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Default Stan Efferding on what is important
by BendtheBar 01-15-2014, 12:27 PM

Over 90% of the questions Iím asked at the gym or via email are about the best weight lifting routine to get huge and strong. How many sets, reps, drop sets, super sets, rest time, frequency, duration etcÖ?

My answer is always the same. It doesnít matter You donít grow in the gym, you grow at the dinner table.

Itís never the training routine thatís limiting growth, itís always the recovery phase, eating and sleeping. The vast majority of people who want to get bigger and stronger already train hard enough to grow, they just donít eat and sleep enough to grow. They carry a notebook and want to show me every rep and set of every workout and routine theyíve done for the past three years, but thereís not one page with a record of their meals. I feel bad for them because I know they work hard in the gym and they rarely miss a workout, but the notebook just documents all the muscle theyíve broken down and has no record of what theyíve been doing to build it up. I know because I did it myself. When I started college nearly 30 years ago there was no Internet and few reliable resources to find information about getting big and strong. I started lifting two hours a day, six days a week, doing endless sets and reps of every exercise in Arnold Schwarzeneggerís Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I struggled to put on five pounds a year until I finally came across an experienced lifter who told me I was wasting my time with all that lifting and told me to go home and eat. By cutting my training back to an hour three days a week and hiking my calories up to over 5,000 a day, I was able to put on 20 pounds in less than a year!

In the book outliers, they speak of the 10,000 hour rule as the necessary amount of time to become an expert at any given sport. It doesnít apply to bodybuilding or powerlifting. PowerBuilding is not a skill like pitching a baseball, sinking a three pointer, hitting a golf ball or even playing the piano. Those pursuits require thousands of hours of practice to perfect the motor skills necessary to become an expert. PowerBuilding is very different. Lifting weights is not a skill (Olympic lifting not withstanding), it is simply a stimulus for size and strength, and it doesnít actually build muscle, it just breaks down muscle. And lifting light weights that donít force the body to adapt provide little to no stimulus at all for growth. Donít get me wrong, walking around the neighborhood and doing a few curls with the pink rubber hand weights is great for your mom to stay healthy, but youíll never get huge and strong doing her workout Ė I donít care how many hours a day you do it!!

It really is this simple:

Lift heavy weights three times a week for an hour. Eat lots of food and sleep as much as you can.

Thatís it. Thereís nothing more to add. Iíd love to be able to just stop there and trust that the person asking the question will do exactly those two things and get huge and strong.

But, thereís always a million nit picky questions to follow, the answers to which really make very little difference. People have become well informed and read everything they can about the sport, so they want to hear me confirm or negate every last theory, belief, bias, research study, proposal, hunch, testimonial and Dr. Oz episode theyíve ever watched. The truth is, it doesnít matter. Itís always a good idea to educate yourself and keep track of your training and diet, but there is no holy grail. Using a bunch of words nobody understands and trying to explain to yourself or others every detail of the Krebs cycle has very little effect on your progress.

Iím as bad as anyone about trying to learn all the latest training and nutritional information, but I understand that 99% of progress comes from those 2 simple rules: Lift heavy weights and eat and sleep a lot. Therefore, I donít let myself stray from the basics and I donít waste half my time chasing the 1%, I spend most of my time and effort making sure Iím doing the 99% as hard and as consistent as I can. Train heavy, eat and sleep. Repeat.

What is heavy? Donít over complicate the answer. If its too easy, add more weight. Repeat.

How much is enough food? If youíre not gaining muscle, eat more. Repeat.

Sure, if you try to lift too much weight with horrible technique, youíll get hurt. Duh!

Sure, if you eat hot dogs and pizza all day, youíll get fat. Duh!

Beyond that, donít get caught up with all the details spewed out of the mouths of every card-carrying-weekend-online-personal-training certificate holder trying to tell you that you HAVE to keep your elbows tucked to your sides, arms perpendicular to the floor, donít go past ninety degrees, slightly bend at the knees, breathe in, now breathe out, donít lock out, two seconds on the way down, four seconds on the way up, 10 more, 9, 8, good, 7, 6 more, you can do it Ö Somebody shoot me in my ďamp;@:/#Ē face so I donít have to listen to that any more!

Likewise, donít stock up on bags of shiitake mushrooms, seaweed and fish eyes because you heard Japanese people eat it and they live longer. They live longer because they have 1/10 the obesity rate of Americans so the fish eyes arenít the answer, just stop being a fat ass and you wonít drop from a heart attack four years before a Japanese person!

Donít chase the 1%, there is no magic training routine or diet thatís going to provide any measurable results over the basic principles for getting huge and strong: Train heavy, eat and sleep more.

Again, I should stop there because I donít care if I piss off the wanna-beís and know-it-alls we hear advising everyone who mistakenly comes within earshot of these self proclaimed experts and perennial advisers of the masses, but I know thereís some very hard working and passionate lifters out there who are struggling to get better results and need just a little more to chew on so they donít keep wasting endless hours in the gym and untold dollars on the latest worthless pill or potion at the store.

For them, I will peel back one more layer of this simple recipe for results, but donít be disappointed when you see behind the curtain and find out the Wizard of Oz has no magic powers. Youíll see itís all common-sense stuff you already know and it boils down to hard work, discipline and consistency.

1 Train heavy
Hypertrophy is best achieved in the 5-10 rep range. Lift the heaviest weight you can handle for at least 5 reps and if you can lift it more than 10 times, increase the weight. Google ďDorian Yates WorkoutsĒ to learn all about ďgrowth setsĒ so you understand that maximum intensity provides the stimulus for muscles to grow, not endless reps and sets. For example, If youíre doing incline dumbbell presses and you do 10 reps with the 60′s, then ten reps with the 70′s, then 10 reps with the 80′s, then finally go to failure with seven reps plus two more assisted with the 100′s, you didnít do four sets. The only set that counts is the growth set. The set you put maximum effort into, the one where you failed and struggled through a couple more assisted reps. You did one set. The rest of those ďwarm upĒ sets were a waste of time and only served to put unnecessary repetitive strain on your tendons and ligaments. Just do a few reps of each lighter weight to warm up on your first exercise then even fewer warm ups on subsequent exercises. Save your energy and your joints for the sets that count, the growth sets.



2 Donít sweat the small stuff
How many sets and exercises? It doesnít matter. I can build an entire workout around one or two max effort growth sets and go home and grow. Volume doesnít improve results, intensity does. Donít train for more than an hour and donít count all the warm ups. Do one or two Max effort sets of a couple multi-joint mass building exercises and go home. Donít follow up a couple sets of 400 pound bench presses with cable crossovers and donít do five reps of 500lb rack lockouts for triceps then try to follow that with some cable push downs, itís a monumental waste of time!! If you canít grow from heavy squats, the leg extension machine ainít gonna help you one bit so skip it and do the squats! And quit doing curls in the squat rack simply because the lighting is better and the mirror is full length!



3 Less can be more
How often? Three days a week is plenty. Push, pull, legs is still a great way to grow. Chest, shoulders and triceps one day, back and biceps another and then legs. The basic movements like bench and dips work all the muscle groups in the push chain so you donít need a bunch of isolation exercises if any. Same is true of T-bar rows and chins for the pull chain and squats for legs.

If you are powerlifting then transition from the hypertrophy phase into the powerlifting phase about 8 weeks out from a meet and begin doing heavy doubles and triples on the powerlifting movements followed by maybe one or two sets of one or two ancillary exercises afterwards. For example, work up to two or three sets of doubles or triples on flat bench then follow that up with a heavy set or two of rack lockouts or dips and go home.

When I squatted 905 lbs raw in training, I was only squatting every OTHER week. Twice a month! I deadlifted on the alternate weeks and benched once a week. You heard correctly, I trained twice a week when I hit my 2,303 pound raw total and set the all-time world record. I would bench on Mondays and squat OR deadlift on Saturdays. Wednesdays was stretching, balance and core work. Thatís it!

Itís about recovery. I didnít do any ďlightĒ days, waste of time. I have no idea whatís suppose to be accomplished by doing a few reps with 60% of your max. What about ďSpeed work?Ē. What about it? Waste of time!! If I donít bench heavy on a Monday night then I sure as hell donít do some really fast light reps or a bunch of push ups. I load up the incline press with 500 pounds or grab the 200-pound dumbbells and knock out as many reps as I can or behind the neck press 315 for reps. I try to take my body somewhere it hasnt been before so it will adapt and grow when I eat and sleep.

The only reason to lift weights is to stimulate a growth response. Lifting half what youíre capable of isnít going to stimulate anything.

I really have come to believe that all these fancy machines and ďcutting edgeĒ routines are designed BY lazy people FOR lazy people who canít or donít want to do the hard work necessary to get results. How many years have you been going to gyms and see the same people lifting the same weights and looking the same as they did when they started?

Donít let that be you. Take your body somewhere it hasnít been before then give it enough food and rest so it can adapt and grow!!! I know itís difficult to look yourself in the mirror and admit that itís your own fault if youíre not getting results. Itís not because you donít know something someone else knows or havenít figured out the right set and rep scheme or bought the right blend of supplements, itís because you need to get back to the basics and train heavy then eat and sleep with the kind of consistency and intensity that will create results.



4Eat lots of food and sleep as much as you can

The sleep part doesnít need any explanation. Donít run if you can walk, donít stand if you can sit and donít stay awake if you can sleep. Done.

What do you eat? The answer to this question has been made more confusing and complicated by everyone trying to sell you their version of the latest greatest diet or supplement program but itís not rocket science either.

Eat numerous meals a day, each one consisting of a quality animal protein source (eggs, lean red meat, fish, chicken, milk) along with some complex carbs (rice, oatmeal, bread, pasta, vegeís). Itís that simple.

If you insist on percentages then go with 33/33/33 for fats/protein/carbs. If youíre gaining too much fat, reduce the calories. If youíre not gaining weight, increase the calories. Easy enough.

Thereís your 99%. All the other stuff combined (meal timing, ratios, supplements, high carb, low carb, no carb, high fat, low fat, Atkins, Paleo, Zone, etcÖ) doesnít add up to 1%. Most of the time, going to one extreme or another sets you back instead of improving your results.

I told you Ė itís common sense. Problem is, executing a successful plan every day, every week, every month and every year is the stumbling block. Itís easy to understand, but are you doing it?

Every time Iíve reached a ďplateauĒ in my results, Iíve never been able to solve the problem by implementing some new training routine or diet. Iíve always had to admit to myself that I wasnít executing the 99% plan. You have to be honest with yourself about wasted workouts, missed meals or a few short nights of sleep. Thatís always where the problem is. So if you see me at the gym or a show, just tell me you already know what the problem is and youíre gonna train harder and eat and sleep better. That way we can skip all the worthless postulation about the 1% and talk about something more meaningful like your family or your business.

All my best!
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:58 PM   #2
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golden advice
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Old 01-15-2014, 01:18 PM   #3
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Nice read and some great points.
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Old 01-15-2014, 01:57 PM   #4
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Great Read
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Old 01-15-2014, 02:02 PM   #5
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I do enjoy reading this.
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:11 PM   #6
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Good stuff right there.
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:13 PM   #7
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always a great read! speaks the truth
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:44 PM   #8
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Yes, yes and more yes.
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:45 PM   #9
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I listened to Stan Efferding on the Stone Cold Podcast this morning. I really like what this guy has to say.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:34 PM   #10
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As simple as that. Great read, sounds exactly like what Steve, Jason Blaha, and any other experienced or knowledgeable lifter that knows whats up.
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