T Nation

Questions and Answers.


Hi everybody.

As you are all aware i have been posting in my own thread for a few months now, occaisonally posting a question or a 'new' insight and usually getting valuable and intelligent feedback.

As i move on i find that i am throwing up more questions, some i can research by going through the search mode, some i have to go to our medical librrary for when it gets technical.

I was thinking : just an experiment , but maybe to have a thread running within the over 35s where anyone can ask a question and call on the experience and expertise here.

Now i don't want this to be 'my' thread rather it's a Q&A within the forum.

What do you all think. ??


Great idea!


Sounds good to me.


Ok..fast response there guys.

So..fingers on buttons for 5 ..

Only joking.

Anyway my first question.

One article i read recently talked about simplifying workouts (Dan John) and i believe quoted something like ' 80 %' of the training effect can be had from just 20% of the movements '--i think referring to the squat, deadlift and bench press (or variants thereof).

Any opinions on this ?


You have to be realistic about the type of training you are doing and what you want to achieve. The majority of people may benefit from simplifying their workouts.


This thread is a good idea, Nurse. I've had so many bad experiences with "experts" that the best source of info would be people who struggled for years to find what works and what's BS.

For our first question . . . barbell exercises such as squat, deadlift, bench are the "industrial strength" movements. if you want to cut back and simplify workouts, a handful of these movements will do you a world of good. Assuming you do them right - correct form, sufficient sets, enough recovery.

Complex movements such as squats or chinups affect more of the body than isolation exercises - arm curls, calf raises, etc.


This 80/20 is the Pareto Principle, named after an economist.

I heard it at a CaliforniaStrength (p.s. Cav, it's in San Ramon) OL seminar, where their philosophy is that the Snatch, Clean & Jerk, & (back)Squat will give athletes 80% of the required physical attributes required for successful athletic (sports, not just lifting) performance.

edit to add: they train all their athletes this way, including NFL types


Dan comes from an Athletics (Track and Field), Oly lifting, and Highland Games background. As far as the lifting requirements for these sports he may be near the mark. As far far as bodybuiding and other sports, no.


Mmm..hadn't really thought about the pure bodybuilding angle, perhaps because bbing is something that doesn't hold any appeal and is something i can't ever imagine wanting to do--no disrespect intended.

Perhaps i should slightly re define the question then as : for a beginner and/or getting a solid strength foundation would the 80/20 rule apply--and if not then what other exercises would be regarded as essential.

Context here is limited training time available, a desire for simplicity and maximum 'bang' for buck !


You never know, Nurse, once you lean up and build some muscle, anything is possible . . .

Anyway, for a solid strength foundation, the powerlifting and oly lifting can't be beat. Even if you're thinking of bodybuilding, same thing - gotta build muscle first.

Caveats on oly lifting: trying to find a place with the equipment (bumper plates, lifting platform). Trying to find someone to teach you. It's easier to do powerlifting (sans clouds of chalk) at almost any gym.

In other words, the winning exercises are:
back squat
clean & jerk
bench press
barbell row
overhead press

Chins and/or dips may be a problem for beginners. Assistance machines don't really seem to help. Suggest negative (lowering) only.


I use Iron Woody's assisted pull-up bands. Pull-ups are still hard as hell when I first started doing them.


whenever i set up a training cycle everything i do has a very specific purpose. I have people PM me all the time asking me to look over their plans and the first thing i do is ask why each lift is in there. If it doesn't have a very specific purpose then it's not needed.

My training is fairly basic. I have lifts that make me stronger, lifts that target weak points and then i do complexes or circuits for hypertrophy and conditioning. The really only tricky part is all of the trial and error that goes into finding movements that actually make me stronger.

Not sure if that answered your question but that's my 2 cents.


This is experience in a bottle right here.

I'm not smart enough to have written that, but I'm glad I'm finally smart enough to understand how much meat there is in those two short sentences.


Well, the question was pretty generic: "beginner", "getting strength", "limited time". On that basis, I selected basic movements for whole body. Once weaknesses are identified, then we can work out more specific programs.


Thanks--no the original answer is sound, confirms the importance 'from experience' that the big compound lifts are the ones to hit, what i have been missing out on is the rows and overhead presses and they sound like ones to tuck in the routine somewhere.

Also makes me think that the next learning sessions will be a beginning on the olympic lifts.

Meat--that is a stunningly wise observation and has really set me to thinking--was chewing that one all the way home from the gym--almost a 'zen' answer.

First and most important thing to come out of what you and cav are saying is to start working out where the worst weaknesses are and start working on them.


Not to be contrary, but in an effort to trim down extraneous stuff don't get too carried away with it like I have in the past and just do the big 3 + OH press and chins.

Too limited a selection of exercises can mean missing the smaller muscles and possibly lead to injuries down the line, so make sure you have enough exercises in your repertoire to balance horizontal and vertical push and pull for example.


I was a Waterbury Fanboy for several years. Did nothing but big, basic, compound movements...believed it when Chad told my I didn't have to do curls to get big arms...have since re-considered.

One problem I face as I get older is motivation...one thing I do to stay motivated is keep it simple. I squat, deadlift and bench. I find some variation of these 3 will provide me with pretty much everything I need in a workout. BUT...facing motivation problems more and more I've gone back to doing exercises I LIKE to do..curls, french presses...flies...I cranak up some 80's hair metal and pretend I'm back in the high school gym lifting for football season!

I've realized I probably won't ever deadlift 500 pounds or hit 10% bodyfat...I keep my movements/workouts simple to make sure I get to the gym everyday and enjoy what I do there.


Poliquin's principle of structural balance comes into play here.


Sorry..lost me there mrs snaps !!


Do you think there is a 'ranking' of essential other lifts that must be used to balance up a workout--not say 'every day' but overall ??