Monday, June 11, 2012

Two simple ways to make training more productive

Reduce Complexity - The less shit you do, the better you are going to get at the things you are doing.  The best squatters usually squat a lot.  The best deadlifters usually pull a lot, and the best benchers usually bench a lot.  The rest of their shit is usually irrelevant.  I have no idea what Konstantinovs can overhead press because everytime I see a video of him he's deadlifting and benching.  And guess what?  He's pretty fucking good at those things.

It's pretty simple, if you want to get really fucking good at a lift, do that lift.

The same holds true with eating.  I still see people arguing over keto, paleo, IF, CBL, and everything else.  While I enjoy trying new diets out, when/if I do a bodybuilding show I will do a very simplistic bodybuilding style diet.  And you know why?  Because that shit works, and has for decades and decades.

Anytime you find yourself stuck in a fucking rut, eliminate as much bullshit from your training as possible and you'll find yourself moving weight and making progress again.

Narrow down your big movements to the ones you can move the most weight on, that you can do injury free.  Throw in a handful of small movements to round it all out.

As far as eating goes, eat good quality food, get quality protein in, lots of vegetables, and clean complex carbs.

If you want to shed bodyfat, just keep the above going and reduce calories where needed.

It really is that simple.

Moving weight vs making muscles work - This is something that you can really only learn over time, but there is a total difference in making muscle work, and moving weight through space.

If you haven't been paying attention, in small workouts you should REALLY be trying to make the muscular area work.  If I had to make a list of movements where you are just moving weight through space.....

Squats, Deadlifts, Bench, Overhead Pressing of any kind, Incline, lunges.

Making muscles work.....

Side laterals, face pulls, curls, tricep work, lat pulldowns, rows, shrugs, uptight rows, leg curls, leg ext, flyes.

Neither are all inclusive lists, it's just an idea of how movements should be used.  And some of these can even be swapped out.  For example one could use the bench press to make his pecs work, however switching over to a machine or db's for that would work even better.

Use the right tools for the job.  The lat pulldown machine shouldn't be used to lean forward and then rock back so you can get the weight stack moving.  You should use it to work your lats.  Same for rows.  Why the fuck are you doing a sloppy as shit row?  Aren't you just trying to hit your rhomboids?  Well you may or may not be doing that when you monkey fuck the bar up, rather than pull it into you and squeeze your back together.

People may not know this, but I will give this little secret.  You can get big as fuck doing that.  Just a little FYI there.  Learning how to make a muscle work will also help you if/when it comes to rehab something.  Trust me.  It behooves you to learn the difference in these two techniques.  Yes it takes some time, but if you put an effort into learning that with the right movements, it will pay big dividends.

  Apply these two principles to your current training paradigm and see if it doesn't help you tremendously.


  1. This is something I took to heart a little more ever since you told me to row properly. I've been doing t-bar rows for higher reps (3x10 as of late), and focusing on retracting my shoulder blades instead of just heaving the weight up like I used to. I actually feel my entire mid back working. I'm kind of debated when it comes to shrugs though, I see Jamie just moving 8 plates in an ugly fashion and his results speak for themselves. But I tried power shrugs today, actually focusing on moving the weight explosively and squeezing and I REALLY feel it in my maybe that method works better for me than the "shrug as heavy as your straps will hold" way.

    Either way, this seems like your philosophy behind small sessions. One thing though, aren't the "move weight through space" exercises still the most bang for your buck in terms of muscle gain?

    1. I think the traps will get a lot of direct work even with sloppy shrugs, so that one can be debated. I know lots of guys that don't use heavy shrugs that have big traps so your mileage on that one will vary.

      And yes, the move the weight movements are the ones that provide the most training economy.

  2. how about chins and pull-ups, work the muscle or weight?

    1. Weight. Although I can really make my lats work on chins and pecs work on dips. But still, they are compound movements that need weight moved.

    2. Stupid question but I never seem to be able to target my pecs when dipping. I'm trying to lean more forward but I'm kind of loosing my balance then. Any tips, what's the secret?


    3. Don't do dips for that. This is kinda why I say use certain movements to move weight, and others to make muscles work. I don't call that "bodybuilding" either I call it training.

  3. Paul,

    This is mostly unrelated, but I was wondering what your thoughts are on good mornings. Since I started deadlifting regularly (once a week), I decided to drop good mornings from my programming. I did use them as a squat assistance lift, but I think I would be better served by utilizing pause squats. I know you're a big fan of pause squats, but a site search of LRB didn't reveal much about good mornings.

    1. Because I'm not a huge fan, esp the way westside and most other groups like that do them. Huge weight, trying to max out on em. Dumb. I've never seen the good morning in a single powerlifting meet.

      If you are going to do GM, do em light, for some reps. They are best served that way. I got more sore from em from using 185 and 225 than when I did em with 455. Another movement everyone goes too heavy on.

    2. holy shit that exactly what wendler said as well, he got more out of 185 than 400 whatever the fuck he used on them

      seems extremely risky anyway to max out on a good morning, like a surefire way to fuck your back somehow. wendler loves them as a way to strengthen your lower back. do you think one should first work up to being able to do proper hypers with a plate for a bunch of reps and then go into good mornings, or just go straight into them (obviously starting light)

  4. so, moving weight means using a barbell or any other compound movements in order to get stronger, and working a muscle involves dicking around on machines or any other isolation movements to get specific muscles or areas bigger. so, moving weight means weightlifting, and working a muscle means bodybuilding.

    just going off of what you said earlier on this post, "The rest of their shit is usually irrelevant", and ,"eliminate as much bullshit from your training as possible and you'll find yourself moving weight and making progress again", i would say that small workouts should be avoided if you're stuck in a rut as far as training goes; however, if everything is going great and you're just looking for something more that's not going to tax your big lifts, then try out bodybuilding on your small days, so long as they don't drag you into a rut.

    is this pretty much what you've been saying about these small workouts all along?

    1. I don't think that small workouts should be eliminated because they are there for fixing muscular imbalance and injury prevention. I mean, if you're fretting over face pulls and calf raises you have more issues than just programming.

      What I mean by "the rest of their shit is irrelevant" is that if your big lifts are stuck in a rut, and you have a lot of variation in your training in regards to them (deadlifts, good mornings, block pulls, rack pulls, against bands, etc) just get back to regular ol deadlifting for a while. SAme for bench or squat or whatever.

  5. Hi Paul,

    I tried your suggestion for a small workout hitting around 100 reps in prone bench row, face pull, and flyes. I am still sore 3 days later. The cool thing is when I did some pressing recently my shoulders felt locked and stable. Great advice, thanks!

  6. Amazing how that works isn't it?

  7. Paul,

    I have been following your blog for a few months now. Thank you for putting in the time and thought, I for one am very much looking forward to getting a copy of your book as soon as it comes out.

    I just recently got back into the weights seriously in the last six months and your blog has been a huge source of information and inspiration. I have been meaning to post a comment since your Assholes and Mountains post. It is very reassuring to see an example of a guy being Man for himself and no one else.

    I continue to find inspiration and motivation from you, and I am hitting PRs all the time.



    1. Thanks a ton for the support Max, and I'm glad you found some things on here that have helped you out!

  8. Hey Paul! What do you think of this workout for strength and size?

    I find it hard to imagine 1 set of something can stimulate growth but it looks like it worked for him. Just wanted your advice. Thanks! Nick

    1. Lots of guys have built mass and strength like this. It works but you have to be willing to go balls out.

  9. Hey Paul! What do you think of my 4 day routine for size and strength? I have used ideas you have written in your articles. I workout at home so everything needs to be pretty basic

    BB or DB Bench 2x10-15
    Dips 50-100
    Upright rows or DB press 2x10-15
    Lying tri ext 2x10-15

    DL 2x10-15 (evrey other week)
    50 Pullups
    BB rows 2x10-15
    EZ bar curls 2x10-15

    Squats 2x10-15
    Lunges 2x10-15
    Leg ext 2x10-15

    Week 2 C/S/T
    Incline DB or BB press 2x10-15
    BB or DB press 10-15
    Side raises 3x10-15
    Lying DB tri ext 2x10-15

    20-30 weighted pullups
    DB rows 3x10-15
    Shrugs 2-3x10-15
    Preacher curls 2x10-15

    Same workout

  10. I always seem to go back to your bare bones template you wrote a while back. I like it because its simple. Also, you don't see routines where you lift weights and do bodyweight exercises in the same workout. Its usually one or the other. Im also not into calculating percentages for lifts. I just like to lift heavy and have fun.

    I have been doing this templete off and on for quite some time now and was wondering if it would be ok if I added the 350 methed for accessory moves, like arms,side raises or shrugs. Or is 2-3x10 enough? I know you didn't add any accessory movements because they are not as important but I just want your advice on how you would do it?

    The 350 method seems great because its high reps for volume but also progression. Thanks!