Saturday, July 11, 2015

Context and association in real world strength and physique development

The title of this is perhaps, the longest title of any article I've ever written.  But I had no idea what to call it.

A while back I wrote a post somewhere (I don't remember where), where I addressed the fact that at times people overload themselves with too much information, and find themselves lost in regards to what they really need to be focusing on in training.

This was met with "you can never know too much" and the scientific nerd crowd got all up in arms at my suggestion that some people actually get worse from information overload.  

This is not conjecture on my part; I know from personal experience and from all the messages and emails I receive on a daily basis that it is possible to learn more, and actually go backwards in training.

I don't think you need to go very far to find an internet debate filled with hundreds of guys that don't look like they lift, and can't lift very much yet can spout off every piece of scientific information known to man about programming, diet, and macros and can recite page 15 paragraph 6 of Supertraining like a sports fan can tell you who won the NFL rushing title in 1984, 1996, and 2004.

That'd be Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and Curtis Martin in case you were wondering.

I absolutely am going to stand by my stance here.

Not all of the information on training out there is useful or applicable to everyone in regards to their own training.  And overloading yourself with training or nutritional knowledge that doesn't apply to you can indeed cause paralysis by analysis.

"Should I apply this?"

"Should I not?"

"Do you think this split is better than this one?"

"What do you think of doing arms every third waxing moon phase?"

There is really only a few things each person needs to ask themselves to cut through all the bullshit.

But I will get to that in a minute.

Here are some reasons why lifters get caught up in this confusion -  

1.  Starts worrying about things that don't pertain to their level of qualification - 

Advanced lifters have things they need to concentrate on, that beginners and intermediate guys have no use for.

Likewise, beginners and intermediate level guys have things that should be their focus that don't offer as much benefit for very advanced guys.

A beginner doesn't really need to worry about things like nutrient timing.  So long as he is eating a good meal before and after training, he should be covered.  

For an advanced guy, this is far more important and plays a much bigger role in improving, regardless of what some study says (even though there are studies consistently support nutrient timings effectiveness for advanced athletes).

How do we know this?

Because there are just too many guys at the elite level that have seen dramatic recovery enhancement and improvement in their training and physique implementing it.  It does make an enormous difference.  I've spoken with too many elite level bodybuilders to rely on some study done with guys doing leg extensions a few times a week to put any stock into those.

An advanced guy training his ass off will see a difference in it.  I know, I've seen it lately by being far more strict with my nutrient timing.  I've taken 1 day off from training in the last 5 weeks adhering to this protocol and my training volume has been insane.

It DOES make a difference.

Will the novice or intermediate see a difference?

Probably not.

Noobs and intermediates can get away with not doing a lot of the things advanced guys MUST DO to improve, and still get better.  That's because the longer you train, and the closer you get to maxing out your genetic potential, the more "simple details" matter.

IIFYM is another great example of this as well.

IIFYM can be used by guys and gals who want to make dieting more flexible, yet still get leaner and not be forced into a position of being strict as hell in their nutrition plan.

But I don't know of a single competitive bodybuilder who does IIFYM going into major competitions.  If they do, they aren't placing well.  Because no one is eating mac and cheese two weeks out from the Mr. Olympia that plans on doing well.

Some backyard level competitive bodybuilder may do just fine implementing IIFYM.  But at the very advanced level of competition, no one is doing that.  Do you really think that pro bodybuilders ENJOY carrying their food around with them everywhere they go?  They don't.  But at that level, they literally can't even eat restaurant food and still dial it in the way they have to if they want to win.

This doesn't mean one is right and one is wrong as whole.

It means one is far more optimal depending on WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH.  

2.  Prioritizing the wrong things - 

The beginner needs to worry more about simple progression on the bar and perfecting technique in his or her lifts at the forefront of their training.  Things like rest/pause technique, strip sets, and complex programming or advanced modalities in training are not required to get better.  Just showing up and putting in some good work on the two things mentioned is far more paramount.

For the advanced guy whose body has been through all sorts of training stresses, he has to search high and low to find new things his body must adapt to.  

A guy with 13" arms who weighs 145 pounds doesn't need 4 different curl variations and arm specialization to get his arms to grow.  He needs to add about 40 pounds of quality bodyweight to get that done.  

I put that in bold italics because I get slammed weekly from guys asking how to get their arms/shoulders/pecs, etc bigger, who haven't even built a decent base level of muscle mass.  They need to do THAT first.  

The very advanced guy who already has a significant level of muscular development may need 4 different curl variations in order to get his biceps to grow, along with a host of crazy intensity techniques because he's already well adapted to a variety of training stimulus.  

Once again, two levels of qualifications, two different needs.

But even aside from those things, there are a host of things I see people squabbling about on a daily basis, and having long drawn out conversations trying to figure out what is "right", when there isn't always a factual answer.  It really all depends on where the lifter is at in regards to his or her level of strength and development.

This whole thing reminds me of when I was doing DoggCrapp training and Dante constantly reinforced the notion that it was not for beginner or intermediate level lifters.  They would get pissed off about this.

"Well why can't we use it?"

"Because you don't need it, and you have other things you need to be concentrating on."

"But what if I just do..."

In this case, what if you just do what someone with decades of experience tells you to do instead?  Seems like that would be the best option.  Beginners and intermediate guys did not NEED DoggCrapp training.  Yet they continued to argue as to why they should or could use it.

Which leads me to another pet peeve I have.

A while back there was a video of Dave Pulcinella debating Ian McCarthy about the importance of meal frequency.

Dave is a guy that has decades of experience, and has coached countless numbers of bodybuilders in regards to dieting, with great success.

Ian McCarthy was a guy with a lot of book smarts that had coached exactly as many bodybuilders as pornstars that Yoda from Star Wars has banged.

That would be fucking zero.

We have far too many Ian McCArthy's on the net now, with a lot of book smarts and a lot of fancy letters after their name, with no experience in actually applying these supposedly scientific principles to the athletes they say should be using them.

If you have zero experience in training elite level bodybuilders, strongmen, powerlifters, or athletes, then why are you debating what works with people who do?

If you claim to be a diet guru, and you can't even get yourself into apartment complex pool shape then why are you handing out dieting advice?   How good is your advice if it doesn't even work on you?

What a lot of these people who actually train elite level guys have figured out is, what is done in a study, often isn't what we see in the real world.  And that it is often not even applicable depending on each individual.

But there is a huge disconnect here between the scientific world and the empirical training evidence world.

Sometimes they help each other, and sometimes they come to an impasse.  But remember that a lot of the things you read that are considered "scientific fact" now, were once just "broscience" too.

And then there are times when you have to accept that there may not be an answer until you actually do what the rest of us used to have to do before the internet was invented.

And that is TRY IT OUT YOURSELF.  

In the end - 

One thing that often gets lost in all of these internet debates and battles is a couple of simple questions each person should be asking themselves....

"Does this even apply to me?"

If it doesn't, why are you even debating the effectiveness of it?

"How important is this really?"

Sort of still an echoing of the first question.  If it doesn't apply to you or your goals, it's probably not important to you.

I remember years and years ago, there were guys saying that creatine wasn't effective for them, and didn't work.  It was a small percentage of course, as creatine most certainly DOES work.  But does it work for everyone?


As it turns out, you have to have a decent amount of muscle mass to start with before creatine can do anything for you.  That's because guys with low levels of lean muscle mass are probably getting all the creatine they need from your diet.  But guys with a significant degree of muscle mass can use and benefit from adding creatine, because food alone doesn't supply enough creatine to the advanced lifter.

Wow!  See how that works?

For one guy, who isn't very advanced, it serves little to no purpose.

For the advanced guy, it can make a significant difference.

A novice guy can say "I don't need that.  It's of no benefit to me right now."

Where the advanced guy can say "this works very well."

Guess what?  They are both right!

AMAZEBALLS!  Context matters!

I know it's an alien concept in this age of debating on whether or not white rice is better than brown rice, but believe it or not, not everything works (another saying I hate).  It really all comes back to the athlete's level of development and what they actually need.

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  1. ok PC, im a lot like this myself, lifted off and on for years, never consistant since about 2006, so i ask this:

    if a newbee came to you and only had ur ebooks, no one elses, what is a good progression u could outline for them as far as from beginner to advanced while using only ur books? i ask because i have a few buddies who have purchased ur stuff, and ive always loved base building but did not understand where to really start?

  2. Great article Paul. This just seems so basic to me. Listen to the guys that have been there, done that and look like they have. It's gotta be generational. I don't know why guys wouldn't want to simplify what they're doing, especially the beginner/intermediates. Reverse banded, chain eccentric, partial strict pressing is just too stinking complicated to be effective for us noobs and Sr noobs! We just need to put heavier weight overhead week after week. Thanks for this one.

  3. Do you have 1 rep max numbers or an amount of time that you consider to be the intermediate level, for ladies? Curious what your viewpoint is.

  4. seriously good read, refreshing to see someone talking about the real world.

  5. Seriously good read, its great to see someone talking about the real world for a change.