Thursday, July 28, 2011
Here's a link:
With that out of the way, let’s get on with this blog post:
As regular readers of my material know, I believe that fairly high-volume, frequent training is the best (the quickest, the most result-producing) route to bigger, stronger, more (dare I say?) functional muscles. (It must be noted that this wasn’t always my opinion. If you read a lot of my early stuff in Iron Man – mid ‘90s to very early ‘00s – you’ll find that my training programs tended to be based around infrequent training. But all of that changed when I actually started performing high-volume workouts, and began to achieve fantastic results.)
So, basically, I think the whole “overtraining” thing is overdone. Here’s something from Christian Thibaudeau (which you can find in a previous post from last July):
One of the reasons why these people fail to train hard enough to stimulate gains is out fear of overtraining (which is often just a justification for laziness).
Well, let me tell you this: True overtraining is exceptionally rare. In all my life as an athlete and coach, I've only seen two real cases of overtraining, and in both the guys were Olympians training over 30 hours per week under tremendous psychological stress.
In reality, most elite athletes train over 20 hours per week, with some even hitting the 40-hour mark. Not all of this is strength training; speed and agility work, conditioning, and skill practices are also on the menu.
Before you throw the doping argument in my face, I've seen a ton of young athletes who were obviously not on drugs follow that type of schedule. I've worked as the head strength coach of a sports academy where kids ranging from 12 to 18 would go to school from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm, then train or practice from 1:00 to 5:00 pm every day. Their programs included daily strength work, agility training, and practices cumulating over 20 hours per week. None of them were overtraining; all of them progressed quite well.
Having said that, I think there are a couple of reasons why lifters often believe they’re overtrained. The first – and I’ve mentioned this elsewhere – is that they have a low work capacity. They’re simply not capable of frequent, intense, voluminous training because they have never placed demands on their bodies that would (eventually) allow them to perform such workouts. In more simplistic terms, the reason you get so sore from training everything once per week is, well, you only train everything once per week.
But there’s also another reason.
While it’s relatively difficult to actually overtrain, it’s relatively easy to overtrain your movement pattern. I believe this is the reason that the methods of Louie Simmons have been so successful. Westside Barbell understands this, and they make good use of it. This is also the reason why you can’t continually train heavy on the same exercise and make good progress. Your body grows too accustomed too quickly to the exercise, and another exercise needs to take its place. If you have attempted to train your bench press heavy (and by heavy, I mean sets of triples, doubles, or singles) on successive weeks, then you probably know this. The first week, everything goes well. The second week – especially if you’re new to these almost maximal loads – things go even better; you’re stronger. By the third week, however, you’re often back to your week one poundages. And if you attempt it for a 4th week, then you’re even weaker than week one. Well, technically you’re not weaker, but you are slower from training the specific movement pattern just too damn often.
Here’s another thing: depending on the exercise, certain movement patterns become more quickly overtrained than others. Let’s take powerlifting as an example. You can train the squat frequently for long periods of time. This is the reason that Olympic lifters can max out on this exercise every damn day (although I don’t advise training that extreme). But you can’t train the bench press and the deadlift to anything approximating the same frequency. You can train the bench press more frequently than the deadlift, but I still wouldn’t advise more than one all-out bench press session more than once per week. As for the deadlift: about one all-out session every two to three weeks seems to work well for most people.
But all of this is not to say that you shouldn’t train the muscles that you deadlift and bench press with frequently.
To make all of this very simple to understand, here’s the “in-the-gym” version of how to apply what you (may have) learned here:
• Build up your work capacity to the point that you can train with a fairly large amount of volume 4 to 6 days per week.
• Train your squat frequently. I think that 2 days per week will do fine.
• Train the muscles that you squat and deadlift with even more frequently. I think 3 to 4 days per week is ideal. Not all of this has to be weighted workouts – I love sled dragging, tire flipping, and farmer’s walks.
• On average, I believe that you should train your upper body three to four times weekly. Just make sure that the movement pattern is different at each workout. At every session, put the emphasis on a vertical push or pull movement and a horizontal push or pull movement. That’s 4 different movement patterns for each workout.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
Ultimate At-Home Workouts
Volume One: The One with the Session from the Night of March 7th
Recently, I’ve been forced to do almost all of my training at home. At first, this might not sound like that big of a deal to you. If you have read my posts—or my articles—for any length of time, then you know that I trained at home for years. But that was different. At one time, I had over 1,300 pounds of weights in my garage. (I counted the total amount of weight one point, but I don’t remember what it was—and I probably accumulated even more stuff after I counted it.) My entire garage was a gym. This included a squat rack, a bench press (Forza, good stuff), and a deadlift platform.
When my wife and I separated a couple of years ago, I trained with minimum equipment. At the time, I really didn’t know how to train using minimal equipment, since I hadn’t done it since I was a teenager and my father bought me one of those old, concrete DP sets for my 15th birthday. (On a note unrelated to the rest of this post, I want to say that a lot of lifters around my age owe a great debt to DP for getting us started in the iron game. I digress…) Anyway, I experimented with minimal-equipment training and I got some good results. (Which you can read on past entries here on the blog.)
But that didn’t last too long. After a couple months of at home workouts, I moved all of my weights to a friend’s garage/wrecker pen. And I’ve been training consistently there for the last year and a half (or so).
That changed recently. I had to move my weights. So I called up my training partner Puddin’ (or, rather, he called me) and we moved all of those weights to a mini-storage. I’m sure that before long I will once again find a place to store my weights (such as a new house), but until that time arrives I am going to make the most of my situation. (Puddin’—also known as “The Ox” and “Big Perm”; occasionally known by his given name, Richard—will have none of this bodyweight and limited equipment training. He needs his heavy iron—or so he says—and so he plans on joining a local gym for the time being.)
And so, I go it alone.
I’m kind of looking forward to it. I’ve wanted to write a bodyweight-training article for some time, so I’m going to experiment with several training strategies that I believe to be effective—strategies that I didn’t use during my last stint with this sort of training. So far, I’m enjoying the workouts, and the results that I’m getting.
I’m limiting my weights even more than my situation requires. I have space where I currently live for more equipment, but for the time being I’m going to stick with a few pair of dumbbells.
Before we go any further, I want to give you some advice about at-home workouts. Much of this advice applies to workouts in your garage gym or your average commercial gym, but I think that it would do some good to discuss it. (By the way, some of this advice is not the typical stuff you’ll hear from the “experts” in a lot of the muscle magazines or—God forbid—the internet forums.) But I think it’s sound advice none-the-less:
· Train hard. True, I don’t always recommend training to “failure”. But you still need to push yourself. The harder you push yourself—always striving to move more and more weight; always striving for a few more repetitions—the better the results.
· Stick with basic exercises. One of the beauties of at-home training is that it forces you to work hard on basic exercises. You could do worse than a hard session of bodyweight squats, push-ups (in whatever variety you choose to use), overhead dumbbell presses, dumbbell rows, and farmer’s walks.
· Don’t be afraid to train long. I know that it’s popular these days to workout for 45 minutes, then call it quits. But I want to go on record right now and say that some of the best results I’ve ever gotten are with hard workouts that lasted 1 and a half to 2 hours long. When I was powerlifting, I broke all my personal bests with Russian-style training that typically lasted 2 hours. And in the past year, I put on a lot of muscle mass—not to mention strength—when I trained 4 to 5 days per week, with sessions lasting at least one and a half hours.
· Overtraining is for pussies! Okay, maybe I went slightly overboard with this one. But, seriously, the whole overtraining thing has been way overdone. Guys from the past that were massively big and strong ( such as Anthony Ditillo) and guys currently (think Christian Thibaudeau, Charles Staley, Chad Waterbury, and myself) always recommend that the more frequently you can train, the better. Of course, the frequent training has to be tempered with wisdom and insight, but it’s still the best way to go as long as you know what you’re doing.
To give you a good idea of what an “ultimate at-home workout” might look like, here is the workout that I performed this evening:
· After a couple sets of hill sprints to get the blood flowing, I started the workout with dumbbell deadlifts for speed. Using 80-pound dumbbells, I performed 5 set of 10 reps. The goal on each repetition was to explode as fast as possible, then lower the weight under control.
· Next up was one of the best exercises you can ever do with a pair of dumbbells in your hands: the farmer’s walk. For these, I walked back and forth in my back yard until I felt fairly fatigued. (Yeah, I know, you think that’s kind of vague.) Using the 80 pound dumbbells again, I walked until I felt as if I was about to drop the weight, rested a couple of minutes, then repeated this for 8 more sets.
· The third exercise was one-arm overhead presses. Once again, it was the 80s. I didn’t push these as hard (since I did a whole shite-load of push-ups the night before), but I still did 5 sets of 5 reps.
· The “heavy” stuff out of the way, I grabbed my 30 pound dumbbells and cranked out 5 sets of 20 reps of dumbbell overhead presses. I moved fast here; resting just long enough to catch my breath.
· For the final “weighted” exercise of the session, I did 100 reps of dumbbell curls with the 30s. For these, I did a set of 20, rested very briefly, did a set of 20, rested very briefly again, and then repeated for another 3 sets.
· Last, but definitely not least, I did sets of 50-rep bodyweight squats for 30 minutes. I’m not sure how many sets I did here. I did a set, rested long enough to get my strength back, did another set, and repeated in like manner until the 30-minutes were over.
· All told, the workout took around an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. Of course, half of the workout was comprised of farmer’s walks and bodyweight squats.
The key to making this training effective is to string several of these kinds of workouts together during a week. And then to string the weeks together into months, and the months into years, and then… well, you get it.
Monday, January 24, 2011
One of my all-time heroes, Jack Lalanne, died yesterday.
The question of strength versus endurance is a question asked of me hundreds of times. Some fellows will train for just strength, others train strictly for endurance. It is impossible to develop maximum strength AND endurance. If you are trained for strength alone, your endurance will suffer. If your objective is weight lifting alone, your interest in developing a lot of endurance may be negligible, but on the other hand, if you are interested in attaining close to a perfect body developed for efficiency’s sake, you will be surely be interested in strength PLUS endurance.
Our bodies are called upon to perform numerous tasks and duties. Some require strength, some endurance. Therefore, the sensible thing for the average trainer to do is to hit upon a happy medium and strive to develop both.
You might say, “Why develop all this endurance, I’m not a distance runner or swimmer?” No, you might not be, but do you realize the tremendous amount of energy it takes to work eight hours on your job, then train several nights a week? If you haven’t the proper endurance, your job and your training will be very unpleasant tasks. For example, we’ll say your job requires 100 units of energy and you have 150 units of energy in your body. At the end of the day you haven’t much reserve left for your workouts or even the ordinary pursuit of life. The greatest complaint of Americans is, “I’m always tired.” Sure they’re tired. They have no reserve to fall back on. If you have only 150 units of energy in your body, why not build the 150 units to 300, 400 or even 500 by the correct exercise and diet? If you develop this endurance your job will be much easier than before, and at the day’s end instead of feeling depleted you will have an adequate reserve from which to draw when you are training or enjoying yourself in other ways. The whole idea may be summer up thusly: If you have a heavy load to haul that requires 75 horsepower to move, and your truck has only 80 horsepower your motor hasn’t much reserve and the strain on it would be enormous. Wouldn’t it be better to get a 150 horsepower motor with which to pull the load? There would be far less strain on the engine and it would work more efficiently and last longer. That body of yours is exactly like the truck engine. If you put too much stress on your body it will wear out quicker and function less efficiently. It would be wise to develop this strength and endurance to the utmost so the things we like and want to do will place no great strain on us. Then we can finish a full day’s work and still have a reservoir of energy stored away ready to use.
Strength and endurance can be developed. Anyone beginner can double the strength and endurance he possesses. The only thing it takes is proper guidance and persistence.
Another thing I would like to dwell on for a moment is the effect age has on one’s endurance. It has been my observation that, among my own students, the older fellows develop more endurance than do the younger ones. By older fellows I mean men in their 40’s or early 50’s. This holds especially true in the fields of marathon running and swimming. The winner of the Boston A.A.U. 26-mile marathon this year was a man in his forties, and the greatest distance swimmer in the world today is Frenchman in his 50’s.
The reason more of the older fellows haven’t strength and endurance is due to the fact that they never make use of them. Inactivity plays no part in the development of either. The more you use the body properly, the better it becomes. If you put demands on your body what happens? All the internal organs are stimulated, the heart is called on to pump more blood through the body, the lungs are called on to rid the body of waste products and to furnish it with plenty of fresh oxygen to work with, all the other organs and glands are called upon to do their part in the functions of the body, the elimination is sped up to take care of the increased manufacture of poisons and waste, your assimilation becomes more efficient, in fact you become so efficient that all of the nourishment in your food is utilized to a fuller extent. The harder you work the stronger you get and the more endurance you develop.
Remember this: It is extremely hard for a healthy, well-trained person can overwork his body! The ability to handle more work than you ever imagined was possible can be attained.
Now you want to know how to develop all of this strength and endurance. First, you have to lay out a program for yourself. Developing strength and endurance together takes a lot of self-discipline. When you think you are tired you can always do more. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how much you are capable of doing after you think you have reached your limit. To start a program for yourself, though, you have to start out quite gradually.
Keep doing your regular training, but instead of resting say, 3 minutes between sets, rest only 2½ minutes. Do this for a couple of workouts, then, for a couple more rest only 2 minutes between sets. Reduce the rest periods by 15 seconds each week until you are doing 1 set every minute including rest. In other words, you will be doing 10 sets in 10 minutes.
You may have to drop some of your poundages slightly at first, but the whole idea behind this is to be able to use heavy weights and not rest much. You will no doubt say, “I can’t lift decent weights unless I rest more.” We are strictly creatures of habit and adaptation. Why not get into the habit of shorter rests during workouts? You will be amazed to see, with hard work and persistence, how fast you can work and how much weight you can handle after a couple of months of training this way. Some of the numerous advantages of this approach are listed below:
1.) Keeping the blood in strong circulation.
2.) Building up nerve force.
3.) Accomplishing more work less time.
4.) If you are planning to, or already do participate in a sport, your condition will improve immensely.
5.) The quality of strength and musculature will be much better.
6.) The stimulation you get from a fast workout is far greater than from a prolonged one.
After you have mastered doing a hard set a minute, try doing a set, resting 10 seconds, then doing the next set. A program this intense should not be followed for more than three consecutive weeks. After the three weeks train for a week with lighter weights, longer rests and fewer total sets. Then return to the more intense work for another three weeks.
Everything we do is judged to be difficult or easy by comparison with some other movement or exercise we perform. For example, if you are lifting 100 pounds, but you are capable of lifting 200 pounds in the same exercise, the 100 pound weight will never seem really seem easy until you have lifted the 200 pound one. If, after lifting the 200 pound weight, you again try the 100 pounder, it will seem ridiculously easy. This applies to everything we do, including the length of time we choose to rest between sets. Always make new and harder demands on the body and the results will be most gratifying.