If you read this post, then you should be aware that I simplified my training as much as I could lately. I lift conventional weights. You know, barbells, dumbbells, etc. I still do calisthenics, but way less than before. This is the path of endurable resistance for me at the moment of writing this article.
So, what have I been able to learn (or relearn) during this time. Well, lots of things. Let me share some of them with you.
Conclusion #1: Simple Exercises Are Better for Building Muscle
Let me be an example. I still follow the same routine I laid out in the “Simplify” article, and it still works. I lift more weight. I do more reps, sets, etc. That training program consists of simple compound exercises. I do way less thinking regarding this type of training (because to be honest, you do not need to think a lot about lifting barbells/dumbbells). I just come to the gym, lift more, and go home. It should not be harder than that.
As a result, in 4 months I am 4 kg heavier than I was. My nutrition was the same. I don’t measure the levels of bodyfat, but considering that I got stronger in archer chin-ups with full one-arm negatives, I don’t think bodyfat is an issue. Of course, this could happen due to training variety (switching the focus from calisthenics/kettlebells to barbells/dumbbells). However, building muscle with bodyweight/kettlebell/sandbag exercises was never this easy.
Take-home point: if your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, maybe calisthenics, kettlebells, or sandbags are not for you. If you still believe you can do this with Rough Strength training implements, then it can be a good idea to work on simple compound exercises (like weighted dips or weighted chin-ups) along with the cool stuff.
Conclusion #2: MED Works
Several years ago I stumbled upon a concept of a minimum effective dose [MED] and its application in strength training. I was confused because the author suggested to train less, and it was rather strange to me at that time. The principle of MED in strength training calls for using just the bare minimum of effort. You know, if you can do less and get pretty close results to doing more, then do less. Well, now I understand this concept and fully support it. You do not need to train just for the sake of training. It won’t do you any good. Train for results and have fun in your spare time.
If we take a look at my program, there is only 3-4 exercises per day 3 times a week. The results speak for themselves.
[Note: minimum effective doses of a competing athlete and a recreational strength training enthusiast can differ a lot. Use what is suitable for you]
Take-home point: do only what needs to be done. If you can get away with doing less, then do less.
Conclusion #3: Routine Flexibility Guarantees You Consistency
When things get crazy, it is hard to squeeze in all the training sessions you have planned. That’s when a simple and flexible routine comes handy. Despite the travelling and lots of other events, I was able not to miss any sessions of the “Simplify” routine. How? Due to its structure. If you take a closer look at it, you will notice that it is an Upper-Lower-Upper split. This gives you lots of room for manipulation. You can easily pair days in case you have time only for two days in a row instead of classic Mon-Wed-Fri. For example, on Monday I perform an upper body session, on Wednesday – lower body. Now, for some reason Friday and the weekend become unavailable for training. Instead of missing sessions, I can move the last one to Thursday.
Take-home point: if you have a busy schedule and make up silly excuses about it, then a flexible training routine might be a way to go.
Conclusion #4: Pick a Gym with a Good Air Ventilation System
This was never an issue for me because I trained either outdoors, or in my apartment (and both of them have sufficient air supply). However, my current gym has a so-so air ventilation system. This causes some lightheadedness here and there. This is not a big problem for me. However, you should be aware of this stuff.
Take-home point: train outdoors.
Conclusion #5: Watch Your Technique
Another thing I’ve (re)noticed is that lots of people use mediocre technique in 90% of exercises. What’s worse is that they try to “teach” others the same mistakes. If you are trying to help them, they just engage that douchebag mode because they think they know it all. Do not be one of these losers. Clean up your technique as much as you can and be open to constructive critique.
Additionally, there is a certain group of people in the gym who try to invent new exercises. You know, gym Teslas and Edisons. In 99% of cases, they end up doing useless crap because they lack the simple knowledge of anatomy. Also, they become “stars” of gym fail compilations on YouTube. Do not be one of them either.
Take-home point: your technique should be as close to perfect as possible.
Conclusion #6: Try to Avoid Mirrors
I know it is hard when mirrors are everywhere you look. However, looking in the mirror too much is not only narcissistic and gay. If you look in the mirror while performing an exercise, you project your energy there instead of the resistance you are fighting with. When I found out this simple tweak back in the day, my strength increased tremendously.
Take-home point: look at the weight your trying to crush.
Conclusion #7: Diet Matters
A no-brainer. Yet anyone can become a victim of a poor diet. I am talking here about energy on your training session. If you still believe that what you eat exactly before the training matters, then you think not deep enough. The energy levels during your workout depend not on what you eat 2 hours before, but on what you ate last day. Digestion is a long process. It takes hours, not minutes. If you eating is shitty today, maybe tomorrow is not a good day for serious training.
Let me explain why this is important. Let’s assume you’ve eaten poorly the day before. Today you come to a training session and for some reason you have no energy. The best solution is to go home, eat and comeback tomorrow. However, you think that a real macho would train anyway. The second best solution is to lower the working weights a bit. The training session is already wasted, but you could at least practice in some exercises. However, you think that a real macho would use his regular working weights or even more. As a result – BOOM! – you get injured and miss several weeks of training.
Take-home point: as a rule of thumb, if your eating is shitty today, take a day off and eat properly tomorrow.
Conclusion #8: Nothing Changes
I’ve been in different gyms in 2007, then 2010, then 2012, then 2015, and nothing has ever changed. The majority of people still believe that machines are superior to weights. The majority still believes that supplements matter. People still come to the gym to socialize, not to train. People still do dumb shit there. It is frustrating picture to see.
No take-home point.
I hope my experience was useful to you and you learned something new. Thanks for reading.
P.S. There was the Rough Strength’s birthday on April, 6th. Thank you for your support and enduring reading my ideas. Remember, there is no Rough Strength without you.
Keep playing rough!
Alex “The Conclusion Boss” Zinchenko
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