T Nation

THIB'S THOUGHTS: Stimulus Addiction


[center][b]Stimulus Addiction[/b][/center]
I'll tell you something weird. Every time I go to Colorado to work on a project at Biotest HQ I end up experiencing formidable gains over a 3-4 week period, gains far exceeding anything I achieve at home.

To give you an example, last time I went to Colorado I started out with a 385 pound bench press from pins and a 275 pound snatch-grip high pull. Three weeks later I was doing 425 and 396.



Nutrition and supplement-wise I didn't do anything different. The only difference is that I took a bit more Mag-10 because it was pre-mixed in the fridge.

The only big difference was the amount of training I did: I trained a lot LESS while in Colorado.

To be more specific, I did a lot less volume and spent less time in the gym, but I trained with the same frequency.

You see, at home I train with my best friend. We're both very competitive when it comes to doing more work than the other. We both were athletes who were short on talent and had to work extra hard all the time. We tend to pride ourselves in doing more work than everyone else.

This is an illogical way of looking at training and it's counterproductive. Because of that mindset, we keep on training way past where we should have ended the workout.

We don't want to look weak to the other and I don't want him to leave the gym unhappy because I "cut the workout short."


In Colorado I do my own thing and do not do "waste-volume."

At home I have the habit of training for about 90 minutes; in Colorado I train on average between 35 and 40 minutes.

Not only that, but because of the high amount of work I impose on my body, I don't have that extra edge that allows me to push maximal effort to its highest level. Because of the amount of work I do at home, my "max effort" really is a 92-95% effort. In Colorado, a max effort is a 100% effort.

At home I do too much of the wrong things, but not enough of the right things.

Be a Results Addict

I see that pattern a lot among those who are passionate about training: they become stimulus addicts. They take pride not in their results, but in the amount of work they do.

But sometimes it is the amount of work they're doing that's limiting their progress.

From now on, I will be a result addict, not a stimulus addict.

Heck, if training for 35 minutes gets me stronger and bigger than training for 90 minutes, why waste time and energy? Sure, training is fun, but improvement is even more fun.


Great post CT.I need to read this before my lifts every night.so much truth to it.Thanks.


I am not the expert here, but couldn't your gains be the supercompensation from periodizing your volume down after doing the higher volume? What you describe sounds very similar to what I read from some WL coaches about "tapering" for a meet.

I completely agree with your main point - don't keep a training session going unless you have very specific reason for each additional rep. But in a way, the low volume for better gains might really come after high volume with lesser gains?


I think I'm more impressed by the fact that traveling like that doesn't wear you out (or at least doesn't appear to.) On your categories of 'Types of Activators' I'd fall in to the group that if I traveled across country as much as you do I'd never make any gains, it takes so much out of me for up to a week (but that's what we have Spike for right? :wink:


I obviously considered that fact. However, most of the gains occur the 3rd or 4th week. If surcompensation was the main fact, gains would be faster in the 1st and 2nd weeks.


Well, the first day I arrive in Colorado is always an adjustment day. Light training just to get the kinks out. Then it takes about 2 more days to get used to the altitude. But by the 4th day I'm in optimal condition.


Have you also noticed increases in size?


That was actually the biggest difference! Last trip I came in at 217 and was 231 by week 4!!!

Then got back to my old habits and my weight came down... I didn't pay attention to it because my main goal was to get very lean. But it turns out that I might have lost some muscle mass by doing too much.

And the worst thing is that when I design training programs for others they all have amazing progress... but that's because I'm not excessive when I plan THEIR workouts and I stay objective. From now on I vouch to design my programs the say way I design those I provide to others :slightly_smiling:


You probably don't want to do this, but training on your own would be the easiest option if you're purely interested in positive physical gains. Of course, I'm sure there's some positive mental gains from the time spend with your friend & training partner.


@CT: I've done this myself recently ...most of my sessions are 25-30 minutes & it's a fast workout pace...if I rest too long I actually perform worse....I set some personal guidelines for myself as well.....if the speed of a movement slows with a given weight it's my last rep...I error on the side of going to light on Ramp maxes & let my clusters regulate an increase in weight....I've thought about getting rid off all assistance except, DSB row, biceps, and front squat.....

Since I've started doing this I look better than I ever have before....I've even thought of making a rule of no increasing my ramp max 1/2/3RM except once per 4 week cycle unless my clusters catch up & just focus on better speed with the weight....I've toyed with the idea of only doing decline tilt, clean & press, DSL, & SGHP & just getting as good with those as I can....my legs really respond well to the DSL & explosive lifting....

since I have HRV if my score goes down I try to figure out why & take that out immediately so every trip to the gym I'm in as good of shape to perform optimally as I can be.....of course all of this is stuff you've said before too being the great coach you are....I feel like when I leave myself wanting more I get my best gains


I read somewhere where your testosterone levels peak at 27 minutes and at 45 minutes they come back to baseline where they started & after that it's all down hill....just a thought


I only have anout an hour to an hour and fifteen min in the gym anyways... So I guess I am lucky!


I assumed you had considered this, but i'm still glad he asked--gave you the opportunity to show how you draw conclusions.


I've been thinking about the idea of "how much work does it take to optimally stimulate gains?" a lot lately. I have followed your Max Muscle Layering for the last 6 weeks and the results in strength are coming in quite nicely. 1RM's becoming 3RM's, 3RM's becoming HDL weight, lots more reps on HDL and Cluster sets even at higher weights.

I think one of the most powerful things about the system is that the workload is controlled. You do the Ramp followed by 6 sets, then you're done. There is no "... Well, what else could I do today?" 6 sets of Quality work and you're out of there. And only 3 sets on Peak Week (25% of the program layout).


I think that with the right stimulus intensity we need a lot less mechanical work than we first imagined. I believe that the "need" to do more comes from not reaching the necessary level of intensity to stimulate gains during your main work.

In a sense the HIT/Heavy Duty guys had the right idea (I never thought I'd say that) but the wrong application.


I've had the same great strenght gains after 6 weeks as Lonnie123. My 1RM in bench and front squat increased by approximately 20kg (which is 25% of my original 1RM!). I attribute that to four things that I really focused on while layering:
- quality (leaving the ego outside and always stopping BEFORE form breakdown)
- speed/explosiveness (stopping BEFORE slowing down - I've sometimes allowed myself to grind a rep or two in the ramp, but didn't take those reps into account when setting the proper weight for clusters and HDL)
- rest intervals as short as possible (much easier to stay focused)
- ending the wourkout at the right moment (dropping one cluster or HDL set when I've felt that I'm having a bad day or just feeling enough pump in the muscles already).
The workouts never went longer than 40min (including warm-up).


One problem I see with short workouts is that conditioning might suffer.


CT, re: Colorado, the following formulas might be appropriate: less time + greater focus = greater intensity; and: greater intensity = better results. I would also assume these formulas could apply outside of Colorado as well.


Conditioning should bot be built by lifting... well more specifically you should design a workout specifically to get a conditioning effect. Met con should be developed by using specific workouts for it.

Furthermore... I've done 2-3 hours workout and still had VERY poor metabolic conditioning. It's not the duration of the workout but the type of effort.

You will be MUCH more metabolically challenged by doing a 5 minutes MMA round than a 2 hours powerlifting workout.

Really, improving met con does not require more than 25 minutes... in fact if you can last longer than 25 minutes when doing metcon work, you are not going at it hard enough.


Who cares? You're not building muscle while you're actually training.. Where's your levels while you sleep and the other 23 hours of the day?