T Nation

The Internal Logic of a Program


Ok, I'm new to the T-Nation, but I couldn't think of a better place to test some of my ideas on training:

Here is the first idea I want to run past you---internal logic in a training program.

Ok, you know how when you read a science fiction novel (for those of us who do read) and there is a lot of crazy shit that happens...stuff that would never happen in our REAL world...but you just sort of accept it anyway, as a part of the story. Well, for those of us who have taken any writing classes, that's called making the reader suspend disbelief.

Basically you get the guy reading your book to accept that space vampires or zombies or whatever are real because it makes sense in the book. You, as the writer, make up rules and laws that govern the fictional characters that the reader can understand and so the story, although it is make believe, makes sense. It has an INTERNAL logic to it. It's all still bullshit, but it's the kind of bullshit that makes sense.

For those of you who have spent any great amount of time reading different lifting plans, you are familiar with the feeling that what you are reading is complete bullshit, but it still makes sense. And most amazing of all, some of these "bullshit" workouts actually get results for people. So, why is this? I say it is INTERNAL LOGIC.

We know the basics of growth are actually pretty simple: Persistant and escalating force. If you consistantly force your body to do more work, it will grow. That is really all weight training in a nutshell. So any plan, no matter how crazy sounding, that forces regular and increasing work loads will give results.

This is why BOTH HIT training and HVT work for people. If I do a shit load of weight for just a few reps, but I go up in weight each week, then I'm doing more work, so I'm getting more growth. If I do a shit load of volume, but I do more and more volume every week, I'm getting more growth.

So no matter how much HIT Jedi and HVT advocates argue each other into the ground, both will continue to see growth as long as they are capable of increasing work. HOW they increase work is the INTERNAL LOGIC of their workout. For HIT workouts it comes in the form of increased load. In HVT workouts it comes in the form of increased volume.

This is, however, the same reason every workout starts to fail, eventually. There comes a time in every workout program where output starts to fail, where WORK can no longer be increased consistantly. It is at those times that the workout needs to be rethought. Failing to grow on a HIT routine after doing it for months and months is not a sign that HIT routines ultimately don't work.

It is a sign that you are having trouble in the basic principle of all weight lifting, the ability to do more work. Get back to principles, find a new workout that will allow you to consistantly do more work, and soldier on. That's all there is to it. You don't need endless articles analyzing how this WAY is the right way in bodybuilding, or this workout is the best workout....or even this exercise is the best exercise.

The best workout is the one you can work harder at. The best exercise is the one you can go up in. That is all. That is fundamental.


Likes this


Great post.


Nice post! A kind of “Dinosaur training” for Bodybuilders


The reason I put this post up is because I was hoping I could get my head together with a few other of you and maybe compare a few lifting programs and try and take apart how those programs create progressive work.

I kind of briefly touched on this by pointing out how HIT training relies on increases in weight to create progressive work, and how HVT training relies on increases in volume to create progressive work…but what about other programs? What are their internal logic.

What about balistic training? The explosiveness is obviously the key, but can we come up with a better way to quantify the amount of work is getting done in a balistic movement? If we can quantify it, then we can single out the “work” element and better understand how to make it progressive.

Another issue I’d like to bring into the light of progression is how catabolism plays into the process. Obviously, taking progressive work as the basis of all weight training leaves us with the problem that all progression eventually stalls as the weight lifter reaches their own genetic limits or as catabolism outraces anabolism. (It is worth noting that catabolism is a necessary part of the muscle building process. We so often talk about wanting to create an anabolic environment in the body that we forget that a catabolic environment is the necessary pre-cursor to an anabolic environment. Catabolism is nothing to be afraid of, except when we outpace our genetic potential to recover with our training. Then we fall into the very definition of overtraining.)

My mind is kind of racing today, so I think I’ll end this post now, but I hope it gives an idea of what I want to do with this thread. I am really interested in doing some deep analysis of different programs to get at the heart of “progression” in each of them and try to give a real quantification of that progression to make the program easier to engineer and in theory, easier to squeeze all the juice out of the routine that we can.


I want to see where this is going. I don’t think this is entirely flushed out, but I always like thought provoking analysis.


Hahaha…I sure hope this isn’t flushed out. If I didn’t have anything to learn I wouldn’t be posting here. I’m looking for people to help me flush these ideas out.

The problem is that what I’m talking about is so basic, it is hard to really get in an provide useful analysis. I mean, have you ever tried to explain a really simple concept to someone who doesn’t understand it, and then find yourself at a loss for words. For example, what if someone asked you to explain what “funny” is? You probably wouldn’t know what to say. I mean, your first instinct would probably be to try and give examples of funny things to help explain what “funny” is generally. The same thing is true here. I’m talking about creating real, working definitions of “progression” and “effort” that are easier to quantify, so the first step seems to me to be looking at workout that we do and trying to pinpoint a quantifiable element of effort progression in them.

This may seem way to simple for some. I can imagine someone coming at me and saying, “Well, isn’t that why we have weights. I mean, if I lift 225 on the bench for five reps this week, and then I lift 250 on the bench for five reps next week, that is progressive effort, right? To easy. Nothing to really say here.” I want to say that it might not be that simple. For example, I might ask, were your rest times consistant both weeks? Maybe increased rest one week is what allowed you to improve your bench, but does that mean your body actually did more work with the increase in weight, or are you just now lifting to your potential? Were you unknowingly taking it easy the week before, and if so, did you really progress in effort? Is it possible to imagine going up in weight but not really growing?

Now, what about a program like EDT (Escalating Density Training)? This is one of the few programs I’ve seen that tries to be really percise about effort, and it does so by counting good, clean repetitions performed over a period of time. Say you are going to give yourself 5 min. to do as many concentration curls as possible with a 50lbs dumbbell. You can take a break whenever you want for a few seconds in that 5 min. if you have to, but just keep pumping out reps until the 5 min. are up. Ok, maybe you do 20 reps this week. Next week you keep the same weight, but try to get more reps in with the same amount of time allowed. As long as the reps stay clean, if you do 25 reps this time, you have to have done more work. You know you have progressed in effort, so your body has no choice but to grow. Keep this weight and try to increase reps each week until you don’t see anymore growth, then you bump up the weight and start it again. If you still don’t see any growth, you take a few days off, because your catabolism as surpased your anabolism and you are overtraining.

That’s a pretty good system for really quantifying progressive effort in a precise way. But does that mean we have to all take up EDT programs and forget the rest? I hope not. Variety is the spice of life, but if we can be percise with EDT, why not develop more precision in HIT programs or HVT programs? What can we do to lower the variables that might be standing in the way of really exact progressive effort? How can we make this more of a science?


I think I see where this is going, but I also see you have a huge problem. Variables/Measurement Criteria. These need to be identified and accounted for.

Variables/Measurement Criteria listed so far:

Total Time
Total Work

Clearly there are more than eight key Variables/Measurement Criteria, let alone all Variables/Measurement Criteria. This is a much more complex system for analyses of different workouts than we may have the time and/or capacity to develop as a workable model.


@ xenophon

I see where you are going, trying to suggest that perhaps the complexity of the system is greater than our ability to measure it, but I tend to think you are over stating that case.

Weight needs to be tracked, but many of the other variables don’t need to be directly tracked for our purposes.

For example, if I track my weight, drop the use of repetitions and instead track my “time under load” while performing repetions, record my rest time and my total time, progression and effort should take care of themselves for the most part. That is really only about four, easily recordable variables. “Progressive effort” can be accounted for by any increase in weight or TUL (time under load) from workout to workout, as an increase in either of these factors guarantees that I worked harder than my last workout, and so I’ve progressed. Goals might be a debatable point, but I generally assume that most bodybuilders have the goal of getting a huge as genetically possible in as little time as possible. So, that’s kind of what I’m working with as a global “goal” class that limits the range of variables I’m interested in.

The point of this thread of course has been an attempt to encourage others to help me figure out how we can in fact reduce a complex biological system down to a serious of simple factors which we can test more easily in the gym, the “body scientist’s” equvalent of a lab. I think bodybuilding needs to be modeled after a science to make sense.


Any ideas for measurement formulae? This might work as a variable criteria minimization system.

Is it something along the lines of:


WOV = {[(LTU) + (LTU) + (LTU) + (LTU) + (L*TU)]/BW}/TT

EXV - Exercise Value, L - Load, TU - Time Under, BW - Bodyweight, WOV - Workout Value, TT - Total Time.


I like the direction you are going xenophon, although I think I might try the equation a little differently:

Let’s try

EXVx = Exercise Value
L = Load (in lbs.)
TU = Time Under Load
BW = Bodyweight
R = Rest Time (in seconds)
T = Total Time (in seconds) [This might get a little crazy, so we might have to convert back and forth between minutes and seconds.]
WOV = Workout value

For a particular exercise value, let’s try EXV=(L+BW)*TU. The reasoning behind this choice is because by adding Load and Bodyweight together, we can create an equation that works for both bodyweight exercises and load bearing exercises. We multiply L+BW by TU because this gives us a good numerical sense of how much work is being done in the particular exercise. For example, if a 190lbs bodybuilder squats 225lbs for 30 seconds of continuous repetitions under load, then the exercise value would be 12450. We might try arbitrarily dividing this sum by 1000, in order to create a more managable value to record: 12.45.

The reduction of rest time is definitely a way to increase the work value of a routine, but it isn’t clear how to work the factor into the equation smoothly, so I think it is best to add it as a general increasing factor.

This is what I’m thinking - WOV = EXV1+EXV2+EXV3+EXV4+[(T-R)/10]

This eqution should give us a reliable number to judge increases in work for a routine because any increase in the agreed upon “effort factors” we’ve identified with result in an understandable change in the WOV. Over a month or so, we should easily be able to chart progress this way, avoiding as much as possible uncontrolable factors.

Let’s see it in action: 180lbs bodybuilder squats 225lbs for 30 secs. EXV1=12.15
The same bodybuilder deadlifts 300lbs for 30 secs. EXV2=14.4
He rests 60 secs between the two lifts, so total workout time is 2 min, but 1 min of it is rest time, so we only get an increase factor of 3. Total workout value would be 29.55. It should be easy to see that if we increase the Load, bodyweight, time under load, or decrease rest time, we should get predictable increases in the workout value. With these equations, it would be easy to record values week to week and convert these values to a simple point graph over time that will then show us a “progressive effort curve” for the individual working out.

Yes, with the right equations, we could go a long way toward better representing what is going on in each workout over time.


You lot are making me cry LOL

Your 1st post had it down to a tee, now your just WWWAAYYYYY overdoing it.


Try High Volume search CT’s articles
Try Power Lifting Training ala Westside for Skinny Bastards <- One of the best programs around

See which one of above works better for you, are you a volume guy or a low rep guy. There will be some who like BOTH but they are RARE.

Once you figure that out, then play around with said program, DONT CHANGE PROGRAM CONSTANTLY as you will never know what actually worked if your completely re-modelling every few weeks.

If it stops working, then go to your training log, see which exercises have stalled out. Apply the Set Principles to said exercise outlined below. If exercise still wont budge then find a similar one to it and start that.

Do for 10-20 years.

Congratulation’s you now are an advanced lifter, you know what works for you and what doesn’t, programs are basically useless to you and you should be fricken massive and your numbers should be stratospheric.

Unfortunately if your 90% of the gym going population, you stopped a program due to thinking you found a better one, when in fact THERE IS NO perfect program, program provides the ingredients, YOU the chef make the cake to suit you perfectly.

FOR A SET: 3 variables

Add more weight to bar for set
Add more reps to set
Take away or add X amount of seconds off/to rest time to set


On the strength of your first post I predict a bright future for you on the TESTOSTERONE forums.


@ 300andabove

Hahaha…yeah, looking back at my equations I’ve definitely set up a real headache situation=) That must be the scientist in me coming out. That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily endorse working out with that much calculation all the time. Doing that kind of careful charting from time to time can be useful for scientific purposes though. I mean, if you’ve never experienced the true glory that is a long term time versus work graph, it is a thing of beauty. That being said, I still stand by my first post. Simplicity is the foundation.

@ Buff Sax Dude

Thanks for the support. I spend a lot of time at work and live a generally stressed lifestyle. It is nice to have a place like the TESTOSTERONE forums to meet with people with similar goals and interests as myself. I live for these discussions.


The less you think about trying to develop a perfect training program, the more progress you will make.


Finding the right way to train your body is an art, not a science. It never will be, stop trying to make a cake out of dog shit.


I remember this story about a guy at the Pentagon who used to do game theory. He had this giant wall full of equations to analyze different situations. Visitor asks him if it works, he replies that it works pretty well but only for him and it took about ten years to get it right.

I think the subjective nature of this set of analytical tools may work, but will have to be tweaked to the individual with some disclaimers to genetics and nutrition among other factors. This tool could work for you, but ten years of tweaking may be required.

Over a few years of trial and error some general guidelines could be set, but I fear we may need a mathematician or physicist specializing in analyzing complex systems. Anybody who doesn’t believe the human body is an extremely complex system (or a few thousand) is an idiot. 300andabove may have the best template for testing how to tweak the system. His idea to pick a program and do it is valid. His idea to frequently change after appropriate periods of time is valid.

I think the big problem is how people like to perceive their training through what might seem almost Myers-Briggs in a split. One type prefer to think in a more mathematical and another type none-mathematically. Some people may take um-bridge with that but it’s really hard for some people not to want to use some sort of math or equation to solve a problem, while others don’t see it as important at all, if not down right inappropriate.