High-Low Principle – Balancing Training with Recovery

Why is this important to you?

Whether you are a professional athlete or a recreational amateur, the importance of creating a balanced structure to your training week cannot be understated. A balance between training stress and recovery is critical if you want to get the most out of your training and achieve your fitness or sporting goals. This is particularly true if you do regularly train with different modalities (gym, run, sport training etc). If you use the principles of high-low training, this will certainly help optimize your weekly training plan.

What is the high-low principle?

The high-low principle is a systematic approach to your training plan. It aims to allow an individual to train multiple ‘physical qualities’ across a training week. It does this by labelling different types of training into two broad groups according to how much it fatigues neuromuscular system – the system that allows us to move. Originally popularized by track and field coach Charlie Francis, it is now a principle that is widely adapted across different coaches, sports, and physical trainers globally.

What is the science behind this?

Your bodies’ central nervous system (CNS) governs our ability to produce force and create movement in a quick and efficient matter. Think of your CNS like a battery. This battery is fatigued by physical activity. Some activities fatigue the CNS much more than others. The ones that create large neuromuscular fatigue are called ‘high CNS’ activities, the ones that cause minimal neuromuscular fatigue are called ‘low CNS’ activities. When our batteries are ‘full’: we feel energized, light, fast, powerful and will often have good training and competition performances. When our batteries are ‘low’: we feel fatigued, heavy, slow, and weak and will often demonstrate poor training and competition performances. To recharge our batteries, we need to have good recovery and ensure we aren’t doing too much ‘high CNS’ activity in a short period.

Examples of ‘High CNS’ vs ‘Low CNS’

Low CNS:

  • Mobility Flow / Stretching
  • Active Recovery
  • Aerobic/Tempo Running
  • Light Accessory Resistance Training
  • Low Intensity Sport Training

High CNS:

  • Maximal Sprinting/Jumping
  • Power/Velocity Gym
  • High Load Resistance Training
  • High Intensity Sport Competition
  • Contact

How can you use this knowledge?

By structuring a training week with the right balance of high CNS and low CNS training sessions, you can train in multiple ways, regularly, while ensuring that you are fresh and well recovered. This will help you get the most out of each training session. As often quoted, “keep the high days high, and the low days low”. This means in a training week, have your high CNS activities on the same day, so that then you can achieve full recovery before going again. You can recovery while still training by engaging in low CNS activities.

Want more help?

If you want help with creating a structured training program that balances your training, sport, work or anything else that you need to do, or if you need help to plan a rehabilitation program to ensure you are getting the most out of your recovery, reach out to the team at BeFit physiotherapy today at either Coogee or Double Bay locations.


Roberts, C. (2019, January 17). Principles for the Periodization of Volume and Intensity with Autoregulation. Retrieved from SimpliFaster website: https://simplifaster.com/articles/periodization-volume-intensity-autoregulation/

Tometz, M. (2022, April 24). Charlie Francis’s 95% Speed Threshold: What Does it Look Like in Real Life? Retrieved July 1, 2024, from SimpliFaster website: https://simplifaster.com/articles/real-life-charlie-francis-speed-threshold/


Sam Wadley - BeFit Training Physio Coogee & Double Bay

Sam Wadley - BeFit Training Physio Coogee & Double Bay

Sam Wadley is a physiotherapist based in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Sam has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Sam has extensive experience in strength and conditioning which is expertly applied in physiotherapy. To book a consultation, click the link below.

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