T Nation

Some Insight with a Client that is Crushing it Right Now

One of the things I try to get across about studies and “science” and all of that jazz is that those things are only to serve as guidelines. They aren’t hard facts. And if you actually read through the language from most studies, they will use a lot of “may” type verbiage.

This is because it’s NOT a hard science. It’s not like with physics or math where there’s rules, and there’s outcomes that are factual based on these rules.

Lifting and nutrition offer up soft sciences. To give us a general direction. Not to tell us something factual. If you guys would really start learning this, and start experimenting with your own splits and routines and things like that, then you’d grasp that idea.

So I have a client. Natty. Has struggled for a long time to get his head right because he’s been so paralyzed by all the information.

I looked at all his programs in the past and saw that it was likely that he was training too often, too many sets, too much frequency, etc.

So I pared him back to four days a week, upper / lower split because I wanted to see what would happen.

I scaled back his volume a ton. We focused on movements that really hit him and what his goals were.

He crushed it for about 3.5 weeks. Then in the 4th week he was starting to slide a bit, then hit a wall mentally and emotionally. Just did not want to be in the gym.

As I suspected, even the reduced workload was probably too much.

So, I pared him back even more.

Three days a week. Hitting each muscle once a week.

He freaked out on me. Saying that he knows he needs to hit a muscle twice a week, blah blah blah fuck. The usual shit I constantly read all over the net from all these f’n studies blah blah blah.

But I knew intuitively what he needed.

He trusted me.

That was 6 weeks ago. He’s crushed every PR he ever had by a mile. And has put on 4 pounds and is visibly leaner.

I started this training cycle with ultra low volume, and added a set or two here and there over the weeks. But it’s still super low and where we are at now is pretty much maxed out. For example leg day is 1 set of leg ext, leg curl, leg press, and reverse banded hacks. That’s his whole leg day, done once a week. And he’s moving loads he never thought he’d be able to on the big stuff.

Guys - you have to get it out of your head that you can’t grow on “this split” or “that split” because of some fucking study. There’s no rules here. Sometimes you’re going to need more, and sometimes you’ll need less. There’s no study that is going to tell you this.

10 Likes

You’re training one of my best buds from Houston. You have him on 4 days a week upper/lower with low volume. Hes looking great even though he hates you wanting him to drop down to 200lbs lol.

He was always a 5-6 days a week guy.

LMAO has to be Robbie.

Shit! You just described me to a T. I’ve bombarded myself with so much imformation that I havent been training consistantly for months. Think I need to take a hard look at myself. You make things so simple yet do I listen? I have now!! Thanks for the insight.

I have to laugh at this, in a really positive way. I’m quite lazy. I’ve lifted weights on and off for most of my life, but I always felt I wasn’t really committed to it. I just fell into a PPL routine that was way less work than anything I had ever read or heard about. I’d try to train a bit most days, but life gets in the way, and so I’d usually be lucky to get three or four sessions a week.

My typical leg day would be one ladder of sets of weighted reverse lunges knee to the floor (skater squats) each leg and one set of hip thrusts. That’s it. Sit back down panting and watch Netflix.

Push day would be one ladder of sets of floor dumbell presses and a bunch of band tri press downs and band lateral delt raises.

Pull day is rows, slight supine grip weighted vest pull ups and rear delt trx rows.

Always just one big set to failure.

I was always surprised how I have kept improving and getting into what I consider great shape, just by doing my “half assed, lazy boy” routine.

But waddyaknow…turns out I was accidentally kind of right all along.

Again… I have to laugh.

I’m working with two local guys right now. One placed at the amateur Olympia this year.

Leg sessions are 3-4 sets max. Every single week they crush the previous weeks rep PR.

Chest sessions are literally 3 sets, sometimes 4.

Back sessions are consistently 4 sets total. That’s for lats and upperback.

Every week - rep PR’s…and the one guy who competes is already at his heaviest ever at 240 pounds. Like ever in his life. He competed this last year at 175 and now he’s already over 240 and not fat. So I’m pretty sure over the last two months he’s put on quite a bit of new lean tissue.

3 Likes

I’d say the challenge for some people is finding something else to spend their time on other than lifting, especially if they just enjoy training and being at the gym. The training you describe seems much better suited to home / garage gym training.

1 Like

No he’s at the gym.

And I trained that way most of my life. And have usually been in a gym.

I think a huge part of guys struggling is truly not understanding that more isn’t always better.

That better is better. And sometimes that means doing less than what they think.

4 Likes

Hello Paul, thank you for sharing this.
Are you going beyond failure, or just 1 set to failure?

Just to failure. We might do 1 forced rep. But that could be equated with something as simple as resting 5-10 seconds and doing some extra reps after failure.

1 Like

Haha yes Sir!!!

He told me he would kill me, but dude ate half a row of oreos one of his low carb days last week. lolol

Ill be contacting you soon for coaching, just holdiays are so bad for hospital staff…we work short all the damn time.

1 Like

I have this problem too.

ive found when i get done with my sets and i got more in the tank and feeling like i want to do more, i go push or pull the prowler around, or do some light kettlebell work. it makes me feel like ive done more. The lack of eccentric loading doesnt hamper recovery like more resistance sets would.

Hey Paul,

It sounds like this guy is fairly advanced. How do you think these methods would work for someone who’s not so far along - a beginner or intermediate? Would you have them add a hard set or 2 before the all-out failure set?

Always good hear how these principals work in real life. Keep it coming!

2 Likes

Hi Paul, care to give some more detail on that client?
Age, lifting experience and most of all „body structure“…
Thx

I have to agree and support this topic.
All my life I have been told “you must do 3x12, 5x5, 10x3 etc. And always I had to change program because I was burned out. Once I read 8-12-8 article and on PC instagram he wrote” one top set". I was sceptical but I gave a shot.
I will never ever train more than 2 working set! This was completely game changer for me.
I do upper/body training and for every movement/exercise one top set (8-12-8).
Every time I am looking forward to another session, I hit the previous PRs, I sleep better, I look better and I am done within 40 minutes. People aks me if I gained weight, I have energy, I am not broken every morning.
I could not believe that.
I was told don’t go to failure, do at least 3 working set etc. Nah, not anymore!!!

2 Likes

He’s an intermediate lifter. What makes you say he sounds like he’s advanced? Because he responded so well to lower frequency and volume?

This right here is probably the biggest pile of shit that is repeated throughout fitness.

3 Likes

Well, two reasons. First, I assume a lifter would have to be pretty far along by the time they can really benefit from professional coaching. Second, I remember a post of yours where you say beginner and intermediate lifters can tolerate more sets than advanced lifters because each set is less neurologically taxing due to the lighter loads.

“We focused on movements that really hit him and what his goals were.”

I would love to hear more on this please especially when paired down to 3 days a week

2 Likes

And the 2 other sessions (push, pull?) have also 4 exercices?