Tag Archives | recovery

What's The Deal?I’ve been having an interesting e-mail exchange with someone this week and I thought I’d share my response with everyone. It’s on the subject of recovery and fixed training schedules.

His email, in part, reads;

“…What really irritates me though is that, no matter how hard I search, you seem to be the only voice out there who advocates a variable frequency (and a never ending variable one at that….ie; you keep extending the rest days, and never stop extending if the client is willing).”

“These other “HIT” trainers out there, keep their clients on a fixed frequency. They “may” at one time or another extend it to once every 9-10 days, but that’s usually the limit…….almost as if the body says “My genetic potential is at day 10 and refuse to go any further”. But that is pure nonsense.”

“…Do they really believe that they will lose clients or money if they use a variable frequency? I mean, couldn’t they gain more clients just by telling the truth and not forcing them to train “Once every 7 days” like a broken record? What’s the point in staying on a permanent plateau of little or no strength gains, and lying that “deconditioning” occurs if anymore than 10 days is inserted between workouts? (my dad is 49 days between his “Deadlift Only” routine and his conditioning does not suffer at all)”

My reply:

We all see this constantly. I used to say the three biggest lies in bodybuilding are ‘Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ That is the universal advice given by every trainer and, I’m sorry to say, most physicians.

1. Do personal trainers believe their own advice? I can’t get inside their heads or speak to their motives but I know that people can believe things in spite of all evidence to the contrary. So they might think it’s good advice to never rest more than 48 hours.

2. When a trainer does not measure anything it’s a lot easier to believe on faith or just the momentum of doing the same as everybody else. If you simply measure how much you lift per minute on just one exercise you will very soon discover that you can’t make progress on a fixed schedule. Suppose you can bench press 200 lbs 15 times in one minute and then you have to stop. Can you return in two days and lift 210 lbs 15 times in a minute? Two days after that can you lift 220 lbs 15 times?  Because after following that fixed schedule for two months you’d have to lift 500 lbs 15 times in one minute. Have you ever seen anyone go from a max of 200 x 15 to a max of 500 x 15 in two months? I haven’t.

3. Compounding the difficulty of the above feat is the issue of making similar gains on all the other exercises in a workout.  Do the other 8 to 12 exercises in a routine also make the same fantastic gains on schedule every 48 hours? Fat chance.

4. When you calculate the total tonnage of these workouts you can see that it’s preposterous to expect a person to recover from lifting 100 tons as fast (48 hours) as he recovers from lifting 20 tons. It’s like asking six inches of hair to grow back as fast as one inch of hair would. Again, preposterous.

5. I’m scratching the surface of what can be measured. I track momentary intensity, sustained intensity, something I call Relative Static Intensity, the specific Intensity Volume of each exercise and each total workout, the personal rate of recovery a trainee demonstrates and more. Measurement cuts through the BS very quickly.

6. Most strength training is still in the Dark Ages. Crappy advice is circulated in gyms and no doubt many trainers realize they can make more from frustrated trainees who who visit them very frequently and resort to supplements and/or drugs to try to make progress while on impossible training schedules. I think the younger a person is the more susceptible he is to the garbage. My market tends to be older trainees who are too savvy to tear themselves up and risk injury doing saturation routines based on blind hope. Savvy trainees understand the value of a sustainable program instead of one that runs them into the ground and when they can see objective measurements that show their progress or lack of progress they know they are training a rational, sensible way. Too bad they’re in the minority.



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.