Thib's 10 Principles

1. Do the least amount of work to get solid results. When in doubt, do less, but harder.

2. Build strength on the big basic lifts. This doesn’t mean maximum singles, strength is best built with 3-6 reps/set.

3. Carry weights. Various forms of loaded carries and sled work should be a significant portion of your plan. Both short/heavy and long/lighter carries.

4. Emphasize the neck, traps, forearms and core. Being thick and strong in those areas is what will give you that powerhouse look. The grunt/power look is not about having the best shoulder-to-waist ratio, round muscle bellies and separated arms It’s about looking like a block of concrete.

5. Get in great physical condition. You should be able to stay relentless for some time, not fizzle out after 20 seconds of hard effort.

6. Do something athletic in your program. Jump, throw, sprint or do complex movement skills. The goal is not just to build a physically intimidating physique, but one that (to quote Mark Rippetoe) is “more useful in general”.

7. Work on your limitations. In what physical area(s) do you suck? Mobility? Endurance? Movement control? You must not accept sucking at anything. While I don’t want you to become a marathon runner or a Cirque du Soleil artist, you should be able to do any basic thing at an acceptable level.

8. When you put something In, you take something out. This goes back to point #1. Every time you add some more training or conditioning stuff in a training day, you must take something out. We love training, it’s easy for us to just add more and more stuff. But it quickly becomes more problematic than helpful.

9. Learn the difference between training to stimulate, training to maintain and training to recover. When you want to change your body, you must train very hard. It must be challenging and even suck to some extent. But you can’t always train that way. Lower effort work can be useful to give your body a break without losing your gainz and to resensitize your body to the training stimulus once it becomes non-responsive. Training exclusively in Beast Mode might sound good on social media but it’s the best way to progress fast for 5-6 weeks and then stop progressing almost forever.

10. For every workout have a skeleton plan. The skeleton plan is the bare minimum you can do and still get gains/improvements from that session. It can be as little as one exercise, but more likely 2 or maybe 3. If you “don’t have it” on one day, make a deal for yourself: only do the skeleton workout but do it as if your life depended on it.


Thank you for sharing this

So many people could do with number 1. I see far too many people pounding themselves doing 5-6 days a week making little progress or regressing and somehow thinking they need to add another chest exercise.

The PT in the local gym I go to has a guy I know doing 3 dropsets on each of his 4 sets (16 total sets per movement) of incline chest press, bench press, and dips all in the same week. 48 total sets and then he does some decline + accessory afterward, all when he can’t even bench 80kg yet. At least the PT will be able to earn some more money off him when he gets to use that sports massage certificate.

The smallest amount of work to elicit the biggest response, always.

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“Chase performance, not fatigue’” is one that’s been burned in my head ever since you said it.

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Thanks for this. Like most pieces of wisdom, it’s stuff we already know but for some reason we need to be constantly reminded of. It’s surprising that with years of training under my belt, I somehow still break these rules more often than I’d like to admit.


I feel like nr 8 is the worst one. As 2A type I won’t to do everything at once :slight_smile:
But generally what is Your opinion about this? For example, I want to learn Handstand before my 40’s and I started to do 4-5 times 20 minute morning sessions a week with some handstand practice.
Should I decrease other shoulder work in my training? I’m doing a lift specific plan and I decreased isolation work for delts but one overhead pressing day I plan to keep handstand pressing exercise for 4 sets of 4-6 reps to help with the skill development. Will it be fine?


Recent poster, long time reader (two decades already?) of your columns. On a personal note, much enjoyed your books especially your Black Book of Secrets (although also the more academic ones). I got good results from your Optimized Volume program, and still use your Big Kahuna and contrast methods frequently. I have always stayed natural and also appreciate your columns on the limitations this involves (which few columnists and coaches even acknowledge).

Your principles are solid and like everything in lifting, ephemeral. It is not always clear to me what the least amount of work to get solid results is. (I am probably unobservant, but the results seem to show up all at once during the deloading week after four weeks of experiments.). So I vary things up each month - highlighting more useful exercises, volume, high repetition of moderate weight, some long-neglected exercise, playing with bands and grips and width and starting heights and “foot wedges”, focusing on abs or sprinting or any number of other variables. Sometimes it likely is too much.

But still making real progress after doing it for twenty years. Strength is best built on 3-6 reps, maybe lower (1-5? Even 1-2?) for deadlifts. I still enjoy going for the 95% singles though, despite getting older. As a concession to aging (thanks, TC) do this less often - still never had a bad injury. Still not able to avoid some ego lifting or trying to break old records either. And though I do the full range of motion I do the partials too. Any thoughts on the Central Governor Theory suggesting these help?

Overhead and hex bar carries have been a real game changer for me. I should use the Prowler more than I do. I like tiptoe and suitcase carries less but they have their place.

I always found forearms the toughest group to increase despite achieving decent numbers in most exercises. Carries work as well as anything. Overhead work, including Olympic lifts and ample use of the once decried Smith Machine have been helpful for my traps and shoulders. I love Cubans and the shoulder complexes in your books.

Since most things have their place, I tend to do low priority exercises infrequently rather than taking them out altogether. Sprinting has been helpful to me, I see it as compatible with my twitch ratio and lifting goals.

Though I respect your opinion enormously and have benefitted a lot from your programs, a few quibbles, offered with respect.

  1. Our gym has a rope climbing machine, and it is awesome. I would love to see more on rope climbing - old school, big results. Do many gyms now have a climbing simulator? Do any still have the old but awesome Jacobs Ladders?

  2. The old “ectomorph/endomorph” spectrum for deficits seems really dated to me. I was a skinny kid with small bones. I put on seventy pounds, mostly muscle, with twenty years of dedicated natural lifting. I look big but my wrists and ankles are pretty small. So I find this classification simplistic.

  3. I learned a lot from doing CrossFit. I incorporate more gymnastics, plyometrics, jumping and balance into my exercises. It pushed me to my limits many times. I just wish they would not tempt injury by combining volume with focus on speed with very challenging exercises so often. Any change in your thinking on CrossFit? If nothing else, there is big benefit from its variety, skills and supportive limit pushing. Do you do any yoga, dancing or atypical things to challenge your personal limits?

  4. Any advice for stubborn forearms? Rowing? More Prowler? Since neck machines are no more and harnesses rarely seen, what do you recommend for the neck? I have had good results with overhead work without specifically targeting the neck. But how would you?

  5. I can tell on the first lift if it is going to be a good day or a day to do sprinting or longer cardio instead. It’s a useful instinct.

  6. Again, thoughts on the Central Governor Theory? As you know, it implies getting used to bigger weights in partials helps remove psychological (but perhaps not myostatin) barriers to lifting bigger weights in general - also why one should splint fast (80%+).

On a personal level, I would like to thank Coach Thibs once again for your role in my success, decades of innovative thinking, contrarian views proven true with time, service to lifters worldwide and your eloquent and witty columns. Many, many thanks. (And I have always thought their were strong Frenchmen? Where did this Frenchman Barrier thing come from anyway?). Joking. Apologize for cramming years of thoughts into a concise message.

@DoesTheHeavyLifting Tim Noakes, a noted running guru, has also postulated this is valid in the case of endurance running. Essentially it acts as a brake to excess levels of effort in distance running. And is as important as aerobic fitness.
So it is a serious concept not limited to strength sports.
However I am not aware anyone has ever specifically identied its source or a way to modify it. It cant be measured like heart rate for example.
There is an implication (I think) that people who make good improvements in their sport must by definition be nudging up the threshold of the Governor. Therefore there is no categorical training method to improve it, just what is good training practise for a given sport.

Sprinting at 80% max speed is not sprinting - you need to be well over 90% to truly work on that
level of muscle fibre recruitment and fast twitch muscle development.
Which implies that in a strength sport heavy weight low rep, quality work will have the same benefit.
Whether high quality work is improving muscle fibre recruitment/fast twitch muscles (CNS development ?) and/or the Central Governor is an interesting point. Are they 2 sides of the same coin …
I note that @Christian_Thibaudeau knows a lot more of the biological internals than me.

BTW here is an example article on the CGT Mind over Matter? The Central Governor Theory Explained

It’s something that I use a lot, based on the method called “Neurological carryover method” from Paul Anderson

Essentially start a training cycle with your “goal weight” on a lift but doing partial movements and every 2-3 weeks you increase the range of motion by around 1" while keeping the same weight.

My head coach, Tom Sheppard (who also writes for T-nation), is currently using it for his “shirted” bench press. So far so good. He uses board presses and go down by 1 board every 3 weeks. He started out at 320 kg for max reps with a 5 boards press and is now down to the same 320kg on the 2 boards.

Thanks for the replies.

I am no longer a sprinter. Perhaps when I was younger I could motor without worrying about injury. I “sprint” mainly in a commercial gym on a step machine, for between five and sixty seconds (but also on a track, likely 80-90%, which is also not sprinting).

Since this is not sprinting, I go by METs, knowing the machine is likely inaccurate - trying to get above 30 METs on all five sprints and occasionally getting into the 40s. I do not know how that corresponds to percentage effort - am trying to work hard without hurting my aging hamstrings. Since I do not like long cardio it is an efficient alternative some of the time (you still have to do it once in a while).