How many times have you been told to sleep more?
...and how many times did you actually do it? I did and it was worth it.
I have been working out for the past three years. Even though the frequency and intensity varied, I was always doing something (One leg squats and push ups, when I was on vacation).
At this point I would like to add that I am a real bookworm. I read everything from Arthur Jones and Ellington Darden to Arthur Saxon and about half the books, and e-books from the all the coaches on T-Nation, plus my personal favourite, when it comes to getting strong, Pavel Tsatsouline. As a young guy I was running from routine to routine. Starting with Forced Reps, Pre-Fatigue, Negatives and every possible HIT technique, trying Wendler's 5-3-1, T-Nation's I,Bodybuilder and even a daily/full body workout I got from men's health.
Of course nothing worked. Plus, it is pretty difficult to measure your progress, when you bench one week and do max-rep push ups the next one.
I had to change something and this time. I did not look for a new fancy program. I decided to make my own. Of course it is heavily influenced by Tsatsouline's ideas about tension the beautifully illustrated strength curves in Chad Waterbury's and Christian Thibeaudau's (I really hope I spelled that correctly) and Jim Wendler's system of low reps (even though almost everybody seems to recommend low reps these days) and many more.
Here is what I came up with, that finally works for ME.
1. rest MORE (seriously increasing my sleep to 7 hours a night worked wonders and this late night TV show bores you anyway)
2. rest between sets
I know shorter workouts and more workload in less time seem like a winner but I feel like the get in and get out mentality made me lean without making me strong. Think about it. No rest between sets for twenty minutes keeps your heart pumping for twenty minutes. That is cardio, not lifting.
3. select a few exercises
Learn an exercise properly. Then do it.
I was one of the guys benching (!) from swiss balls and abusing cables for all the wrong things. There are basic exercises and you can use them.
4. do no more then five reps
I lose focus and I do not use enough weight, when I go above this number. Additionally, my form becomes really sloppy, every time I go for more reps. You just do not rock back and forth to get that next rep, when you stop at five anyways.
5. do NOT go to failure.
Yes, this is a bold statement coming from such an inexperienced guy like me but frankly. It just did not help. Failure means fatigue causes you to NOT complete the next rep. The muscle will be to tired to perform and not to weak. You can jog to failure! Nobody will tell you to jog to get strong.
6. stick with it
It does not even matter what you do. Just move. Do it for more then a week and then complain because you did not add the 18 pounds of muscle "The NEW HIT" promised.
Using these principles I made this little program for myself. I am a track athlete and for me performance is king. I did add some muscle already but the main thing I am excited about is my new strenght boost. (Being completely honest I am not even sure I added new muscles, but my Long Jump increasing a foot (!) seems pretty cool)
Here is my plan for the first three weeks:
I thought it is important to start at the core and selected these three exercises.
A) Suitcase Deadlift with Barbell
It hits the obliques and teaches you to stabilize/lock your core.
B) Lying Leg Raise with weight plate on shins
This one was able to challenge my abs in five reps and less. Plus the hip flexors come in to play like they would in my approach to the board (Long Jump).
C) Dumbell Clean & Jerk
A nice full body move working everything. Plus there is something about lifting explosivery to your shoulder and then hauling a heavy weight over your head.
The first week I struggled with balancing the barbell in the Suitcase Deadlift. Plus my knees started to hurt. I then decided to do it from pins just above knee level and it worked for my knees.
I would do these three moves three days in a row. Focusing on each one a day. Which means I would put the Suitcase Deadlift first one day, then the Leg Raise and the third day I would try to be as strong as possible in the clean &jerk. After that I would take a day off and test my max deadlift the day after that. I would practice the lifts with lighter weights after that and then do a heavy workout the next day. Because this last paragraph sounds confusing I will show you the schedule in a week.
Mon - Workout (Focus Suitcase Deadlift)
Tue - Workout (Focus Leg Raise)
Wed - Workout (Focus Clean & Jerk)
Thu - Off
Fri - Test Deadlift Max & light workout
Sat - Work HARD (Every Lift)
Sun - Off
This way I added 10kg/22lb to my Deadlift in two Weeks (first week 3kg, the next week 7kg), add a foot to my jump and my core feels stronger when I land (yes, the landing is an important part of the jump as well)
Oh, and about nutrition, I decided not to care after the Warrior Diet, Cleanses and frequent eating did really not make that much of a difference to me. I decided to care about food the day I Deadlift three times my Bodyweight. At the time being (thanks to the added 22 pounds) I am flirting with a double bodyweight Deadlift.