T Nation

Stan Efferding on Training

worth the read

Over 90% of the questions Iâ??m asked at the gym or via email are about the best weight lifting routine to get huge and strong. How many sets, reps, drop sets, super sets, rest time, frequency, duration etcâ?¦?

My answer is always the same. It doesnâ??t matter You donâ??t grow in the gym, you grow at the dinner table.

Itâ??s never the training routine thatâ??s limiting growth, itâ??s always the recovery phase, eating and sleeping. The vast majority of people who want to get bigger and stronger already train hard enough to grow, they just donâ??t eat and sleep enough to grow. They carry a notebook and want to show me every rep and set of every workout and routine theyâ??ve done for the past three years, but thereâ??s not one page with a record of their meals. I feel bad for them because I know they work hard in the gym and they rarely miss a workout, but the notebook just documents all the muscle theyâ??ve broken down and has no record of what theyâ??ve been doing to build it up. I know because I did it myself. When I started college nearly 30 years ago there was no Internet and few reliable resources to find information about getting big and strong.

I started lifting two hours a day, six days a week, doing endless sets and reps of every exercise in Arnold Schwarzeneggerâ??s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I struggled to put on five pounds a year until I finally came across an experienced lifter who told me I was wasting my time with all that lifting and told me to go home and eat. By cutting my training back to an hour three days a week and hiking my calories up to over 5,000 a day, I was able to put on 20 pounds in less than a year!

In the book outliers, they speak of the 10,000 hour rule as the necessary amount of time to become an expert at any given sport. It doesnâ??t apply to bodybuilding or powerlifting. PowerBuilding is not a skill like pitching a baseball, sinking a three pointer, hitting a golf ball or even playing the piano. Those pursuits require thousands of hours of practice to perfect the motor skills necessary to become an expert. PowerBuilding is very different.

Lifting weights is not a skill (Olympic lifting not withstanding), it is simply a stimulus for size and strength, and it doesnâ??t actually build muscle, it just breaks down muscle. And lifting light weights that donâ??t force the body to adapt provide little to no stimulus at all for growth. Donâ??t get me wrong, walking around the neighborhood and doing a few curls with the pink rubber hand weights is great for your mom to stay healthy, but youâ??ll never get huge and strong doing her workout â?? I donâ??t care how many hours a day you do it!!

It really is this simple:

Lift heavy weights three times a week for an hour. Eat lots of food and sleep as much as you can.

Thatâ??s it. Thereâ??s nothing more to add. Iâ??d love to be able to just stop there and trust that the person asking the question will do exactly those two things and get huge and strong.

But, thereâ??s always a million nit picky questions to follow, the answers to which really make very little difference. People have become well informed and read everything they can about the sport, so they want to hear me confirm or negate every last theory, belief, bias, research study, proposal, hunch, testimonial and Dr. Oz episode theyâ??ve ever watched. The truth is, it doesnâ??t matter. Itâ??s always a good idea to educate yourself and keep track of your training and diet, but there is no holy grail. Using a bunch of words nobody understands and trying to explain to yourself or others every detail of the Krebs cycle has very little effect on your progress.

Iâ??m as bad as anyone about trying to learn all the latest training and nutritional information, but I understand that 99% of progress comes from those 2 simple rules: Lift heavy weights and eat and sleep a lot. Therefore, I donâ??t let myself stray from the basics and I donâ??t waste half my time chasing the 1%, I spend most of my time and effort making sure Iâ??m doing the 99% as hard and as consistent as I can. Train heavy, eat and sleep. Repeat.

What is heavy? Donâ??t over complicate the answer. If its too easy, add more weight. Repeat.

How much is enough food? If youâ??re not gaining muscle, eat more. Repeat.

Sure, if you try to lift too much weight with horrible technique, youâ??ll get hurt. Duh!

Sure, if you eat hot dogs and pizza all day, youâ??ll get fat. Duh!

Beyond that, donâ??t get caught up with all the details spewed out of the mouths of every card-carrying-weekend-online-personal-training certificate holder trying to tell you that you HAVE to keep your elbows tucked to your sides, arms perpendicular to the floor, donâ??t go past ninety degrees, slightly bend at the knees, breathe in, now breathe out, donâ??t lock out, two seconds on the way down, four seconds on the way up, 10 more, 9, 8, good, 7, 6 more, you can do it â?¦ Somebody shoot me in my â??$&@:/?? face so I donâ??t have to listen to that any more!

Likewise, donâ??t stock up on bags of shiitake mushrooms, seaweed and fish eyes because you heard Japanese people eat it and they live longer. They live longer because they have 1/10 the obesity rate of Americans so the fish eyes arenâ??t the answer, just stop being a fat ass and you wonâ??t drop from a heart attack four years before a Japanese person!

Donâ??t chase the 1%, there is no magic training routine or diet thatâ??s going to provide any measurable results over the basic principles for getting huge and strong: Train heavy, eat and sleep more.

Again, I should stop there because I donâ??t care if I piss off the wanna-beâ??s and know-it-alls we hear advising everyone who mistakenly comes within earshot of these self proclaimed experts and perennial advisers of the masses, but I know thereâ??s some very hard working and passionate lifters out there who are struggling to get better results and need just a little more to chew on so they donâ??t keep wasting endless hours in the gym and untold dollars on the latest worthless pill or potion at the store.

For them, I will peel back one more layer of this simple recipe for results, but donâ??t be disappointed when you see behind the curtain and find out the Wizard of Oz has no magic powers. Youâ??ll see itâ??s all common-sense stuff you already know and it boils down to hard work, discipline and consistency.

1 Train heavy
Hypertrophy is best achieved in the 5-10 rep range. Lift the heaviest weight you can handle for at least 5 reps and if you can lift it more than 10 times, increase the weight. Google â??Dorian Yates Workoutsâ?? to learn all about â??growth setsâ?? so you understand that maximum intensity provides the stimulus for muscles to grow, not endless reps and sets. For example, If youâ??re doing incline dumbbell presses and you do 10 reps with the 60â?²s, then ten reps with the 70â?²s, then 10 reps with the 80â?²s, then finally go to failure with seven reps plus two more assisted with the 100â?²s, you didnâ??t do four sets.

The only set that counts is the growth set. The set you put maximum effort into, the one where you failed and struggled through a couple more assisted reps. You did one set. The rest of those â??warm upâ?? sets were a waste of time and only served to put unnecessary repetitive strain on your tendons and ligaments. Just do a few reps of each lighter weight to warm up on your first exercise then even fewer warm ups on subsequent exercises. Save your energy and your joints for the sets that count, the growth sets.

2 Donâ??t sweat the small stuff
How many sets and exercises? It doesnâ??t matter. I can build an entire workout around one or two max effort growth sets and go home and grow. Volume doesnâ??t improve results, intensity does. Donâ??t train for more than an hour and donâ??t count all the warm ups. Do one or two Max effort sets of a couple multi-joint mass building exercises and go home.

Donâ??t follow up a couple sets of 400 pound bench presses with cable crossovers and donâ??t do five reps of 500lb rack lockouts for triceps then try to follow that with some cable push downs, itâ??s a monumental waste of time!! If you canâ??t grow from heavy squats, the leg extension machine ainâ??t gonna help you one bit so skip it and do the squats! And quit doing curls in the squat rack simply because the lighting is better and the mirror is full length!

3 Less can be more
How often? Three days a week is plenty. Push, pull, legs is still a great way to grow. Chest, shoulders and triceps one day, back and biceps another and then legs. The basic movements like bench and dips work all the muscle groups in the push chain so you donâ??t need a bunch of isolation exercises if any. Same is true of T-bar rows and chins for the pull chain and squats for legs.

If you are powerlifting then transition from the hypertrophy phase into the powerlifting phase about 8 weeks out from a meet and begin doing heavy doubles and triples on the powerlifting movements followed by maybe one or two sets of one or two ancillary exercises afterwards. For example, work up to two or three sets of doubles or triples on flat bench then follow that up with a heavy set or two of rack lockouts or dips and go home.

When I squatted 905 lbs raw in training, I was only squatting every OTHER week. Twice a month! I deadlifted on the alternate weeks and benched once a week. You heard correctly, I trained twice a week when I hit my 2,303 pound raw total and set the all-time world record. I would bench on Mondays and squat OR deadlift on Saturdays. Wednesdays was stretching, balance and core work. Thatâ??s it!

Itâ??s about recovery. I didnâ??t do any â??lightâ?? days, waste of time. I have no idea whatâ??s suppose to be accomplished by doing a few reps with 60% of your max. What about â??Speed work?â??. What about it? Waste of time!! If I donâ??t bench heavy on a Monday night then I sure as hell donâ??t do some really fast light reps or a bunch of push ups. I load up the incline press with 500 pounds or grab the 200-pound dumbbells and knock out as many reps as I can or behind the neck press 315 for reps. I try to take my body somewhere it hasnt been before so it will adapt and grow when I eat and sleep.

The only reason to lift weights is to stimulate a growth response. Lifting half what youâ??re capable of isnâ??t going to stimulate anything.

I really have come to believe that all these fancy machines and â??cutting edgeâ?? routines are designed BY lazy people FOR lazy people who canâ??t or donâ??t want to do the hard work necessary to get results. How many years have you been going to gyms and see the same people lifting the same weights and looking the same as they did when they started?

Donâ??t let that be you. Take your body somewhere it hasnâ??t been before then give it enough food and rest so it can adapt and Grow!!! I know itâ??s difficult to look yourself in the mirror and admit that itâ??s your own fault if youâ??re not getting results. Itâ??s not because you donâ??t know something someone else knows or havenâ??t figured out the right set and rep scheme or bought the right blend of supplements, itâ??s because you need to get back to the basics and train heavy then eat and sleep with the kind of consistency and intensity that will create results.

4Eat lots of food and sleep as much as you can

The sleep part doesnâ??t need any explanation. Donâ??t run if you can walk, donâ??t stand if you can sit and donâ??t stay awake if you can sleep. Done.

What do you eat? The answer to this question has been made more confusing and complicated by everyone trying to sell you their version of the latest greatest diet or supplement program but itâ??s not rocket science either.

Eat numerous meals a day, each one consisting of a quality animal protein source (eggs, lean red meat, fish, chicken, milk) along with some complex carbs (rice, oatmeal, bread, pasta, vegeâ??s). Itâ??s that simple.

If you insist on percentages then go with 33/33/33 for fats/protein/carbs. If youâ??re gaining too much fat, reduce the calories. If youâ??re not gaining weight, increase the calories. Easy enough.

Thereâ??s your 99%. All the other stuff combined (meal timing, ratios, supplements, high carb, low carb, no carb, high fat, low fat, Atkins, Paleo, Zone, etcâ?¦) doesnâ??t add up to 1%. Most of the time, going to one extreme or another sets you back instead of improving your results.

I told you â?? itâ??s common sense. Problem is, executing a successful plan every day, every week, every month and every year is the stumbling block. Itâ??s easy to understand, but are you doing it?

Every time Iâ??ve reached a â??plateauâ?? in my results, Iâ??ve never been able to solve the problem by implementing some new training routine or diet. Iâ??ve always had to admit to myself that I wasnâ??t executing the 99% plan. You have to be honest with yourself about wasted workouts, missed meals or a few short nights of sleep. Thatâ??s always where the problem is. So if you see me at the gym or a show, just tell me you already know what the problem is and youâ??re gonna train harder and eat and sleep better. That way we can skip all the worthless postulation about the 1% and talk about something more meaningful like your family or your business.

All my best!

[QUOTE]: In the book outliers, they speak of the 10,000 hour rule as the necessary amount of time to become an expert at any given sport. It doesnâ??t apply to bodybuilding or powerlifting. PowerBuilding is not a skill like pitching a baseball, sinking a three pointer, hitting a golf ball or even playing the piano. Those pursuits require thousands of hours of practice to perfect the motor skills necessary to become an expert. PowerBuilding is very different. Lifting weights is not a skill (Olympic lifting not withstanding), it is simply a stimulus for size and strength, and it doesnâ??t actually build muscle, it just breaks down muscle. And lifting light weights that donâ??t force the body to adapt provide little to no stimulus at all for growth [/Quote]

What the fuck?! I don’t mean to be rude but is he serious? Fair enough bodybuilding isn’t really much of a skill (posing and focussing on muscle contraction being exceptions), but powerlifting is massively influenced by skill. This hurts to read.

"Lifting light weights THAT DON’T FORCE THE BODY TO ADAPT provide little to no stimulus at all for growth"
Well if they don’t force an adaptation, of course they don’t stimulate growth (an adaptation). Why the hell would someone even bother to write this out?

Some of the later points on diet etc. aren’t that bad, but I find it hard to even begin to listen after that horrendous statement that powerlifting is not a skill. I suppose he doesn’t think writing intelligently is a skill either, hence this awful attempt at it.

Disappointing.

[quote]halcj wrote:

[QUOTE]: In the book outliers, they speak of the 10,000 hour rule as the necessary amount of time to become an expert at any given sport. It doesn�¢??t apply to bodybuilding or powerlifting. PowerBuilding is not a skill like pitching a baseball, sinking a three pointer, hitting a golf ball or even playing the piano. Those pursuits require thousands of hours of practice to perfect the motor skills necessary to become an expert. PowerBuilding is very different. Lifting weights is not a skill (Olympic lifting not withstanding), it is simply a stimulus for size and strength, and it doesn�¢??t actually build muscle, it just breaks down muscle. And lifting light weights that don�¢??t force the body to adapt provide little to no stimulus at all for growth [/Quote]

What the fuck?! I don’t mean to be rude but is he serious? Fair enough bodybuilding isn’t really much of a skill (posing and focussing on muscle contraction being exceptions), but powerlifting is massively influenced by skill. This hurts to read.

"Lifting light weights THAT DON’T FORCE THE BODY TO ADAPT provide little to no stimulus at all for growth"
Well if they don’t force an adaptation, of course they don’t stimulate growth (an adaptation). Why the hell would someone even bother to write this out?

Some of the later points on diet etc. aren’t that bad, but I find it hard to even begin to listen after that horrendous statement that powerlifting is not a skill. I suppose he doesn’t think writing intelligently is a skill either, hence this awful attempt at it.

Disappointing.[/quote]

He did not say powerlifting is not a skill in that section you quoted. He was speaking to powerbuilding, which is a different concept, and in that capacity, I agree with him. I think he has hit at a great concept here, wherein many trainees are too focused on practicing a movement rather than building strength/size (when their goal is the latter, not the former).

Whenever I find someone that is more accomplished than me on something, when they say something I disagree with, I tend to think that I am the one that is wrong, rather than the other way around. It’s honestly gone a long way in helping my training.

EDIT: Great post Osu. Has a lot of really awesome nuggets in there.

Well Stan is the man. I agree with him on keep it basic. I will say that you can lift more often when you are younger or when the weight is lighter. The main reason he does some lifts 2 times a month is because the weights are so heavy and he is older. this guy is on to something.

If diet is so simple why is he selling diet plans?

[quote]Max8950 wrote:
If diet is so simple why is he selling diet plans?
[/quote]

Good article, I know I certainly used to over-complicate my training until recently… however, bit hypocritical selling diet plans?

[quote]iamLEWIS wrote:
however, bit hypocritical selling diet plans?[/quote]

Nah, I don’t think so at all. IMO that article was mainly geared towards beginners and perhaps the more advanced who might need to be reminded about the basics from time to time. When you get to that next level and start to take things more seriously like powerlifting, bodybuilding, or whatever you do…Thats when that other “1%” can help you get and edge.

I haven’t personally heard any testimonies on Stans diet coaching, but there’s been a number of people around here it seems that praise Shelby Starnes or John Meadows for their services.

[quote]iamLEWIS wrote:

[quote]Max8950 wrote:
If diet is so simple why is he selling diet plans?
[/quote]

Good article, I know I certainly used to over-complicate my training until recently… however, bit hypocritical selling diet plans?[/quote]

Just because some thing is insanely easy to write out doesn’t mean that people are going to do the research and come up with it their selves. If some one is just a lazy fuck and refuses to think for them selves why should he not pocket some extra cash from their laziness. I mean think about it if people all were willing to devote the time and effort into learning how and doing their own land scaping then there would be no need for for professional land scapers and no one would benefit there.

If some one came to me and asked me to write out a training protocol or nutrition and I told look you can easily go online and in a few hours have a “decent idea” of basic programming and nutrition and they still insisted on me taking time out of my day to write it out you better believe they are going to pay for it.

[quote]Reed wrote:

[quote]iamLEWIS wrote:

[quote]Max8950 wrote:
If diet is so simple why is he selling diet plans?
[/quote]

Good article, I know I certainly used to over-complicate my training until recently… however, bit hypocritical selling diet plans?[/quote]

Just because some thing is insanely easy to write out doesn’t mean that people are going to do the research and come up with it their selves. If some one is just a lazy fuck and refuses to think for them selves why should he not pocket some extra cash from their laziness. I mean think about it if people all were willing to devote the time and effort into learning how and doing their own land scaping then there would be no need for for professional land scapers and no one would benefit there.

If some one came to me and asked me to write out a training protocol or nutrition and I told look you can easily go online and in a few hours have a “decent idea” of basic programming and nutrition and they still insisted on me taking time out of my day to write it out you better believe they are going to pay for it.[/quote]

See what your saying and I agree, guess it’s more me thinking I wouldn’t pay for that kind of service…I’d rather do the research myself.

But I get that some people don’t have the patience - either way, still a good article with a lot of solid points

It’s a very good article, particularly for beginners.

That said, if you’ve been lifting a long time and are at a steady weight, you aren’t realistically going to put on much more muscle. Some, yes, but I think an advanced lifter will make more strength gains from technique than anything. That can also mean teaching motor units to contract simultaneously and thus produce more force, which is absolutely a skill.

I don’t see any hypocrisy in selling diet plans. He made it very clear that food and recovery fuel growth, and he’s offering his services to assure the customer they are getting adequate nutrition and recovering optimally. There is nothing hypocritical about that unless you don’t understand what that word means.

Beginners and advanced can take a lot away from this article. Sometimes we just make things too complicated and ask too many questions instead of just going and doing it.

It is one of a few articles out there that I agree with. Reading an article like this can help anyone sift thru the BS of other articles out there when it comes to getting stronger. Just reference back to this article anytime you read something that doesn’t seem right and compare it.

I like what he is saying here: Basically - there is no easy way out. No easy way to get strong. You work, you eat, you sleep. While very simple in principle and left up to a lot of interpretation, he does give some specifics that should be adapted by anyone depending on goals. How you tweak your diet or training is based on your body’s response.

And as far as him offering services - is this somehow selling out? Not a chance if he is giving specifics of the above mentioned principles based on the client’s needs. If someone were to ask any of us advice and willing to pay, how many of you are willing to turn down money that involves very little work?

Garbage. No wonder the OP liked it.

[quote]infinite_shore wrote:
Garbage. No wonder the OP liked it.[/quote]

LOL…always fishing.

I love some of your replys. Lol! Stan has done more than anyone on this board and for longer. Pro bodybuilder. World record breaker in Powerlifting. Yes he sales diet plans, he trains athletes and smoes. Some people are just lazy and have money to burn. Stan would be stupid if he just told them. 33/33/33 more or less. Now leave me alone.

I don’t 100% agree on his speed work statement, because with newer lifters it can really help teach technique. And with intermediate lifters it can help teach new technique especially as we tweak it here and there. But I don’t think this was pointed at them. Also he has been lucky to be surrounded by some really great powerlifters so his technique has never really been a problem.

So I understand his viewpoint from his perspective. If I were training with him and his circle I may feel the same way.

Thanks for posting this article; it’s definitely good to remind yourself to stick to pounding out the basics. At the same time, your point in every thread gets tiring to me. Sure, every good program works and hard work will be the biggest factor to success. However, there’s nothing wrong with discussing the finer points and advancing your knowledge.

Hell, I couldn’t even stay healthy enough to squat 225 until I delved into some form and mobility techniques beyond the basics. If I had just stuck with the “just eat and smash 5/3/1” advice I see in every thread, I would be still at square one.

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
However, there’s nothing wrong with discussing the finer points and advancing your knowledge.[/quote]

I actually feel like there is quite a bit wrong with this based on the results I have seen on forums. I am constantly amazed at the complexity of many discussions when the outcome is a 225 squat as you mentioned, or chasing after a 315 deadlift. I have seen trainees with half hour long warm-ups that are pressing little more than the bar, and still to this day have no idea why people foam roll.

From my own experience, I use to concern myself greatly with the finer details of training, and once I stopped I found that I was making far more significant progress.

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
However, there’s nothing wrong with discussing the finer points and advancing your knowledge.[/quote]

I actually feel like there is quite a bit wrong with this based on the results I have seen on forums. I am constantly amazed at the complexity of many discussions when the outcome is a 225 squat as you mentioned, or chasing after a 315 deadlift. I have seen trainees with half hour long warm-ups that are pressing little more than the bar, and still to this day have no idea why people foam roll.

From my own experience, I use to concern myself greatly with the finer details of training, and once I stopped I found that I was making far more significant progress.
[/quote]
Really, most of us are just incompetent as coaches. I didn’t need anything fancy to get to a 225 lb squat. What keeps me healthy is just doing Joe Defranco’s warmup before every session. You don’t see that mentioned in any thread if the conversation always just boils down to eat, train, and sleep.

I now see Wendler recommends the warmup before every single session. This makes me now really limit who I listen to at all besides myself.

[quote]browndisaster wrote:
Really, most of us are just incompetent as coaches. I didn’t need anything fancy to get to a 225 lb squat. What keeps me healthy is just doing a Joe Defranco’s warmup before every session. You don’t see that mentioned in any thread if the conversation always just boils down to eat, train, and sleep.

I now see Wendler recommends the warmup before every single session. This all makes me now really limit who I listen to at all besides myself.[/quote]

You’ve got the right idea. I have found that, the more I hear an idea promoted, the less I listen to it, haha.

OP DYEL

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
and still to this day have no idea why people foam roll.
[/quote]
I started using a foam roller on my back about two months ago just to improve my arch for competition benching. But even then, I am just using it as a rounded focal point to hyperextend over to help with the arch.