It happens that today is second Rough Strength birthday. So I decided to come up with something special and fundamental at the same time. I have written lots of articles on training and nutrition. But I never wrote a whole article on why I think Rough Strength method is superior than others at least for my goal as well as for any strength-related goal. I can speak about this whole day but I won't bore you to death with long intros and get straight to the point. But, firstly, what is Rough Strength?
What Is Rough Strength?
I want people to have clear understanding of what Rough Strength is. Word 'rough' is used here not only like hardcore but first and foremost meaning without any luxuries. It's something you can use at home with anything you have.
I don't want it to be confused with trendy street workout or crossfit, or gymnastics, or powerlifting etc. Firstly, Rough Strength is obviously not a sport. It can have some competitive edge but it's not the main point. Why? Because it has no rules except for training for strength and progressive resistance and minimal effective equipment. You can use any implement you have at hand. Do you have nothing? Well, then there are calisthenics and gymnastic skills that will build strength just with your bodyweight. Want to add difficulty and challenge? No big deal, get a pair of rings. Want some variety but don't want to spend money on equipment? Make a sandbag. I wrote a lot on why and how to implement it. Want some versatile interesting and fun strength training implement? Get a kettlebell. Or better pair of them. Do you have access to barbell, dumbbells, tire, sledgehammer, gripper etc? Awesome. Use them if you want. The rules are the same. But in the end you don't need any fancy equipment to get results. And aren't results all that matter? You can get superstrong with as little equipment as bodyweight and sandbag. So what's your excuse?
Rough Strength is more of a personal struggle to get stronger, leaner, better. It's about getting in tune with your own body. It cultivates right attitude and discipline. It makes you better human and person. It's all about self-development. You and only you are the main piece of puzzle, not some unimportant things.
I will use term Rough Strength method later in this article. While there are no hard boundaries on what equipment to use Rough Strength method here means using calisthenics, kettlebells and sandbags separately or together like complete strength training system. These are the tools I found the most versatile and inexpensive. Anybody can have a full home gym even with these 3 tools.
Rough Strength Mission
As you can see there are no set in stone rules in Rough Strength method. Then what's the mission of my blog? Simple. Take a look around. What do you see? You see people that are believing that they need to pay for gym memberships to get in shape. You see people that believe they need fancy equipment to get lean and/or muscular. You see people that concentrate too much on external aspects instead of internal. This is wrong. Rough Strength mission lies in educating people. We live in whole new age. It's the age of information. I want to show you that you don't need gym memberships anymore. All tools are almost free. The thing you need to concentrate on is education in physical training and nutrition and/or getting help from professional. That is what makes HUGE difference. Never stop educating yourself.
If you are interested, I have 3 fundamental rules:
- Never teach what you haven't done or have little expertise at.
- Practice what you preach.
- Share the knowledge.
So what you read on my blog is the result of following these rules. I'm not one of those "fitness gurus" that claim that they know everything (but in reality they just full of crap and know only how to make testosterone shots in their ass). I'm just an ordinary guy with average metabolism and genetics sharing his knowledge and experience with the world. I think, honesty is the thing that makes difference. That's who I am.
And HUGE thanks to all of you who shared my work, who subscribed to my newsletter, facebook page, twitter, RSS. You all are awesome. You all took part in spreading the knowledge and helping Rough Strength mission. We all are family.
And why the F do you need to use this RS method? I'll give you 10 reasons.
10 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Rough Strength Method
- It's almost free. I train now only with rings and sandbag (I don't have kettlebells here in Kiev, and I occasionally touch barbell and dumbbells). Again all you need is education and coaching. I got my recent sandbag for under $5. If it's expensive for you then training is not your thing, go cry in pillow.
- It's sustainable. When you have education you can sustain your training (and nutrition) for a lifetime. Who cares whether it's crisis or all gyms are closed? Or you are at the uninhabited island? Whatever. Knowledge gives you freedom and sustainability. No matter what you will always find how to train and progress further in your quest for strength.
- It's based on facts and reasonable progressions. I really don't like when people make unsupported claims. All of the information I share was tested by me and my clients. I filter useless crap and put out only what works. Also I don't like just-do-it approach (used, for example, in street workout). If you do something you do it on purpose. Proper programming is one of the most underrated things by regular gym rats. That's why they are so weak and girly. And that's why we are strong. Besides, I like to improve my knowledge every day so Rough Strength method is never out-dated.
- It builds real-world strength. Machines and bosu ball won't give you these awesome results in strength that you can use anywhere: from helping your friend moving furniture to bar-fight toughness.
- It builds mental toughness. That's one of the most important aspects of strength training. And Rough Strength method take it to the whole new level. You'll find out that coping with stress will be much easier. Work, family etc. If I wasn't training I would have jumped off the cliff already (living here in Ukraine is pretty tough, you know; 95% of people can barely earn money for decent food and living).
- It teaches you how achieve "impossible" things. As well as any proper strength training method. Progressive resistance and practice are keys to achieving any goal or skill. Handstand, Planche, the One-Arm Chin-Up, Big Bench Press, Huge Squat, playing guitar, riding a bike, being a good manager etc. Make one step at a time and practice more.
- It will help you with aesthetic goals. Who said that only barbell and dumbbells are good for getting ripped and muscular? It's all possible to achieve with calisthenics, sandbags and kettlebells but it will take longer time. Who cares in the end?
- It can be used to supplement any sport-specific training. If you are participating in some sort of sport then you will definitely benefit from this method. Read the reasons above. You will be stronger, leaner, more muscular etc. Isn't sport about being all that and playing sport?
- It's simple. But not easy. You concentrate only on important things. That's how you will not waste your time on useless crap. Doing only important things is simple but never easy. Train, eat right, rest, repeat. How it can be more simple?
- It's just awesome. Nothing to explain.
How to Use Rough Strength Method?
Firstly, who is RS method for? It is for serious and dedicated trainees only. Regular estrogen men and gym chicks will probably find it too difficult and demanding. If you are one of them stop reading right now. You won't get all the sophistication of the method, anyway. For all the others (I mean, hardcore dudes and dudettes) - read on.
So how to use this method? Well, it all depends on your level of dedication to it. Basically, there are 3 ways:
- Incorporate exercises you like into your current routine;
- Incorporate unconventional (or home) training days;
- Use Rough Strength method solely.
There's no best way. It all depends on individual. Everybody will find different use for the method. There is one important principle you need to understand: any exercise you perform in commercial gym can be performed at home with bodyweight, sandbag or kettlebells. When you understand this principle you can find substitution for any exercise. This is how you achieve freedom from commercial equipment. This is how you use RS method. Bench Press can be replaced with Planche Push-Up or One-Arm Push-Up, Barbell Rows can be replaced with Front Lever Rows, Barbell Squats can be replaced with Pistols or Sandbag Squats etc. Of course, these exercises will feel different but who cares. Again, the only thing that matters is result.
To understand this more deeply let's breakdown an example. There are basically several movement patterns of your body. For example, Bench Press is Horizontal Push movement. Just imagine how your hands travel during the movement. Why "horizontal"? Because of the position of your body to the floor and gravity. It's horizontal to the ground. "Push" because you press weight away from the body. Now when you understand what type of movement Bench Press is you can find a substitute for it keeping in mind that it is horizontal push. It can be Planche Push-Up, One-Arm Push-Up, Weighted Push-Up, Kettlebell Floor Press, Sandbag Floor Press etc. Read this article for more.
Important VS Unimportant
Another skill you need to develop is separating important from unimportant. Not to bore you completely here are two random lists.
- Progressive resistance;
- Basic Exercises;
- Calories and Macros;
- Education etc.
- Programs of Champions;
- What exercises do I (or any other guy except you) use;
- Fancy gym clothes;
- Ab and biceps training etc.
That's it. Is my method the only right thing to do? No. If you are doing something and it works for you then do it by all means. But if what you are doing now doesn't work you can use Rough Strength for help. If you are open-minded and ready to challenge yourself with something new then you are welcome. Thanks for reading. Do me a HUGE favor by sharing this with as many friends as possible.
I'm always ready to help you.
P.S. What are your thoughts?
It seems pretty obvious that everybody on this planet is unique. Even when comparing them to their parents or other relatives. Everybody is different. Some people are right hand dominant, others - left hand. Some people are tall, some are short. Some people have fast metabolisms, some have slow. I can go on and on. Why am I writing this? Because all the people know they are different but still try to copy others (usually more successful ones) without even thinking. I see this all the time. I talk about this all the time. You can't expect results from thoughtless copying of programs and training approaches. Or diet methods. Or anything. "Hey, that dude got pretty big from doing this program. I will definitely get big from doing it exactly". Sorry to disappoint you but more chances that you won't. Why? Again, because everybody is different. Or because that guy might have years of experience and tons of knowledge under his belt and he designed a program that takes into account his physiology, biomechanics, stress levels, spare time etc (in other words, that is individual for him). Or he may be lucky bastard with genetics that allow him to use all the crappy programs in the world and grow. Or something in between. Your program might not be unique but it definitely must be personalized for you.
Because otherwise you'll suck.
Ok, Got It. What Should Be Personalized?
There are several points you should tweak to make program work for you.
Your technique should be as close to flawless as possible and at the same time it should be the most efficient for you. If you strive for less then be prepared to say "hello" to injury sooner rather than later. It seems like a no-brainer but there are lots of people who train with poor technique, suffer from injuries and blame in this everything except their stupidity. Don't be one of them. Remember, almost every injury you get now will bother you in future.
Bench press, curls and crunches? Think again. For a whole, all-around program you'll need some kind of squat, some kind of deadlift/lower back pull, couple of pressing movements in several planes, couple of pulling movements in several planes. Some coaches add several other exercises but this is the base of any successful program.
Proper Exercise Selection
Every trainee has different biomechanics and thus requires different exercises. For example, let's take barbell squat. The person with crappy biomechanics and poor leverage for this exercise might never be able to perform it properly. What to do? Not to squat? Wrong. This person needs to find an alternative that will work. This could be Sandbag Zercher Squats, Sandbag Bear-Hug Squats, Barbell Front Squats, Barbell Zercher Squats, Kettlebell Squats etc.
Lots of trainees get into this "intensity trap". They rush to add weight/reps/sets every session until they hit the situation where the weight seems impossible to lift for given amount of reps and sets. They hit plateau. Smarter trainees take it easy and lower intensity a bit. Stupid ones keep hitting it hard and get nowhere.
Proper Set/Rep Scheme
This is very important. Some people just don't progress on high reps, as well as others struggle with low reps. Stick to set/rep scheme that works for you.
Right Macronutrient and Food Selection
Talking about diet. Macronutrient proportions and food selection are probably the most important factors (along with calories) that will bring you the most results. When you are creating your diet you should keep in mind all your food allergies and cut out that foods completely. Also pick food content according to right macros for you. Pick the wrong ones and you'll get no results.
There are a lot of other factors you need to take into account but these are the ones I'd like to concentrate on right now.
The most important thing you can do in studying others' successful programs and diet approaches is trying to understand the principles that are behind. If you have fast metabolism forget about intermittent fasting. If you want to build muscle mass the fastest way then calisthenics probably aren't the best option. Think! Thanks for reading. Comment, like and share. If you need unique personalized approach feel free to contact me.
Here's part 1.
And here's part 2.
So 1.5 years are gone. Many things were learnt during this time, many things were tried (and not only on me but on my clients too). And here's the question: have I changed my stance on this? So are splits better? Or full-body workouts are still superior? Well, let's analyze and find out.
Pros and Cons of Full-Body Routines and Splits
Main pros of full-body routines:
- whole body stimulation, obviously. The more muscles we stimulate in workout the more effective it should be.
- greater frequency of stimulation. The more we practice the faster we will get good at something.
- no "fluff". You have limited amount of time so you choose almost only big compound lifts.
Main cons of full-body routines:
- some people just can't tolerate them. No matter how you structure everything some people just won't be able to progress on full-body routines.
- some bodyparts will lag behind. Yes, full-body routines give you freedom from "fluff" exercises but some bodyparts will grow faster then others (which shouldn't bother you if your primary goals are strength and performance).
Main pros of splits:
- lots of recovery. You just work some bodypart to total exhaustion and rest for a week or so.
- allow more volume. You'll definitely can do more work sets in split routines which can be better for building muscle.
- allow more variety. This can be important for bodybuilding.
Main cons of splits:
- sometimes not enough frequency. This is especially true for beginners who need more frequent stimulation to progress faster.
- many people end up doing ton of isolation exercises instead of compound lifts. This is totally wrong.
Well, that's just basic pros and cons of both full-body routines and splits. I may forgot something but it doesn't matter. The point is that either of them have its own usage. Use either of them in wrong situation and you may not get any training results (except bad).
What Shows Experience?
From my today's experience I can say that I'm not that anti-split as I was 1.5 years ago. There are several cases when splits are actually better than full-body routines. Firstly, it's all about recovery. I always could tolerate full-body routines and progress with them. Well, now I understand why. Because I always try to sleep at least 8 hours per night. Because I eat lots of protein and my diet is right for me. Because I rarely give a fuck about things I can't control in any way (this way you have much less stress in your life). Because I don't waste my time on crap and try to live my life fully. But that's me. You, on the other hand, can have several kids, work on two jobs you hate, have bad relationship, sleep 4 hours per night, eat junk and hate your life. In this case full-body routines are not for you. Well, in this case your only way out is to start a fight club. You got my point. If you have suboptimal conditions in life you may not be able to tolerate full-body routines. I work with many people with very busy schedules and hard lives. The harder their conditions the less they can tolerate.
Full-body routines are best for beginners. The demands of training are pretty low and they progress much faster, for example, squatting 3 times per week than just one time. But with increasing demands of training you might not be able to train your whole body every training session. This is the time to try splits. If you done Mon-Wed-Fri full body, try Mon - upper; Tue - lower; Thu - upper; Fri - lower. If that's too much try Mon - upper; Wed - lower; Fri - upper; Mon - lower.
Splits work. Let's take me as example. I trained whole body for a decent period of time. It worked like a clock. I was able to progress every session. If I wasn't able to progress I just changed exercise with its variation and everything worked again. But now I use some kind of split. Why? Because now I have access to barbell for free so I have no reasons to waste such opportunity. But this barbell is not at my home. And I totally love training at home with my bodyweight and rings. So I decided to work on bodyweight presses and rows 3 times per week at home and to squat and deadlift at the gym on different days. And this template works for me. If I had no access to barbell I would train lower body with sandbag at home so my workouts would be full-body. Now I'm using some kind of split and that's allright.
Also a note on bodybuilding. In bodybuilding you'll need decent volume. And if you want to keep intensity pretty high you'll need to cut frequency. I wrote on the theme in this article. To quote Dave Tate:
It boils down to common sense. Look at the bodybuilders winning shows – whether they're pros or amateurs or natural competitors – they all follow a basic template: 2-3 exercises per body part, 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps, each set taken just shy of failure, and each body part trained every 3-7 days.
That's basically what most of them do, so why reinvent the wheel?
Listen to wise man.
With Calisthenics Everything Is Trickier
Why? Because in harder exercises you'll need to use all your body, not just chest and triceps or back and biceps. For example, after straddle planche push-ups I clearly feel pump not only in my chest, shoulders and triceps but also in my biceps, hamstrings, lats, abs and lower back. During one-arm push-ups you should flex quads as much as possible etc. So it's much harder to program these movements conventionally because when you get to very challenging variations you should work with your whole body. So while, for example, technically it may be a press you'll feel it not only in chest, shoulders and triceps.
So what's better: full-body routines or splits? As you could already get nothing's better. Either of them has it's own place in training world. You may prefer one or another. They both work. If you can tolerate full-body routines then you should go with them. If not then use splits. Not crappy but reasonable ones. Don't use split as excuse not to squat in favor of leg press or leg extensions. Concentrate on compound lifts, get stronger in them and you'll get results. Thanks for reading. Do me a favor and share this article with your friends. Feel free to comment and subscribe.
Volume, intensity, frequency. The basics of proper programming in strength training. Obviously, if your program doesn't deliver results you expect then you screwed up in one of these three. Of course, if you didn't screw up to make the resistance progressively harder over time (which is the most lame mistake you can make in your program, by the way). Seems that people nowadays have no idea how to find right and, importantly, proper balance between volume, intensity and frequency. So if these three strength training variables are so important then how you can mix them right? This article will explain you how. But at first you need brief overview of what volume, intensity and frequency are.
In couple of words, training volume is amount of work done. It can be measured in different ways. For example, training volume can be measured in total reps per exercise, in total amount of sets per training session, in total amount of weight lifted in exercise per training session, in total amount of sets or reps per day or per week, or per year etc. Proper training volume is regulated by recovery ability of the person and his/her goal. If your goal is pure strength or sparing strength and muscle during calorie deficit then you need less volume. If your goal is to build muscle then you definitely need more (and some individuals grow only if you add even more volume). Most of bodybuilding routines nowadays are plain old high-volume training.
Training intensity, in layman terms, is how hard you train. In more scientific words it is the percentage of your 1 repetition maximum. The closer your working weight to 1RM the harder you work, the higher the intensity, the less reps you will be able to perform in set, the more time you'll need to fully recover between sets, the less total sets you'll be able to perform etc. Intensity is very important in gaining strength as well as in building muscle, as well as in sparring muscle during calorie restriction diet. It should be kept pretty high if your goal is pure strength and/or getting ripped. But if your goal is building as much muscle as possible you need a bit lower intensity to allow more volume.
Training frequency is how often you perform certain move, practice certain exercise or train certain muscle. Frequency can be high and low. High frequency means at least 3 times per week but usually even more. Low frequency is maximum 2 times per week but usually even less. Well, there's no hard rule on this but in my opinion such classification is not far from the truth. Frequency is great for neural adaptation. This means that it's great for building strength and skill. Also it's pretty good for building muscle as you get stronger faster while adding more total volume. For fat loss it's probably not the most important variable.
How to Mix Them Properly?
As you can see from picture above training volume, intensity and frequency are mutually exclusive variables. The more you increase one of them the less should be two other. This means that if you increase the volume then your intensity and frequency should go down for you to be able to progress. As well as if you increase frequency then intensity and volume should go down. You got the idea. Why is it so? The answer is recovery. To progress you need to recover between training sessions. In other words, if you don't do more reps or sets, or perform harder exercises, or lift heavier weight, etc. from session to session (or at least several sessions per month if you're at intermidiate level) then you're probably not recovering between them. In such case you need to decrease one of the variables (or all of them) and see how you doing. You will probably need to do this until you find the right amount of each variable individually for you. One tip: if you need to lower one of these training variables I would go with volume first and intensity and frequency second. In my experience, most of the people progress nicely on low volume high frequency programs. On the other hand, high volume low frequncy mid intensity programs work with much less success. And by the way, the same goes with deloading. I would rather do less reps or less sets with heavy weight to deload than the same set-rep scheme with lighter weight. It seems former actually refreshes you while latter makes you weaker. But that's just experience.
Well, when you've found out what volume/intensity/frequency mix is optimal for you to recover and progress you can experiment with variables to get different results. You can lower the intensity and increase the volume and frequency and see what this will do for you. For example, instead of bench pressing once a week do hundreds of push-ups every day. Or you can increase intensity and lower volume and frequency. For example, instead of squatting moderately 2-3 times a week do a heavy max effort session once every 10 days and see what this will do for you. Of course, you need to understand one thing: you need to find a "sweet spot" in volume/intensity/frequency mix. How do you know whether you've found it? Easy. You should progress to heavier exercises, more weight, do more reps and/or sets etc. That's how you know it.
Strength training programming isn't rocket science. It's pretty basic in nature. You need to understand several things and you'll be able to reach you goals. And training volume, intensity and frequency are those things. If your program doesn't work you should check these training variables (or let someone else do this dirty job). Simple as that. Thanks for reading. You would do me a favor if you share my stuff to your friends. Feel free to contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's a guest post on training mechanics from Logan Christopher. You probably should know him for his feats of strength. If not then you should take a closer look at this guy. He knows what he's talking about. - AZ
Many people have trouble figuring out how to integrate different tools into their workouts. I do not, and by the end of this article you shouldn’t either. Or they go a long ways with neglecting a major movement group in the human body.
As an example in the workout I just finished up today I worked on heavy deadlifts in a full range of motion and partials, frog stand presses up into a handstand, a progression towards the one arm chin, and finished with L-sits.
As you’ll see this one workout hit the major muscles and movements of the body. So let’s break it down.
To put it simply this is your arms moving out from your body. Here are a few examples:
- Military Press
- Side Press
- Bench Press
- Sandbag Push Press
- Cable Press Out
- Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press
When you do any sort of press you tend to be working the triceps, the shoulders and often the chest. Different variations work different parts more or less. For example the bottoms up kettlebell press adds a grip component to everything else. The cable press out isolates the triceps in a plane that isn’t generally trained. The push press regardless of object used adds in the legs, but then generally heavier weights can be used. (The jerk could be included here but relies heavily on the legs.)
You can also look at the different planes of movement. Handstand pushups and military presses work the vertical plane. Pushups and bench presses work the horizontal plane. You can go between these as well, like an incline bent, and outside too. The side press is both vertical pressing and out to the side.
Depending on your goals you may use different tools and different exercises. But no matter what you’re doing you absolutely should include some form of press in your training.
This is when your arms move into your body and is done with bent arms at some point in the movement. Here are a few examples:
- Barbell Row
- One Arm Dumbbell Row
- Upright Row
- Inverted Rows
- Lat Pulldown
- Barbell Snatch
Pulls tend to work the biceps, the lats and the traps. As before other muscles can be involved. The clean and snatch heavily use the legs. The upright row uses the shoulders too.
Again we can look at the planes of movement. More rows are done in a horizontal plane like two arm or one arm rows. Chinnups works the overhead vertical plane, while cleans and snatches work the same plane from the other direction.
Once again, you have many choices but you would be wise to include at least one major pulling movement in your training.
Along with traditional squats I would add in this category deadlifting, jumping and running. All these work the legs in a major way. (Sure some deadlifts minimize the use of the legs but I’m trying to keep it simple. Some people like to break it down into straight arms pulls like deadlifts and swings, but I find three groups works fine.)
- Back Squats
- Front Squats
- Hindu Squats
- Sumo Deadlift
- Conventional Deadlift
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat
- Kettlebell Swings
- Kettlebell Snatches
The legs involve a large portion of the mass in the body. They need to be worked and often its good to hit them in two or more ways. Make sure both the hamstrings and the quads are getting a good amount of work, not to mention the calves.
Because bodyweight exercises tend to become easy after a period of training (even with one legged squats) to continue to improve you’ll either need to move to weights or continue by adding intensity with speed and explosiveness.
The Smaller Three
Its hard to call these lesser then the others but they do tend to be smaller.
Once you have the big three covered I would add these in. Many people do ab work, few people do grip work, and almost no one does direct neck work, which is a shame.
My favorites for these are various types of leg raises, all kinds of grip tools, and then bridging for the neck. But those are big subjects in and of themselves, which will have to be covered elsewhere.
Remember that this is simplified to help you out. Don’t freak out when you can’t easily place a clubbell swing in the groups or don’t know where a burpee goes. Just use this as a tool when it serves your purposes and forget about it went its not.
Also this just covers the strength base, but if you want to be even more well rounded you’ll need to add in endurance training, and possibly some speed, flexibility and mobility work depending on where you‘re at.
But if you understand the basic movement breakdown of the human body you can easily tell if a workout program is complete or not. You’ll notice the majority of the great ones out there do include all these groups. Also you can put together your own workouts easily. And you can seamlessly integrate different tools together.
Logan Christopher runs Legendary Strength where you can get the Peak Performance Trinity by signing up for free which includes tips on physical training, health & nutrition and mental training. He specializes in bodyweight and kettlebell training but includes barbells and a wide variety of feats of strengths.
Well, here you go. This is simple and basic. Everyone who is involved in strength training should understand these simple principles. Everything is ok but I should add here one more plane. It's Straight Arm Scapular Strength. It's the concept I was introduced to by Ido Portal. It derives from gymnastics. And for overall strength development you need to add it to your program. Thanks for reading.