Monday, March 11, 2013

Base building part 9 - Consistency trumps all - section B

Over-training or under-recovering?

Managing fatigue is basically what people talk about when they speak of "over-training", which would really be better described as "under recovering".  I think it's too hard to identify how much work is too much for each person, however everyone should have an idea of the amount of time they will need off between certain kinds of training sessions (because all  training sessions are not equal), how to eat properly in order to facilitate recovery, and how much sleep they should be getting.

When you just say "fuck you" to the weights

Yes, eating and sleeping are a part of managing recovery and fatigue, however your body has limited reserves for everything in regards to overcoming brutally hard training sessions.  You can't just train for hours on end, day in and day out without also accounting for the bodies need to recover from said training.  Ignoring this facet of training is dumb and ignorant.  If recovery is a part of training, yet you can't really put a finger on all of the things you do to help aid recovery, then is it REALLY a part of your programming and training methodology?

All of these things play a part in the fatigue/recovery/supercompensation curve -

Stress management outside of the gym (seriously, if all you do is train, eat, and sleep your stress levels are pretty low in comparison to working a stressful job, dealing with crazy women and bananas children and/or teens)

So using that same model, how do you design programming and create a training philosophy that creates productive training CONSISTENTLY?

A few ways.

It's you, not the training system - Whether you use any of my training methodologies or 5/3/1 or whatever you use, you have to remember that you are using a method.  The method still requires you to massage it to fit your needs.  You can't just grab a routine or a training system or programming, and run with it and expect it to meet every need you have, and fulfill all of your dirty little fantasies.  If it does, lucky you.  More than likely however, just like internet surfing for porn, you'll need to dick around for a little while before you find something that suits your fancy.

Think of it like this.  Smolov has been proven to work great for guys who want to get a quick jump in their squat.  Or has it?  I've read tons of times where guys wrote that they tried Smolov, and that it causes injuries or they started missing lifts and got too crispy on it.

So Smolov didn't work for them, right?

Wrong.  They programmed incorrectly for that template.  I know this, because I did it myself.  You do not plug in a TRUE MAX for Smolov.  You plug in an everyday max (sound familiar?) to use it with.  You're not supposed to be setting rep PR's with Smolov.  If you were trying to do that, then you used the training system incorrectly.  This applies to every training system and method out there.  Without proper application from you, it will not be efficient.  Consistency and production with be poor because of YOUR poor efficiency 

Stop maxing - The best way to take your strength levels to a halt, is to start grinding weights, and maxing all the time.

Everyone knows that guy in the gym that works up to a REAL MAX every week on bench.......for a year (years?).  I've seen this for over 2 decades.  This guy exists in every gym in America, and shows up at around 6 P.M. or so, every Monday.  Wearing his t-shirt that he cut the sides completely out of, and after talking up his "bros" for a while he flops down on the bench.  He warms up for a few sets, then with his feet dancing all over place, he eventually hits a max...with the same fucking weight he hit the week before. Then he does a bunch of incline, decline, cable crossovers, and curls in the cable crossover machine where he can hit the double bi pose.

He never gets any better because he's not really strength training.  He's strength demonstrating.  As noted in the article that Dr. Yessis wrote for elitefts that I linked last week, there are strength benefits up and down the intensity board.  From 50% to 100%.  However the 70-80% tends to be a pretty sweet zone for the great majority of guys, pretty much without exception, yet the 90+% seems to be the one most strength athletes in America abuse.  There's really no reason to be taking attempts at 1 rep maxes in the gym.  It doesn't build strength, and I thought the purpose of strength training was well, to do that very thing.  For those that want to argue that point, if all it took was doing max, or damn near max singles to get stronger, then just line up a powerlifting meet every weekend and you'll total bigger at each and every one.  You know this won't happen, because it doesn't work that way.

I know some guys don't like this, but that's really how it is.  When you're not very strong maybe you can max every week for a while and get better.  Eventually however, that has a cap to it, and the body will give you a very big "fuck you" in regards to getting better using that method.

Stop getting injured - 
This one seems easy.  Or at least, easier said than done.  The longer you can stay healthy, the longer the "unbroken chain" of training cycles becomes.  You can do this more easily, by again working in intensity zones that are less hazardous the majority of the time, that still get you mack truck strong.  This may sound like "pussy talk" to some, but that's the problem with the mentality of most guys these days.  They feel like if the bar isn't loaded to the ends, then training isn't productive.  It's just not the case, and by no means is this a "Hardgainer" type mentality. I believe that brutally hard training has a time and place.  However, that has to be managed properly through a training cycle, or over time, lest you end up needing to take time off.  What happens when you have to do that?  Progress is set back a bit, and you end up having to "rev up" again over a few weeks just to find your baseline again.  Why do that, when it might be possible to avoid lay offs and injury by training in zones your body willing to, for long periods at a time?

no idea what Jamie Koeppe has to do with what I wrote  but you're not really complaining are you?

The essential key in "consistency" is simply to keep training in a productive fashion.  Well, injuries are generally the main cause in the halting of productive training.  That, and layoffs from general "I need a break".  If you can cut both of those out, and still be productive, then you're really on to something.

The other part of not getting injured is doing things like 1 legged work, mobility work, and appropriate prehab work.  Curls, split squat, supermans, cuff work, etc and of course the 100 rep sets to push a ton of blood through an area.

Stack up 80% sessions, avoid +10% and -10% sessions  "emotionally" -  If you don't know what all this means, it's my grading system for how the training session went.  A 80% session means it was a solid.  You got the work in and things got done.   A -10% session means it was atrocious.  A +10% session means you felt like you could single handily destroy a Viking horde with a baby rattle and fat kindergarten pencil as your only weapons.

It's hard to keep things in check on a +10% day.  When every weight feels light, and you feel strong as hell.  You always want to do more sets, more reps, more weight.  The issue with this, is that you ALWAYS pay for that from a fatigue standpoint.  In other words, your body has ramped to that +10% day, because recovery has been in place, and the body is in supercompensation mode.  Basically that means your training is working.  Or at least it is on that day.  But what did I write about not thinking of training in terms of being in a vacuum?

KK has been consistently awesome for a while now

If you REALLY track your 80% +10% and -10% days on a spreadsheet, you would see (most of you) that after a +10% day you're going to have a lot of really low level 80% days and some -10%'s thrown in there.

People don't account for the steeper recovery curve that comes with a +10% session, and you really kick your own ass.  What I have come to the conclusion of is this.  The +10% session are generally the result of all of the really solid 80% session you have been doing via not killing yourself.  It's almost like a mini-peak.  Then like any peak, you tend to fall off a bit.

So what's the answer here?  Bar speed.

If you want to take advantage of the +10% session then don't vary the volume or intensity.  Simply work on being more explosive that day.  Yes, that is boring and sucks because you don't get to load the bar up and impress all the bros and ladies at the gym.   However, the next week you also aren't feeling like an assclown because you can barely eek out a few reps with 80% of that.

Conclusion - 

Consistency is really something that is made up of a lot of other factors.  Even more than I can touch on here.  However what we're really trying to define it as, is something you do in a productive manner over a long period of time.

Productivity meaning, getting better....stronger.  And you don't need to test 1RM's in order to know that you got stronger.

Your training also doesn't have to beat the living shit out of you, nor will you be able to maintain that kind of training pace over a long period of time.

If guys from decades ago could put together 12, 16, 20+ week training cycles that were productive then there's really no reason you can't either.  It's because they understand that there was a whole picture to be seen, and that single workouts didn't exist in a vacuum or "win the war".  That getting better slowly, over a long period built a better and more solid foundation.  And that's exactly what base building is.

Good sleep
Great diet
Adjusting volume, frequency, and intensity to meet YOUR needs (enough to grow and get stronger from, but also train frequently enough at a high level to further progress)
Managing outside the gym stress levels
Prehab work

Add all of these up together in order to put together long training cycles that require little to no layoff time.

Up next - 

Next up, Imma talk about how a base building cycle can run right into a peaking cycle.  This is what I am currently doing for the Nationals in May.


  1. I feel like 99% of trainees completely and totally lack the ability to apply any critical thinking to their training, long or short term. "I feel pretty shitty today, but this program says I need to hit 5x5 for 5 more lbs than last week," or like your example people feeling giddy and "on" and wanting to test their max or smash themselves because they feel good. It makes ZERO sense.

    If you have a modicum of common sense and keep a training journal, you might look back a few months and see something like 200x3x5 grow into 225x3x8. THAT is a pretty good indicator that you have gotten stronger. Whatever you're doing is working. It takes discipline to stay on the straight path for years and years and years and it's something that's not inherently written in any program or routine.

    BUT... How someone can go on for even six months, much less a year or more, making no such progress is just plain madness.

    1. I've done it before, because of all the reasons I outlined above. The general lack of understanding that you can't train hard and balls out all the time, nor is it required for sustained progress.

  2. I totally disagree. Please explain the hundreds of Olympic lifters that max almost every day or train with 90% daily. They get stronger and more explosive from such training. It's all about perceived exertion. You can train 6 days a week for hours and still make gains. Your body will adapt or die. Your right in the sense that you probably can't go balls to the wall everyday, but you can train long and hard in the 90% range and still make gains. I'm sure blacksmiths, farmers, and lumberjacks from the past, present, and future wished they could take a day off and recooperate. They can't therefore their body adapts.

    1. Because comparing Olympic lifting and powerlifting is completely apples and oranges, so I don't care if disagree.

      The rest of what you wrote is ridiculous. My dad was a carpenter. I worked whole summers with him. There is a reason guys can't train 8 hours a day but carpenters can work 8 hours a day. Look your post was just dumb.

    2. I never said the sports weren't different. The sports are apples and oranges, but not the maz effort method. Both require explosive power and if you train both disciplines the same i.e. only 90%-1rm then they aren't completely different. That would constitute as the same training to produce a different result. Pretty cut and dry. Your looking at lifting from a middle aged perspective with more emphasis on rest. The proof is in the pudding and there's plenty of emperical data of people training close to their max and getting stronger. So no your post is dumb.

    3. Except the Russians don't do max effort and they kick the shit out of us.

      So go have a tall glass of shut the fuck up juice and do just that.