Thursday, May 24, 2012

More on Big and Small workouts......

With the new book coming out in a few weeks, I wanted to continue the ball rolling on big and small sessions and why my training has really evolved into this way of thinking.

Psyching up  -

In my experience, the more times a week you have to "get up" for a set, the more time you need to spend recovering.  Generally we get up for our hardest or heaviest sets, whether this be a single or set of 20.

One thing I have grasped about this, is that when you have to do that over and over again it begins to wear on your mind and body.  The fact is, you're just not going to be able to do this week in and week out, without hitting a mental wall.

Training with a new routine is a lot like dating a new girl.  The first few weeks are awesome, and you love the newness.  Shit is phresh, and everything is perfect.

Then after a few weeks, things bog down, and you're shown a side of things that you didn't know about a few weeks before.  Things get harder and you aren't as excited about shit as you once were.

So the cycle goes.

When you are caught in that "haven't made gains in forever" zone, forcing your body to make changes requires a fucking sledge hammer effort.  I spent years training like this in order to create my base, my foundation.  So there is a time and a place for it.  However you will get spent eventually, and need a break.  If you are training in a way where you have to get psyched up for set after set, eventually that shit will take a toll on you and you will hit a wall.  This isn't even up for debate.  It will happen.

I managed to train DC style for two years, and made great gains, but I eventually couldn't do that any longer.  I started to dread training that way.  I was forced to get up for set after set after set, movement after movement.

Eventually I said fuck that.  I generally find that guys can only do that kind of training for so long until they can't stomach it anymore.  Either the mental stress gets to be too much, or the body breaks down.  It doesn't take long to think about guys that train that way, that also tend to have a shit ton of injuries year in and year out.


Now let me say, that if you are an intermediate guy, or early advanced guy, and you still have a decent amount of room in terms of reaching your genetic potential then training balls the-fuck out, will probably pay a lot of dividends.  Especially if you're shoveling the food down at a solid clip.  But I know for me, as I got closer to my genetic ceiling, training balls out every single session for every moment made recovering far more difficult.  Not to mention, I'm older now with a lot of fucking training miles and injuries on me.  It's not an excuse to not train hard, just to train smarter based on my current environment.  I still have plenty of sessions where I go balls fucking out.  I'm just smarter about how many times that happens, and am in tune more with my recovery needs after these kinds of sessions.



Reducing big movements - 

For the most part, I have settled on doing a maximum of three big movements per session.  This made sense to me.  Three movements weren't so much that, even if I had to get "ready" for a set, it was only going to happen maybe 3 times in that whole workout.  And might not happen at all.  Since I was leaving a few reps in the tank as well, I didn't find my eagerness for training start to wane.  And I almost never needed time off.  If I did, it was a few days.  I also didn't count shit like calf raises and ab work as part of the movements either.  Just the big stuff.

This helped me immensely in terms of mentally always feeling good about training.

But eventually I found that there was something missing.......

Small workouts -

Over the last few years I have done more and more "small sessions" or "small workouts" that was made up of things like curls, triceps, rear delts, calves, abs, etc.  Stuff that I honestly hated making times for on the big days, because, after squatting or pulling heavy as fuck for an hour, I generally just wanted to go home and eat some food.  But I knew these other small movements were important for things like filling in muscular gaps, and injury prevention.

So over time I started doing more and more shit like my curls and cuff work and such, on "off" days.

Over this time I have grown muscularly larger, been injured less, and hit tons of PR's in the big lifts.  I can't honestly say it's directly attributed to moving all that piddly shit to other days, but I do know that my training has been going really well for an incredibly long period now.  Outside of the quad issues I have had, my deadlift and all my various pressing movements have never been stronger.

More benefits to small workouts - 

Other great benefits to doing small sessions is......


  • More calories burned.  You get leaner over time.
  • Appetite stimulation.  You WILL get hungrier from doing these little sessions on "off" days.
  • You can target "weak" bodyparts that need to be brought up.  This is what I call "fill in muscular gaps".  
  • It increases your workload capacity.  I hate the term GPP with a fucking passion.  So I won't call it that. I'll just call it workload capacity.  
Small sessions should not NOT tax you.  You should work fast, light, and get a solid pump (yes, a pump mother fucker), and feel better upon finishing than when you started.  Small sessions should not cut into recovery enough that a big session suffers.  I'm not saying you may not have some localized muscle soreness, but systematic recovery shouldn't be an issue.  

The other great thing with small sessions is that you can just vary them week to week, and based on how you feel.  For example, night before last I got almost no sleep.  So I just cancelled the small workout for that day.  No big deal, and I don't sweat over it.  If you are feeling good, you can throw in a small workout on almost every day, and if you are really fucking bananas you could even do a big workout in the a.m. and a small one in the p.m.  But I don't suggest this.

Small workout selection -

I basically split my small sessions into training traps, rear and side delts, biceps, triceps, calves, and abs.  

I don't really care if they are always split up proportionately.  Sometimes I do upright rows 2 or 3 times in a week, and other times I get on a face pull kick.  I generally use the same rule I use with my big sessions, and I limit it to 3 movements.  So upright rows, curls, triceps is common, as is face pulls, bent laterals, and calves.  

It also doesn't mean I won't throw in a set or two on a big day for these guys, either.  It all depends on how I feel and what I'm trying to accomplish.  

Mindset - 

Think of your big sessions as the brick and mortal of everything.  That's the most important parts of building your foundation.  Think of your small sessions as the marble tile and ceramic bathtubs.  You can have a nice framework with the big stuff, but you still need the small stuff eventually to have the complete package.












39 comments:

  1. Good stuff Paul. Will definitely try this in the summer when time is not an issue.

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  2. Paul,
    Thats exactly what I´ve been doing lately.
    I´ve been building my work capacity to hit a big session in the AM and a small in the evening, just like you said.
    What kind of dietary adjustments would you suggest to make it doable?

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Just pay attention to overall energy levels. This is where grading out sessions with the 80-10-10 rule come in so handy.

      If you've added in work, and you're still making gains, no problem. If you start suffering from some -10's then up the calories until that problem goes away. Just keep em clean.

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  3. Paul,
    How much will the book cost? And will it be in E book or physical?

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    Replies
    1. Both in ebook and physical. I've been thinking about that, and my best guess is going to be $25 for the e-book. I'm working with someone on getting the paperbacks done.

      Delete
  4. I know this is not question day but I have to ask. I was deadlifting last night. Pulling the shit out of the bar. Feeling great. My last set on Strong 15 I think my hips shot up and I got too high in front of the bar. It was like my back cracked, I thought my spine broke (kidding!). I just moved around a bit trying to keep it from tightening up. Did the backoffsets gingerly. A little tight today but that cracking sounded horrible! I'd say my back was hunched a bit and my form was off. Just too heavy weight? It really didn't feel heavy. Lack of concentration? Any tips to keeping tighter on deadlift? I think that was the biggie, not being tight. Sam.

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    Replies
    1. Could have just been a technical issue, yes. That's what it sounds like. Never ever take any lift for granted. Ever.

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  5. Paul, did you have any influence from studying Doug Young? I noticed a lot of his old routines are similar to your 5-4-3-2-1-backoff deal. And then he would use repping strength as his "indicator" of where he was.

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    Replies
    1. Nope. I came to that on my own through bodybuilding training actually. I wrote about it in the PoT programs. But Doug Young was awesome, so any comparison makes me feel good about myself.

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  6. Paul what about more "medium" sized stuff"? Thinking stuff like leg curls, DB presses, pulldowns, and rows? From your log, it looks like you prefer to do that stuff at the end of big sessions.

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    1. Small workouts should consist of single joint movements for the most part. Pulldowns and rows are not medium at all, those are heavy, multi joint movements.

      big - squat, deads, rows, chins, presses

      small - face pulls, side laterals, curls, pushdowns, skulls, calf raises, ab wheel, sit ups, etc.

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  7. I completely agree with you regarding the psyching up, which is why I typically try to approach my training with a workman-like attitude. Only on very big sets do I try to get a little adrenaline going, and even then it's much more subdued than a lot of people.

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  8. Doug Hepburn, Doug Young, Doug Furnas...is the secret to strength in the name?

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  9. what about lunges in the small workout Paul? Too taxing?

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    Replies
    1. Is that multi joint movement? Big days.

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  10. When it comes to traps on small days, are shrugs OK too? The problem with those are that I'm gonna go too heavy on them. Maybe better to stick to DB and Hammer shrugs then

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    Replies
    1. No shrugs. James, read the article again.

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    2. No I understand that certain exercises are better than others. It's just that I don't like the way upright rows feel on my shoulders.

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    3. upright rows are more of a compound movement than shrugs.

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    4. I don't see anyone doing upright rows with 600+ pounds, do you?

      The whole point of the small sessions is to get work in, without adding to systematic fatigue.

      Instead of debating semantics like most dipshits on the net, take some time to read and understand what I wrote and the principles of what certain movements are more fitting.

      Delete
  11. The big and small workouts would fit well into a fat loss / conditioning mindset as well?

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  12. Forearms allowed on these sessions as well? Reverse curls, wrist curls, that sort of thing?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, absolutely. I just don't do forearm work because I don't need it.

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    2. Much obliged Paul. I'll start doing adding it right away in the hope of increasing the size of my woman-like forearms.
      I already started doing neck work on these sessions because I assumed that'd be OK as well.

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  13. Paul,

    Thanks for all this great stuff - I've recently added in the small workouts and I notice already some increased size and that nagging aches and pains have been reduced. My question is about conditioning sessions, and which days it'd be best to place them on in the context of the big/small workouts. I have 3 big sessions, 2-3 small sessions (depending on schedule), and 3 conditioning sessions.

    My big sessions are on MWF and look like this:

    M - Squat, Deadlift, Hamstrings
    W - Bench, Military, DB Bench
    F - Chins, Rows, Shrugs

    I guess my question would be, is it best to just have my conditioning sessions follow directly after my big sessions, leaving the small workouts with steady state work, or would something else work better?

    Thanks,
    Matt

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    Replies
    1. Up to you. If you are going to do that, I'd just go with 15 minutes of fast steady state. Literally, that's it. When you're hitting 3 big sessions like that a week plus the 3 small ,you don't want to also become a cardio queen during that time.

      If you scale it back to 2 big sessions, you can replace a big day with an interval session.

      Just remember what you're training for. If it's mass and strength conditioning is a back burner. If it's to get in shape, strength and mass goes on the back burner. Serve 1 master.

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    2. Thanks for the reply. Would a viable alternative be to cut the small sessions and just condition 2 times a week, and on off days just do steady state work and extra stretching/soft tissue work?

      So something like:

      M - Big Lower
      T - Steady State/Mobility
      W - Big Press, Conditioning
      R - Steady State/Mobility
      F - Big Back, Conditioning
      Sat/Sun - Off

      Thanks.

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    3. No. The small sessions are to fill in muscular gaps, prehab weak areas, and help work capacity.

      Delete
  14. Paul,

    Was curious about your thoughts on small, single joint movements for lowerbody, such as leg ext and maybe lighter reverse sled drags. The small sessions seem, outside of calves, to be upper body dominated.

    -Pat

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    Replies
    1. Leg ext and leg curls are good for small sessions, but generally you can just throw them in on big lower body days as support work.

      The upperbody tends to need a little more volume/frequency than the lower for growth and prehab. The shoulders especially need a lot of TLC to stay healthy.

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    2. GHR instead of leg curls?

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    3. Absolutely not. GHR gets too much low back involved.

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  15. Say, Paul, you mentioned something about volume rotation when you first started talking about big/small sessions. Is this still something you'll touch on, or has experience taught you that it's better to just play it by ear? This article seems to suggest the latter.

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    Replies
    1. I just kind of play it by ear, but I generally have a 20/15/10 rep rotation that I try to adhere to.

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  16. What do you think of a top end set for each exercise in the 8-12 rep range? I read an article by Gordon levelle on short and intense bodybuilding( HIT). Looks like its just two exercises per body part for one set each after warm-up. Nick

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    1. Nope. Intensity (load) is low, as is perceived intensity, volume is high. It's two or three movements for 6-10 sets, high reps, light weight, no where close to failure.

      Again remember, you don't want to take a toll on systematic recovery. These are EASY sessions from a recovery standpoint.

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