Tag Archives | recovery

What Works Best?

What works best?One of the perennial questions that comes up on my blog and probably on every blog about building new muscle is something like, “I’ve heard the ABC method of training works well, but I’ve also heard that XYZ is great too. Does anybody know which one is best?”

A common variation is: “Which method would be best for me?”

Here’s the harsh truth. The training method that is best for you is unknowable.

You can, and should, make an educated approximation. But you will never have certainty that you went with the “best” possible training method for you.

We Tested

We’ve been testing all sorts of things for over twenty years. Individual exercises, exercise combinations, multiple sets, and more. A lot of that is in our free e-booklet, Workout Variations Revealed.

We’ve even tested whether Static Contraction of Power Factor workouts build more mass.
Short answer:

– Nothing is more efficient at building mass, per minute of exercise, than Static Contraction
– A very particular Power Factor routine builds more mass per workout (but the workouts are longer than SC workouts)

The details of that testing, and the winning Mass Gain Workout are in this report.

We are working on and testing a very new workout that has the potential to exceed anything we’ve done in the past. I first tested it one-on-one with some 20-something guys in a gym. They were so wiped at the end of it they had to rest before walking out of the gym. The tonnage per minute is off the charts. I keep the page that talks about it hidden from our casual web traffic. If you’re interested you can try it here.

Limits of Empiricism

When we deal with experiments and evidence there’s always a limit to what we can claim to know. In weightlifting and bodybuilding this fact never seems to stop people from declaring things like, “I tried everything and the only thing that built my biceps was kettle bell curls on a Swiss ball. That’s the BEST biceps exercise there is!” As if there are magic properties of a 20kg kettle bell that a 20kg dumbbell or sandbag do not have. Not to mention avoiding inferior Belgian balls.

The bigger problem is that not all people have exactly the same physiology. I often use the example of penicillin. It’s a great antibiotic for the majority of people, yet it can be completely ineffective and even lethal to some people. Why?

I think it’s safe to say that seemingly strange variations occur in the area of strength training as well.

I know for sure that some people can training in only their strongest, safest range of motion and see almost complete transference of strength to their weak range. While others see virtually zero transference. Why? (I always ask the latter group, if you gain 20lbs of new muscle, why do you care about weak range maximum power? When do you ever need it?)

And the final blockade to knowing what is “best” is a problem of logic. Because anyone can assert that, – if only Michael Phelps had trained in the gym using the XYZ method – he would have been just a little bit faster in the pool. And whether or not that is correct is unknowable. So nobody can claim “best” with any measurable degree of certainty.

I’m sure some kind of exhaustive testing could be done, but my vote would be to spend those resources on cancer or heart disease testing instead.

And in any case, a giant, billion dollar weightlifting muscle gain study would come down to something like: 68% of people got better results with the ABC protocol, while 32% did better with the XYZ method. And at that point you still don’t know which one would suit YOUR metabolism better. And you’re right back at – pick one and see how it goes!

What to Do?

I think most people fail in the gym because they just don’t measure anything. They talk about intensity but never measure it. They talk about making progress but never measure it. They talk about recovery time but never measure it.

So the thing to do is to pick a workout program – virtually any program – and then write down your actual performance numbers on every exercise during every workout.

Write down how many pounds you lift per minute on every exercise. Write down the total tonnage of every workout. Then make sure you better those numbers next time. All of them. If you don’t, it means you should give yourself more recovery time. Anybody, anywhere can do this with a stopwatch, paper and pencil. Your smart phone has all three of those. If you don’t want the hassle, we’ll do it for you.

Over time, this is the only way to get anywhere close to the answer for ‘what works best’ for you personally. It requires evidence, measurement, reason, and occasional course correction. But the numbers are immune to hype, opinion, speculation, nonsense, and gym lore.

Train with your brain.


35 lbs of Muscle and Six Months of Rest Between Workouts?

Mark on Florida beachOver the decades of doing what I do I’ve come into contact with many thousands of people. Some of them stay in regular contact from year to year and let me know how their training is going. There are so many great stories out there.

Mark Winchester is a longtime customer who has been in the weightlifting game a long time and is, among other things, a perceptive observer of the craziness that occurs in the world of pro bodybuilding and in gyms everywhere.

There a recovery spectrum of training frequency for every human. It stretches from the first day after a workout that he could return to the gym and be stronger, to the last day he could wait before he would be weaker.

Mark pays close attention to how soon he can return to the gym. Over the years, he’s discovered it is months, not days or weeks, before he is fully recovered and can make new gains. Gains like 35 lbs of lean body mass using Power Factor workouts of just two exercises.

I asked Mark a few questions about his training and here are his answers.

1. When did you first try a Power Factor workout and what exercises were included in your workout?

I had read about PFT as far back as 2005 but couldn’t grasp the concepts. It made no sense to me to limit the movement of the bar a few inches as everything I had read up that point had instructed you must use a full-range of movement. I had reached a point in my training where I was severely overtrained and my knees were sounding like sandpaper. I had eroded the connective tissue so much it was wearing away from my deep butt-to-the-floor squats.

The first exercise I tried was at that time my favorite, the squat.

2. Over the years, how have you adapted your Power Factor workouts and why?

One of the most important aspects of PFT is the recognition that recovery from intense exercise takes much, much longer than commonly assumed.

In the book the microscopic examination of marathon runners quadriceps made a lot of sense to me. The higher the intensity, the longer complete recovery takes, and utilizing training systems such as PFT or the even more intense SCT requires a much longer recovery period than conventional training. It also is much more productive.

I continue to be totally amazed as to just how long complete recovery can take in some individuals with a low tolerance for intense training. The people usually have very sensitive (i.e., efficient) systems and as such receive larger gains per workout than most people.

It seems to follow a bell curve system of distribution with people with low tolerance and people with high tolerance on the outer edges of the bell. I’d estimate these people (both groups) account for as much as 20% of the population, possibly more.

3. Can you tell us some of your statistics?:

– Age? – 47

– Height? – 5’8″

– Weight? – 245lbs (approx. 18% bodyfat)

– Fat loss from PF training? – I have no idea, but more muscle burns more fat. After age 40 diet doesn’t seem to play as big a part in fat gain. I suspect it might have more to do with insulin resistance.

– Muscle gain from PF training? – Once I figured out just how long total and complete recovery for me personally takes I’d estimate I’ve gained around 35lbs+ of lean body mass.

– Size gains from PF training? – Like the fat loss question I honestly don’t know how much larger I am. A lot, safe to say.

4. What does your workout consist of these days and how often do you do it?

My workout consists of only two exercises. The Deadlift & the Bench Press. Both done using no more than 2 inches. of movement. In my opinion, the Deadlift will provide all the gains anyone needs.  The benefits of extra exercises provide are at best negligible. This was discovered with the “Healthlift’ over 125yrs ago.

Last workout I used 515lbs in the Deadlift and 425lbs in Bench Press. I do both exercises for two sets for less than :45 seconds total training time each.

My last recovery period was an unbelievable SIX months and I’m seriously questioning if that was enough. I’m going to try seven months this current recovery period.

My last workout was Sept, 2 & I won’t lift again until probably next March if not April. As ridiculous as this sounds the dramatic gains I get are worth the rest. For example, last October I was 213lbs, I am now, as I earlier stated, 245lbs. I logged two, yes TWO productive workouts in that time.

5. Have you stopped trying to explain yourself to other people in the gym, or do you still try to educate them? Haha! 

I always try to explain Power Factor training and logical training to people. My own physician thinks I use steroids. After a testosterone lab test she doesn’t think it anymore. My physician honestly questions my sanity when I tell her I exercise for less than two minutes total training time no more than two times per freakin’ year. She says, “I’m a medical professional with seven years of training, and there is no way that can be true“. It is.

6. I know you’re a big fan of Arthur Jones and his work? Do you have a favorite story or quotation from Jones?

I have two articles written by Arthur Jones that I live by. Here they are:

#1 > “From my study of animals I became aware of the fact that very little in the way of exercise is required for building enormous levels of strength and muscular size. How do you like the muscular size of a gorilla? Or a lion? 

Yet, both gorillas and lions actually perform almost no exercise or hard physical activity. But, when they do work, they work very hard … but very briefly, and not very often. If it works for a lion or a gorilla, why shouldn’t it work equally well for a man. Well, in fact, it does work well for a man. An adult male lion can get over a ten-foot-high fence with a 500-pound cow in his mouth. 

At a bodyweight of more than 500 pounds a gorilla can perform a one-armed “chin up” so easily that he appears to weigh nothing. A wrist that measures more than eight inches on a man is huge, and nine inches is unbelievably large, yet my gorilla had wrists that measured more than thirteen inches, larger than most bodybuilders’ forearms at the largest place. His neck was over forty inches in size.

I strongly suspect that if you exercise a lion or a gorilla as much as many bodybuilders train that you would probably kill them, and it is certainly obvious that they do not “need” that much exercise. Neither do you; and even if you can “stand” it, it does not follow that you “need” it.

Go to the gym, perform your workout properly, then get away from the gym and forget it until time for your next workout; talking about exercise, reading about exercise, literally “living” exercise will do nothing in the way of improving your results. Before you try anything else in the way of attempting to improve your results from exercise, try doing “less” exercise; not more, less. 

If and when that simple point worms itself into your brain, then I have probably taught you the most important thing that you will ever learn about exercise.”


#2 > “Insofar as I can determine, there is no known drug that will improve the performance, or increase the muscular mass, of a healthy individual. Furthermore, I would like to go record at this point by stating…’I do not believe that such drug will ever be discovered. I think that such a result from any chemical is impossible.’

I am fully aware that some drugs can improve the condition of a weakened individual, in cases of sickness or accident…but I also believe that a state of normal health is possible only in the presence of a very delicate chemical balance that is regulated automatically by the system. If any chemical is added for the purpose of upsetting this balance, the result can only be counterproductive.

In effect, there is no such thing as a “super chemical balance”…if the chemical balance is normal, you are healthy…if not, you are sick…and it matters not whether the state of imbalance is produced by too much or too little of a practical chemical. This has been proven repeatedly in literally thousands of tests conducted with animal subjects, and no slightest evidence exists in support of an opposite result with either animal or human subjects.

Certain hormones will help add muscular mass to a steer, or a gelding…but they will NOT produce the same result with a bull or a stallion. When an animal has been castrated, removing the testicles produces an abnormal situation where normal growth is impossible, giving such an animal the hormone drugs merely tends to restore a normal situation, a situation that would have existed naturally if the animal had not been castrated.

In such cases you are merely removing something and then trying to replace it in another manner; first creating a subnormal condition and then trying to restore normal health.

Yet the widespread bias in favor of such so called “growth drugs” borders on hysteria. Even suggesting that the use of these drugs is anything less than necessary automatically labels you a fool in some circles. And there is certainly no doubt that a lot of people are being fooled on this subject; but you can NOT fool your endocrine system, and when you add an un-required chemical for the purpose of disturbing a normal balance, you are NOT improving the situation.

Pointing to recent strength records as proof of the value of such drugs actually proves nothing. The fact remains that the single strongest human recorded in history established his records long before the drugs were ever used. Paul Anderson established records prior to 1958 that have never been approached and androgenic-anabolic drugs were apparently first used in athletic circles in 1960.

Bob Peoples established a deadlift record thirty years ago, lifting nearly 800 pounds at a bodyweight of approximately 180; today, a very few individuals have reached or passed that level of performance…but most of them weigh nearly twice as much as he did, and some of them weigh more than twice as much.

Men who establish such records are merely statistical standouts, literally genetic freaks; they are NOT the products of drugs, regardless of their opinions on the subject.

Great strength is a result of two factors…(1) individual potential, which cannot be improved…and (2) hard training, which will increase the strength of almost anybody.

But a third factor exists as a prerequisite…NORMAL HEALTH, without which, reaching the limits of potential strength is simply impossible. So you can improve a sick individual in some cases, but you can NOT turn a normal individual into a superman by chemical means. Such a result is impossible, and ridiculous on the face of it.”

I want to take this time to thank you, Pete Sisco, for developing and selflessly marketing THE most effective training system PFT/SCT in history. Its totally changed my life & what I know about productive bodybuilding.


Thanks for the kind words, Mark. And for empirically demonstrating that recovery can sometimes be measured in months, rather than days. These are the things that can be discovered if we simply use arithmetic to measure our workouts instead of using ‘feel,’ ‘instinct,’ or blindly accepting universal advice, like training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the rest of our lives. Every science depends on accurate measurements.

You can try our most effective ever Power Factor workout by getting this inexpensive e-booklet.

If you want my help analyzing your data and calculating your optimum new goals and personal recovery intervals, become a member of the Engineered Strength Gym. (Membership fills up quickly. If it’s closed when you read this you can send me an e-mail and get on the list for first notification.)