In a word I would describe my training as simplified. I believe in the basics and they have never failed me yet. Sure, Iíve tried the complicated percentages and routines and of course Iíve seen some success with them. But without question the major portion of my improvements has always come through strict adheration to the simple, basic, boring if you will, principles of progressive overload which have been the staple of strength programs since God was a toddler.
Whatís more, many of the flashy, gimmicky programs only wasted valuable training time and didnít work at all. I learned to trust the basics. And I still do.
The truth is that there are no real secrets. Hard work is always at the core of any effective program and for it there is no substitute. Having said that, I realize that there is a limit to how hard one can work. You can not just work harder indefinitelyÖat some point you must work smarter. That is where efficiency comes in.
I canít afford to waste any effort on mediocre techniques any longer. My effort level is at a maximum. And I canít just train longer either. Doing more and more reps with 100 pounds will never get your bench over 500 even if you can do countless reps with the light weight. No, more is not the answer either. I push for quality. I want the most benefit out of every drop of sweat that falls from my forehead. And I donít have any drops to spare. I look for the most efficient and effective methods and pour all my effort into them with the major emphasis on quality over quantity. I ask the most from myself every set and train very heavy year-round. I believe ďMickey Mouse weights equals Mickey Mouse muscleĒ and skip the light days.
If youíre not putting enough weight on the bar to cause growth, why do it? You are just getting tired out! You may get a pump or feel exhausted but did you really promote growth? Not with light weights you didnít! So skip the light day and use the extra time to recover from the heavy stuff.
If your heavy days are truly heavy, your body will welcome the extra rest. This method means less training days per month per body part and further emphasizes the need for quality. If you only have four chest workouts a month you canít afford an off day. Youíve got to hold yourself to a high level of intensity or it will be 14 days (thatís Ĺ a month!) between good workouts! Every workout must count. Every rep must count. Everything matters.
This is almost a desperate way to approach your training but it really puts you under the gun. You canít slack. You canít baby yourself. If you do you feel like a heel waiting around for the next workout knowing you should have driven yourself harder. Itís a great motivator. It also helps to avoid over training. Sure the session is brutal each week but the body gets 7 days to recover and repair and grow. This is where a light workout seems pointless to me. Just let it rest. If you really pushed yourself and your training loads were high enough, 7 days can even seem too short a recovery time!
I Ďve had cycles where I had to go every 10 days and even only twice a month on some occasions of particularly heavy lifting. Donít get me wrong, my muscles recovered fine but my joints just could not get ready for the appropriate loads in only 7 days. Iím not suggesting that you must only workout 1 in every 7 days Öunless thatís what you need to recover!
Here is the law: the heavier the loads, the longer you need to recover. And thatís not the muscles , folks, itís the joints. As you become stronger and stronger your training loads will creep up. Every beginner can bench 3 times a week and still make good progress because the weights on the bar arenít all that heavy for beginners.
But as the beginner continues to improve, the weights go up. And often a plateau is reached because they are not able to recover in only 48 hours anymore due to the increased workload. At this point, if the trainee would switch to 2 days a week (3-4 days between workouts), without changing the program, he will probably begin to see progress again. What has changed is the addition of more recovery time, nothing else.
I , myself learned this lesson when I was on a every Ėfour- day bench cycle. I was very serious (although not at all competitive as yet) and saw great progress early on. After about a year my progress slowed and came to a total halt. I had been learning and reading about the need for recovery and quite naively decided to bench every 5 days instead, giving myself just a bit more time to heal and see what a bit more recovery could do for me. It was a revalation for me! My progress began again and was steady for about 2 years or more! All I changed was the amount of rest between workouts, the program was the same.
When I began competitive benching I made plenty of progress (for three years or so) benching every 5 days (up to about 550). But guess what happened? As my strength rose so did the need for added recovery. For some unknown reason I resisted taking more time between workouts. I was fearful that I wouldnít have enough training days per month and that I would not progress. But I was already not progressing so I felt I had nothing to lose. I began (reluctantly) to bench only once a week.
Well, some times we are all hard learners, but this time the message was even clearer. The heavier you lift, the more rest you need. I began to progress again! At first it was not so dramatic but I began to learn that with the added rest I could push myself harder in any one workout. With this key factor in mind I was able to increase my intensity with no fear of overtraining. And the increased intensity paid off big. Sure, I rested a lot but my workouts were amazing. And of course the results began to reflect the more intense training. It was as if I had a license to push myself harder than ever before because I knew I would have 7 days of rest and recovery.
Now I run peaking cycles and, as Iíve said ,some of them ( when Iím getting to the really heavy loads) can call for 10 or 14 days between workouts. Believe me my joints need it!
I take criticism for training heavy all the time but I support that training with excellent nutrition and lots of recovery. This is what allows me to train this way.
In your own training I suggest that you begin with training 2 days per week and watch your results. Add rest days in as you gain strength over the years. I donít have any hard and fast rules but I think a good rule of thumb is if your training loads are 350 Ė400 you can bench every 3-4 days. If your loads are 400-450 try every 5 days. Over 500 I suggest once a week. Donít hold me to these! Go by your progress! If your not seeing results on a tried and true program, take another day in between your lifts. Also, as a rule of thumb it never hurts to just jump to once a week benching no matter what your poundage. Too much rest is better than too little! When in doubt sit it out.
Another core belief of mine is also related to quality. And that is to only perform 2 exercises per body part. I donít believe that you can honestly train with proper intensity and do three movements in the same workout. If you can do a third exercise, I will accuse you of not working hard enough on the first two!! Again, my point here is quality over quantity. There are lots of wonderful exercises to do. So choose two and do them well rather than doing many in a mediocre fashion. If you really give your best effort on two exercises, you will have little energy, concentration , emotion, and desire to continue. Think about it.