff!