How You Can Benefit from Doing Less Strength Training

Less Strength Training?So this title may sound somewhat misleading and rather close to sacrilege taking into account that Rough Strength‘s primary theme of interest is strength and everything related to it, but there is a reason behind this wording. Anyway, let me explain myself a little bit before you start throwing rotten food at me. First of all, I assume that you are one of the people who are dedicated to strength training, not an excuse-making lard-ass. You have been training for a while, and your body may have sent you subtle signals that you train too much or too hard. You know, pains here and there, injuries, etc. You may have interpreted these signals right, but you may be scared to do less strength training because you fear to lose your precious gains. Well, the information below should provide you with a possible solution. But before we dig into the cool stuff, you should refresh this article in your memory, because this is kind of a sequel.

My Idea

Doing strength training for a decent time, you probably experienced not only its upsides but also downsides: overtraining, injuries, monotony, nervous system burnouts, etc. At some point, you might have learned how to deal with these downsides, although most likely you might have got into a trap of thinking this stuff is inevitable. While it IS somewhat inevitable, what if you could dramatically decrease the downsides of strength training?

Unless you have a ton of liabilities, you are probably a strength training junkie just like me. Once you experience the taste of a solid PR, you become hooked. You think about your training a lot, and most likely you want to train more. However, the sad reality is that the more you train, the more you should tame yourself and the more you should be precise about your training variables (volume, intensity, frequency). The more you do strength training, the more injuries you get, the more you overtrain, etc. Of course, playing with numbers and doing deloads are viable options for training sustainability, but they require serious self-control, and they do not always work.

[TIP: If you still want to do lots of pure strength training, start thinking in terms of weekly progression. Instead of using more and more intensity every workout, look at your microcycle as a whole. Plan an attainable progression for a whole week. For example:

Week’s assignment:

  1. Add 6 reps to pushing exercises
  2. Add 2.5 kg to pulling exercises
  3. Add 6 reps to leg exercises

Then add the planned amount in any appropriate workout. If you do 3 full-body workouts per week, then you may add 2 reps to a pushing exercise in every workout, or you may add 6 reps in one. Of course, that’s just a hypothetical example. Practical application of this method is highly situational, and you will need to use your brains to get the most out of it]

In “Strength VS Skill Training” article, I have shared with you a viable option for making progress faster while doing more focused strength training and more freestyle skill work. So why don’t we take it a step further? What if we can endure more work? How to implement this? What will happen to your body composition as a result? Well, these questions subconsciously bothered me for a long time, and I seem to find an answer: training variety.

My Story

Everything started with my interest in martial arts. I was quite cold in regards to them until recently. I have no idea why I got interested, but I guess a martial art is a badass skill to have in your arsenal (especially for a skill junkie like me). There was only one problem – I had already been doing strength training 3 times per week, bodyweight skill work 3-4 times per week, and skateboarding 2-3 times per week. There was basically no room for martial arts. Anyway, I decided to take a week off from everything and to spend it learning the new stuff.

I was lucky enough to find a good dojo right from the start. At first, training sessions were pretty demanding skill- and endurance-wise because I was not used to training for 2 hours straight in a non-stop fashion, but with time, the intensity and tempo became more manageable. Anyway, I spent that week having 3 martial art training sessions, each 2 hours long.

The next week I decided to add back only 2 full-body strength training sessions, which turned out to be perfectly enough. I concentrated on big compound moves and nothing else. Here is the program that I came up with:

Day 1

A) Weighted Dips – 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps

B) Sumo Deadlifts – 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps

C) Weighted Neutral-Grip Chin-Ups – 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps

Day 2 & 3 – Off

Day 4

A) Incline Dumbbell Presses – 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps

B) Back Squats – 3-5 sets of 8-10

C) Front Levers/Front Lever Raises – 3-5 sets (I use different rep schemes here)

Day 5, 6 & 7 – Off

NOTE: By “Off” I mean no strength training. I do skill/endurance work on those days

Of course, at first, my strength was down because of muscle fatigue from other training, but it started to climb up fast once the adaptation period was over. Additionally, I seem to feel way fresher and stronger doing only two strength sessions per week.

The week after that I decided to bring back the bodyweight skill work. I used weekly volume assignments for this and they did their job brilliantly. Then I added back 2-3 skateboarding sessions per week.

The main question you have to ask me at this point is how the fuck can I manage that much training volume without overtraining? The answer is variety and calories. All the training I do at the moment (approximately 12-15 hours per week) develops quite different performance qualities of my body. Additionally, I eat 3200-3300 calories per day (which is well above my maintenance) to support my lifestyle.

The Results

Is it necessary to train this much? If you have only 3-4 hours per week to train, then no. Work with what you have. However, If you have some spare time, let me share the benefits of training this much:

  • I still have the golfer’s elbow condition, but due to less strength training and more variety, it is way closer to healing than at any other time in the past;
  • I’ve finally experienced that G-Flux effect. I can assure you that it is real. Basically, this theory states that a person who spends and eats more calories will have a better body composition, than a person who spends and eats less. For example, a trainee who spends and consumes 3000 calories per day will have less fat and more muscle than a trainee who spends and consumes 2500 calories daily;
  • My strength training programming have improved because I focused only on big compound moves;
  • My conditioning improved BIG TIME. Endurance work is fucking pain in the ass for me. I would rather do more strength training than run any day of any week. However, if you train in a group, then you have no other choice than to endure all the pain because you’re not a pussy (that’s a good tip for anything you hate to do; make it competitive).
  • Martial arts training is particularly cool because of this sense of well-being, confidence, and calmness that you earn. It seems that both strength and martial arts training are vital in developing a resilient and tough mind and body. They go hand in hand and are parts of the same puzzle.
  • Finally, having less time for something makes you value it more.

So What Do I Propose?

Basically, I encourage you to introduce more variety to your training. Think of any skill you always wanted to develop but haven’t started due to strength training taking all the time and energy. For example, rock climbing or tumbling, or surfing, or parkour, etc. Feel free to start as soon as possible, and do not worry about your gains. Despite what you might have heard, endurance training doesn’t kill your muscle mass; serious calorie deficit does.

So here is a blueprint to this training approach:

  1. Differentiate strength training and skill/endurance work
  2. Keep strength training at low-to-moderate volume, high intensity, and moderate frequency
  3. Add as much skill/endurance work as you want/can handle
  4. Back up this amount of work with calories
  5. Enjoy improved performance, fat loss, health, sense of well-being, etc.

In case you wonder, my current training week looks like this:

Monday – Martial Arts

Tuesday – Skateboarding

Wednesday – Martial Arts

Thursday – Strength Training

Friday – Martial Arts

Saturday – Skateboarding

Sunday – Strength Training

Everyday or Anytime I Feel Like It – Bodyweight Skill Work, Stretching, and additional Skateboarding

Who Is This Technique For?

Of course, this solution is not for everybody. If you are a competing athlete who requires tons of strength training, then training variety may not and probably should not be your first priority. However, if you have no plans for winning medals, breaking world records, and stuff, then I invite you to try it and decide for yourself whether this is worth the trouble.

Can You Just Do More Strength Training Instead?

I wish I could answer “yes”, but it is “no”. If you do more strength training than your body can handle, you will most certainly injure yourself.

Closing Thoughts

I know that this smells like CrossFit, but anyway, I encourage you to broaden your horizons. This stuff works, and it will make you a priceless gift. Thanks for reading.

Play rough!

Alex

P.S. I’m not the only one who came to such a conclusion. Check this video out:

Every time you don’t like and share this article, you upset a kitten somewhere.

Do you have any thoughts? Let’s chat in comments.

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6 thoughts on “How You Can Benefit from Doing Less Strength Training

  1. Ricky Crawford

    You have a rare gift Alex ,insight and the common sense to apply it . I will give this a shot your past advice has always been spot on. Thanks man

    Reply
  2. Lyubomir Ivanov

    Hello Alex,

    Few months back I started learninig a lot of gymnastic moves, like front lever, planche, back lever(and some simple leg work). When I started I didn’t thought of the Crossfitter as bunch of missfits(and this is how most of the gym rats think of it). But I thought of it as another way people could develop themselves. Anyway nugh ranting on your article.

    I really am thankfull that I stumbled on this article, so I could learn something new. And that is that is how I should combine my workouts when I start training Wing Chun(one day). Thank you very much for that.

    And I have something to add up. You said it like that “after adaptation period is over” that period will be about a month. It takes a month to build a habit and after that it is hard to stop it(theoreticly). And through that period every little procrastination and excuse can stop one from going to the gym/dojo.

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      I meant physical adaptation to a new type of training stimulus. It may take more than a month. I suggest you to start martial art training sooner rather than later.

      – Alex

      Reply
  3. Pingback: 5 Lessons from the World of Martial Arts - Alex Zinchenko's Rough Strength

  4. Nick Wislon

    Love your blogs..I love doing this..Strength training is an integral part of a well-rounded exercise program that can do all of that and more.

    Reply

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