| Article Summary:
Is Your Training Economy In A Recession?
"It is vain to do with more what can be done with less." -
William of Occam
We've all seen them. You or your loved ones may even be one ... You know ... the people who go to the gym 4, 5, even 7 times per week yet make no progress. The ones who seem to have zero plan of action; they just flit around from machine to machine like some sort of drunken bee.
They feel like they're working hard. After all, they did 19 exercises today. Yet, they get no results. Just what are they thinking?
OK, maybe that example is a bit extreme for Bodybuilding.com readers, but honestly, how many can say that you've taken a long, hard look at your program and gotten rid of the unnecessary movements?
If you were pressed for time, would you know which exercises to use to get results? How do you even go about choosing exercises for your program? After all, there are literally hundreds of great movements out there to choose from. Even with a metric ton of training info out there, many are still in a fog about what exactly to do, how much of it to do, and how often it should be done! What's going on here?
Too Many Choices:
Paralysis By Analysis
As athletes and lifters today, we have too many choices. In order to keep things fresh, websites,
fitness books have to continually come up with new, exciting ways to entertain and motivate the reader. One would think this is a good thing but back in the early - to late middle 1900s, information was fairly scarce yet those who lifted were in great shape, were strong, and got pretty d@mn big.
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This seems so contrary to logic doesn't it? Now we have so much information and so many programs and exercises to choose from that it seems like a no-brainer that everyone who steps foot in a gym would get great results.
In his book, "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less," author Barry Schwartz, argues that having too many options actually hurts rather than helps.
Think of the last time you were in your favorite store. For me, that would be a Borders Books. What did you see? Probably several super cool items that you'd love to buy. But, maybe you only have money for one. Think of the anxiety you felt. What if you make the wrong decision and waste your money?
Ask anyone who's ever sold any products online: giving the consumer too many choices will actually cause them not to buy anything at all!
How does this relate to your
fitness goals? Glad you asked.
- You caught a candid picture of yourself and noticed that you've put some major weight on.
- You got beat by an opponent that is not as good as you.
- You got your @ss kicked on stage.
Take yourself out of that store and in front of your computer. You just had a significant psychological event:
Doesn't matter what it is, you're angry and you want to right the ship, now! You sit in front of your computer and start searching for a program that will take you to the next level. You find 300 of them. How do you choose?
Program A has some great ideas, but so does Program C and G. One has exercises you like, the other has good sets and reps but you can't do many of the exercises because of lack of equipment.
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Feel the anxiety? This isn't just about losing a few bucks over a product you don't like. This decision could waste your most precious resource: your time. No one wants to get 8 weeks into a 12-week program only to realize they are going backwards. If you have
a show coming up, a big event to get hot for, or are an
athlete, you only have so much time to get prepared. Wasting 8 weeks is, well, wasteful.
What comes next? Paralysis by analysis. You literally become paralyzed by choices and do nothing at all. Always waiting for that perfect program. But, as we all know, no such thing exists.
Pareto Pumps Up:
Not Your Average Bodybuilder
How do you overcome the choice dilemma? You have to make sure your training economy is on point! Training economy refers to how much work you need to do to get results. Call it "biggest bang for your buck." You have to figure in your time, effort and output. How do you make sure your training economy isn't falling into a recession?
Well, who better than an economist to help us out? Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who came up with his aptly named "Pareto Principal." In it's most basic form, the principal states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. In business, the bulk of your sales come from about 20% of your clients. In
training, it's the same phenomenon. Most of your results come from a small percentage of exercises!
Think about that. If you normally do 8 exercises per session, but cut it to roughly 4 exercises, you'd still get 80+% of your results. That adds up quickly in both time and energy. Like the people in the story above, you are probably just doing too many exercises!
When your results start to slide backward but your workload increases, you, my friend, are in a recession.
Compounds And Lifting Time-Management
4 Hour Work Week" author Tim Ferriss describes time management as a "ruthless cutting out of any non-essential task." This applies to
weight training and
diet more than it does to business. When designing a training program or following someone else's, you must ruthlessly cut the fat. If you are adding movements to the end of your session because you don't feel like you've done enough then you aren't working hard enough.
I have a friend who always asks for training advice. The guy is under the firm belief that he needs to do 8-12 exercises per session. Keep in mind that most football players I train do 4-6, and they are infinitely bigger and stronger, but I digress ...
Why does he need to do so many movements? Because he concentrates on low result exercises. Isolation exercises, machines, and "functional" training apparatuses can be real time vampires. Of course he needs so much work ... all of those little movements don't add up to even one big, compound exercises.
Compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows) are movements that involve several muscle groups at the same time. For example, in the deadlift, you are working your hamstrings, glutes, lumbars, lats, traps, quads, and forearms. Contrast that with a triceps kickback where only the triceps are being worked (and not very well).
Which would you choose if you only had 20 minutes to train?
I gave this friend a simple workout to do.
Deadlift for triples for 15 minutes, then do sets of 8 on the
hyper extension bench for another 10. Yeah, he quickly changed his mind about how many movements and how much volume is needed.
Using compound lifts is the key to having a properly balanced training economy. Even if you have an abundance of time, there's no need to add exercises that have limited value.
In business we call it Return on Investment (ROI); if you spend $500 and make $5,000, your ROI was pretty good. Well, if you spend 8-hours training per week and only lose 1/4 pound of fat, you are in the red. Why not put in 3, hard, result-producing, fun hours with compound movements, cut out the extras and lose 2 pounds?
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Work Movements, Not Muscles
Isolation exercises are not worthless. They have their time and place. If you have a
lagging body part, they can be invaluable. But, lagging body parts are for those with some serious training time under their belts. If you just started training a month ago, I don't want to hear about which body part need work; chances are, they all do!
The secret to maximizing your training economy and doing only what is necessary, is to select compound exercises and work movements, not muscles. If you've read any of my other programs and articles here on Bodybuilding.com, you've noticed that they include "Upper" and "Lower" days more and more; they mention body part splits less and less.
In athletics and in life, we move as a unit. Very few tasks require the work of only one muscle; most involve several muscle groups working synergistically. Isn't that exactly what compound movements do? Think of our deadlifting example from earlier. How exactly would you categorize this lift? Is it a hamstring movement? How about a glute builder? Maybe it's a back exercise. Truth is, it's all that and more.
Click To Enlarge.
Video : Windows Media
bench press is a really bad pec exercise yet it's an excellent upper body builder. It will hit the
shoulders hard and will hit the pecs a bit as well. It still amazes me when I see guys use the bench as the staple of their "
chest" day. They're headed for disappointment - low ROI and a lot of time wasted.
This goes for
supplements as well. If your diet isn't 90% on point, then forget supplements. For those who get on the right diet track, utilize the 80/20 rule when selecting supplements as well. Don't ask about the latest high-tech, over-priced wonder supplement you saw in the back of Muscle & Fitness Hers, unless you are already taking your base supplements like
fish oil, and maybe some
I get this all the time.
A client will ask me about "super horny coral goat weed from an indian hot spring;" they know the marketing copy by heart. I then ask them what kind of protein they take and get a blank stare. Most likely, you don't need a $70/bottle of some exotic herb.
No, what you need is to build your base of supplements. There's a big time ROI; not only will you save money by not peeing out expensive yet crappy supplements, you can take that savings and buy more of the ones that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
ZMA costs about $10 and will help you recover faster and sleep much better. Wonder Supplement of the Month from Vitamin Super World costs $70 and does nothing for you. Which is the better investment?
How To Trim The Fat
Since I'm super persuasive and charming, I know I've convinced you to get rid of the extras. But, how do you begin to do so?
First, start centering your training on movements by concentrating on big, compound movements. Ax leg extensions and make front squats your main leg exercise. Follow that up with a few accessory exercises that will advance that main movement. This is how athletes and Power/Olympic lifters train, and it has a ton of applications for those just looking to look great.
Nothing Like Some Heavy Front Squats
Think of exercises that would help move your front squat up.
Straight leg deads,
Romanian deads, pull throughs, glute ham raises,
kettlebell swings ... notice anything? All of those will give your lower body some major perks. You'll be stronger and have an amazing set of legs. Do the same for your upper body.
Once you do this, you can, if time requires it, begin to trim even more. What will eventually happen is that you'll be able to get down to the bare minimum workload to get the maximum results. Then, and only then, can you begin to add in specific exercises, as needed. Stick to the 80/20 rule for a year, develop your body, then go on and work on weak points.
About The Author:
Steven Morris is a personal trainer and strength coach in the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas and owner of Explosive Football Training. He has been lifting weights for over 15 years and has been helping people achieve their fitness and strength goals for over a decade.