Episode 54: Evan Peikon on Advancing Concurrent Training with Limiting Systems
Common knowledge has it, you shouldn’t train for ultra marathons at the same time that you train the snatch and the clean and jerk. Common knowledge has it, if you try to build strength, you shouldn’t also try to build your endurance. But Evan Peikon of Training Think Tank has it, common knowledge is wrong.
This isn’t the first time in history that common knowledge has been off base. People used to think the body was made up of four “humors”, for example. And that lead to medical bloodletting: a wasteful, ghastly, and, by today’s measures, horrifically misguided procedure.
The reason nobody’s subjected to bloodletting anymore is because some staunch skeptics over the years thought to question and test the efficacy of such a procedure. It’s because some inquisitive minds thought to ask, “Why?” Again and again throughout history, skepticism and inquiry have led to enlightenment and improvement and progress. As we learn from Evan Peikon in Episode 54, the world of exercise and sports science is no exception to this rule.
Evan explains how the concurrent training model, especially as it should be implemented by coaches of CrossFit athletes is often misunderstood. While some studies have suggested that concurrent training is neither effective nor efficient, as Evan discusses, that has more to do with the way those studies were conducted and the way that concurrent training has historically been executed than its actual efficacy as a methodology.
For intermediate and advanced athletes, especially CrossFitters, a concurrent model can be a highly productive way of training if the coach implementing it does so with an analytical, investigative mindset. In other words, athletes can get better at multiple things simultaneously if their coach consistently asks, “Why?” Why is my athlete plateauing? Why is my athlete struggling with this portion of their workouts but not that portion?”
And if the coach wants answers that will make a concurrent model work, he or she can’t just latch onto the first answer that seems to make sense. He or she must dig into the research, understand what technological advancements have revealed about bioenergetics, and, above all, to be ready for some widely held assumptions to be wrong.
One such assumption is the idea that strength training, anaerobic training, and aerobic training are completely different “modes” of exercise that rely on completely different biomechanisms. This assumption often contributes to the belief that concurrent training is a waste of time. As Evan explains, though, strength, anaerobic, and aerobic training are “actually all different expressions of the same energy systems.”
And what that means concurrent training can be extremely beneficial if coaches view programming in terms of bioenergetic systems, not in terms of traditional disciplines. So, when an athlete is plateauing or not performing as desired, a coach shouldn’t just look for superficial “weaknesses”. Instead, he or she should try to identify that athlete’s limiting system. Evan dives into what these systems are, how they limit athletes, and how coaches can identify them as limiters. Then, he explains the benefits of addressing limiting systems in his own athletes’ programs.
One such benefit is the reduction of training volume. There’s another assumption, one that’s particularly rampant in the CrossFit world, that for concurrent training to work, athletes have to perform a ridiculous amount of training volume each week. Not only is this incorrect, but too much volume stands to impair athletes’ progress rather than assist it. By focusing on limiting systems, coaches can cut down on volume that’s not doing their athletes any good.
Evan then discusses hypoxic breathing practices, like the Whim Hoff method, in terms of the limiting systems paradigm. He also addresses the concept of mobility within this model of concurrent training, explaining how coaches can reframe their understanding of mobility to benefit their athletes.
This limiter business is exciting stuff. It means that coaches can be more surgical with their programming, and it means that athletes can see better, more sustainable results within the concurrent training model. But, of course, no style of training can be effective without the right kind of psychological motivation. Evan concludes the podcast by turning the question back onto listeners: He encourages people to ask themselves, “Why?” “Why do I train?” “What do I want to get out of this?”
More than any coach, more than any sophisticated, limiter-based program, it’s the answer to those questions that will determine the outcome of any athletes training program.
You can learn more about Evan and Training Think Tank by following him on Instagram at @evan_peikon or by visiting the Training Think Tank website at https://www.trainingthinktank.com/.