When strength training became a popular way of athletic preparation back in the 50's and 60's, everyone was rushing to find the "best" way to train. Back in these early days, very little attention was given to the "scientific" aspect of the sport. Your average lifter would train using basic lifts, receive proper nutrition from a variety of foods and give their bodies time to rest and recuperate. It was that simple. No complicated supplements, special "lifting techniques" or masses of ineffective information. Just basic, sensible lifting.
The Fitness Boom
When the "fitness boom" of the 70's hit, people began questioning these methods and demanded scientific evidence to support these training theories. Companies realized the potential to make a profit and began flooding the strength training world with ineffective information and equipment, and it is more prevalent now than ever. If I had a dime for every "break through fitness program" I've seen, I'd be rich. The "Bun & Thigh Rocker", "Ab-Slide" and "Ab-Doer" are just a few of these ridiculous devices, which are not only a waste of one's money, but an embarrassment to bodybuilders everywhere. Over the years strength training theories have actually gone downhill. Hard, persistent and dedicated work in the weightroom has been overtaken by a mass of supplements and ineffective training equipment. People always seem to be looking for an easier route to attaining a muscular build.
Achieving a Strong Physique is Easy!
The reality of it is that attaining an "in-shape" and strong physique is, for the most part, not a matter of science. The fact of the matter is that the achievement of this ultimate goal is NOT complex. That's not saying it's easy, but it's not complicated. Successful lifters must have tremendous focus and tolerance for pain. They must persevere in all situations and continually place their bodies under greater stress in order to better their physiques. They must eat the right foods and avoid the wrong foods and ensure that their bodies are receiving adequate rest. I have great respect for each and every individual out there who is able to continually and systematically follow these guidelines on their quest to mind-blowing muscle mass and strength. However, far too often we see serious lifters over-analyzing every situation in the weightroom. Extremely simple things that will do little to nothing in bettering their current lifting approach.
The bottom line is to provide your body with a stimulus for growth using basic compound lifts, feed the body by consuming the proper nutrients, and give your muscles time to rest and recuperate. If you have these three elements down, there really isn't a whole lot more you can do to increase the effectiveness of your lifting regiment.
Stop the Slaving
So why is it that every time I go to the gym I see the same misinformed people, week in and week out, slaving away on endless sets of concentration curls and tricep kickbacks? It makes me cringe when I see some of the ridiculous techniques these "lifters" are using. What you put in is what you get out, and submaximal intensities will yield submaximal results. The tougher the lift is, the better your body will respond. The whole idea of weightlifting is to yield an adaptive response from the musculature, meaning the body must believe it is in life threatening danger. I don't care what anyone says, heavy squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, rows and chins ARE the toughest lifts and without a question THE MOST EFFECTIVE. Don't get me wrong, isolation lifts can have their spot in a successful routine, but certainly not in place of these basic compound lifts.
More Art than Science
In the end, strength training is definitely more "art" than "science". I don't know everything about everything, but I'm certain of what I'm certain of, and I'm certain that the basic principles of gaining size and strength, which were first put forth in the 1950's, still hold true to this day. Stop making it more complicated than it has to be! Get into the squat rack and SQUAT! Load up the bar and DEADLIFT! Yes, these ARE the toughest lifts, and that it EXACTLY why you should be doing them! Weightlifting is SIMPLE! Do you want to get big and strong? Then forget about all the useless theories people seem to constantly put forth! Stop over-analyzing every situation! Stop wasting your time on debates about the latest breakthrough training principles! Go to the gym and train!
"There is no secret routine, there is no magical number of reps and sets. What there is, is confidence, belief, hard work on a consistent basis, and a desire to succeed."
- Steve Justa