With so much information in social media, the internet, and different publications, it becomes impossible not to over-analyze numbers, reps, sets and movements. Many people don’t have two to three hours each day to spend in the gym, and 99 percent of people are not specialists. Most fall under the category of generalist, and our goals, as generalists, don’t reach the outer limits of the Olympics, but rather health, happiness and looking good.
There is a highly regarded book in the strength and conditioning world called “Easy Strength,” written by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline. In this book, they take on the “sea of conflicting information regarding lifting and sports, in an attempt to clarify the role and impact of strength training in fitness, sports, and life.” Below are 10 key points that I think are beneficial in helping you streamline your programing from this book.
**Some of the below are adjusted just a bit based around our focus.
1. Only use a few of the “key” movements. When you are building your program, keep your big bang lifts limited. Meaning, if you are squatting, you don’t need to do five different squat variations. Stick to the basics of a back squat and front squat and adhere to the below rules and the results will follow.
2. Lift weights three to four times a week. As I mentioned above, unless you are on the far right of the spectrum and searching to complete in the top one percent of a sport, then lifting three to four days a week with proper progressions and stress management will give you the results you want, whether this is strength, power or hypertrophy.
3. Keep the volume around 10 reps per lift. When working in the intensity zone dictated below, we generally see that after 10 reps, one’s form and intensity is sacrificed. Hitting 10 reps at an 80-90 percent effort range is just enough intensity while trying to stay focused mentally during each lift and movement.
4. Keep the reps in the one to five range and work on doubles and triples. Soviet weightlifting champion Robert Roman showed that recovery is rapid while keeping soreness minimal after low-rep, low-set, heavy lifting. High-rep training can have a counter effect on absolute strength and lead to dramatic soreness.
5. Keep the rest time appropriate with goals: 30 seconds for endurance, 45-60 for hypertrophy and three to five minutes for absolute strength. Rest times are specific based off goals. If training for absolute strength, then keep the rest time longer, allow for recovery and loose muscles.
6. Make sure the majority of your training zone stays in the 80-90 percent effort range, while possibly having one session per week at a 90-95 percent effort. Remember, always be sure to leave a rep or two in the bank. The idea is to build as much strength as possible in as little time as possible. Working below the 80 percent range for the general public will be geared more toward endurance and hypertrophy work. Working above the 93-95 percent range will dramatically decrease power output (time component of moving weight).
7. If you’re feeling strong, go for a PR, and back off right after you hit it. You want be careful at this juncture not to push the envelope too much. Once you’ve attempted a new PR or hit a new PR, back off for the day and move on.
8. Vary the intensity, load and volume each day. In the words of the great Strength Coach, Charlie Francis, “If a previous workout was spectacular, then I will back off the next session…The athlete usually wants to build on a great workout with another great high intense workout… this can lead to over training and injury.”
9. Remember to back off every fourth or fifth week of your cycle. A good rule of thumb is to de-load every fourth or fifth week of each training cycle.
10. Most of the time you should finish the workout feeling stronger than when you started. If your performance isn’t up to par, stop the “heavy stuff.” One of the biggest misconceptions in fitness is thinking that you need to crush yourself every session. The couldn’t be further from the truth. The constant beat down of your body will lead to over-training, injury, hormonal imbalance and a weakened immune system, to name a few. Leave something in the tank and know that it is OK to leave the gym fresher than when you walked in.
The 10 points listed above can be used to help outline the protocol for your fitness program. There are many different routes you can take, which is what makes fitness great. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to fitness; it depends on the person. Keep in mind that more is not necessarily better.