Density and Intensity- Relationships and Regeneration


Density seems to get very little love in programming, perhaps because it’s harder to visualize on paper or study in training. Most overtraining problems are from micro to macro errors in distributing the quality of work and rest. I have only made those errors recently because I didn’t flirt with reduced rest periods very much until about 5 years ago, because I followed a classic recovery interval based on effort and intensity. You can acutely keep the rest short on olympic lifts and increase density without dropping much intensity, forcing some great metabolic adaptations while increasing global power. Besides reducing rest, you can increase frequency of training or add volume, methods that indirectly add more density to the timeline. Density seems to allow athletes to recover better, as athletes that come to me with a solid base of moderate to high volume of olympic lifts (8-12 sets) seem to be more durable and less likely to overtrain from solid work capacity. On the other hand, getting there is risky, as I see athletes getting sick and not handling the process of building a bigger battery and seasons can be ruined by illness and injury. Here are three mistakes I have learned the hard way.

During the GPP– I find that during the GPP a 6 day split works better than squeezing 5 days in with two passive rest days. In addition, doubles are only effective if they have more than a 20% load or just do a longer training session. Anything longer than 2 hours seems to drain athletes (excluding warm-up) and density can help those that can’t do two a days such as scholastic athletes. In the GPP I have three months of very clear training. The first month is build up to 80% volume. The second is build intensity. The third is build density. I don’t time until 6 weeks after the start of training, but I do some tests like assessments and power tests to see how the transition phase interacted. Some athletes need a lot of rest after competition to get their type IIX fibers recovered.

During the SPP– Use density in acceleration development after one has adapted to longer rest periods and sufficient volumes. Also never sacrifice density for speed, especially for team sports the have little time off to train. The last thing I would do in team sports is train RSA. One should generally never ever do a cycle of it in-season as it takes too long to recover from acutely, and the adaptations are not compatible. Some coaches will debate this to the death, but I have never seen well documented research of athletes that have developed with density work in the competition phase. I have seen dramatic drops from cutting off density or transition to speed endurance, but never seen peaking or dramatic drops from in-season density work on the track. I do see some athletes continue to keep volume and density up in the olympic lifts or in light GS circuits, but never on the track. I am not saying this is impossible but I need good evidence or specific examples of it working.

During the Comp Phase- Gradually reduce density but don’t fully eliminate. Randy Gillon and Kebba Tolbert have directed me to the importance of stabilizing the the recovery capacity of athletes by not being afraid to keep up general strength and circuit work in-season. The years I got too influenced by purists was the time that the performances seemed like rolling the dice instead of steady improvements. Athletes seem flat and stale when too much passive rest is included or when recovery is completely therapy or modality based. Light exercise is the nectar of the gods, not just resting on the couch unless you are hyper talented and can eat burger king and jump 8 meters.

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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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