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.

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12 Responses to What Works Best?

  1. progressivestrength at #

    If this precision, motivation, and compound reps doesn’t put you in the mindset of wanting to train you might want to see if you have a pulse.

  2. Mark Winchester Sr at #

    Anyone, regardless of starting size, who works up to doing numerous partial-range reps w/ 1,500lbs in the Hexbar lift will stand out in just about any crowd except Mr Olympia competitors. Even then the thickness in his upper back, neck & shoulders will not be beaten by much. There is NO legitimate need to perform any additional exercises.

  3. Mark Winchester Sr at #

    I should point out I’m currently 230lbs with a clearly visible bicep vein so my bf can’t be over 18% yet my last w/out I only used 400lbs. It isn’t a huge stretch of the imagination to envision where I’ll be once I’m using 800lbs, let alone 1600lbs.

  4. Donnie Hunt at #

    Very motivational indeed Mark! I love these kind of success stories.

  5. Mark Winchester Sr at #

    I need to point out the extreme importance of maintaining a neutral spine which is impossible using a regular straight bar. The huge poundages required by PFT/SCT places the skeletal system under very high states of stress. This why the hexbar is the only exercise one needs to do. That’s because it’s impossible with any other exercises to load the body with the possible poundages of the hexbar exercise. Not the over-hyped barbell squat, or even 45 degree leg press. That’s because there is (0) load in the completed position as the load is transferred entirely to the skeleton which in turn provides (0) growth stimulation. The muscles worked most intensely in the hexbar lift are THE only muscles that truly matter for maximum body power & ultimately health.

  6. Mark Winchester Sr at #

    I neglected to explain what a “neutral spine” exactly is. When a straight bar is used in the deadlift, which btw is THE most effective conventional exercise, the bar is held on the anterior side of the body. This places the majority of the weight on the forward side of the spine instead of the middle (neutral) evenly distributing the load. This exposes the spine to a possible intervertebreal slipped or even herniated disc. The hexbar automatically does this irrespective of the trunk’s position. A similar bar was marketed way back by Peary Rader but failed to be seen for what it was & never gained widespread use. I hope this has made clear what a neutral spine is & it’s extreme importance.

  7. joel waldman at #

    Great stuff Mark…I agree and have my cap mega hex bar sitting inside my power rack and ready to go when fully recovered. I have both lifting straps amd the one ton hooks but so far get a much better grip and thus workout with the lifting straps. The 1 ton hooks inevitably slip and strain my wrists excessively…am I doing something wrong?…Joel Waldman…by the way I am currently at 440 lbs for 45 reps in 60 seconds…the hooks so far are useless.

  8. Mark Winchester SR. at #

    Here’s some hard earned advice I wish I had been given 20 yrs ago. You are a unique individual and no one knows exactly whats right for you. I, however, have found for best results w/ the hexbar doing full-range reps using the high handles in the DL and low handles in the floor press. Concentrate solely on the DL, the floor press + possibly the shrug – all using the hexbar. There is absolutely NO reason for drugs or BS supplements. Although buffered creatine might be of some value.

    If I had known the above 20yrs ago I’d be 5’8″, 245lbs @ no more than 8% bodyfat & that is damn good.

  9. Mark Winchester SR. at #


    If you are ^ this Joel Waldman I highly doubt there is a damn thing I can tell you about high intensity training, Pete SIsco or the incredible Arthur Jones that you don’t already know. I learned the hard, no results way, that almost everything Jones advised is true and the passage of time won’t change the physiological facts he uncovered.

  10. joel waldman at #

    Thanks for the advice and the compliments…yup that WAS me…making a comeback…due to a congenital blood disorder that didn’t cause symptoms even though I ran cholesterol levels of 350-650 since age 22…am now 68…required a heart transplant which I was lucky to receive on june 4th of 2016.

    That’s interesting that you are doing full range hex bar deadlifts with the high handles and full range floor press with the low handles…how do you get under the bar for floor press with your thick chest!!!
    I love it…my personal email is jmwald@gmail.com…if you’d like send me an email so that I can get yours and we won’t have to put it on this site. Thanks again for the advice and hard earned knowledge…Joel Waldman

  11. Jim Johann Jr at #

    For those who don’t know, Joel Waldman is a legend (primarily for his unbelievable neck development) in the HIT community. I heard his name years ago via the writings of Ken Hutchins, Drew baye or maybe Dr Doug McGuff…or some combination. Never met him though.

    But perhaps I can provide some information on my personal battles with the 1 ton hooks. Through experimentation, I can use them with a double overhand grip, but I’ve had to narrow the grip width by about an inch on each side. As far as using an alternate grip, I might as well use a strand of chewing gum. I think the problem for me is I can’t trun the lower arm enough to keep the hook square-on the bar. From about the ring finger to the end of the hook just won’t stay on and it’s terribly unnerving when it happens…so I stick to the double overhand grip.

    Since I’m not trying for a world record deadlift in a competition, I’, not bothered by the overhand grip for the partial DL with the hooks. Although, I do wish the hook straps were made for left and right hands so that when tightening them I could pull the wrist tightening strap into the body on both sides. I never quite get the right wrist as tight as I’d like because the straps make me push the right one away from my body. Weird and it sounds whiny…but there it is.

    BTW…I will be psoting my just finished workout over on the Mark Winchester thread.

  12. Mark Winchester at #

    The 1TonHooks were not designed to the used in the reverse group. I’ve found by reducing the distance of the hook from the wrist as much as possible greatly increases the usefulness of these wonderful tools. I always think of Pete’s analogy as to the necessity of the use of the hooks. “A carpenter uses a hammer, a mechanic uses a wrench & a weight lifter uses hooks”.

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