Thursday, August 11, 2016

The modalities of training efficiently

Specific goal prioritization - Decide on one thing

Wanting to squat more weight and wanting bigger quads are not the same goal.  Squatting more weight might not even be an efficient means to that end.  And yet so many guys that say they are interested in growing get caught up in the trap that if they aren't hitting PR's at every training session, that they weren't stimulating growth, or getting better.

Strength and hypertrophy are more like, distant cousins than identical twins.  Basically there are some connective ideologies but there's also a lot of things that make them very dissimilar.  I mean ping pong is called table tennis but I doubt Serena Williams is going to challenge any Olympic level ping pong players.

Training for maximal strength in order to grow is a lot like trying to get better at tennis in order to be better at ping pong.  Yeah, you might find some carryover but for the most part you're not maximizing what is most effective.

A good example of this would be someone who say, does distance running.  They might throw in some track work intervals once a week or twice a month, but the majority of their training is built around doing the things needed to get better at distance running.  That's because whatever it is you are trying to maximize with training has to be geared towards maximal responses.

Strength training has a large neurological base associated with it.  Training for size, does not.

One can actually train with relatively low intensities (as little as 30% of 1RM) and stimulate growth via muscle protein synthesis.  But you cannot develop maximal strength at loads that low.

There's at least a dozen other things I could write out that separate training for strength vs size, from training frequency, to volume, to how the movements are even executed, but without doing that I am just going to say that your training should always be focused on a singular goal to achieve as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

If you are training for strength, training for strength.  Do not plan on getting "ripped" at this time.  There might be some growth as a side effect, but again it absolutely will not be maximized because training for maximal strength is not training for maximal growth.  Generally this means training in low to moderate rep ranges using intensities between (give or take) 75-90%.  Volume can be waved throughout periodized blocks all depending on where the intensity zone is being utilized at the present time.  Training should be centered around being explosive, refining technique and motor patterns and not generating fatigue through training to failure.

If you are in a fat loss stage, then muscle retention is a priority.  That means you must give your body a reason to hold on to the amount of lean tissue it is currently in possession of, while using your diet and probably some form of conditioning to put yourself into a hypocaloric state.  This means you should still train hard, but understand two things - neither increased mass (you cannot get big and ripped at the same time) nor increased strength should be counted on at this time.

If  you are training for maximal growth, then (obviously) you will have to have an excess of calories coming in to support the growth process.  Training should reflect the fact that you are training for maximal growth via efficient training modalities like increased time under tension.  Emphasis should be placed on putting the muscles into fully lengthened and shortened positions (through various movement selection) and generating as much tension as possible on the muscles you are trying to work.  Generally speaking this also means rep ranges of 8-20 or possibly even more.  Generating fatigue in some fashion (where failure is hit, or something close to failure is achieved) is also highly desired as well.

As you can see, whatever phase you feel like you need to concentrate on, they have very different approaches in order to maximize efficiency.  Of course, none of these are completely set in stone or are "rock hard facts" but through both anecdotal evidence and what we've seen through research these are solid starting guidelines for most.

Cognizant selection - Know why you are doing what you are doing

A training program or methodology is generally made  up of a myriad of properties.  And you should be able to answer the questions under each one without hesitation.

Training volume.

Why are you using X amount of sets?

Training frequency.

Why are you training Y number of times per week?

Training intensity (both perceived effort and percentage of 1 rep max).

Why are you using certain loading in  your training or training with a certain RPE?

Movement selection.

Why are you performing each movement in the manner that you are?

Rep range (which could also fall under the volume umbrella).

Why are you using certain rep ranges for both warm ups, and working sets?

Movement execution.

Why are you performing each movement in the manner that you are?

For every single part of your training, you should have a clear understanding of what you are doing what you are doing.  Why you are training X number of days per week, why you are doing your chosen rep range, why you are using Y amount of volume, and why you are using certain training intensities.

All of these variables should be defined by you for very specific reasons.  Even to the point of having variation within training sessions built on how you feel for the day.  For example, if you got very little sleep or nutrition was sub par for the day (or the day before) or you're just generally feeling very under the weather, then "going for it" on such a day is probably not a good idea.

Being aware of your own natural recovery rhythms is a huge factor in sustaining progress.  Getting injured because you refused to deviate from a plan that called for you to do a max set of 10 reps on bench press, when you could "feel" things were off that day, means you refused to leave your training ego at the door.

This too means you know why you are pulling back on training intensity for the day.  So you backed off because you knew you your body was not going to be capable of putting forth a significant amount of effort.  This is not an excuse to be lazy.  It simply means that you're aware that the nitro button shouldn't be pushing during a time when the engine was sounding clunky.

This is where so many people lose out on months, years, potentially a decade or more of productive training.  Because they often just copy what someone else is doing without ever questioning why they themselves are doing it and/or never learn what would be best for them.  Copying what someone else is doing means  you've decided to put your logical reasoning to the side and just be a training zombie.
I'm not saying you can't borrow something from someone else that does in fact work well for you, but using wholesale routines "because that big dude trains that way" doesn't make a lot of sense.  You're not that big dude.  And he probably didn't become that big dude training the way he does now.

One of the most important aspects of creating an efficient training program or ideology that paves a faster way to goal actualization is to breakdown every facet of what you're doing, and identify the reasoning for it.

If you cannot answer the questions provided, then take some time to think about it until you can.  Then start to apply the answers in your own training, and see what it produces.

Individual bias - What resonates with you

Perhaps the single most important factor in regards to training efficiently, or shall we say, maximizing results, is to embrace what resonates with you.

Some people will find that some sort of DUP or block methodology will really appeal to them.  And some won't.  Some people will love training lower volume with brutal all out intensity techniques.  And some will prefer a much higher degree of volume in their training, avoiding failure all together.

Despite all the studies you will ever read, the one thing none of them can take into account is what resonates with each individual.  In regards to pretty much everything.  That's life, and training.

Some people like cats.  Some people like dogs.  Some like both.  Some don't like either.

If you asked each person their reasoning for such, you'd likely get some simple answers as to why, but believe it or not, most of those things are just surface level responses and the majority of people cannot really tell you the deep meaning of why they gravitate towards certain things in life.  They know they do, and they have their own answers, but they cannot explain to you why they like "red headed women".

"Because I'm attracted to them."

Yes, that's a really surface level answer, but truthfully people can't really tell you the why behind their answers.  And let's be clear, with everything in life you don't have to.  The person who loves country music, and hates metal can't tell you why they do.  They just do.  And vice versa.  Again, one person may say "it's all a bunch of screaming I can't understand" or the metal guy may say "country sucks because it's a bunch of whining."

Again, surface level answers.

People can't really answer the "why" to those answers.

"Why don't you like all that screaming in metal music?"

"Because I don't."

To them, that's enough.  And it is.  No one has to justify their reasoning for their preferences.  But there tends to be reasons deeper than "I do/don't like..." certain things.  But I'm not a psychologist and I don't intend to ask  you about your relationship with your mom/dad or your childhood fears.

Training is no different.  People are going to gravitate towards certain training "styles" because it speaks to them and they enjoy it.  There's probably a deeper reason "why" to all of that, but I can't answer those things for every person.  Some people are more analytical in their approach to things, and like structure.  Some people gravitate towards a more haphazard brutality style approach and tend to often live their life with a bit more edge to it as well.

That's just my own observations and is in no way factual.  I'm just never surprised when I have a chance to get to know someone personally, what training style they tend to favor.  It's almost always a reflection of the actual person I know.

But here's the thing.  You will be the most consistent with whatever training program resonates with you the most.  Even if the training program is sub-par in some aspects, if you're applying it will consistency and exceptional effort, then results will manifest themselves in some way.

Dieting is no different.  People have been debating low fat/low carb for fat loss for decades now and there have been a zillion studies done with each side trying to prove one is more effective than the other.  When the fact is, the most effective one, is the one someone can use on a consistent basis because they enjoy it (I mean to whatever degree you can REALLY enjoy dieting).  From satiation to food selection, people will be more likely to stick to the diet that for whatever surface level reasons, resonate with them.

Conclusion - 

These three things are basically the pyramid or trinity or trifecta in regards to outlining a complete training/diet strategy to reach your goals the fastest.  Within each of these there is of course, a complicated set of questions and answers that you must ask, and be willing to answer.  Once  you can effectively "fill in the blanks" to all of that, you'll be well on your way to smashing through roadblocks and understanding how to apply the things that best suit you and your individual needs.

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  1. Paul, can you just publish that book already?!?!? Can't wait!

  2. This is a lot to digest. I have no idea why I do what I do, it's time to wonder.

    Went from SL 5x5 for first 6 months of ever strength training. To 5/3/1 bbb variant since april. My goal is to squat 405 by Xmas day. Right now I am at 320 for 3 reps.

  3. Paul,
    I have 3 of your books and want to say thanks for the great work. My question is how strong do you need to be in the big lifts before running the big 15? Your book says it's not for you if you squat 205 and bench 135 and to stick to intermediate program. I've been training 5 years and only bench 1.5 X bw and squat 2 X BW. Thanks a lot