T Nation

Training Naturally


Perhaps touching on something controversial, but are training methods "tailored" to natural trainees? I'm curious long term impact (hormonal, health, etc.) of doing high frequency, high intensity lifting for someone not using leverage. What's a given for most trainees on this forum is hard work, love weights, hitting it hard, etc. But this "training" seems to be quite extreme/unnatural for human body. So I just wonder if adaptations are better suited with an enhanced approach and going natural way may be less "healthy" than intended, especially long term? thanks..


[quote]-Sigil- wrote:
Perhaps touching on something controversial, but are training methods “tailored” to natural trainees? I’m curious long term impact (hormonal, health, etc.) of doing high frequency, high intensity lifting for someone not using leverage. What’s a given for most trainees on this forum is hard work, love weights, hitting it hard, etc. But this “training” seems to be quite extreme/unnatural for human body. So I just wonder if adaptations are better suited with an enhanced approach and going natural way may be less “healthy” than intended, especially long term? thanks…[/quote]

If anything, higher frequency training is probably better suited for natural trainees. A good example is manual laborers who can work 8-10 (sometimes more) hours a week doing hard physical work and still adapt.

I do not think that it is extreme or unnatural because the body evolved over thousands of years withstanding much harder stressors than this. Roman and Greek soldiers trained much harder than we do and did fine… settlers worked a helluva lot harder than we do and we are here today because they survived and thrived. 5-7 hours a week of lifting in no way compares to 40-60 hours of hard physical labor (with less than optimal nutrition). The modern human is, on average, an out-of-shape motor moron because of our lazy society. Of course hard physical work is a stress for these people, that is not because the training is too demanding but rather because their body are deconditioned.

I train a 63 years old man who worked hard his whole life. I put him through workouts that are MUCH harder than anything I post on the internet or my book… and he progresses just fine and still works full-time as a fireman. At 63 years of age he recently deadlifted over 400lbs (at a bodyweight of about 165-170) which was a lifetime PR for him.

Now that having been said. I will concede that high level sport rarely is “healthy”… anything taken to its extreme, even if it is the healthiest of all things, can becoome a health hazzard. But that is not limited to lifting weights and resistance training as a whole but includes every high level sport.

So there comes a point where too much training DOES exceeds one physilogy to withstand stress and might cause damages. But the smart thing is not to enhance your physiology with drugs (which will have their own problems) but to adjust your workload to a level that your body can handle and adapt to.

BTW, I didn’t want to say it… but your post is actually pretty dumb… no offense… it kinda reminds me of a friend of mine who takes amphetamines so that he can work more hours and make a bigger salary. Sure he could argue: “Well if I do all those hours without a little help I’ll burnout and will have health problems”… but using a substance to mask those problems is not the answer because you will eventually have a huge dept to pay back.


None taken and I appreciate the insightful response CT. I wasn’t implying “gearing” to work harder but the opposite, more like the analogy skydiving without a parachute. Exaggerated: “Instructors” tell students do X, Y, Z to skydive well and deny ever needing a parachute (for legal, pride, social reasons).

To be clear, I LOVE your training paradigms and have found no equals in developing my body, to the point a bodybuilding competitor at gym fed me compliments today and, after chatting on the topic of “enhancements”, noted that what I’ve built “could” be interpreted as having used, and if all natural, then I have potential and could try Men’s Physique for starters.

So this alone, convinces me that your systems are effective for naturals and pure gold when it comes to results in performance and aesthetics. But my angle was more from a health standpoint and I feel relieved with your answer, particularly the “smart thing is to not enhance physique with drugs (which come with their OWN problems)”.

I asked primarily because, through recent self-reflection, I just realized that over the last year I’ve come to accept as normal feelings which, prior to my hard training days, would seem “odd” (no morning wood, often low energy, apathy, rarely waking up feeling “refreshed”). However, in full disclosure, there are non-training factors that are obvious (you’d rightfully call me dumb for this) contributors such as lack of sleep, use of preworkout/coffee stimulant, and stimulus seeking training behavior.

I also asked out of a slight frustration with gurus on other internet forums and even fitness models where their training, diet, supplementation advice may be contingent on gear and they’ll of course never admit it. And being ignorant on this, I (and probably many others) just take the line they give which is basically “blah blah blah, only I and my doctor will ever know, this is why I hate this topic, you can believe what you will but I know what’s true at the end of the day blah blah”. This would be fine if it perhaps didn’t mislead eager, albeit naive, trainees to train and diet themselves into the ground with little short term physique progress and possibly long term metabolic issues? On certain boards, discussion on enhancements are clear and pragmatic, making me wonder if there’s just this in-crowd of “those who get it” and the blind masses who will consume fitness products with expectations for achieving the advertised physique naturally.

Of course, I’ve already exceeded my wildest expectations through a combination of IF and your training so at least SOMETHING out there does actually work haha. But we’re never satisfied so I just wanted some reaffirmation/thoughts on this topic. And it sounds like if I get my sleep and caffeine abuse in order, there’s no reason I can’t keep training hard/frequently as I’m yet miles from the pilgrims/early settlers/your firefighter client. Thanks Coach.


CT - how much could one adapt massive training frequency/volumes over time? Like Chuck Sipes training. I’m reading this and just thinking how anyone can handle (much less benefit) from this type of training…for 12 months straight!

6 days a week, 3x A DAY training, alternating push pull.
And each session incroporated heavy compound/power movements, holds, rest pause, tremendous volume. No “skill” work other than lifting obscene amounts of weight all day. Most folks nowadays don’t have the time/interest in doing this but it does make me wonder if you can really push the envelope as your training age goes up.

Example (Day 1)
Chest (AM):

  1. Bench Press, warm up then 2x8, 2x4, 2x2, 2x1 (max).
  2. Bench Press support holds 4 sets if 5 - 20 seconds. Sipes thought this was the key to growth/defintion/strength.
  3. Dead Stop bench press (rack press from various heights): 4x6 up to a max
  4. Straight arm pullovers: 3x15, focusing on strectch “expanding the ribcage”
  5. Chest Dips: 4x8 with 100 lbs followed by a bunch of bodyweight rest pausish style training (1 rep, rest a few seconds, 2, rest a few, etc. until 25).

Shoulder (Midday):

  1. BTN press warm up then 4x8
  2. Barbell front raise
  3. Dumbell Lateral Raise:
  4. Standing Military Press

Triceps (PM)

  1. Lying french press
  2. DB tricep extension
  3. Kick backs

Bent-knee situp and incline situp finishers.

This is repeated on Day 3 and Day 5. Such epic, heavy training, using several of your preferred exercises actually


it really sounds like you need a rest.
when your body is trying to tell you something, we need to stop and listen. i realize that this is easier said than done, but, in the end at some point in time, you WILL realize this to be true.
start off by taking 1 day and just stay in bed and sleep for as late as you can.(kind of a FTW attitude) you may feel a little groggy for a bit, but later in the day, and the next day, you will really appreciate your “relax” time.

you seem you are of a healthy young age. i’m 55, ive been beat up, knocked down , kicked and whatever else you can think of, and keep on pounding along. sometimes we just need a break.
and honestly, it gets harder when you get older. i dont care what shape you’re in.
take a rest my friend
you need it, and deserve it!


Probably true and good words to hear, especially from a veteran in the game! Thanks for the thought (:


It’s never easy to take a short rest when you…

a) love to train
b) are dead-set on getting an amazing body and great capacities
c) are addicted to training

But sometimes it’s best to take 7-10 days off then to have your body force you to take 1-2 months off.


short, sweet, and to the point.
what else is new?

i feel for him. im sure everyone else does also.
CT comes up wit this layer system. it blows you away very quickly.
so you get spoiled and want these kind of gains in thi short period of time…ALLL THE TIME.
even a bus stop sometimes


Hi CT - Life has fortunately forced a 7 day rest period. I went to the gym yesterday and actually felt weaker and performance was shoddy (bodyweight stuff was harder). Physique wise a little smoother but nothing too major.

How do you recommend getting back into the layer system after a 7-10 day rest period? Is a week of just technique practice/cluster a good idea (no hdl)?

Also do you think that “detraining” periods are crucial for muscle gains? There are studies out there showing 7-21 days of complete rest restores muscle insulin sensitivity and other factors (an “anabolic reset”)?



Sigil, some food for thought. At the risk of offending people for getting too spiritual or woo-woo, here goes. I’m an acupuncture intern, and in our particular style we are trained to find where a client’s weakest link is. This can be in the body, mind, emotions, even the spirit (not really in the Christian sense, more like the essence of a person’s identity/heart).

In more ancient times, the weak link was often physical. People worked in the hot or the cold, or damp or dry places. Malnutrition in it’s various forms was common. And as CT pointed out they had daily workloads that were incredibly intense. But they tended to have spiritual practices and an emotional connection to their families and community, because they had to to survive, no utility company or internet. They also had rituals to help psychologically transition adolescents into adulthood, something we lack.

In modern times with industrial agriculture and climate controlled buildings our physical bodies are not put through the extremes of climate and malnutrition that ancient people were.  However our culture is very emotionally stressful, and lacks the community connection that is so important for emotional health. Most people's weak link these days is in their emotions or spirit, which in turn affects the body.  

In industrialized cultures young people are forced to sit in school chairs, which are painful enough to impress an Inquisitor, for 8 hours a day and forced to learn things they don’t care about, then they go home and watch or play soul-killing media the rest of the day. If they are lucky they might get to interact with their parents for a few hours. Bodies that are forced to be still for years on end tend to be stiff and painful if we try to exercise them.

I agree with CT that the human body can take a lot of activity and be healthy.  What we can't take is a lot of unresolved emotional stress, which our culture tends to be full of. I find my performance and recovery is worlds better when my emotional stress is low and I'm treating my body like we know we should, with good food, plenty of sleep, and some sort of centering, destressing, or meditative practice.  

I'm not trying to lecture anyone.  I'm just very interested in human potential and the lifestyle required to reach peak performance and health naturally.