I have been continually reminded of a talk I heard Grey Cook give at my first FMS Course over 10 years ago. He told a funny story that goes something like this..
Guy is talking to his doctor and says, “Doc, I am feeling tired and lagging all the time. I just don’t have a ton of energy and don’t feel that healthy. Should I start taking some wheat grass shots for energy? Any supplements you suggest?”
The doctor looks through his medical records and says “Bill, how about you quit smoking first.”
The moral of the story. We keep looking for what to add to our life to make it better and many times the answer isn’t what we need to add, but rather what is we need remove from our life to show improvement. This example is directly related to improving our physical performance, whether it is for strength or endurance. It can actually go deeper into personal struggles as well, but we won’t go down that rabbit hole right now. People keep adding more and more and more to find improvement. What should I add to my training to improve my bench? Do I need more protein? What Supplements should I start taking to get stronger? The answer many time’s is, let’s see what we can take away from your training, not what we can add.
I have been speaking with lots of people about their programming lately, and a recurring theme has been popping up over an over.
Young and strong gym enthusiasts that are training 5-7 days per week, and working their asses off. They come to me perplexed as to why they have stalled.
So much of what we are fed in fitness is, “no pain no gain”, “work harder”, “beast mode”. I love David Goggins, but most of us aren’t David Goggins. If you don’t know who he is, look him up. Recently I reviewed a program of one of my gym members. He was sharing with me how he had plateaued in his strength. After reviewing his program there was no surprise as to why he wasn’t getting any stronger. The volume he was lifting was staggering. Each workout was monstrous and he was hitting the same body parts multiple times per week with similar volumes. One of his days for legs involved 3 compound lifts with 26 working sets and then a mash up of assistance exercises to the tune of another 15 -20 sets.
If the reason of program is to make you fatigued then I would agree this is a good way to do it. There are many ways to get strong, but crushing yourself with multiple compound lifts per session with double digit reps across multiple sets is not going to work for long. When focusing on improving performance, the key is to manipulate the volume and intensity while managing fatigue, not increasing it. Pushing Fatigue all the time just builds more fatigue, not strength. Yes, there are times when pushing lots of volume is needed, but it isn’t an ongoing strategy. If you are looking to improve performance, there has to be a plan in place to peel back the volume, reduce fatigue, while focusing on practicing improved performance. The question you have to ask yourself is do you want to get stronger or do you just want to feel tired after your training?
This same philosophy transfers over to endurance athletes, which another article I will release soon. Many athletes just keep adding miles or more intervals to their training rather than focusing on recovery or organizing their program more effectively. Most times when it comes to improving performance the mantra is, LESS IS MORE.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
In terms of strength training you would be surprised as to the simplicity that is involved with becoming stronger. Notice, I didn’t say easy, but simple. In reality an effective strength program can be as simple as showing up 3-4 days per week, focusing on 3-4 exercises per training session. I did a video on optimal reps and strength you can view here. Though 5×5’s aren’t the answer for every situation, there is a reason that it is popular. If done with the correct weight progressions, there is a lot of strength to be gained with 25 effective reps or less.