So, if you think that this post is about all kinds of cigarettes, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It is not. It is about a simple and smart way to add more weekly training volume for a certain skill/exercise without compromising your limited recovery. It is called the Heavy-Light-Medium approach or simply HLM. I use it a lot and find it really effective if you want to concentrate on a limited amount of exercises instead of using variety of them.
Let’s take a closer look at it.
What is the Heavy-Light-Medium Approach?
You already know that your body’s recovery abilities are limited. Basically, I came to conclusion that you can’t train really heavy more frequently than once a week (well, maybe once in 5 days in several cases, but that’s if your recovery is ultra-awesome and your lifestyle revolves solely around sleeping, training and eating).
On the other hand, you know that strength is a skill, and the more you practice it, the better you get at it.
As a result, you can either train heavy but once a week, or train easier but more frequently, right? Yes, but what if you can have both intensity and frequency at the same time? “It would be awesome” should be your answer at this point.
“Heavy-Light-Medium” is the approach that allows you to have it all. It works great for developing strength and skill simultaneously. It will fit perfectly the exercises that are hard and heavily depend on skill and mastery. For example, the One-Arm Chin-Up and the Planche. Additionally, it will work great for developing serious strength in basic weighted exercises like the Barbell Squat and the Bench Press. And by serious strength I mean 1.5-2+ times your bodyweight.
How Does It Work?
Basically, you use the same train-heavy-once-a-week approach but with addition of so-called “light” and “medium” days. For example, if you are squatting heavy once a week on Mondays, you can add a 50% session on Wednesday and a 75% session on Friday.
To calculate Light (50%) and Medium (75%) days, you have two options:
– to cut intensity;
– to cut volume.
As with de-loads, I would rather do less sets but with heavier weight. In my experience, it is much more effective and has less wear-and-tear on your joints.
So, let’s get back to our squatting example. Say, you squat with 100 kg for 4 sets of 6 repetitions on a Heavy day. If you listen to the wise man (me), you choose to cut the volume for your Light and Medium days. In this case, your routine looks like this:
Monday – 100 kg for 4 sets of 6
Wednesday – 100 kg for 2 sets of 6 (or 4 sets of 3; that’s also 50% of volume)
Friday – 100 kg for 3 sets of 6 (that’s 75%)
In case you choose to cut the intensity (I don’t recommend this), your workouts would look like this:
Monday – 100 kg for 4 sets of 6
Wednesday – 50 kg for 4 sets of 6 (that’s 50% of intensity)
Friday – 75 kg for 4 sets of 6 (that’s 75%)
How to Incorporate HLM into Your Routine?
Here is the interesting part. If you have no problem with performing only one exercise for a certain bodypart or movement pattern, then you are lucky. Heavy-Light-Medium approach will fit you perfectly. For example, if your goal is to learn the One-Arm Chin-Up and you do not give even a tiny fuck about other Upper Body Pulling moves, then you can train that little bastard three times a week using HLM and progress so steady that you won’t believe it. Pushing exercises and legs can be trained as usual.
If you want to use the HLM method for a certain exercise but it is not the only one in the category, then you will have to experiment. All I can say is that something will suffer: either the HLM exercise, or other in the category.
Finally, you can use the Heavy-Light-Medium approach for all the exercises if you have only 3 or 4 of them. It can be a good idea to have a different “heavy” exercise for a different day. Let me give you an example:
A) Double Kettlebell Snatch – Heavy
B) Planche Push-Up – Medium
C) One-Arm Chin-Up – Light
A) Planche Push-Up – Heavy
B) One-Arm Chin-Up – Medium
C) Double Kettlebell Snatch – Light
A) One-Arm Chin-Up – Heavy
B) Double Kettlebell Snatch – Medium
C) Planche Push-Up – Light
How Did I Find Out about Heavy-Light-Medium?
This approach was out there for ages. Bill Starr’s 5 x 5 is based on this approach. The Texas Method (the extension of Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength) also uses the same principle. And I believe there are lots of other programs that I’m not aware of that use the same principle.
That’s it. HLM is an easy way to bust through plateaus and to acquire more strength. If you train consistently for over a year and hit a plateau in a certain exercise, HLM is a way to improve. Thanks for reading.
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Do you have any thoughts? Let’s chat in comments.
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