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The Five Elements: A new training paradigm by Charles Poliquin

Posted Jun 10 2010 7:38pm

By Charles Poliquin

Famed Olympic track and field coach Anatoly Bondarchuk believed there were three types of athletes: those who respond best to volume, those who respond best to intensity, and those who respond best to training variety.

Shown training at the Poliquin Strength Institute, world champion  shot putter Adam Nelson is an example of the Fire type of athlete.

Shown training at the Poliquin Strength Institute, world champion shot putter Adam Nelson is an example of the Fire type of athlete.

It was a lesson that served me well for many years, but eventually I started to realize that perhaps the classifications were too limiting. I found that I might give a high-volume program to one athlete and he or she would make excellent progress, but the same program would not be nearly as effective for another athlete. Likewise, when I gave that same athlete an intensity program, he or she would crash almost immediately.

About the same time as this, I was studying Eastern medicine and herbology, and it suddenly occurred to me that these variations in training types correlate strongly with the five physical types described in Chinese medicine. These elements, as they are known, are used to categorize distinct physical types who manifest very distinct personality traits.

The elements are Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal, and the fifth element (which, despite what you might have learned in the Bruce Willis movie of the same name, is not an orange-haired fashion model in gauze bandages) – is Water.


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