The Heavy Light Medium Program
Heavy, light, medium – or HLM – is a popular program for post-novice trainees. It is a weekly programming framework that is infinitely modifiable using the variables previously discussed: exercise selection, intensity, and volume. As the name implies, HLM varies through the week with a heavy, light, and medium stress day.
The classic version of this program defines intensity for each day based off of percentages of the heavy day – typically the first training day of the week. The second training day of the week, for example, is programmed to be light at about 80% of the weights on day one and day three is a medium day at about 90% of day one. Weight is added week over week to each day, keeping the relative percentages between the days and gradually increasing the stress of each day, and each week.
Volume can also be adjusted for each day to manage stress in an HLM structure. The heavy day could have the most volume of the week while the light and medium days would have relatively less volume. Intensity will also modulate to keep the stress at relatively light and medium stress levels for the corresponding days.
Exercise selection can also be used to moderate the stress for a given day. By selecting exercises that change the intensity or range of motion, stress can be effectively controlled to meet either heavy, light, or medium objectives. A pause squat, for example, won’t be able to be performed as heavy a weight as a regular squat. The pause squat will be challenging for the lifter at a lower weight and the systemic stress will be less than if they performed the same volume with a heavier regular squat. As you can start to imagine, using exercise selection to vary the stress opens up and endless range of possible program variations.
Stress can be organized by day or by exercise through the week. All of the heavy lifts can be on one day or they can be mixed together. A training day could include, for example, heavy squats, light press, and a medium pulling exercise. The second training day could have light squats, medium presses, and a heavy pull. This allows the lifter to focus on one heavy lift for the day and avoids one session of the week becoming significantly longer or more difficult than the others.
One of the best aspects of HLM is that it tends to fit well into busy schedules or for athletes that want to add strength training to their sport practice schedule. The modulation of stress make recovery and training session duration manageable.
Again, the flexibility of HLM allows for the program to be customized to your life schedule and training goals while still driving progress over a long period of time.