Monday, December 1, 2014

Everything does NOT work

In every interweb battle about training or nutrition, there will be dogmatic people who will refuse to budge on their stance regardless of how much anecdotal or scientific proof is presented to them.  This is because it's very hard for some people to admit they are wrong, especially after mounting a keyboard attack in defense of their position that left their fingers smoldering.

These discussions rarely end with someone yielding to their "opponent" and they either bow out by not responding anymore or cling to a simple truth that undermines the whole truth of a debate.

But I can respect that.  Even if it's ignorance, I can respect someone with passion about their belief.  I didn't say I respect ignorance, just the passion.  LOL I can respect someone more than is willing to change their opinion or position based on being confronted with new truths or evidence.

But you know what I can't respect?  The people who just stand around, or write articles where they essentially aren't ever "wrong", but they aren't ever really right either.  Because they establish a stronghold in "everyman's land" where they sort of agree with everyone all at once.

These usually tend to be the same people that spout of such garbage as "everything works."  Or the even more nutless approach to it all.  "everything works to a degree."

What degree?  And what is everything?  And if everything works, why aren't we all doing everything and why don't we stop trying identify real working principles of training and nutrition if "everything works."?

"I want to improve my bench."

"Do dumbbell flyes with 5 pound dumbbells."

If you're an "everything works" guy, before you jump back in protest, you have to remember that you are the one thinking and speaking in absolutes.


I'm still at a loss.  What the fuck does that even mean?

"What it means is, everything will work to some degree for a little while."

Oh thanks for continuing to be even more ambiguous and refusing to actually take a hard stance on anything or give a concrete opinion.

No, everything (whatever everything is) does not work.  Doing pilates isn't going to make you super fucking strong.

Neither will training one time a week.

Neither will training 40 times a week.

"But you're getting extreme, Paul!"

No I'm not.  That's the fancy part about using absolutes like that.  When you say EVERYTHING it means........well, EVERYTHING.

And everything does not work, and everything is not a viable solution to training problems.

One of the biggest facets of carving out a productive training plan is to have very specific goals.  Without them, how are you going to decide what the best course of action is?  You're just going to throw some shit together and go train?  You're going to wing it?  Do the ol Weider muscle confusion and instinctive training principles?  Is that where you're at?

After more than 60 years of strength experimenting there are some things we do know that works, and some things we know that don't work, or works very poorly.  There is a reason why certain types of athletes, strength athletes, bodybuilders, etc all eventually gravitate towards certain training paradigms.  It's because....(drum roll)....there are generally a narrow subset of ways to be efficient in training.

There are general rules that have to be met, or training won't be productive.

To get bigger or stronger, progressive overload has to be accomplished.  There's no way around this concept.  If you want to get bigger or stronger this principle must be adhered to.

At some point, you need to do one of the following....

  • Lift the same weight for more reps
  • Lift more weight for more reps than the lesser intensity
  • Lift more weight for more reps
  • Do more volume
  • Do less volume if you have overreached (deloading) 
  • Lift a weight that has a high RPE at a lower RPE (rate of perceived exertion) 
There's probably more here, but you get the point.  Over time, you must demand that your body be capable of doing more work than it was capable of before.  The body getting stronger or bigger is essentially a survival mechanism or reaction to the stimulus being applied to it.  Fibers get thicker and/or stronger to account for the stress being placed on it.  

At some point, if you want to get good at something, you need to do that thing.  This specifically applies to competitive strength athletes.  The S.A.I.D principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) has to be adhered to.  

This is why a lot of geared methodologies failed for so many.  Box squats won't develop your back squat.  This is not me shitting on box squats.  Box squats can be a useful tool even for raw guys.  But it shouldn't be used to develop your competition squat, or your back squat in general.  You need to, you know, do regular squats for that.  

No amount of rowing or hyperextensions or ab work or whatever is going to develop your deadlift if you aren't deadlifting.  You have to practice the movement.  

I will give a great example of this from my own perspective.  

This past offseason I deadlifted very little.  I did a ton of deficit stiff legged deadlifts.  This was on purpose.  I wanted to really strengthen my posterior chain and I feel like deficit stiff legs do that for me better than regular deadlifts.  I also get a tremendous amount of carryover from stiff legs to deadlifts.

However because I did not do many deadlifts, or didn't deadlift for a long time until meet prep time, once I did start pulling regular deadlifts again I did not feel especially strong at them.  This wasn't because I wasn't stronger in my posterior chain.  I was.  I took my stiff legged deadlift from 550 for 4-5 reps to 605 for 3 reps.  Indeed, I got much stronger.  However the motor cortext wasn't primed for regular deadlifting.  I had not been practicing the movement.  Thus when I did deadlift again, I felt slower and less efficient than usual. 

On the flip side of this, after just two or three deadlifting sessions my deadlift speed skyrocketed and I ended up pulling a fairly easy 700 at my meet.  This was indeed my plan all along.  Get stronger using a "like" movement to the deadlift, build the posterior chain (make it stronger), then spend a cycle working on the deadlift to take advantage of that.    

I knew the first few weeks of deadlifting would in fact feel shitty because of all these reasons.  So I was prepared for that.  I'm completely aware of the importance performing the movement to get good at it.  For me however, deadlifts tend to ramp up very fast, then bog down or even regress at times.  So I only need to deadlift for a few weeks before it tends to peak out in performance.  

What I'm getting at here is, you have to understand your own body in regards to how it applies to the S.A.I.D. principle, but it must be adhered to at some point in order for you to improve at that thing.  Had I not pulled from the floor at all leading up to the meet, I doubt I have pulled worth a shit at all.  Even though my hamstrings, back, traps, and erectors were all clearly stronger, the movement itself had to be trained.  

So with all of that bullshit out of the way, back to "everything works".  

People say this to be polite, or to agree with basically everyone all at once.  Even if it means contradicting themselves.  

Certain principles work.  And work well for what they are intended to help the lifter accomplish.

Certain principles don't work well, or won't work at all depending on the goals of the lifter.  

And certain things just don't work.  What I mean is, you don't comprise a routine made up of machines if you intend to do a Crossfit competition.  

Saying "everything works to a degree" is like saying "all cars work" or "all cars work to a degree".  Well all cars don't work, but driving a 1979 Pinto isn't ideal if you're trying to win a professional rally race or even maintain life on the road for an extended period.  

If you want to reach your training goals in the quickest and most efficient manner as possible then you need to search out what course of action looks best for that.  Applying the "everything works" mentality is a great way to not understand why you are doing all the things you are doing.  And knowing those things are paramount in regards to getting past plateaus and routine design.  

Understand why you are doing what you are doing in training, and the purposes behind all of those things.  Taking the stance of "everything works" is a terrible mentality to bring to your own table if you want to find the most efficient method to accomplish a task.

"Everything works."

And nothing works if it isn't applicable to the goal trying to be reached.  


  1. i never made a lick of progress doing Dr.dardens HIT.

  2. So, are you saying Joe Weider AND Tony Horton don't know what they're talking about vis a vis the whole "muscle confusion" concept?

  3. Did you not read the article Moral Compass? I am commenting now to contribute to your brain's progressive overload to reach the defined goal of mental clarity and understanding.

    1. Age MacKenzie, you aren't related to the late, great Spuds by chance? Because you're almost as entertaining!

  4. Ha ha...I had to Google that...and I will have to stop here because you are setting yourself up for a win!...according to Wikipedia Spuds was actually a lady dog! Too many other issues...she/he was not allowed to dress up as Santa and finally died of Kidney disease. I fear I would lose further discussion on this one! :)