Rough Strength Method

Rough Strength MethodSo you were wondering: “What is that “Rough Strength Method” button at the top menu? Why is it there?” Well, this secret will be revealed in a moment. You’ve arrived to the page where I compiled all the essential information on Rough Strength Method written so far with links to broader articles. How awesome is that?

What Is Rough Strength Method?

First of all, what is this Rough Strength Method? It is the approach to training and nutrition that combines old school wisdom with modern knowledge. Basically, it teaches you how to make the most out of anything you have at hand. No matter what your goal is – strength, muscle, fat loss or mastering some specific skill – Rough Strength Method can give you that.

It shows you what is important. Burning desire to change, hard work, education and guidance are far more significant than what type of equipment you use. Do you know what training implement is the most effective? The one you have free and unlimited access to. Do you know what routine is the best? The one you stick to for long enough to get results.

Rough Strength Method is the Occam’s razor and the Pareto principle of strength training. Like my good friend said: “It’s brutally simple. So simple that it forces you to rethink everything”.

Originally, Rough Strength Method started as a display of what can be done with equipment you have at hand. With time, it evolved to the self-sufficient approach to strength training.

Whether to use it or not is completely your decision. Do I think that Rough Strength Method is the only way? No. However, if what you are doing now doesn’t work, I invite you to try it.

You can read more on why you should use Rough Strength Method in this article.

The Basics of Rough Strength Method

In this section, we’ll discuss the basics of the Method. Before we go into details for certain goals, I’d like to write a couple of sentences on the main principle you need to understand – the principle of progressive resistance (or progressive overload, any way you slice it). If you remember just one thing from this compilation article, this should be it.

What is progressive resistance? It is that secret weapon in your arsenal, that ace in your sleeve, the ultimate thing that turns any ordinary human into extraordinary. All the cheesy metaphors aside, it is the principle of gradual increase of resistance. It states that you should do more with time, as well as you should move from the easiest task to the hardest (not other way around). The most basic application of this principle is adding repetitions. If you can do 3 Pull-Ups today, with time you should perform 10, then 15 etc. However, adding reps is not the only way to progress. You can add sets, decrease the time between sets, increase the working weight or move to harder exercises. You should progress. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.

You can read more about progressive resistance in this article.

Another important principle to understand is relationship between training volume, intensity and frequency. Your body’s recovery ability is limited. You can’t have it all. If intensity is high, then frequency and volume will suffer. If you concentrate on volume, then intensity and frequency should go down. You got the idea. Ultimately, you should find that “sweet spot” between these three. How would you know that you found it? You’ll be getting closer to your goal.

You can read more about volume, intensity and frequency relationship in this article.

Now let’s break down some possible goals you can shoot for:

How to Gain Strength?

If you read even only a couple of Rough Strength articles, you might have noticed that strength is the name of the game for me. Everybody should seek it relentlessly. You’ll be not only stronger, but also healthier, mentally tougher and more prepared for hard situations in life.

So how should you train for strength? Strength is a skill and you should treat it like one. The main rule here is “to train as often as possible, while staying as fresh as possible”. There are many approaches, but common things in pure strength training are:

  • Low amount of repetitions (no more than 5);
  • Low-to-moderate amount of sets (3-6, depending on the amount of repetitions per set);
  • Lots of rest between exercises and sets;
  • Concentration on big compound exercises.

As you can see, there is nothing extremely hard in this type of training (except the actual lifting). You just pick couple of exercises you want to improve, perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps per session and don’t forget about progressive resistance principle mentioned above.

There are couple of great techniques for developing strength that I used with success:

  1. “Grease the groove”. You pick the exercise you want to improve, let’s say it would be Handstand Push-Up and you can do 6 reps in it. Your goal should be performing 3-rep sets (50% of maximum) throughout the day. In a week, your maximum in Handstand Push-Up should increase due to neural adaptation and lots of repetition of the skill.
  2. High-Frequency Training. Let’s assume that conditions are the same as in example above (6RM in Handstand Push-Up). You can try performing the exercise for one set to failure for 6 days a week. This simple approach always worked for me, but for limited amount of time (2-3 weeks).

Read more in-depth “How to Gain Strength” article here.

How to Build Muscle?

Everybody wants to beef up at some point. If you crave hypertrophy, then you need to understand a couple of rules:

  • Building muscle is not only about training; nutrition plays huge role here. Just imagine trying so hard to build the body of your dreams, training properly and heavy, sleeping 8 hours per night, and still getting no results because of the retarded diet. To gain muscle you need to be in caloric surplus.
  • To build muscle you need to do more reps (and sometimes sets). The rules are the same – progressive resistance principle is still relevant here. However, oftentimes you should do more volume. “Heavy weight for high reps” – that’s the ultimate prescription for gaining muscle.

Basically, you take pure strength approach, add reps, eat more and you are on the track to the best muscle gains in your life.

Read more in-depth “How to Build Muscle” article here.

How to Lose Fat?

The most effective thing you can do to lose fat is to get a proper diet. There is no way around. Let me give you some math to explain my point. Classic prescription for fat loss is 500-calorie deficit daily. I don’t completely agree with this, but let’s use it for math purposes (I’ll share my insights in the ‘Nutrition’ section). Good cardio (jump rope, not treadmill) and weight training burn approximately 500 calories per hour. Let’s assume that you eat 2500 calories per day. To lose fat you can either eat 2000 calories, or train hard for at least an hour and eat 2500. “What’s the problem with the latter?” – you can ask. There is no problem except increased appetite and impaired recovery. Eating less will be MUCH easier. You can’t train hard every day. You’ll burn out really fast. In addition, it will be much harder to eat the same 2500 calories after a hard workout (if you eat 3000 that day, then your session was a waste of time and energy).

Is training for fat loss useless? Well, it depends on the circumstances. I have several rules for effective fat loss:

  1. Train for strength. This will ensure that you will lose as little muscle as possible, if any.
  2. Limit training volume and frequency. Check ‘How to Gain Strength?’ section for a sound advice.
  3. Get a good diet. This will be discussed in the ‘Nutrition’ section.
  4. Focus on protein. I found out that the more protein I eat, the leaner I get.
  5. Use intermittent fasting. It is one of the best tweaks you can do to your diet if your goal is fat loss.

What about cardio? I like jump rope a lot. But it is not that essential, in my opinion. If your fat loss stalled, try adding rope for one-two 15-minute sessions per week. With time, increase to three-four. Another great option would be eccentric-less training, because it causes less muscle soreness. For example, prowler pushing or sled pulling. The initial prescription is the same. And finally, option #3 would be sprints. Initial prescription is the same. You should experiment with different protocols to find out what is better for you. However, don’t get too carried away with cardio. Strength training is still your bread and butter.

Should you concentrate solely on one goal or you can mix them? The more you work just on one task, the faster you get the results. No need to complicate things.

Tools

There are three strength training tools that I prefer the most: bodyweight, kettlebells and sandbags. They all mix into the perfect training system. How? Every implement from the Rough Strength Triad has its advantages and flaws (as well as any other training tool). However, when you use all three of them, strengths of one cover the weaknesses of the other. Besides, all these implements cost way less than gym memberships or any fancy machines.

Do I think that other training tools suck? No fucking way. If you have free access to barbell or dumbbells, then go for it. Why do you waste such a cool opportunity?

Can you limit yourself to one tool? It wouldn’t be the wisest decision, in my opinion. Use at least two of them in your training for awesome overall development.

Let’s talk about the Rough Strength Triad itself:

Calisthenics

Lifting your own bodyweight is probably the oldest form of strength training. Somewhat forgotten, now it makes a comeback into the mainstream fitness. More and more people get recruited into the calisthenics army every day. It is not a surprise for me.

Bodyweight strength training gives you the unique opportunity to train anywhere anytime with no equipment (except the place to hang from). What is cool about it is the fact that this form of training is the most sustainable. Here is a quick example: imagine that you are training with a barbell. You might have one at your garage (or apartment, why not?) or at the nearest gym. In case you move somewhere, you should transport the barbell, sell it, or search for a new gym. With calisthenics, there are no such difficulties. You can sustain this type of training until your death. That’s what awesome.

Besides, there are not many things in life that are cooler than mastering your bodyweight. This type of training is hard and fun at the same time. If you choose this path to strength, I should warn you – it is WAY tougher than the barbell or dumbbell training. You’ll understand it when you get to the advanced stages.

Another question that disturbs minds of a huge amount of people is “can you build muscle with calisthenics?” In short, yes. For longer answer, you should do some reading here.

Read more about bodyweight strength training in this article.

Kettlebells

Kettlebells are my native tools. Everybody knows about “giryas” here. Ironically, not many people can tell the difference between a kettlebell and a dumbbell; and even less people can move heavy kettlebells.

What’s so special about these cannonballs with handles? They are fun, effective for gaining strength, building muscle and losing fat, and, of course, they allow unique exercises to be performed (I mean Swings, Snatches etc.). The coolest thing about kettlebells is the off-axis center of mass. That is why they always feel harder than dumbbells.

I like the fact that you can’t really adjust the weight of the kettlebell. This training tool never lies. You either can press 32 kg bell overhead, or not. There is something romantic and magical about it.

In addition, I like the fact that you don’t need much space to train with kettlebells and to store them.

Read more about kettlebell strength training in this article.

Sandbags

While kettlebells can be quite expensive, sandbag strength training is in reach of anyone. All you need are a bag and sand. It couldn’t get simpler than that. To learn how to make a sandbag yourself, check out this article.

I like sandbag training for its unpredictability and brutality. Lifting heavy sandbag is far from easy. If you never tried, it is MUCH tougher than you think. The contents of the bag are unstable, thus it doesn’t have the classic center of mass – it is always changing. It seems that the sandbag always wants to escape your hands. That’s what makes this type of training unique.

Sandbag strength training is still highly under-appreciated nowadays despite all the attempts to popularize it. I think there are two reasons for this:

  1. It is not fancy;
  2. It is brutally hard.

Any exercise performed with a heavy sandbag is a test of willpower, and it is so ferocious that it will leave you lying in the puddle of your own sweat. If you still doubt that sandbag is one of the manliest training tools out there, I challenge you to try it. You can steal the sand from the nearest sandbox. Take a duffel bag, stuff it with 50 kg of sand, and try to lift it overhead. Any way you like, just get it done. Perform 5 sets of any amount or repetitions. I guarantee you will feel it the next day. The soreness will be in places you didn’t even know you have muscles in.

Read more about sandbag strength training in this article.

Nutrition

If you are chasing aesthetic goals, nutrition should be your primary concern. People struggle with two common problems:

How to Gain Muscle?

If this is your goal, then you should follow some simple rules:

  1. Train as I described in “How to Build Muscle?” section earlier. “Heavy weight for high reps”
  2. Be in caloric surplus. To gain muscle you need to eat more. There is no way around. You should eat 10-20% above maintenance calories. For example, if your maintenance is 2000 calories, then you should eat 2200-2400 calories daily. If you get too fat in the process, lower the surplus. If you don’t grow, then increase the surplus.
  3. Eat enough protein. I found that 3-4.5 g per 1 kg of bodyweight is a great number. You should experiment to learn what is best for you though.
  4. Don’t forget about carbs. Don’t limit carbs too much. I found that 3-4 g per 1 kg on workout days is good for me. I can go lower on rest days because my metabolism sucks.

How to Get Rid of Fat?

If you want to lose fat, here is another set of rules for you:

  1. Train as I described in “How to Lose Fat?” section earlier. Do everything to maintain your lean body mass.
  2. Be in caloric deficit. You should eat less. An important point to understand here is that you won’t lose fat quicker than your body allows it. Eating nothing won’t give you faster results. You should be patient and cut only 10-20% from your maintenance calories. For example, if your maintenance is 2000 calories, then you should consume 1600-1800 calories daily. This way your metabolism won’t slow down, and you will progress pretty much steady.
  3. Focus on protein. I found out that the more protein I eat, the leaner I am. 2 g per 1 kg of bodyweight should be your bare minimum.
  4. Cycle carbs. Despite what others say, I found carb cycling useful in the fat loss efforts. Go lower on rest days and higher on workout days. In addition, there is no point in going less than 100 g of carbs per day, but in case you want to try, you definitely can. Your training sessions would probably suck though. If it happens, just add some more carbs and cut fats a bit.
  5. Try intermittent fasting. Another great thing you can do for fat loss is intermittent fasting. There are lots of approaches. LeanGains (or 16/8), Eat.Stop.Eat (24-hour fast) and The Warrior Diet (20/4) are the most common. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. You need to try them all for at least 4 weeks to make conclusions.

You can learn how to design your own cheap high-protein diet here.

Additionally, you should never rely solely on nutritional supplements. Some of them work, but if your diet is poor, then it is a waste of money. Supplements were created to supplement and enhance your training and diet, not to replace them.

You can read the in-depth article on supplements here.

Mindset

Mind is a powerful thing. Probably more powerful than any of us can imagine.

What works for me like a clock is the understanding that somewhere someone lives much worse life and makes much more out of it than me. He or she works much harder and acquires more results than I get. My competitiveness takes charge of everything, and I start working twice as hard.

Additionally, you should cultivate, as I put it, the warrior attitude to training and nutrition. You should get independent from all the luxuries and addictions you have. Read this piece for more information.

Excuses deserve mentioning here also. Stop using them. Right now. There is only one person responsible for your results or lack of them, and it is you. Lunar phase has nothing to do with you being fat and weak, as well as no money for supplements or gym memberships. Lack of action due to making constant excuses has. Accept this and start improving.

Read more in-depth article on Rough Strength mindset here.

Still in Doubt?

Then I invite you to try The Most Badass Online training. Coaching will instantly supercharge your training. Besides, it is always great to have a person who will help you with your quest, with whom you can discuss difficulties, and who will discard all the ideas destined to fail. As experience shows, you’ll get to your goal much faster with a coach than by yourself.

You can learn more about The Most Badass Online Training here.

Closing Thoughts

That is it for now. I don’t plan this page to be static. I will add more information here as soon as it will be ready. Thanks for reading.

You can do a great thing and help Rough Strength mission if you share this article with your friends.

Play rough!

Alex

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10 thoughts on “Rough Strength Method

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  3. bill

    Thanks for the awesome article as always. I really appreciate all the free information on your blog (it is rare to find someone who offers this type of high quality info for free). One quick question, I am thinking about getting around 100 grams of carbs coming from vegetables + fruit while having 1 carb refeed day a week. Do you think that’s a reasonable setup for a guy trying to lose fat?

    Reply
    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Thanks for appreciation, Bill. If you like it, share it. Relentlessly. Every share will help Rough Strength mission.

      Regarding your question, yes, it is reasonable. However your workouts may suffer. Try your setup for 4-6 weeks and decide after that. If your training sessions are regularly crappy, then you may need medium refeeds after your workouts, instead of one big.

      – Alex

      Reply
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