T Nation

Your Principles

I’ve been re-reading a lot of my books on lifting while I’ve had some downtime, and 5/3/1 Forever still has an awesome first section wherein Jim talks about the importance of having training principles of lays out his own. They’re solid principles (the book itself is awesome, even if you have no interest in 5/3/1 you should read it), and it got me thinking about my own, both for training and nutrition. These are the things I’ve settled on after 20 years of throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks, and many fly directly in the face of science. Give 'em a read, agree, disagree, argue, and then post your own.


TRAINING PRINCIPLES

1: The way the body gets bigger and stronger is by being subjected to a demand to grow.

I’m a fan of Jim Wendler’s work. I understand, intellectually, that submax training works. I’ve seen enough evidence of it working. But for me, the only way I can ACTUALLY understand how to progress is to subject myself to such extreme physical duress in my training that my body is FORCED to grow as a response. It’s an easy guiding principle in turn. When I want to grow, I hammer the hell out of my body. When growth isn’t a goal, I ease off. Hey look: periodization.

2: Balance with training cycles; not IN training cycles.

I never strive to make sure that everything is balanced during a specific period of training. I went about 2 solid years prioritizing my pressing and letting my upper body pulling be put on the back burner. I hit a lifetime press PR that way and my lats got a little smaller. Now I’m prioritizing the back, my lats came out of hiding, I look wider from the front, and I still have a strong press. If you try to balance everything all the time, everything WILL be perfectly balanced: it will all suck.

3: Train MORE when you’re gaining weight, train LESS when you’re losing it.

A lotta folks go the opposite way on this, but my approach is, when I’m eating a lot of calories, that means I’m better able to recover from training, so I train MORE to make use of that. When I’m eating less, recovery is down, so I train less.

4: If you want it to grow (bigger OR stronger), train it directly.

It’s weird this needs to be said, but so many dudes wanna rely on indirect work to make things stronger (typically the arms, neck, abs and grip), but my approach is that direct work (yes, dreaded isolation exercises) is necessary for growth.

5: ALWAYS find a way to progress

Too many folks focus on always adding weight to the bar while keeping everything else the same (or even letting it get worse, by letting rest times get longer, bar speed drop, bodyfat grow, etc). I’ve dropped 30lbs since March, my weights aren’t going up much on the lifts, but I’m STILL progressing every workout. Either I’m doing more reps, more total sets, the bar speed is moving faster, I’m training under heavier fatigue, my rest times are shorter, I’m setting PRs by bodyweight, etc etc. It ties in with principle 1: the body needs to be forced to grow by subjecting it to a demand to do so. Absent progress, there is no demand.

NUTRITION PRINCIPLES

1: Whenever possible, do not mix carbs and fats.

Stuff like this pisses off the labcoat and glasses crowd, but I read the idea one time about a decade ago, tried it out, and things worked great. I don’t know or care if the science behind it works: I like this principle because it keeps me from making bad decisions. Most yummy things are just fat and carbs put together with minimal protein: ice cream, pastries, french fries, everything on the Taco Bell menu, etc. When I made this my guiding nutritional principle, planning what to eat became stupidly easy and kept me on a solid path.

2: Only eat carbs around training.

I grew up in the 90s and my Atkin’s carbophobe roots shine through constantly, but again, I like this principle for the decisions it helps me make, and there’s enough big and strong dudes that abide by this that it seems solid enough. It also makes transitions between weight gain and weight loss pretty easy: during periods of weight loss or maintenance, I eat carbs only pre OR post training. During weight gain, I do both. From there, I can also start adding MORE carbs during weight gain and eating fewer carbs during weight loss.


Let’s get some principles from the community. Let’s not take anyone’s principles personally either: something working or not working for someone else doesn’t invalidate your own experience.

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It always has amazed me how some internet guru’s have none. Or should i say that are constant… Amazing how they will ebb and flow based on what the going trend is.

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Outstanding idea. It will probably take me a day or two to offer a real response, but I think this is a great thread.

I’ll also say we’ll see ~85% overlap between the folks that have been at it awhile, with minor language differences (the same way you hear different cues for lifts, but they’re mostly telling you the same thing). That should, hopefully, benefit the newer folks looking for the answer.

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I’ve still got a whole lot more to learn, but here are the “rules” or “themes” the programs I like/run seem to have in common:

1- Train everything that’s important to me

Simmons calls it Conjugate, Charlie Francis calls it Vertical Integration. Either way, I like to “cover my bases” with every training thing that’s important to me - Max strength, hypertrophy work, sprinting, cutting/change of direction, conditioning, power - and just change the relative volumes and intensities of each between phases.

  • Max strength for me is anything at a load of 80-85% or greater
  • hypertrophy work is anything done for 6 reps or greater
  • sprinting involves accelerations (0-20m) and max velocity (30m+)
  • power involves jumping, throwing and lately I have been toying with o-lift derivatives
  • conditioning for me is mostly aerobic, so 15+ minutes at ~70-85% Max Heart Rate

2 - Program for a stimulus

This probably works because I don’t powerlift, or compete in any strength sport for that matter, but I always make sure the things I’m doing (exercises, set-rep schemes etc) are selected because they provide the right stimulus, not because I’m told they’re “best”. For example, I prefer front squats to back squats and trap bar RDLs to barbell deadlifts.

3 - Progress over time

I like to always be improving at least one (preferably 2-3) training markers at once. For me, improvements can be in speed, technique, weight, reps, rest period or tempo

Nutrition wise… ehhh I eat like an asshole so I’m still figuring it out. The only thing I make sure I do is get enough protein (0.8-1.2g/lb or 2.0-2.5g/kg)

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Here’s some titbits I’ve picked up over the years.

1. Every ‘program’ works when you apply the 2 magic ingredients, Consistency and Intensity.

People will spend hours searching for the perfect program. I do it myself now and again. Old habits die hard.

Programs are just words on paper, or screens.

I could give you a recipe for an amazing cake and you’ll still fuck it up.

It’s what you with the ingredients that counts.

2. Going balls to the wall every session is for social media validation junkies.

Go hard or go home! If it’s not hurtin, it’s not workin!

Utter bullshit, in my humble opinion. This is a long game and it has to be sustainable. Let the young IG crowd post the ball-breaker workouts. They’ll soon get the idea.

Fitness for the 30 plus crowd reminds me of the old joke…

2 bulls, one old and one young, on a hill overlooking a field of cows.

The young bull says “let’s run down there and fuck one of those cows”

The old bull says “No, lets walk down and fuck them all”

Let the workouts tick over but now and again, go hard and fast.

Pick your battles.

3. The end game is taking stress out the process

Following a fitness regime can be stressful.

Chasing numbers and never missing lifts can take its toll while sucking every bit of fun out the game.

You want to reach a point where performing some activity that taxes the body in some way, is enough to satisfy your fitness/training needs.

Can’t hit the gym? Go for a run.

Some guy is using the squat rack? Go do goblet squats.

Following a set program can induce neurosis as you feel you’re losing all those sweet gains because you’re deviating from the ‘routine’. The stress created from this thinking is gains kryptonite. Get rid of it pronto.

The body loves physical work and responds accordingly.

4. Lifting weights makes you look good, cardio makes you feel good

Lifting is awesome however you never wake up feeling strong.

Chances are you never get to use that strength you gain, unless someone asks you to help them move house. Even then you’re still humbled as you humph awkward objects around and realise you never really worked on your endurance.

Cardio is so essential for heart health and actually ‘feeling’ fruits of your labour. It also allows you to recover quickly and put in more work in the gym.

Why people hate on cardio nowadays is mind-boggling. It’s a game changer.

5. Did I say consistency is the most important thing?

People come into my gym every day with lofty goals.

‘I want to get rid of this’ while pointing to some body part that causes them untold grief.

‘I want to tighten my core’

Yet they’re not even turning up on a regular basis.

First port of call for anyone starting out is just turning up.

3 workouts, any type of workout, for the first few months should be your first ‘goal’.

Get that routine up and running. This is a life long game.

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If you can replace squats with “Goblet” squats (When was this name invented anyway? We were using this 20 years ago to teach form but it didn’t have a name) then you aren’t really squatting anyway. They don’t make dumbells that big. And running is not lifting. That seems obvious, but it is so exactly the opposite for a number of reasons that really make it on no way a replacement for anything. And I’m not just saying that because I think that running sucks as an exercise.
That being said, I agree that too many people are inflexible in their approach. Although I reserve the right to be pissed off if someone is doing curls in the squat rack, even if it’s not squat day. Just a geneeral principle thing.

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This is so huge. People get so fixated on doing things because they’re the “best”, rather than the best for them. I pulled full ROM deads for years before I found out I do much better relying on partials. Pulling a big weight off the floor is cool, but I just wanna be big and strong: not the best deadlifter.

Hey dude, please abide by the guidelines I set in the initial post

Post your own principles if they don’t match with someone else’s.

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Not sure what I’m violating here, but okay.

I wrote that about my own principles. There’s a reason you cut out the first part. Full quote was this

These are the things I’ve settled on after 20 years of throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks, and many fly directly in the face of science. Give 'em a read, agree, disagree, argue, and then post your own.

Come on dude. Don’t be disingenuous.

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  1. Don’t be the biggest guy at your gym if you can avoid it. Find a gym where you are not the biggest or strongest.
  2. Every program sucks in some way. If you aren’t qualified to adjust it to fit you, ask someone who is. The biggest, strongest guys are usually the most helpful.
  3. Use more weight, not more reps.
  4. Stretching is good, but almost everyone gets carried away on the warmups. Don’t wear yourself out before you get to the actual work sets.
  5. Be open to change and trying other stuff. It might not work, but don’t be that guy doing the same Super Slow routine with exactly the same weight he was using 15 years ago. He looks exactly the same as 15 years ago, sometimes he’s even still wearing the same outfits. Don’t be him.
  6. Use common sense.
  7. Do some reading and research. also see point 6.
    8 Steal shamelessly. If you see someone else that looks like they know what they’re doing doing something you haven’t tried or even heard of, be shameless. There’s no law against stealing exercises.
  8. Ignore just about every internet guru and coaching fad. If it’s new and popular, it’s probably stupid and will go away soon. also see point 6.
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Find some form of locomotion you enjoy and do it on a regular basis. Biking, jogging, hiking, swimming, even that Frog thing.

Lift with some intention. Doesnt matter if it’s a “good” intention or “bad” intention, but you have to have something driving the action.

That’s all for me.

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I like all of what you wrote, but wanted to focus on this one because, as I’m sure you’ve see, stay in the game long enough and “new” stuff comes out that is incredibly old. I got burned recently buying Josh Bryant’s “Tactical Strongman” book only to discover that Tactical Strongman training is just PHA training that John McCallum wrote about in the 1960s. Starting Strength (and knock offs like stronglifts and ICF) came back into fashion after Stuart McRobert had his run of Hardgainer success with abbreviated training in the 90s, which was also benefiting from the success of Bill Starr. Right now high frequency is in vogue: where did we hear that before? Haha. I’m excited for when 80s style bodypart splits/Barbarian Brothers insanity makes a full comeback.

What has been is what will be,And what has been done will be done again;There is nothing new under the sun. - Ecclesisates 1:9
LOL. It never fails, it doesn’t matter how bad an idea was the first time around, somebody is going to repackage it and try and sell it to the unsuspecting.

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  1. Trust the author. I think anybody who has read my log recently knows that I consider this to be rule numero uno for anybody following a program that they didn’t write themselves. If you think you know better, write it. My exception that I make for myself is, once I have ran a program by that person, I can make small adjustments or certain exercise switches that suit my needs, but upon venturing into a new type of training, trust the guy that you already trusted to program for you when you chose his program.

  2. Suckstitutions. Pretty straightforward addendum to my first post. If you have to substitute something, try to make it suck as much or more than what was originally prescribed.

  3. The bigger you want to be, the harder you have to work. I don’t want to get into a scientific argument with anyone about this because it’s just anecdotal. The harder I work, the better results I get. Some people never really go brutally hard and seem to get good results, but that has never been the case with me.

  4. Never be afraid to ask a question, offer a spot, or give a compliment. For you home gym folks, or introverts/misanthropes, this might be a foreign concept, but I am big on human connection and community, especially in the gym. The biggest people in the gym are usually the friendliest and offer knowledge freely if given proper respect. Plenty of people welcome a spot and appreciate it, plenty don’t but also appreciate the offer, and anybody who’s actually upset about being offered a spot is not worth interacting with. Finally, if someone looks really, really good, they probably worked their ass off to be that way, so without being awkward, a compliment on a lift or something like that can be a nice thing for that person.

  5. Be humble. No point in elaborating, this is easier when you’re not very strong.

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I like this one. I didn’t say it in my post, but I have come to believe that you should do more of whatever you suck at or hate the most. If you hate doing it you probably need it in your routine until you don’t hate it anymore. Gotta stamp out the weakpoints.

Man, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been lifting consistently for 19 years and I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Luckily, I can find the right path by eliminating the wrong paths.

  1. Your true priorities will show.
  • If you always do a certain thing then that thing will progress. Unfortunately, many of us want _____ but we do what we like and _____ doesn’t improve one bit. For me, that’s 1RM strength on squat and conditioning. I hate both and suck at both.
  1. You can’t ride two horses with one ass (Thanks, PC).
  • Pick a goal and pursue it. It’s similar to @T3hPwnisher’s balance of training phases instead of training programs. Everyone wants to lose 20 lbs of fat and add 20 lbs of muscle in 6-8 weeks. It ain’t happening.
  1. Think long term.
  • Don’t worry about what you can do in eight weeks. That’s cool and all, but think about what you can do in eight years. If you add 2 lbs to the bar in eight weeks then that could be 104 lbs in eight years. Think that’s not good enough? Well, keep it up and it’ll be 208 lbs in 16 years. I’d be pretty damn happy if I’d accomplished that in my last 16 years.
  1. Copy what someone else has done to achieve success. Next, copy someone else. After that, do it again. Eventually you’ll learn how your body reacts to different approaches and you’ll be able to cherry pick what works for you.

  2. Don’t be all show and no go.

  • Don’t forget to run, bike, swim, climb, or do something for conditioning. Squatting 500 for reps is cool but getting out of breath at the grocery store isn’t.
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Great Thread!

  1. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency- Despite doing everything wrong, I still managed to hit a 3x bodyweight deadlift
  2. If it feels too easy, it probably is
  3. Don’t question the program, Question yourself
  4. I can always be stronger
  5. process > results
  6. the mind gives up far before the body

Note: I still struggle with this, especially number 2 and 6

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Bro, I COMPLETELY FORGOT the “all show and no go” one. You know I’m huge on this. Lift all you want, but if the shit hits the fan and you can’t run a mile and still be okay to engage a threat, it’s all useless. I guess I kept it to “lifting” principles strictly, but in life, “be able to protect myself and my family” wins out over everything else.

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This isn’t necessarily a disagreement, it’s more of a question - there are many processes that produce results, but what good is a process that does not produce results? I would understand the statement more if there was a dash added, to read “process -> results”, but there may be an insightful explanation to this that I have not considered.

Pwn - let me know if this is against the thread rules - I took them to mean that once we have posted our own, we can discuss them, so long as we are not discounting them.

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Totally within the spirit. Ask questions and ensure you fully understand each other. Often, disagreements can be attributed to misunderstandings.

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