I’ve been wanting to write this article for a very, very long time.
Despite the fact that I spent nearly a month reviewing dozens of programs, various methods of organizing training, and even several periodization schemes, to most of you, that stuff is hardly relevant minutiae. That’s right; I said it. Most discussions about optimal programming amount to nothing more than mental masturbation.
If you’d rather watch than read:
The Programming of Champions
Let’s consider one cold hard fact before we get into the meat and potatoes of this discussion: there are champions and world record holders from virtually every programming philosophy. Even if we stick to just raw lifters in the IPF, there are Sheiko trained athletes with medals, there are Westside athletes with medals, there are 5×5 athlete with medals, there are people who train each lift once a week with medals, and there are even people who train every single day with medals (sometimes multiple times per day!).
So, am I reneging on my stance and just admitting that the “find what works for you” people are right? Hardly. That said, it is about damn time someone put an exclamation point on the forest so that you all stop looking at the trees.
The Most Important Training Variable
Once you have specificity handled, The single most important factor in making progress in your training is… doing more volume. Wait, that’s it? Yes, really that’s it. As a coach, the single most important thing that I can do for any client to get them past a plateau is to believe in a program that has them doing more volume than they’ve ever done before. If you’ve ever heard of the 80/20 rule, the 80% of programming success is doing more work and working harder than you have in the past.
I can hear a lot of you saying, “Duh!” from a mile way. And you know what? It is obvious. But if it is so obvious why does it seem so many of us have forgotten this simple truth? If you want to keep making progress as a trainee, you need to consistently raise your volume every time you stall. Year after year, your volume should be increasing.
Haven’t you ever wondered why there is that one “bro” at the gym who “doesn’t know anything about training” but is brutally strong? Did you just chalk it up to genetics? While that is probably a part of it, another big part of it is that he probably hasn’t been brainwashed by the “overtraining” police. He goes hard… every… single… day.
Here is the bottom line: the more volume you can do, and recover from, the more significant the adaptation will be. That’s it, guys. That’s really the bottom line.
Understanding Volume via Sun Tanning
Let’s bust out the sun tan analogy one more time. We all know that if you haven’t been in the sun for several months, your skin is going to be lighter than usual. We all also know that spending time in the sun results in some degree of tanning. If you spend 15 minutes in the sun, you’ll get one level of tan. If you spend 30 minutes in the sun, you’ll get another level of tan. The more time you can spend in the sun without burning, the darker you’re going to get. And, of course, the darker you get, the more time you can spend in the sun.
Well, training works exactly the same way and you should be working through the exact same process. If you want “optimal” progress, the first thing you should be considering is not how trendy the name of your next program is or even whether the program employs DUP vs. Block periodization; the first thing you need to be considering is are you going to be doing more volume than you have in the past? Are you going to be working harder than you ever have before? Every time you start to plateau, the first thing you should do is consider whether or not you’re ready to add more volume. Instead of looking for the program with the coolest name, start keeping track of training metrics like tonnage, total number of lifts performed, average intensity, and others that help you get a grip on how much work you’re doing and how hard it is.
Bottom Line: Volume Is The Key
Look guys, again, whether you believe in Sheiko style training, RTS style training, PTW style training, linear periodization, bodybuilding, or whatever the hell else, programming is about figuring out how you can do the most volume possible while still recovering. In the novice stage, that mostly comes down to figuring out the maximum number of days you can train and the sets/reps you do on those days. In the intermediate stage, that mostly comes down to how you organize each individual training week. In the advanced stage, that mostly comes down to how you organize each block of training throughout your cycle. You just start dealing with longer time frames to manage the fatigue.
Make no mistake about it guys; if you’re stuck, and you want to get moving again, try adding more volume instead of hopping to a different program. That’s the dirty secret that no one wants you to know: the primary job of a coach is get you to do more volume while still being able to recover.
Do more work to get more results.
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