“Lift weights three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.” No matter how old you are – from high school to nursing home – no matter how fit or or out of shape you are – from athlete to pre diabetic – you are always advised to lift weights three times a week for the rest of your life.
The problem is, this advice ignores something. Reality.
What Builds Muscle?
To build new muscle you have to force it to operate at or near its peak output. That’s why gyms are filled with heavy things. They provide an artificial load to tax a muscle. When the muscle is taxed to its limits a signal is sent to the Central Nervous System to build new muscle so the stress is not so extreme next time. You leave the gym. You rest for a period of time and after you recover your body builds some new muscle. Probably while you are sleeping.
Hey, why not go to the gym three times a day so you build muscle faster? Or why not just stay in the gym and lift until the scale and body fat measurements say you’ve added a couple pounds of muscle today?
The answer, of course, is that it takes time for the muscle to grow. Like hair. Like fingernails. It takes some time.
OK, how much time? How can I know my trapezius muscles have grown? Well, if they grew they would be stronger. They could lift more weight.
Measure Your Strength!
Virtually nobody in your gym measures his strength. So they can train Monday, Wednesday and Friday for month and (if they don’t get sick and have to quit) they will never realize they are making zero progress and probably moving backwards in strength.
Right now we are working with several dozen people on a Power Factor Study who perform the same six exercises for sixty days. In 100% of cases the trainees can NOT continue on a fixed schedule of days off and still make progress. I don’t mean 99% of cases – I mean exactly 100% of them.
The image below shows you the real data from a typical trainee’s barbell shrug exercise for his traps. When he started I scheduled four days off after his first and second workouts. Then I gave him five days off. It worked. It was enough time to fully recover and for new muscle to grow. But on his fifth workout it was not enough time off and he saw a decline in his trapezius strength.
His fifth workout showed a 5.0% decline in the total weight he could lift in 30 seconds. He dropped from 13,160 lbs to 12,500.
Did his trapezius muscles whither away in five days? Did atrophy set in? Muscle wasting? Of course not. He just wasn’t fully recovered – and therefore weaker, plus no new muscle had grown so he was not any stronger.
The numbers don’t lie.
So he took nine days off. And guess what? He set a new record because he had new muscle. Then he only took eight days off between workouts. Oops. Not enough. He went backwards again. So he took eleven days of rest. Some new muscle grew and – no surprise – that new muscle allowed him to lift even more weight, 17,920 lbs in 30 seconds.
After eight workouts the power in this trainees traps went from lifting 4,950 total lbs in 30 seconds to 17,920 lbs. That’s more than triple the strength! (3.6 times.)
His eight workouts took 54 days. If this trainee ignored reality and trained three days a week for that time he would have performed 23 workouts instead of 8 workouts.
That’s just stupid.
Does anybody seriously believe that performing triple the number of workouts would have made him triple as strong and build triple the muscle? After his errant fifth workout he’s have kept digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself, pounding away every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until he got sick or mislabeled himself a ‘hardgainer’ who thinks he can’t build any new muscle. Then maybe he’d resort to the needle for some help. Or may just waste $400/mo on nutritional supplements.
Do You Want To Build Muscle Or Just Lift Weights?
The reality is that no two workouts should ever – ever! – be the same. When you walk into the gym you are supposed to be a different man than when you left. You are supposed to have new muscle and new strength. Whatever you lifted to trigger muscle growth last time is not enough this time because you are bigger and stronger.
The people in your gym are blind to this reality because THEY DON’T MEASURE ANYTHING. They don’t know their output per muscle group. They don’t know their output per exercise. They don’t know the total output of their workout. They don’t know if today’s biceps workout was 12% more intense than the last one or 18% lower. They don’t measure reality so they think they can ignore reality.
If you train with you brain you will make your life a lot simpler. You won’t waste workouts. You won’t beat up your muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments for zero gain. You won’t deplete your energy for nothing. By simply measuring the intensity of your lifts you will have mathematical proof of the effectiveness of your individual exercises and your overall workouts. And that always – always! – means not having a fixed training schedule with fixed rest periods in perpetuity.
This is a giant truth that cannot be successfully ignored. Unless you just want to lift weights and don’t care about building muscle. Or about getting weaker.
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