A while back here at T-Nation, I released a series on what I called Pendulum Training. This is basically a training system that has you switching from structural training to functional training every week. Changing the training stimulus frequently helps you avoid neural and physical overtraining while placing a maximal adaptive stress on your body. It also works great at preventing boredom.

A lot of T-Nation readers have been asking for an athletic pendulum for quite some time now. I understand your frustration: bodybuilders have their own pendulum and so do powerlifters, so why not athletes?

Well, TC got kinda pissed off at me for ignoring you for so long and urged me to complete my pendulum opus before a riot arises. When the man speaks, I listen (or I won't be able to afford my food for the next month!).

Basic Pendulum Principles: A Quick Refresher Course

Pendulum Training doesn't refer to a training routine or program set in stone. Instead, it's a new way of structuring your training workload to maximize development of several physical capacities while avoiding overtraining and stagnation.

Basically, with each week you start a new phase. Each phase has different goals. It's not that different than a classic periodization scheme, except that instead of switching phases every four to eight weeks, you do so every week.

On a side note, Westside Barbell training could be seen as a short pendulum with phases lasting half a week instead of a week: you rotate from maximum effort to dynamic effort every two workouts.

The big advantages of Pendulum Training are:

The Athletic Pendulum

Okay, now that you've brushed up, I'll briefly explain the basic structure of an athletic pendulum. The athletic pendulum has five phases, which is more than the bodybuilding and powerlifting pendulums. Let's go over each.

Phase 1: Structural Phase

This phase is aimed at increasing muscle mass, correcting muscular imbalances that may be found in some athletes, and preparing the whole body to lift big weights. You can think of this phase as ³specific bodybuilding.² By that I mean we're going to use training methods aimed at stimulating maximum muscle growth, while using exercises that can translate to improved performance.

Phase 2: Functional Phase I (Strength)

In this phase we want to lift big weights! The maximum effort method is used predominantly, much like with the Westside system, except we're going to be using concentric maximum effort, eccentric maximum effort, and isometric maximum effort within the phase. Basic lifts are used and the goal is to get strong all over. We'll also start to introduce the Olympic lifts by using various pulls and presses.

Phase 3: Functional Phase II (Strength-speed)

We'll now turn to high-power lifts: Olympic lift variations and speed-lifts like the speed bench press and speed squat will be our bread and butter for this week.

Phase 4: Functional Phase III (Speed-strength)

We'll still be working on the high power spectrum, but this time speed will be our focus. Ballistic lifts (jump squats, ballistic bench, jump push-ups, light Olympic lifts from the hang and depth jumps) will be used extensively during this phase.

Phase 5: Active Recovery/Structural Phase II

This phase is simply to give your body and CNS a rest from the gruelling work it just accomplished. We'll be going away from heavy lifting and explosive lifting and switching to an isolation bodybuilding approach.

Using relatively light weights (12-15 reps max), a slow tempo, and short rest intervals, we'll increase blood flow to the muscles and will try to help the body recuperate from the super intensive work of the preceding weeks. I know that athletes don't like to stay away from basic compound lifts, but in this case it's important that you do so - at least if injury-free constant progress is your objective!

This constitutes one pendulum cycle. For best results you should do two or three consecutive cycles. If you decide to go for three cycles, make sure to include two to three weeks of easy training after 15 weeks of the program.

Program Structure

Contrary to other pendulum programs, athletes will use a three days per week program, working the whole body at every session. During each session the type of contraction being emphasized will change (a pendulum within a pendulum):

Which Exercises?

Exercise selection is very important to make the most out of your athletic pendulum. Here's a list of the lifts you should be using during each phase. Note that you don't have to use all of these within the same cycle!

Phase 1: Structural Phase

During this phase we'll use what I call non-explosive money exercises: movements that involve a lot of muscle mass at the same time, but performed in a controlled manner. We want to include four basic exercises:

On top of that you can add a few isolation exercises to correct a muscle weakness or imbalance.

Upper Body Push

- Bench press (barbell or dumbbells)

- Close-grip bench press

- Board press (benching with a board on your chest to reduce range of motion)

- Floor press

- Decline bench press (barbell or dumbbells)

- Incline bench press (barbell or dumbbells)

- Military press (barbell or dumbbells)

Upper Body Pull

- Bent over row (barbell or dumbbells)

- Chins/pull-ups

- Seated rowing

- Lat pulldown

Lower Body Quad Dominant

- Front squat

- Back squat (Olympic style)

- Dumbbell squat

- Back squat, feet together

Lower Body Hip Dominant

- Romanian deadlift

- Back squat (powerlifting style)

- Box squat

- Reverse hyper

- Good morning

Phase 2: Functional Phase I (Strength)

This phase will use five exercises per session. The first four are drawn from the same list as the first phase, but we add an introductory Olympic lift:

Phase 3: Functional Phase II (Strength-speed)

During this third phase, our focus will be on explosive exercises. We want to include four exercises:

Snatch Variation

- Power snatch from blocks

- Power snatch from hang

Clean Variation

- Power clean from blocks

- Power clean from hang

High Velocity Press

- Push jerk

- Speed bench press

- Speed incline bench press

High Velocity Squat

- Speed back squat

- Speed box squat

- Speed front squat

Phase 4: Functional Phase III (Speed-strength)

We'll still stay in the explosive realm, but this time move on to higher speed movements. Once again, we want to use four exercises per session:

Unloaded Upper Body Plyo Exercises

- Jump push-ups

- Overspeed chins

- Whole body push-up jumps

- Depth push-ups

Unloaded Lower Body Plyo Exercises

- Depth jumps

- Depth landings

- Hurdle jumps

Loaded Upper Body Ballistic Lift

- Ballistic bench press

- Medicine ball throw from chest

- Push jerk (light weight: 60-70%)

Loaded Lower Body Ballistic Lift

- Jump squat

- Jump lunge

- Power clean from hang (light weight: 60-70%)

- Power snatch from hang (light weight: 60-70%)

During Phase 5 you don't have any specific exercises to choose from, simply stay with isolation movements and be sure to work all the major muscle groups.

Which Training Methods?

As I explained earlier, we'll rotate between concentric, eccentric, and isometric emphasis during the week. Obviously, this requires the use of various training methods. Furthermore, the chosen methods will change from one phase to the next. Here's an overview:

Phase 1: Structural Phase

Concentric Emphasis

- Regular lifting

- Accentuated concentric action (your partner pushes down on the bar during the concentric/lifting portion of the lift to increase resistance slightly.)

- Tempo contrast: Perform 2 slow reps (6 seconds down, 4 seconds up), 2 fast reps, 2 slow reps and 2 fast reps.

- Post-fatigue: Performing an isolation exercise immediately after a compound exercise targeting the same muscle group. Don't overdo it!

Eccentric Emphasis

- Accentuated eccentric action (your partner pushes down on the bar during the eccentric/lowering portion of the lift to increase resistance.)

- Superslow eccentric: Lowering the bar in 8-10 seconds.

Isometric Emphasis

- Overcoming isometrics for time: Pushing/pulling hard against an immovable object for 30-60 seconds.

- Yielding isometrics for time: Holding a weight in place for 30-60 seconds.

- Iso-dynamic contrast: Include a pause in the mid-point (pushing and lower body exercises) or the fully contracted position (upper body pulling exercises) for 3-5 seconds on each rep.

Phase 2: Functional Phase I (Strength)

Concentric Emphasis

- Regular lifting

- Accommodating resistance lifting using resistance bands (Jump Stretch or Iron Woody) or chains.

- Accentuated concentric action (your partner pushes down on the bar during the concentric/lifting portion of the lift to increase resistance slightly.)

Eccentric Emphasis

- Supramax eccentrics using weight releasers.

- Accentuated eccentric action (your partner pushes down on the bar during the eccentric/lowering portion of the lift to increase resistance.)

- Superslow eccentric (Olympic pulls only.)

Isometric Emphasis

- Overcoming isometrics for intensity: pushing/pulling hard against an immovable object for 3-6 seconds. Give it all you've got!

- Yielding isometrics for time: Holding a maximal weight in place for 3-6 seconds.

- Dead start lifting: Start a lift from a paused position (e.g. squats from the bottom position, bench starting from the chest, etc.)

Phase 3: Functional Phase II (Strength-speed) and Phase 4: Functional Phase III (Speed-strength)

Concentric Emphasis

- Regular lifting (Olympic lifts)

- Accommodating resistance (speed lifts)


Eccentric Emphasis

- Eccentric/concentric contrast: Superslow eccentric portion, superfast concentric portion.

- Accentuated eccentric action (your partner pushes down on the bar during the eccentric/lowering portion of the lift to increase resistance.)


Isometric Emphasis

- Iso-dynamic contrast: Pause in the mid-point (pushing and lower body exercises) or the fully contracted (upper body pulling exercises) position for 3-5 seconds on each rep followed by an explosive concentric action.

- Dead start explosive lifting: Start a lift from a paused position (e.g. snatch or clean from the hang.)

A Sample Plan

The information given in the first portion of this article should allow you to easily design your own training plan. The Pendulum system is far from being set in stone; the exercise selection and training volume can (and should) be individualized to suit your own personal needs and schedule. The following in an example of what can be done with the system as far as athletic strength training goes.

Week 1: Structural Phase

Monday (concentric emphasis)

A. Bench press

3 x 8 reps

Method: tempo contrast

Reps 1-2 & 5-6 = 604 tempo (6 seconds down, 4 seconds up)

Reps 3-4 & 7-8 = explosive reps

90-second rest intervals

B. Dumbbell bent-over row on incline bench

3 x 8 reps

Method: tempo contrast

Reps 1-2 & 5-6 = 604 tempo (6 seconds down, 4 seconds up)

Reps 3-4 & 7-8 = explosive reps

90-second rest intervals

C. Olympic style back squat (close stance, upright torso)

3 x 8 reps

Method: tempo contrast

Reps 1-2 & 5-6 = 604 tempo (6 seconds down, 4 seconds up)

Reps 3-4 & 7-8 = explosive reps

90-second rest intervals

D. Romanian deadlift

3 x 8 reps

Method: tempo contrast

Reps 1-2 & 5-6 = 604 tempo (6 seconds down, 4 seconds up)

Reps 3-4 & 7-8 = explosive reps

90-second rest intervals

Wednesday (eccentric emphasis)

A. Close-grip bench press

3 x 6 reps

Method: superslow eccentrics (9 second eccentric portion)

90-second rest intervals

B. Seated rowing

3 x 6 reps

Method: superslow eccentrics (9 second eccentric portion)

90-second rest intervals

C. Back squat, feet together

3 x 6 reps

Method: superslow eccentrics (9 second eccentric portion)

90-second rest intervals

D. Reverse hyper

3 x 6 reps

Method: superslow eccentrics (9 second eccentric portion)

90-second rest intervals

Saturday (isometric emphasis)

A. Incline bench press

3 x 8

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (3 second pause 3² from the chest during the lowering portion)

90-second rest intervals

B. Bench press, hold for time

1 x max time (30-60 seconds)

Method: yielding isometrics for time using 80% of your max bench, hold the bar with the elbows bent at 90 degrees.

90-second rest intervals

C. Lat pulldown

3 x 8

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (3 second peak contraction bar on clavicle)

90-second rest intervals

D. Chin-up, hold for time

1 x max time

Method: yielding isometrics for time using bodyweight only, hold the fully contracted position.

90 seconds rest

E. Front squat

3 x 8

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (3 second pause at parallel during the lowering portion)

90-second rest intervals

F. Romanian deadlift

3 x 8

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (3 second pause, bar 2² below the knees during the lowering portion)

90-second rest intervals

Week 2 Functional Phase I (Strength)

Monday (concentric emphasis)

A. Floor press

5/3/2 wave (1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2; 1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2)

Method: regular lifting

150-second rest intervals

B. Bent over barbell rowing

5/3/2 wave (1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2; 1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2)

Method: regular lifting

150-second rest intervals

C. Half squat (knees 90 degrees)

5/3/2 wave (1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2; 1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2)

Method: regular lifting

150-second rest intervals

D. Half deadlift (starting 2² below the knees in power rack)

5/3/2 wave (1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2; 1 x 5; 1 x 3; 1 x 2)

Method: regular lifting

150-second rest intervals

Wednesday (eccentric emphasis)

A. Bench press

3 x 5

Method: accentuated eccentrics (partner pushes down on the bar during the eccentric portion - must lower in 5 seconds - bar weight = 80%)

180-second rest intervals

B. Seated rowing

3 x 5

Method: accentuated eccentrics (partner pushes down on the weight stack during the eccentric portion - must return in 5 seconds - bar weight = 80%)

180-second rest intervals

C. Back squat

5 x 1

Method: weight releasers (bar weight = 90%, releasers = 50lbs/side - must lower in 5 seconds)

180 seconds of rest

D. Clean high pull from blocks

3 x 5

Method: superslow eccentrics (lower the bar in 5 seconds)

180 seconds of rest

Saturday (isometric emphasis)

A. Rack pin press

3 x 6 seconds for 3 positions (2² from chest, mid-range, 2² from lockout)

Method: overcoming isometrics for max intensity (pushing against an immovable bar)

60 seconds of rest

B. Rack pin bent over row

3 x 6 seconds for 3 positions (two sets of pins, one 2² from sternum, mid-range and the other 2² from the start)

Method: overcoming isometrics for max intensity (pulling against an immovable bar)

60 seconds of rest

C. Bottoms up front squat

5 x 1

Method: dead start (set the bar on the power rack's safety pins set at the bottom position of the squat and lift the bar from that starting point)

90 seconds rest

D. Rack pin pull (deadlift)

3 x 6 seconds for 3 positions (2² below knees, 2² above knees, shrugged position)

Method: overcoming isometrics for max intensity (pulling against an immovable bar)

60 seconds of rest

Week 3: Functional Phase II (Strength-speed)

Monday (concentric emphasis)

A. Power snatch from blocks

5 x 3

Method: Regular lifting with around 75-80%

120-second rest intervals

B. Power clean from blocks

5 x 3

Method: Regular lifting with around 75-80%

120-second rest intervals

C. Speed bench press

5 x 3

Method: Accommodating resistance using resistance bands (bar weight = 50%)

45-second rest intervals

D. Speed back squat

5 x 3

Method: Accommodating resistance using resistance bands (bar weight = 50%)

45-second rest intervals

Wednesday (eccentric emphasis)

A. Power snatch from the hang

5 x 3

Method: eccentric-concentric contrast (lower bar in 5 seconds, lift explosively - bar weight = 70-75%)

120-second rest intervals

B. Power clean from the hang

5 x 3

Method: eccentric-concentric contrast (lower bar in 5 seconds, lift explosively - bar weight = 70-75%) )

120-second rest intervals

C. Push press

5 x 3

Method: eccentric-concentric contrast (lower bar in 5 seconds, lift explosively - bar weight = 70-75%) )

120-second rest intervals

D. Front squat

5 x 3

Method: eccentric-concentric contrast (lower bar in 5 seconds, lift explosively - bar weight = 60%)

120-second rest intervals

Saturday (isometric emphasis)

A. Paused power snatch from the floor

5 x 3

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (deadlift from floor to knees, pause 3 seconds, snatch explosively - bar weight = 70-75%)

120-second rest intervals

B. Paused power clean from the floor

5 x 3

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (deadlift from floor to knees, pause 3 seconds, snatch explosively - bar weight = 70-75%)

120-second rest intervals

C. Paused bench press

5 x 3

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (pause 3 seconds on the chest,lift explosively - bar weight = 50-55%)

45-second rest intervals

D. Paused back squat

5 x 3

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (pause 3 seconds on the chest, lift explosively - bar weight = 50-55%)

45-second rest intervals

Week 4: Functional Phase III (Speed-strength)

Monday (concentric emphasis)

A. Med ball throw from chest

3 x 10

Method: regular med ball throws (ball weight = 5-10lbs)

60-second rest intervals

B. Sit jumps

3 x 10

Method: low intensity jumping drills

60-second rest intervals

C. Ballistic bench press in Smith machine

3 x 10

Method: ballistic (bar weight = 20-30%)

60-second rest intervals

D. Jump squat

3 x 10

Method: ballistic (bar weight = 20-30%)

60-second rest intervals

Wednesday (eccentric emphasis)

A. Depth push-ups

3 x 10

Method: shock plyometrics

120-second rest intervals

B. Depth jumps

3 x 10

Method: shock plyometrics

120-second rest intervals

C. Ballistic bench press

3 x 10

Method: eccentric-concentric contrast (partner pushes down during the eccentric portion - bar weight = 20-30%)

120-second rest intervals

D. Loaded depth landings

3 x 10

Method: eccentric overload (hold a 30-35lbs dumbbell and stick the landing)

120-second rest intervals

Saturday (isometric emphasis)

A. Jump push-ups with a pause

5 x 5

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (hold a 3 seconds pause arms at 90 degrees and jump up)

60-second rest intervals

B. Vertical jump with a pause

5 x 5

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (hold a 3 seconds pause knees at 90 degrees and jump up)

60-second rest intervals

C. Ballistic bench press with a pause

5 x 5

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (hold a 3 second pause, arms at 90 degrees and project - bar weight = 20-30%)

60-second rest intervals

D. Jump lunges with a pause

5 x 5 per leg

5 x 5

Method: iso-dynamic contrast (hold a 3 second pause, front knee at 90 degrees and jump up - bar weight = 20-30% of lunges)

60-second rest intervals

Week 5: Active Recovery/Structural Phase II

Monday and Thursday

A. Dumbbell flies

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

B. Seated rowing

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

C. Lateral raises

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

D. Barbell curl

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

E. Triceps pressdown

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

F. Leg press

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

G. Leg curl

3 x 15

Method: regular lifting/slow tempo (4 sec. eccentric, 3 sec. concentric)

60-second rest intervals

Conclusion

This is one pendulum cycle. As you can see, there's ample recovery time planned so that you can benefit from this program. Believe me, you'll need the extra recovery time to progress to your maximum!

The four days off from strength training will also allow you to devote more time to sport practices, general physical preparation and speed/agility work without risking overtraining.

This is obviously just a sample plan; you can adjust it to suit your needs and liking. As long as you understand the principles behind Pendulum Training you'll get great results!