Saturday, January 31, 2015

40 lessons learned

Well I'm 40 today.  That means I've been training now for about 26 years.

That's a long fucking time to be doing this shit, to drop my Captain Obvious statement of this post right out of the gate.

So in "celebration" of my most dreaded birthday ever, here are 40 things I think I know about training at this point.

  1. Training heavy is overrated for strength.  This doesn't mean training heavy doesn't get you strong, or has no place.  It doesn't mean that at all.  It just means you don't have to train heavy all the time to get stronger.  In fact, if you get an average of the intensities used in the most prominent of strength systems, it's between 68 and 72%.  Yes, you can get really strong using intensities that low for the majority of your training, and not feel beat to shit all the time.
  2. If you ever want to get great at a lift, you better learn to love it somehow.  Most of the lifts we are shitty at is because we dread doing them.  Your emotionally "buy in" to a lift counts for a lot.
  3. Train to get the most return on your investment.  I read a shitty article a while back about how you want to do as much as possible in order to grab that small percentage on your return.  In training, there will be a point of diminishing returns in regards to more time and volume in the gym.  It's better to spend 3-4 hours in the gym each week for 95%, than 8-10 hours in the gym for 100%.  Even more, you won't get that 100% because doing more than you're capable of recovering from generally means you get less than the 95%.  If that makes sense.  Find out what is efficient and optimal.  Not what is overdone.
  4. There are no absolutes.  I used to be very dogmatic in my thinking.  Most people believe that if something works very well for them, then it has to be the very best way.  After all, they wouldn't be using it if it weren't "gospel".  But the fact is, there are so many ways to reach your goals and over time, you will probably have to use a myriad of them.  Be open to ideas, but also be aware enough to know when someone is selling you bullshit.
  5. There are no truly dangerous movements, for the most part.  Only movements done improperly or incorrectly for your leverages.  Then they can become dangerous.  
  6. Mobility has become a very overrated aspect of training.  If you need 30 minutes of foam rolling and mobility work before you can even warm up on squats, it's time to quit.  
  7. If you have a lift that's been stuck for a very long time, and your technique is dialed in, then you simply need to get bigger at that point.  
  8. Sleep and water intake are incredibly underrated in regards to recovery.  If your sleep has been shit, and your hydration levels aren't fulfilled, then training is going to suck.  People need to make those bigger priorities.  
  9. There is no magical steroid cycle that is going to turn you into something your body cannot be.  There was only one Arnold or Ed Coan.  You have to have the genetics in place to actually respond to steroids in order to fully take advantage of them.  Lots of guys use big cycles that don't lift much or look like much.  Fact.  
  10. You can get a long ways on the basics, but for complete development you're going to have to spend some time training all the little things too.  Arms, calves, rear delts, etc.  Often times, it is your secondary and tertiary movers that are holding you back once a big base has been put in place.
  11. Women need more work than men.  Women have fewer muscle fibers, especially in the toros than men.  They often respond much better to more volume than men because they aren't generally strong enough in toros strength to stress recovery reserves.  
  12. Women also tend to get jacked on bodyweight movements more than dudes do.  This is because bodyweight movements tend to offer enough resistance for a much longer time than it does for men.  Women can get beastly on just chins, push ups, and chins.  Where dudes that are awesome at those tend to be much smaller.  
  13. The deadlift is not a PULL.  It's a push off the floor, then a pull from the knees.  I wish I had really understand this concept years ago.  Then it wouldn't have taken so long to get 7-hundo.
  14. Pressing movements are generally "maturity lifts".  They take much longer to develop than squats and pulls because the lower body is generally more "ready" to respond to squats, front squats, and various deadlifts.  
  15. Pressing movements tend to have better carryover to each other however.  Where if you want to get better at squats and pulls, you tend to need to actually do those lifts.  Incline pressing, bench pressing, and overhead pressing seem to give each other a boost.  So with pressing, you don't need to be quite as specific.  
  16. The internet is both a blessing, and a curse.  There is so much good information out there to help someone get better, but there is also so many dumbasses dishing out shit that it can get difficult to navigate through at times.  I feel bad for a lot of noobs that already have a problem overthinking shit.  Maybe they would be best served getting off the net, and spending more time in the gym?  
  17. If you're worried more about what squat shoes to buy than what your diet and programming look like, then it should be obvious to you why you aren't making progress.  
  18. Most people don't do enough back work.  And deadlifting alone isn't enough.  I have no idea why people think that deadlifting is enough.  It's not.  
  19. People in search of more muscle mass often miss out by not concentrating on the eccentric portion of the rep.  That's where growth lies.  Slow that shit down.  
  20. People overcomplicate the shit out of dieting, or eating to gain mass.  I have no idea why.  It seems very straightforward to me.  
  21. Most people love new trends because they believe they are missing some secret that has been eluding them from achieving their goals.  There is literally nothing we don't know at this point about gaining mass, losing fat, or getting stronger.  The main ingredients to getting better are not getting injured, being consistent, and making sure all of your bases are covered in regards to recovery.  
  22. It's not about IF you get injured if you keep lifting, but when.  
  23. When you do get injured, make sure to do a complete rehabilitation process.  I know so many guys that keep injuring the same area because they rush back into training maximally too quickly.  
  24. There is no magical "routine".  This annoys me so badly.  "I saw this routine the other day.  Do you think it's better than the one I've been on?"  Stop looking for a magical routine.  It doesn't exist.  
  25. Routines are only as good as the principles they are made up of.  If you understand a certain set of principles, then you can create routines for days.  You just need to understand how to implement all of this principles so that there is proper synergy within the routine.  
  26. Success leaves clues, but so does failure.  Generally, arriving at a successful destination means "fail - fail - fail - fail -----SUCCESS".  If we are lucky enough to find success early, that's great.  But failing will also build a lot of knowledge if you understand the reasons something failed.
  27. The best way to really develop a physique you are aiming for, is to set performance goals.  Instead of thinking about developing a bodypart, find the movements that work that bodypart the most efficiently for you, and create goals to hit with them.  As I've written many times before, your function creates your form.  
  28. Anyone selling you a "secret" or "new trick" is bullshitting you.  Walk away.
  29. The 80/10/10 rule - 80% of the workouts you will have are just "getting the work in" type.  10% will be awful, and 10% will be awesome.  Believe it or not, it's stacking up tons of those 80% sessions that mean the most.  We can't always explain the reasons for shit workouts or awesome ones, so consistency is what matters.  And getting the work in, over a long period of time, is how you stack a lot of bricks to build a big base.  
  30. Just because someone is jacked and/or strong doesn't mean they have a clue about training or nutrition.  Yet I see so many guys now that think because a guy can lift X amount of weight, or has 22" arms, that he has to have the keys to the kingdom.  It's just not true.  
  31. On the flip side, anyone claiming to be an expert, I believe, should have some "go" and some "show".  Just my opinion.  
  32. Most of the people I see that can't lose fat, can't because they are lazy.  And lazy people are always full of excuses.  
  33. If you ever accomplish anything significant in your life, there will be people that will hate you for it.  Expect it.  
  34. Emotional and life stress will often rob you of progress in the gym.  If you don't learn how manage what is worth stressing over, and WHEN it's appropriate to stress over it, then expect your life and gym time to suffer.  Ruminating over problems when you can't change anything serves no purpose.  
  35. Be realistic in your goal setting.  If you just pulled 500, don't talk about pulling 600.  Talk about pulling 515.  
  36. If you plan on competing for a long time, be fine with adding a few pounds to your lifts here and there.  If you can total 1500 and add 75 pounds to your total each year (25 pounds per lift), then you're totalling 2 grand in about six and a half years.  It doesn't always work out that way, but the point is, be ok with adding a little bit here and there.  Over time, it all adds up.
  37. I still haven't figured out a legit reason to completely max out in the gym.  With that said, I still do it every now and then.  I guess the legit reason is because we do feel the need to test ourselves now and then.  But it should be very few and far between.  Train, don't test.  
  38. Most dudes are fatter than they realize.  Everytime I read where some guy is going to drop 25 pounds and to 12% bodyfat I laugh.  Especially guys who haven't done it before.  They almost never realize how fat they really are and how much weight they are going to have to drop to actually get reasonably lean.  
  39. Learn to understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism.  One is there to help you, and one should be discarded.  
  40. Patience and belief are still the cornerstones in regards to reaching your goals and fulfilling your aspirations.  Without them, you will quit, or sell yourself short.  Be willing to walk the road for a long time, and often times without anything manifesting itself in the way of results.  Believe to an almost unhealthy degree, that if you just keep taking small step after small step, big things will arrive.  
Get all LRB books on E-Junkie -

Follow LRB on Facebook -

Follow LRB on IG -


  1. No. 22 is one I'm finding out the hard way. Still read your 'At war with a demon' article every other day. Happy 40th, Paul.

  2. Congrats on being "over the hill" hahaha

  3. Happy Birthday! Thank you for this blog. 4 years ago, it inspired me to get back to lifting. At 36 I'm stronger than I was at 26. Building a base of strength via your base building methods rather than chasing rainbows via weekly one rep max tests has paid a world of dividends.

  4. Fantastic. Congrats Paul.

    Could you please write a future post on your thoughts on the limitation of training days and exercise selection? I know your general ideas about the matter based on your other articles and training manual, but I'd like to know more about the philosophy behind it.

    The reason is, I'm about to turn 30 this year and - while I love training and especially volume - my body simply can't recover anymore and I keep getting injured. Turning down the volume and number of (weight) training days has helped and I hope to do it even more.

  5. #38 rings especially true for me, as I has to find it out the hard way. Thought I would be SHREDDED after losing 20 lbs, but turns out there was more fat hiding underneath the fat I lost. I hope I can learn from these other points without experiencing them firsthand.

    1. The first time I cut I guesstimated that I started out at 15% bodyfat. 8 weeks later I had a blissful moment of confusion when I took my starting weight, my current weight, and realised I should be 6% bodyfat.

      I wasn't.