Learn by doing
One of the things we strive to get across in our seminars and curriculum is the necessity of developing a sense of Autoregulation, a term that means different things to different people. For our purposes, autoregulation simply means that a program or plan is designed to allow for an organic ebb and flow between the training variables: Volume Intensity and recovery.(Some people use frequency as another principle variable, which is a useful concept. We don’t but the reasons why are the subject of another article)
We find the concept of autoregulation to be so important that it has been the subject of two articles so far, here and here. In a third article, we outlined three very simple canned programs that are based on an autoregulated model. Still, autoregulation remains a subtle concepts and can be quite difficult to wrap one’s head around. In experienced lifters it’s as simple as knowing your own capabilities at any given moment. In programming terms, think of an autoregulated training systems as a set of overt rules for: If This, Then That. There a some great resources out there to help you understand the concept (Mike Tuscherer’s Reactive Training System is probably the best) but for most athletes, it just takes time and repetition. Like most things in life, you can learn it from a book, you need to get in get dirty and make a few mistakes along the way. What we’re going to suggest is a program that allows you to get a very clear sense of your own strength capabilities in a measured and very specific way. I’ve used this program dozens of times. For building a strength endurance base, I can think of nothing better. The corollary benefit is that by doing it, you learn an extremely important concept in autoregulation: Managing Fatigue.
The main point of training is to impose training stress/stimulus. We impose stress and then we allow recovery time between bouts of work. These two variables, Volume and Intensity, are so often misunderstood and simplified in the mind of the trainee as Fatigue. This leads many people to equate experiencing fatigue with effective training. They are not the same. The fallacy that, fatigue-=training is the dominant thought process of every general population fitness fad: p90x, Crossfit, circuit training, boot camps etc. If you look at what’s being done, athletes are put through a series of stressors that will cause fatigue. The efficacy of those workouts are then judged in retrospect by the difficulty of the work and the after effects (DOMS). Soreness/fatigue becomes a marker for progress. This however, is not effective training. It’s binging. So how to we develop better judgment? How do we move past fatigue seeking and think in terms of fatigue management?
If you really want to understand how your body responds to the training stress of say, squats, the best thing would be to perform workouts with just squats, nothing else. No cardio, no accessories, just squatting. A lot of it. The program we are suggesting does this but its biggest benefit is in help you understand how to use fatigue as a tool of regulating the training session.
As we’ve pointed out on this site and in our seminars, we are huge fans of Bryce Lane. Bryce’s articles lay out some of the most elegant strength and conditioning programming on a meta level. At the same time his programs are simple enough to hand off, as written and get Great, not good, but Great results. The 50/20 program posted below is one such program. Read it. When you think through it, keep in mind that throughout your training sessions, training cycle and season, the central decisions you are making go to the question of how you manage training stress (fatigue) throughout a workout, training cycle, or competitive season. The determinant factor in the efficacy of a workout is how the athlete manages the workload (fatigue) so that they can complete the work and force adaptation. Apply too much fatigue and you won’t progress. Impose too little stimulus and you won’t progress. As you read and then try this program, understand that this is the central goal of autoregulation: managing training stress-somewhere above the minimum and maximum effective doses.
So, read the article. Post back with questions, Better yet, read it and run the cycle for 6 to 8 weeks. We’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page or our blog. We have 4 or 5 testimonials from people have used it in the past that can describe how this very simplified progression helped them see their training differently and gave them great results. No fluff, no extra conditioning, no 3 hour strength sessions, just simple direct work. We believe the biggest benefit you will get is you’ll start to see behind the curtain a bit more and to understand fatigue is neither something you seek or avoid, it’s an effective tool and powerful ally.
The Have It All Program: That 50/20 Thing
I have thought many times about one workout that could give you “it all” or as close to it as possible. A simple, short, to the point workout where you would get stronger in a very practical sense, increase your work capacity and conditioning level and add bulk if you eat like you mean business. A no-nonsense workout that could take you from dweeb to superhuman for the price of blood, sweat and twenty minutes of your TeeVee time a few days a week. I got the basic idea for this from an article by Charles Staley called “Escalating density training” which was more about bodybuilding. This is a great deal more general and is aimed at people who want “the big picture”, and the bigger the better.
Here’s how it works. For twenty minutes you do as many reps as you can of your chosen compound exercise, squats, deadlifts, power cleans or snatches, clean & presses etc. You do this twice a week. You use the same weight throughout the twenty minutes. About 75-80% of your gym-maximum in good clean form is fine to start. Begin with something you can easily do and add as you can.
Do sets of twos, threes or even fives or tens, your choice, mix it up if you need to. Do a set and when you are able to focus again, then do another. When you can get the right number of reps in that twenty minutes then up the weight 5-10% next time and work up again. I like 10% jumps since I tend to do better with a bigger drop in volume and more of a challenge with the weight. However if you like the more gradual approach then by all means, use it.
I try to shoot for fifty in that twenty minutes since that number both keeps up my heart rate and breathing and makes it possible for me to use heavy weight in the 75-85% range. However the number you choose could just as well be anywhere between 20 (anything less than this isn’t really doing much) and 100 reps (higher than this and the weight may be too small). If you can do 100 reps with 1.5 x bodyweight in 20 min. in the squat then you are one very conditioned individual with plenty of useful strength as well. That’s something to shoot for; or 50 reps 2 x bodyweight in 20 min. in the squat or 50 reps x bodyweight in the barbell clean and press are other worthy goals. I’m sure you can see the idea.
Here are a few exercise combinations you might consider:
Mon/Thur.– Barbell Clean & press-20min
Tues/Fri– OL Squat -20min
Tues/Fri–Dips + chins supersetted-20min. (there are many combinations to do this way)
Mon/Thurs–DB Clean & Press–20min
Tues/Fri–DB Farmers walk–20min (intervals of as long as you can go instead of reps)
For odd object fanatics
Mon/thur–Barrel or sandbag clean & press–20 min.
Tues/fri–heavy object carry for distance–20min (intervals of as long as you can go instead of reps)
Mon/thurs–Rock or barrel lift –20min
Tue/Fri–Sandbag curl& press, Farmers walk each 20min. (if you are very-very serious)
You get the idea. Use compound exercises that will get your heart and lungs going along with everything else. If you want to do an assistance exercise or two, do them afterwards and not too many of them. For most of you that won’t be much of a problem for obvious reasons. I like doing rockovers (tilt up barbell then support in balance with one hand) and curls. When you are finished, lay down, get your breath back and go have a carton of milk, a protein drink, or eat a nice big meal. You just earned it. At the same time you have done many lifts with a high percentage of your max, you have gotten your heart and lungs working “overtime-plus”, you have done a great deal of “work” in the mechanical sense, and you have only used twenty minutes to do the whole job.
If you start by doing 30 reps with say 300# in the squat and after a couple of sessions you get fifty, You are of course stronger, you have increased your conditioning and work capacity and if you eat enough decent food you will likely increase your muscle mass also. You can pretty much forget about all the complicated set/rep and weekly schemes and simply concentrate on doing more work in your allotted time. When you reach fifty reps or your chosen number, then you increase the weight and work up again.
Is it really that simple? For the most part, yes. However not everything is so smooth sometimes, you will have staleness and reverses eventually. Here are a few little detours to make sure your progress continues.
The first is to take a week off from the regular work and do only heavy singles. Go in and work up to one to three reasonably heavy singles in your chosen lifts, You can do this every day or every other day. I like every day, but some people don’t get along well with that and should go every other day or monday/wed/friday. Some of you may find it useful to do three weeks of the regular twenty minute sets and then on the last week of the four, do the singles, find out how much stronger you are now and get a little bit of a rest before you go full out again.
Another approach is suppose you simply can’t get past 300# x40 in your twenty minutes of squatting? You can keep hammering away or you can increase the weight to 325# or 330#, then work up to thirty with that, then drop back to the 300#’s and get the fifty much easier. You can also take all the time you like to get the correct number of reps and then aim for decreasing the time it takes you to do them till you get down under 20min.
Yet another is for if you are more interested in the conditioning aspect or tend to run out of breath quicker than you might like. You drop the weight a bit and work towards doing many more reps than fifty. Use that as a starting point and shoot for the moon. Work up to one hundred reps if you can. If you can do that with anything over 1.5x bodyweight then there is not much in nature, sports, work or life that will wear you out.
One more idea is to pick a similar exercise and change to that one for awhile. It should be very similar though. Switching from full squats to leg presses, isn’t going to be a big help, but changing from squats to, front squats or deadlifts would be fine. You will still be getting plenty of work, that’s for sure!
One way to arrange a program using a couple of these strategies is:
Mon/Thurs –BB Clean & Press–20min
Tues/Fri–OL Squats–20 min
M,W,F,–BB Clean & press–work up to near max single
T,Th, Sat,–OL Squat–work up to near max single
Tues/Fri– Deadlift, trap bar Deadlift or high pull–20min
Mon/thur–Bench press– work up to near max single
Tues/Fri– Deadlift, trap bar Deadlift or high pull– work up to near max single
And so on in a two month repeating cycle. There are other ways using these ideas also that you can easily imagine on your own.
This is “the whole enchilada” so to say. I could make this a much longer article but it really is this simple. You can get stronger, better conditioned, and even bigger in twenty minutes a day, four days a week. If there is a better deal out there, buy it, then write me!
Bryce Lane 2005