The recommendations for the enhanced lifters

Talking about natural lifters is super popular but nobody talks to the enhanced lifters. And while enhanced lifters can get away with a lot more when it comes to training and dieting, it doesn’t mean that there is not an optimal way for them to do things.

In this video, I present some training recommendations to enhanced lifters and (more importantly) what to do to try to prevent the potential physiological and psychological issues that they can encounter when they go off-cycle

Let’s get to the video!

IN CASE OF YOU DIDN’T SEE THE 8 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NATURAL LIFTER, I’LL DROP THE LINK BELOW 

 

AND OF COURSE, IF YOU DIDN’T SEE THE FIRST ONE, PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO ON NATURAL VS ENHANCED TRAINING; A FULL WEBINAR EXPLAINING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOTH TYPES OF LIFTERS.

The 8 recommendations for enhanced lifter

 

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #1

AN ENHANCED LIFTER CAN GET AWAY WITH MORE TRAINING STRESS, BUT WHAT IS OPTIMAL FOR A NATURAL LIFTER WILL WORK EVEN BETTER FOR AN ENHANCED LIFTER.

  • Steroids not only increase recovery capacity and thus allow you to get away with training that would normally be sub-optimal by being excessive, but it also magnifies the gains for a certain stimulus.
  • A training program that is optimal for a natural lifter will thus provide a lot of gains to the enhanced lifter too.
  • Good examples include Fortitude Training by Dr. Scott Stevenson, DC Training by Dante Trudel and the training of Dorian Yates.
  • One of the drawbacks of « going all-in» with volume and overall training stress is that it can make it harder to maintain (or continue gaining) when you go « off ».
  • Ideally, an enhanced lifter would use the safe training philosophy as a natural one, only the « training dosage » would vary.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #2

START WITH A  ’’NATURAL’’ LEVEL TRAINING STRESS AND TITRATE UP VERY GRADUALLY.

  • Just because you are enhanced doesn’t mean that you should go « all-in’ right away.
  • It’s smarter to start with a more conservative training approach and gradually increase training stress depending on how your body is reacting.
  • Again, the same general approach, different training dose.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #3

DON’T LET STEROIDS BE AN EXCUSE FOR NOT TRAINING PROPERLY

*This is not something we see in all or even most steroid users.

1.Not trying to learn more about proper training, because you are already getting enough gains (a lot of bodybuilders are more interested in learning about drugs than proper training or nutrition).

2.Not learning to train hard because they don’t have to. Learning to rely on quantity rather than quality.

3.Not learning what works naturally first.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #4

THE LONGER YOU ARE « ON  » (and the higher the doses) THE MORE LIKELY YOU ARE TO LOSE MUSCLE AND HAVE PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE EFFECTS AND THE LONGER IT WILL TAKE TO GET BACK TO NORMAL.

  • A longer cycle is more likely to lead to a cortisol rebound during the off period.
  • Steroids can directly stimulate the dopaminergic and serotoninergic receptors1
  • These receptors can be made resistant to dopamine and serotonin by being overstimulated by the steroids.
  • When you go « off » if those receptors have been made resistant and you not longer have the strong stimulus from the steroids, you can showcase low dopaminergic and serotoninergic activity leading to a drop in motivation, anhedonia, drop in libido, lower self-esteem, anxiety, depression, etc.
  • The length of the neurotransmitter issues can last up to 5-6 times as long as the « on » period was2
  • Some steroids also lower GABA levels and/or activity (equipoise being the worst) which can lead to anxiety, sleep issues an increase in appetite and less effective glycemic control.

 

1. De Souza Silva, Mattern, Topic, Buddenberg  & Huston (2009): Dopaminergic and serotonergic activity in neostriatum and nucleus accumbens enhanced by intranasal administration of testosterone. European Neuropsychopharmacology Jan;19(1):53-63.

2. Kailanto, Kankaanpää & Seppälä (2011): Subchronic steroid administration induces long lasting changes in neurochemical and behavioral response to cocaine in rats(link is external). Steroids Nov;76(12):1310-6.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #5

UNLESS YOU ARE A PRO, INCLUDE AS MUCH TIME « OFF » AS TIME « ON ».

As we just saw, the longer you stay « on » the more likely you have long term side-effects:

  1. Psychological addiction (from the very important dopaminergic and serotoninergic stimulation)

  2. Psychological side effects like anxiety, drop in motivation, decreased sexual desires, anhedonia, apathy, drop in self-esteem, etc.

  3. Muscle loss

  4. Cardiovascular and kidney issues are due in large part to the increase in blood pressure and heart rate caused by the increase in adrenergic/adrenaline activity as well as changes in blood lipid profile and cholesterol levels.

  5. The less time you can spend « on » in any given period, the less likely you are to showcase these issues.

  6. Brian Batcheldor’s approach of 2-3 weeks on and 2-3 weeks off

  7. The issues with the « blast and cruise » approach

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #6

THE LAST 1-2 WEEKS OF A CYCLE IS WHEN YOU NEED TO WORK ON LOWERING CORTISOL AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. YOU DON’T WANT HIGH CORTISOL LEVELS GOING INTO YOUR « OFF » PERIOD.

  • Lower training stress
  • More « off » days
  • Higher carbohydrate intake
  • Glycine (3-7g) post-workout and in the evening
  • Phosphatidylserine (600-800mg)
  • Magnesium (taurate or glycinate) (2-3x 250-500mg)

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #7

THE FIRST 3-4 WEEKS OF YOUR « OFF » PERIOD IS THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME TO TRY TO GET LEANER (THE « IF I CAN’T GET BIGGER, I’LL GET RIPPED » PHILOSOPHY).

  • The early post-cycle period is all about lowering cortisol to maximize muscle maintenance.
  • Follow the preceding recommendations for the first 3-4 weeks of the post-cycle period.
  • A caloric deficit (especially with lower carbohydrates) will increase cortisol levels.
  • The last thing you want in the post-cycle period is to increase cortisol even more.
  • Pre/Intra workout carbs (and protein/amino acids) are even more important during this period.
  • RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #8

DURING YOUR « OFF » PERIODS YOU VERY WELL MAY HAVE A LOWER TOLERANCE TO TRAINING STRESS THAN NATURAL LIFTERS.

  • A lot of the muscle lost post-cycle comes from the fear of losing muscle and subsequently doing too much work.
  • It’s the time to focus on lower volume, higher intensiveness, lower overall frequency.
  • Focus on training efficiency: getting the proper stimulus with the lowest workload possible
  • This is where having done a very high workload « on » cycle can hurt you: you could have desensitized your muscles to the training stimulus and it’s hard to stimulate further growth with lower volume work, even if the intensiveness is high.
  • This is why, even when on, you should not do high volume for more than 4 weeks in a row. Include periods of lower volume to stay sensitive to the training stimulus.

CONCLUSION

For those of you who read and watched the entire free webinar and articles – GREAT JOB MATE!

This was the last video of this micro-series. 

In the meantime, if you want more great Thibarmy resources, make sure you download our free guide on “How to Lift for Maximum Hypertrophy”.

Click below to download it 

Download it now!

-CT

The recommendations for the natural lifter

In this video I discuss my recommendations for natural lifters when it comes to optimal training. In the context of designing a proper training plan, “natural” refers to not being aided by steroids or other anabolic drugs at the moment.

This is different than the “ethical” meaning of “natural” which could go as far as being drug-free for life or at the very least a long period without having used growth drugs.

I prefer to see it from a practical standpoint: someone who has used steroids in the past but who doesn’t have them in their system for a certain period of time will not have a recovery advantage when it comes to training. As such, when it comes to designing a training program we simply are looking if someone is aided by drugs while doing the program or not.

TRT is another topic. To me, if someone is on TRUE TRT, which brings their testosterone levels to the normal range they can be considered “natural”. But most people who self-medicate and claim to be using “TRT dosages” are often closer to a mild steroid cycle than being natural.

Let’s get to the video!

 

IF YOU DIDN’T SEE THE FIRST ONE, PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO ON NATURAL VS ENHANCED TRAINING; A FULL WEBINAR EXPLAINING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOTH TYPES OF LIFTERS.

QUICK RECAP

WHAT IS NATURAL

  1. Various organizations have different definitions of what is natural. Some say that you have to be lifetime drug-free, others require a 5 years period without hormone use and some simply require you to be clean the day of the test.

  2. Differences between natural from an ethical standpoint and a practical one.

  1. From an ethical perspective, the natty = drug-free for life makes sense. As it has even been shown that steroid use could have some long-lasting benefits even someone goes off.

  2. Personally, I find it more useful to describe natural as someone who is no longer getting the benefits of steroid use at that moment. Meaning that it’s someone who cannot tolerate more training stress because he is using hormones. This is more of a practical opinion than one based on ethics as it allows me to make better programming decisions.

  1. Former steroid users can have long-lasting benefits in terms of muscle mass and strength (i.e. they don’t lose all of the gains made during their enhanced period… but is that always true?) however, they might tolerate even less training stress than lifetime natural lifters. WHY?

  2. Is someone on TRT natural?

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #1

FOR EACH PROGRAM OR PHASE, SELECT ONE DOMINANCE BETWEEN VOLUME AND INTENSIVENESS. DON’T USE A HIGH LEVEL OF BOTH

Note that it is technically possible to go for moderate volume and moderate intensity. BUT I find that most who try to do that quickly ramp up one or two of the variables and reach an excessive training stress level.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #2

 

EVEN IF YOU PICK A « VOLUME » DOMINANCE, STILL STAY MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN ENHANCED LIFTERS WHEN IT COMES TO OVERALL SESSION VOLUME

Training stress has systemic effects (cortisol and adrenaline production). If you keep volume/muscle low but do a boatload of volume in your session you could negate your gains. For example, if you do 6-8 sets per muscle (which is low) but train 4-5 muscles directly, you still get to 24-40 work sets in your workout which is too much for most.

Normally for a natural trainee, I recommend using a total of 4-5 exercises in a workout (out of which only 2-3 are big demanding lifts) which an overall volume in the 8-16 work sets range for the session.

Naturals can likely go up to 20 total sets per session (but should not exceed 10-12 for a single muscle), especially if they have good recovery capacities and low life stress. But only if intensiveness is kept moderate.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #3

IF YOU WANT TO DO MORE VOLUME PER SESSION YOU MUST DECREASE THE « SECONDARY STRESSORS » FOR THE SESSION AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. AND EVEN THEN, IT SHOULD NOT BE DONE IN THE LONG TERM.

Secondary training stressors are psychological stress, neurological demands, density, and competitiveness.

If you want to do more than the 16-20 total work sets the limit in a session you should:

  1. Use a greater proportion of machine or isolation exercises

  2. Keep rest intervals longe

  3. Stick with exercises and methods you are comfortable with

  4. Don’t try to beat a partner

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #4

IF YOU USED A PERIOD OF HIGHER VOLUME OR HIGHER TRAINING STRESS IT SHOULD NOT BE LONGER THAN 3-4 WEEKS AND YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IT BY DELOAD FOR A 7-10 DAYS.

Deloading simply refers to lowering training stress to reduce cortisol and (more importantly), adrenaline. This prevents (or fixes) training burnout/overtraining by helping you re-sensitize the beta-adrenergic receptors.

You can deload by lowering any of the 6 training variables that increase overall stress (volume, intensiveness, psychological stress, neurological demands, density, competitiveness).  The variables are ranked in order of its impact on training stress (and it’s effectiveness during a deloading phase).

The more severe the « stress period » was, the more you must lower stress during the deload (you might need to lower 3-5 variables).

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #5

TRAIN EACH MUSCLE (AT LEAST INDIRECTLY) 2-3 TIMES A WEEK

The natural trainee needs the training session to trigger the increase in anabolism that the steroid-user gets around the clock from the products he uses.

After a workout, protein synthesis/anabolism is elevated for, at the most, 30-36h.

Training a muscle only once a week is thus suboptimal because you only get 30-36h or enhanced growth out of the 168h of the week.

If you train a muscle 2-3x per week this goes up to 60-72 or even 90-108h of enhanced anabolism in a specific muscle, leading to faster growth.

A higher frequency might not be ideal (for hypertrophy… strength is a different story) because you would either not be able to recover fast enough, or don’t provide enough stimulation in a session to trigger growth.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #6

EVEN WITH AN INCREASE IN FREQUENCY PER BODY PART, DON’T INCREASE OVERALL FREQUENCY UNLESS YOU USE AN EXTREME LOW VOLUME APPROACH.

Training has systemic impacts and these can kill natural growth. If you spike cortisol and adrenaline too much by training too often, you might negatively impact growth. Especially if you have a higher level of life stress.

I find 3-4 weekly workouts to be best with natural lifters.

That’s why I often use a whole-body approach (with 4-5 exercises per session) three days a week and will sometimes add a 4th session where we only use isolation/machine exercises for the muscles that were not hit « properly » during the 3 main workouts.

Other good splits include:

  • Upper/Lower/Upper/Lower
  • Whole body/Upper/Lower
  • Push + quads/Pull + hams/Push + quads/Pull + hams
  • Chest + biceps/Legs/Back + triceps/Delts + rear delts and traps

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #7

DON’T KILL YOU GAINS WITH EXCESSIVE WARM-UP SETS

While warm-up sets do not cause the same cortisol/adrenaline release as work sets (they normally have an RPE level of 3-6) they still have an impact. Doing a ton of warm-up sets on each exercise can hurt your progression.

The goals of warm-up sets are:

  1. Prepare the muscles, joints system and nervous system to handle the work sets safely

  2. Allow you to select the weight for your work sets

  3. Practice the exercise and get used to the heavyweights

You certainly need more warm-up sets for the bigger lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc. Especially if they are done early in a session. Most of my clients will use three gradually heavier warm-up sets on the big lifts. If they are super strong they might need more (if you squat 700lbs you can’t go from empty bar to 700 in 3 sets).

But when it comes to less traumatic movements like isolation exercises or machine work, you likely only require one warm-up set, to help you properly select the weight for your work sets.

RECOMMENDATION FOR NATURALS #8

TAKE LONGER REST INTERVALS

Lengthening the rest periods between sets is an easy way to lower cortisol without negatively affecting the growth stimulus.

In fact, some recent studies showed that longer rest intervals could lead to more growth by allowing you to lift heavier weights on average.

However, you don’t want to increase the rest periods so much that it takes you out of the zone. For example, taking 5 minutes between sets will negate the potentiation effect that you got from your previous set.

CONCLUSION

For those of you who read and watched the entire webinar and article – Kudos!

It’s that kind of dedication that will help you get through the tougher challenges of training.

This is how you will reach your goals. Expect more videos in this series! (To be continued…)

In the meantime, if you want more great Thibarmy resources, make sure you download our free guide on “How to Lift for Maximum Hypertrophy”.

Click below to download it 

Download it now!

-CT

The differences between natural and enhanced training

If you’re natural should you train like a steroid user? That’s the big question!

I think that the best way to understand this topic is by hearing from someone who has been and works with people on both sides of the fence.

That would be me.

I will tell you the truth about the differences and similarities between these two clientele. 

In this video, I will cover 5 major topics:

  1. How cortisol can be an issue

  2. How steroids can reduce the risk of ”physical” overtraining 

  3. How steroids can reduce the risk of ”neurological” overtraining 

  4. Why steroids elevate protein synthesis 24/7 

  5. What is a muscle to tendon strength ratio?

DISCLAIMER

Watch at your own risk! This video is complex, theoretical, and for people that have the willingness to understand the truth behind the natural and enhanced lifters.

So, if you want to know why and you have plenty of time, check it out!

A Few Key Concepts to Recap this Video 

THE ROLE OF CORTISOL IS TO MAKE SURE THE BODY CAN FACE ANY POTENTIAL THREAT

  1. It increases mental awareness, motivation, and focus via the conversion of norepinephrine into epinephrine

  2. It increases heartbeat, the contraction strength of the heart and skeletal muscles via the same mechanism

  3. It mobilizes the stores of energy (carbohydrates, fats & proteins)

  4. It increases blood sugar if it is too low (to keep it stable)

  5. It inhibits the immune system

PROBLEMS ARISE WHEN CORTISOL IS CHRONICALLY ELEVATED

  1. It increases the level of myostatin

  2. It increases muscle degradation

  3. II reduces the re-synthesis of muscle glycogen

  4. It can lead to lowered testosterone and estrogen levels (pregnenolone steal)

  5. It reduces the conversion of T4 to T3 (which can lower basal metabolic rate)

  6. It reduces insulin sensitivity

  7. It creates water retention via the increase in aldosterone and vasopressin

  8. It can lead to beta-adrenergic desensitization

  9. It negatively affects the methylation cycle

  10. It increases glutamate production and glutamate receptor sensitivity

NEUROLOGICAL FATIGUE/OVERREACHING

Also called “adrenal fatigue”. In both cases (neurological fatigue/CNS fatigue and adrenal fatigue) are not real. The central nervous system or adrenal glands cannot become fatigued.

The Symptoms are:

  1. Decreased energy

  2. Loss of motivation

  3. Apathy

  4. Anhedonia

  5. Decreased sex drive/libido

  6. Depression

  7. Loss of confidence

  8. Decreased performances

  9. Decreased focus, concentration, or memory

Those symptoms are due to problems with one or more neurotransmitter systems like downregulation of beta-adrenergic receptors, depletion of norepinephrine, depletion of dopamine, and desensitization of dopamine receptors.

In all of those cases, the main cause is an overproduction of epinephrine/adrenaline caused, amongst others, by an excessive increase of cortisol levels.

FACTORS THAT CAN INCREASE CORTISOL/ADRENALINE ARE:

  1. Volume

  1. Intensiveness (not to be confused with intensity… how hard you are pushing each set)

  2. Psychological stress (being intimidated by a task)

  3. Neurological stress (complexity of an exercise, learning a new task, doing many different exercises)

  4. High training density

  5. Competitiveness

* Note that cortisol should not be blocked completely as it is necessary for optimal performance. But it is important to avoid chronic overproduction

MUSCLE REPAIR: NATURAL VS. ENHANCED

BIG DIFFERENCE NO.1: 

Enhanced lifters can repair damaged muscle tissue, and add muscle tissue without a time limit whereas natural lifters are limited to that 30-36 hours window.

BIG DIFFERENCE NO.2:

Steroid users can grow much better than natural trainees under high cortisol conditions.

BIG DIFFERENCE NO.3:

Enhanced lifters are also able to do more neurologically demanding work before suffering from « training burnout ».

BIG DIFFERENCE NO.4:

Enhanced lifters tend to be more at risk of tendon injuries when trying to push their strength up as fast as possible.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

Enhanced lifters can not only get away with bad programing but they can also benefit from added training volume and more muscle damage compared to the natural trainee. In fact, it might even be beneficial for them to do that.

However, while they can produce more force (due to faster muscle growth but also neurological potentiation), they are more at risk of injuries from heavy lifting because tendon development doesn’t parallel muscle and neurological strength gains.

Natural lifters

  1. Need lower daily training stress (emphasizing only on variable and lowering others)
  2. Might require a higher frequency per body part; but a similar or lower overall frequency
  3. Can more safely focus on progressive overload, and might require it more than enhanced lifters
  4. Will benefit from planned deloading weeks every 4th to 6th week

Enhanced lifters

  1. Can benefit from a higher daily volume and causing more muscle damage
  2. A « muscle bombing» approach of doing a high workload for a muscle group once a week will work well
  3. While those with a naturally stronger constitution (bigger tendons and bones) can focus on heavy lifting, normally enhanced lifter should focus on slightly higher reps when training for hypertrophy and be more conservative with load progression during strength phases.
  4. It is thus a mistake for most natural lifters to follow the same training program as enhanced lifters (unless they are genetically gifted).
  5. However, the opposite is not true: an enhanced lifter can progress really well on a program that is suitable for the natural trainee (e.g. Fortitude training).

POTENTIAL ISSUE WITH ENHANCED TRAINING

One danger of being enhanced (besides the potential health issues) is the neurological and hormonal rebound effect after a cycle.

  1. Dopamine receptor overstimulation can lead to desensitization of those receptors and withdrawal when you stop using steroids (this is the main cause of depression symptoms post-cycle)
  2. Cortisol rebound is the main cause of lost gains, ifs not natural testosterone suppression (although that doesn’t help).

CONCLUSION

For those of you who read and watched the entire webinar and article – Kudos!

It’s that kind of dedication that will help you get through the tougher challenges of training.

This is how you will reach your goals. Expect 2 more videos in this series! (To be continued…)

In the meantime, if you want more great Thibarmy resources, make sure you download our free guide on “How to Lift for Maximum Hypertrophy”.

Click below to download it 

Download it now!

-CT

The jacked athlete 31 plan Part 3 – The template

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: THE TEMPLATE

 

I will provide you with a recommended periodized plan. However, I want you to keep something in mind: it is for illustration purposes. While you can certainly use the exercises and loading schemes mentioned, you can also use other approaches and movements that you found worked well for you in the past. This is to help you understand the concept behind the system.

Block 1 – Weeks 1 – 3 (performance weeks)

 

Monday

Exercises:

A. Front squat (squat pattern)
B. Incline bench press (press pattern)
C. Romanian deadlift (hip hinge pattern)
D. Chin-up, close supinated grip (pull pattern)

On this day you perform the eccentric phase of the movements slowly (5 to 7 seconds).

Sets and reps:

Week 1: 4 sets of 5 with a 7 seconds eccentric
Week 2: 5 sets of 4 with a 6 seconds eccentric
Week 3: 6 sets of 3 with a 5 seconds eccentric

Wednesday

Exercises:

A. Zercher squat (squat pattern)
B. Military press (press pattern)
C. Romanian deadlift with a band around the waist to add resistance (pulling you back)
D. Seated row, neutral grip (pull pattern)

On this day you include an isometric hold (3 to 5 seconds) on each repetition.

On the squat and press exercises the hold is performed at the mid-range of movement, during the eccentric phase. On the pull movement it is done at the peak contraction position. In this case, we also do it at the peak contraction on the hip hinge (because of the band resistance). However with a traditional hip hinge movement, we would do it at the mid-range point instead.

Sets and reps:

Week 1: 4 sets of 5 with a 5 seconds hold
Week 2: 5 sets of 4 with a 4 seconds hold
Week 3: 6 sets of 3 with a 3 seconds hold

Friday

Exercises:

A. Back squat
B. Bench press
C. Deadlift
D. Pendlay row

These are performed with a normal repetition style. You control the eccentric without slowing down on purpose (2-3 seconds) and try to accelerate during the concentric phase.

Sets and reps:

Week 1: 6-6-4-4
Week 2: 5-4-3-2-1
Week 3: 3-2-1-3-2-1

Saturday

This is the gap workout. The exercise selection should be more individualized, to work on your perceived weaknesses or lagging muscle groups. But here is a recommendation based on what is not hit as hard on the other three workout days:

A1. Face pull
A2. DB lateral raise
B1. Cable curl
B2. Decline DB triceps extension
C1. Leg curl
C2. Standing calves raise (hold the peak contraction and the stretch 2 seconds each)

On this day we use more traditional “bodybuilding” loading schemes. I suggest using the same as on the hypertrophy week of the same block. In this case it means 3 work sets of 8 to 12 reps, with the last one being taken to failure.

I normally do no periodize the sets and reps on this day like I do on the main workouts. For the three weeks, we stick to 3 work sets of anywhere between 8 and 12 reps, with the last one being taken to failure.

Block 1 – Week 4 (hypertrophy week)

As we saw earlier, this week uses a more traditional “body part” split. To be precise, it uses an antagonist split, where two opposite muscles are trained on the same day. I recommend alternating one set of each (e.g. one set of bench press/rest/one set of curls/rest/one set of bench press/etc.) but you can do the exercises by themselves if you prefer that.

The weekly set-up looks like this:

Monday – Chest & Biceps

Tuesday – Lower body

Thursday – Back & Triceps

Saturday – Delts & Rear delts/Traps

Note that this is slightly different than a traditional antagonist split which normally pairs chest and back, then put biceps and triceps together. I personally prefer to use the split above which pairs one major muscle group with a smaller one.

In this block all exercises should be performed for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Out of those 3 sets, the last one should be taken to failure. Note that on squat and deadlift variations, “failure” means as many reps as you can with no form breakdown.

Work set 1 = 1-2 rep(s) short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = 1 rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps)

Here are some exercise recommendations. As mentioned earlier, feel free to use different but equivalent exercises if you want.

Monday – Chest & Biceps

A1. Incline DB press
A2. Standing barbell curl
B1. Machine chest press
B2. Rope hammer curl
C1. Pec deck machine
C2. Cable reverse curl

Tuesday – Lower body

A1. Back squat
A2. Lying leg curl
B1. Romanian deadlift
B2. Hack squat machine
C1. Glute-ham raise or back extension
C2. Standing calves raise

Thursday – Back & Triceps

A1. Chin-up close supinated grip
A2. Close-grip bench press
B1. Seated row, neutral grip
B2. Decline DB triceps extension
C1. Straight-arms pulldown
C2. Rope triceps pressdown

Saturday – Delts & Rear delts/traps

A1. Seated DB shoulder press
A2. Rope face pull
B1. DB lateral raise
B2. Rear delts machine (reverse pec deck)
C1. Plate or rope overhead raises (https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-do-high-rep-plate-raises-for-traps)
C2. Prone trap raises (https://www.t-nation.com/videos/tip-prone-trap-raise)

Block 3 – Weeks 9 – 11 (performance weeks)

 

We now switch to a “physical qualities” split instead of a “contraction types” split. We still use a whole-body approach three times per week, plus one gap workout, but now each workout focuses on a different physical capacity.

Monday – Whole-body Maximal strength

Wednesday – Whole-body speed-strength

Friday – Whole-body strength-speed

Saturday – Gap workout

Monday – Whole-body Maximal strength

Exercises:

A. Back squat
B. Bench press
C. Deadlift
D. Chin-up, close supinated grip

Sets and reps:

Week 5: 2 sets of Poliquin clusters (5-6 reps per set with around 87%, or your 3RM, with 20 seconds between reps)
Week 6: 3 sets of Miller extensive clusters (5-7 reps per set with up to 90-92% of your max, with 30-45 seconds between reps)
Week 7: 4 sets of Miller intensive clusters (2-3 reps per set with 92-95% of your max, with 45-60 seconds between reps)

For more information about cluster sets, visit my article on that topic here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-best-strength-training-method-of-all-time

You don’t use a special tempo and the rest between work sets can be 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday – Speed-strength

Speed-strength refers to overcoming a light to moderate resistance with a very high movement speed (1 to 1.3 meters per second).

We are talking about jumps, loaded jumps, throws, sprints, hill sprints and lighter sets on the Olympic lift variations. We can also include striking a tire with a sledgehammer, battle ropes for max speed and regular lifting with 30-40% of your max, done with maximum acceleration.

As you can see there are many different options depending on your skill level. I will simply give you four exercise categories list, pic one exercise per category.

Category 1 – Lower body/anterior chain dominant (or balanced)
Box jump
Vertical jump
Vertical jump with knee tuck
Loaded jump squat (20% of your max squat)
Backward sled drag sprint (30-50% of your body weight)
Bulgarian split squat jump (10-20% of your body weight)
Speed squat with 30-40% of your maximum
Stationary bike sprint with high resistance (but you can still “sprint”)

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions. The sled drag is 20-30 meters. The stationary bike sprints are 10-12 seconds long.

Category 2 – Pressing
Plyo push-ups (depending on your level, either from a bench or the floor)
Medicine ball throw from chest
Medicine ball throw – overhead press
Medicine ball throw – push press
Medicine ball throw – overhead, backward, scooping motion
Push press with around 60-70% of your maximum
Power or split jerk with around 60-70% of your maximum
Speed bench press with 30-40% of your maximum
Speed military press with 30-40% of your maximum

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions.

Category 3 – Lower body posterior chain dominant
Broad jump
Broad jump from static start
Depth jump for distance
Jump split squat
Jump split squat with added weight (10-20% body weight)
Power snatch from the hang or blocks (60-70%)
Power clean from the hang, blocks or floor (60-70%)
Prowler sprint (50-75% body weight)

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions. The prowler sprints are 20-30 meters.

Category 4 – Pulling
Medicine ball slam
Kipping or butterfly pull ups
Bar or ring muscle up (kipping)
Speed Pendlay row (40-50%)
Explosive 1-arm DB row (40-50%)
Seated DB clean
Battle ropes, both arms at the same time
Sledgehammer striking

*All of these should be done for sets of 5 repetitions. The battle ropes are done super fast for 10-12 seconds.

Once you have selected your 4 exercises (that stay the same for the three weeks), you progress weekly by adding sets, not weight (because speed, not load, is the key variable).

Week 5: 4 work sets
Week 6: 5 work sets
Week 7: 6 work sets

Friday – Strength-Speed

Strength-speed is the second type of “power” and it refers to accelerating fairly heavy loads. The speed is a bit slower than with its speed-strength partner, 0.75 to 1 meter per second, but uses heavier loads.

The two best approaches here are:

1. Traditional strength exercises (bench, squat, deadlift, military press, rows, etc.) with around 60-70% of your maximum, for 3-5 reps lifted with maximal acceleration.

2. Power variations of the Olympic lifts (if you are competent with them). On these you can go up to 70-90% because of the nature of these exercises (you can’t do them without enough speed to get into the proper zone, even with max efforts), for 1-5 reps.

Your exercise schedule could look like this:

Option 1 – Competent with the Olympic lifts

A. Power snatch or power clean from the hang or blocks
B. Back squat
C. Push press
D. Pendlay row

The weekly progression would look like this:

Week 5: 4 x 5 (60% for traditional lifts and 70% for the Olympic lifts)
Week 6: 5 x 4 (65% for traditional lifts and 80% for the Olympic lifts)
Week 7: 6 x 3 (70% for traditional lifts and 85-90% for the Olympic lifts)

Option 2 – No Olympic lift

A. Back squat
B. Deadlift
C. Bench press
D. Pendlay row

Week 5: 4 x 5 (60%)
Week 6: 5 x 4 (65%)
Week 7: 6 x 3 (70%)

*VERY IMPORTANT: the concentric phase should always be done with maximal acceleration.

Saturday – Gap workout

I will not give you another gap workout exercise list, you can use the same as during block 1 or make the changes you want/need based on your own perceived weaknesses.

The main difference with block 1 is that you introduce an intensification method (like for the upcoming hypertrophy week).

Your sets now become:

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause

Block 2 – Week 8 (hypertrophy week)

 

IMPORTANT : I suggest keeping the same exercise for all the blocks when it comes to that hypertrophy week.

Since you only do them every four weeks there is no need to change the exercises, in fact it might even be more effective to stick to the same movements as there is a progression in the intensity of the sessions from block to block.

The only thing that changes versus the first block is the intensity of the work sets. We still have three sets per exercise. The first set is taken 1 rep short of failure, the second one is taken to failure (or technical failure on more dangerous lifts) and the third set is a rest/pause set.

In the rest/pause set you go to failure (or technical failure), you then rest for 15-20 seconds and perform as many extra reps as possible.

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause

Between sets 2 and 3 you can rest up to 3 or even 4 minutes so that you can turn in a good performance.

Block 3 – Weeks 9 – 11 (performance weeks)

 

For this block we still use a whole-body approach focused on physical capacities, but we now introduce strength-endurance (resistance) and conditioning work.

Your weekly set-up becomes:

Monday – Maximal strength

Wednesday – Resistance

Friday – Power

Saturday – Conditioning

Monday – Maximal strength

Exercises:

A. Back squat
B. Bench press
C. Deadlift
D. Chin-up, close-supinated

Week 9: Ramp to a 3RM
Week 10: Ramp to a 2RM
Week 11: Ramp to a 1RM

Wednesday – Resistance

Here I recommend using a circuit of four exercises, using fairly high reps. That way you train both systemic and local resistance.

Here is my recommendation (you can use equivalent exercises if you want):

A1. Front squat
A2. DB shoulder press
A3. Pin pull from below the knees
A4. Bent over DB row

You progress through the weeks by reducing rest intervals. Reps stay the same and you don’t have to increase the weight (but you can).

Week 1: 4 x 12 with 1 minute between stations
Week 2: 4 x 12 with 45 seconds between stations
Week 3: 4 x 12 with 30 seconds between stations

Friday – Power

On this day we will use a form of complex training which pairs two exercises for the same movement pattern (or part of the body). Each of these two exercises work a different physical capacity, here speed-strength and strength-speed. It is not a superset, you have a rest period between both movements (90-120 seconds between both, 3 minutes between sets).

We only use 3 patterns (squat, press, hinge) because each pair has 2 exercises.

Exercises:

*Note, I will put the weekly progression after each pair to make it easier to understand.

A1. Loaded jump squat
A2. Speed back squat

Week 1: 4 x 5 @ 20% of max squat for the loaded jump and 4 x 5 @ 60% for the back squat
Week 2: 5 x 4 @ 25% of max squat for the loaded jump, 5 x 4 @ 65% for the back squat
Week 3: 6 x 3 @ 30% of max squat for the loaded jump, 6 x 3 @ 70% for the back squat

B1. Medicine ball throw overhead (push press)
B2. Push press

Week 1: 4 x 5 with lighter ball (10-15lbs) and 4 x 5 @ 75% for the push press
Week 2: 5 x 4 with medium ball (15-20lbs) and 5 x 4 @ 80% for the push press
Week 3: 6 x 3 with heavier ball (more than 20lbs) and 6 x 3 @ 85% for the push press

PAIRING C. OPTION 1 – with the Olympic lifts
C1. Loaded split squat jump
C2. Power snatch or power clean from hang or blocks

Week 1: 4 x 5 @ 10% of bodyweight for the jumps 4 x 5 @ 75% for the Olympic lift
Week 2: 5 x 4 @ 15% of bodyweight for the jumps, 5 x 4 @ 80% for the Olympic lift
Week 3: 6 x 3 @ 20% of bodyweight for the jumps, 6 x 3 @ 85% for the Olympic lift

PAIRING C. OPTION 2 – without the Olympic lifts
C1. Loaded split squat jump
C2. Speed deadlift

Week 1: 4 x 5 @ 10% of bodyweight for the jumps 4 x 5 @ 60% for the deadlift
Week 2: 5 x 4 @ 15% of bodyweight for the jumps, 5 x 4 @ 65% for the deadlift
Week 3: 6 x 3 @ 20% of bodyweight for the jumps, 6 x 3 @ 70% for the deadlift

Saturday – conditioning

On this day you work on your conditioning. It can be prowler pushing, hill sprints, KB swings, assault bike, rowing ergometer, etc. There are too many options to give you a specific recommendation, but try to keep the individual effort bouts around 2-3 minutes at a moderate intensity. Use a 1:1 work to rest ratio (if you can) and shoot for a total workout time of around 45 minutes.

Block 3 – Week 12 (hypertrophy week)

 

This third block should use the same exercises as the first two ones. The one thing that changes is that the intensiveness of the work is stepped up one more notch.

The first work set is taken 1 rep short of failure.

The second one is taken to failure or technical failure.

On the last set you go to failure, rest for 15-20 seconds and perform as many extra reps as possible with the same weight. Then you lower the weight by around 50% and get as many extra reps as you can.

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause + drop 50%

Once again, take all the time you need between the second and third work set to ensure optimal performance.

Q & A

 

1. Can I add extra work for abs or forearms?

Yes, you can, within reason. You can add one of the following to the workouts: abs, calves, forearms/grip, neck or rotator cuff work. But I would recommend only adding one per session for a total of 3-5 work sets. While training each of these muscles will not add much stress to your session, if you go overboard, it can have a detrimental effect on recovery and progression.

2. Can I add steady-state cardio? And if so, when?

Absolutely, in fact, having a good cardiovascular base can actually improve your success rate on this program. Just don’t turn into a marathon runner. Adding 20-30 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardio or 45-90 minutes walks a few times a week is perfectly fine. However, training for endurance performance at the same time as you are doing this program might hurt your progression. I like taking walks on the off days, as they actually help with recovery. You can definitely add a steady-state cardio session to your gap workout too.

3. Can I add high-intensity intervals?

I honestly would not recommend it. These have a much higher recovery burden than steady-state cardio, they lead to more adrenaline production which, when compounded with the adrenaline from the workouts, can lead to a burn-out (via beta-adrenergic desensitization). They can also suck the life out of your legs, which can be problematic with this program since you are squatting three days a week: if you do intervals on your rest days, it can impair the recovery from the previous day and decrease performance for the next workout. If you do them on the workout days, if can pile up to too much to recover from.

If you are dead set on using intervals, only do them once a week, at the end of the Wednesday workout.

4. Is it a good program to use when trying to lose fat?

First, understand that any program designed to make you stronger and more muscular will be less effective if you are on a caloric deficit while doing it.

That having been said, I used this approach with people dieting down (some even dieting down fairly aggressively) and they still progressed. However, what I noticed is that they started feeling bad fairly quickly even though they were still progressing. What I would recommend if you want to use this approach on a caloric deficit is to use a caloric deficit on the 3 performance weeks and go to maintenance or even a slight surplus on the hypertrophy week of each block. This will allow you to stay sane and likely get better long-term results too (if you can avoid going crazy on the maintenance/surplus week).

-CT

The jacked athlete 31 plan Part 2 – The Overall Plan

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE: THE OVERALL PLAN

 

The Jacked Athlete 31 plan uses 4 week blocks. The first three weeks are “performance-based” and the fourth one is a pure hypertrophy week.

A training cycle should be 12 weeks long, or a series of three blocks. I find that most people will need to take it easy for a week after 12 weeks of hard training to facilitate long term progression. This means minimal training for a week, ideally focusing on things you didn’t do in your training cycle. For example, you could replace a few of the weekly sessions by playing sports, doing hiking or conditioning work.

This is hard to do for most of us who love to lift and feeling our muscles get more toned and swollen from our lifting regiment. But not doing so will dramatically slow down progression.

Essentially you do minimal (if any) lifting work for a week at the end of your cycle both for recovery, but also to re-sensitize your body to the training stimulus: By doing one week of minimal or no training, you invest on future gains.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE: THE PERFORMANCE PORTION

 

When using this system, I use a 3+1 split for the three performance weeks. This means three whole body workouts and one “gap” session per week.

Let’s look at the periodization over the 12 weeks period (remember that the fourth week of each block is a hypertrophy week, which I will cover in the next section).

I will get to the specific design of the training days later in the article.

BLOCK 1 (weeks 1-3) – STRENGTH EMPHASIS

Schedule
Monday: Whole-body either eccentric emphasis or a “heavy” workout
Wednesday: Whole-body either stato-dynamic emphasis or a “lighter” workout
Friday: Whole-body either concentric emphasis or “moderate” workout
Saturday: Gap workout (isolation work for lagging or neglected muscles)

BLOCK 2 (weeks 5-7) – STRENGTH & POWER

Schedule
Monday: Whole-body maximal strength
Wednesday: Whole-body speed-strength
Friday: Whole-body strength-speed
Saturday: Gap workout (isolation work for lagging or neglected muscles)

BLOCK 3 (weeks 9-11) – STRENGTH, POWER & RESISTANCE

Schedule
Monday: Whole-body maximal strength
Wednesday: Whole-body strength-speed
Friday: Whole-body resistance (strength-endurance)
Saturday: Conditioning work

As mentioned earlier, the three main workouts use four multi-joint movements:

*One squat pattern exercise
*One hip hinge pattern exercise
*One press
*One pull

To those four big lift we add 15 minutes of conditioning work to the Monday, Wednesday and Friday sessions. While it can be pure conditioning work like bouts of rowing ergometer, assault bike or intervals, it can also be sets of loaded carries (3-4 sets of 60-100 meters) or prowler pushing.

The assistance work is done in the “gap” workout, which can use as many as six exercises. But they should be either isolation or machine/pulley movements.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE: THE HYPERTROPHY PORTION

 

The fourth week of every block is devoted to hypertrophy work. Here the goal is to make every hypertrophy week more demanding than the preceding one.

Note: no conditioning work is done during the hypertrophy weeks.

It also uses a different training split than on the performance weeks. The schedule looks like this:

BLOCK 1 (week 4) – Regular sets

Schedule
Monday: Chest & Biceps
Tuesday: Lower body
Thursday: Back & Triceps
Saturday: Deltoids & Traps/Rear delts

In this block you don’t use intensification methods. You do sets of 8-12 reps with the last work set taken to failure and the preceding work set taken roughly 1 rep short of failure.

Work set 1 = 1 rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = 1 rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps)

The only special method is using an alternating sets set-up (A1/A2 system… for example, doing one set of your first chest exercise/rest/one set of your first biceps exercise/rest/back to the chest exercise, etc.).

You use six exercises per session, three for each of the muscle you are training. Refer back to earlier in this article regarding your exercise choices.

BLOCK 2 (week 8) – rest/pause

Schedule
Monday: Chest & Biceps
Tuesday: Lower body
Thursday: Back & Triceps
Saturday: Deltoids & Traps/Rear delts

In this block, we add an intensification method: rest/pause sets. You go to failure, then you rest for 15 seconds and get as many extra reps as you can with the same weight.

We have three work sets per exercise.

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause

In this block, you also use 6 total exercises per session: 3 for each muscle group trained.

BLOCK 3 (week 12) – drop sets & rest/pause

Schedule
Monday: Chest & Biceps
Tuesday: Lower body
Thursday: Back & Triceps
Saturday: Deltoids & Traps/Rear delts

This block has the highest demand and uses two intensification method: a rest/pause and drop set.

You perform your rest/pause set the same way you did in block 2, but after the rest/pause portion you reduce the weight by 50% and get as many extra reps as you can.

Your set looks like:

Do 8-12 reps to failure, rest 15 seconds, do as many extra reps with the same weight as you can, lower the weight by 50%, get as many extra reps as you can.

We have three work sets per exercise.

Work set 1 = One rep short of failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 2 = To failure (8-12 reps)
Work set 3 = To failure (8-12 reps) + rest/pause + drop 50%

Again, we use 6 total exercises per workout, 3 per muscle group trained.

The Jacked Athlete 31 Plan – Part 1

FACT 1

 

If you constantly repeat the same workout week-in and week-out, keeping the same exercises, number of sets, number of reps and effort and intensity levels, you are pretty much-guaranteeing stagnation (unless you are a genetic phenom or using steroids).

FACT 2

 

There will always be those who strive to achieve a truly massive bodybuilding physique. But what I found to be the most desirable and wanted physique among most people is that of a muscular athlete. A sprinter, a gymnast, a running back or wide receiver, MMA fighter, you name it. Looking muscular and lean but also like to could hold your own in pretty much any type of physical or sporting contest.

And it’s not just about the look either: most want to look good but also be able to perform at least equally as well. We don’t want the body of a Ferrari with the engine of a Honda Civic!

Those two facts have pretty much been the cornerstone of my personal training career and have shaped how I train clients. I like to blend in various training styles and even training objectives. And although it can seem counterintuitive to spend less time on one specific goal, you can actually reach that goal sooner by changing things around more frequently than you might think.

With that in mind, I developed an elegant approach that allows one to get all of that: strength, explosiveness, muscle mass and conditioning.

But more importantly, it does it while reducing the risk of injuries, preventing burnout/overtraining and keeping the motivation high.

I call it the Jacked Athlete 31 approach. It’s the philosophy that I use with athletes and they all end up significantly stronger, faster and more powerful while also adding a good amount of muscle in the process.

THE BASIC PRINCIPLE

 

The approach is simple but the reasons why it works are much more complex (I’ll get to them later); basically, you use a performance-based plan for 3 weeks and then you do 1 week of hypertrophy work.

The performance-based weeks can vary depending on your training level, training phase and main goal. We have three main components to work on: strength, power and conditioning. We can do them in each phase (concurrent approach) or concentrate on one for 1-2 phases before moving on to the next.

Bur regardless of the way you structure these performance weeks here are the guidelines I follow:

Performance weeks

1. Use mostly, if not exclusively, multi-joint movements. You only use minor movements if they are needed to fix a serious issue that increases the risk of injury or hinders your performance.

2. I personally recommend using four exercises per session. With some people with a lower tolerance for training stress, I will use only three.

3. Use either a whole-body approach or an upper/lower split. Personally, I use a whole-body split 8 times out of 10 with clients. And on each of these workouts, I focus on a different muscle contraction (my Omni-Contraction System).

4. The loading schemes and methods should be selected to improve either strength or explosiveness. We don’t use typical “hypertrophy” schemes during these phases. The reps are kept lower (6 or less for most) and we normally use more sets per exercise (4 to 6).

5. We don’t train to failure, or even to the point of technique breakdown.

6. The rest periods allow for complete recovery between sets, without losing potentiation. We are talking about 3-4 minutes between work sets (the exception would obviously be when doing conditioning work).

7. When using a whole-body approach (which is what I use most of the time) we include one squat-pattern exercise, one hip-hinge pattern movement (can be a variation of the Olympic lifts if the athlete is competent in them), one press and one pull.

8. We start every session with one explosive exercise (jumps, throws, striking, etc.) for activation purposes.

9. If we are using a whole-body approach 3 times a week, we add a fourth workout that I call a “gap workout” in which you only do low demands exercises (isolation and machine work) to work on muscles that might be lagging or are being neglected by your main exercises. These are trained using a more traditional hypertrophy approach.

10. The progression model is to seek to add weight from week to week. Oftentimes, we will lower the reps, or change another variable (for example, if using an eccentric emphasis we could go from 7 seconds eccentric to a 5 seconds eccentric; if using clusters we might go from 30 seconds between reps to 40 seconds between reps, etc.) to make it easier to use more weight.

The fourth week of each training block is a hypertrophy one. This is almost the exact opposite of the performance weeks. While you can use pretty much any effective bodybuilding/hypertrophy philosophy here, I personally stick to these guidelines:

Hypertrophy week

1. At the most, we use one multi-joint barbell exercise per session. Most of the work is either done with machines or using isolation movements.

2. Any type of “bodybuilding split” can be used. I personally favor the following:

Monday – Chest & Biceps
Tuesday – Lower body
Thursday – Back & Triceps
Saturday – Delts & Rear delts/Traps

This will hit most muscles twice per week (including indirect stimulation). Except for legs. However, if you are squatting and doing a hip hinge movement three times per week for 3 weeks out of 4, then it’s probably a good thing to only do lower body once during the hypertrophy week. If someone has very solid recovery capacities and low stress in his life, we could always add a 5th workout where he does some lower bodywork along with abs and forearms.

3. We use six exercises per session (three per muscle), most being lower-demand exercises.

4. For the major muscle of the day (chest, quads, back, delts), we use 1 multi-joint free weight exercise. The other two are either machine multi-joint, machine isolation, pulley isolation, pulley multi-joint or free-weight isolation. For the minor muscle, all three exercises are selected among the latter choices.

5. Since we cannot use progressive overload (because we switch training approach the next week), we should use more of a fatigue/metabolite-based growth stimulus. This means sets lasting for 40-60 seconds under load. You can achieve that with higher reps, a slower tempo or methods that allow you to do more work per set like drop sets, supersets, rest/pause or myo reps.

6. We aim to reach failure on one work set per exercise. The other work sets will be 1 rep short of failure.

7. We do less sets per exercise (normally we do 3 work sets).

8. The rest intervals are a bit shorter than during the performance weeks, but we still want full recovery (studies have shown greater hypertrophy when you have better recovery between sets). This means 2-3 minutes between sets. The shorter rest is simply due to the lower demands of the exercises used during this week.

WHY IT WORKS

What is the most important thing to reach your training goal?

It’s not using the best loading schemes. It’s not the exercises you do or the methods you use.

It’s consistency.

I know, I know; you’ve heard that a million times and it sounds like a boring, generic answer. But it’s the truth.

But let me be more specific.

You need to train at a high level consistently. This means:

*Keeping your motivation high
*Avoiding injuries
*Avoiding performance stagnation

And this is why the 31 system works.

A STABLE TRAINING LOAD LEADS TO BOREDOM AND MONOTONY

 

Boredom and monotony are often seen as the same thing. In training, they are not exactly the same.

Boredom is when something no longer gets you excited, this obviously affects motivation.

Monotony is when the overall training stress of the session stays the same for long enough for that stimulus to no longer lead to adaptations/changes in performance. If you impose a stress on your body, it will adapt and get stronger. But if you keep imposing the same type of load over and over, eventually the body stops adapting (even if you try to add weight over time).

In both cases, lack of variation is one of the main underlying cause.

And by lack of variation, I don’t simply mean changing the exercises or methods. It can simply be a matter of always using a similar training volume or level of effort.

At first, changing the exercise while keeping volume and effort the same will be enough to prevent monotony and boredom. But fairly quickly, it’s not enough anymore. That’s why you need to have frequent variations in the training load to allow the body to keep adapting.

And that doesn’t even mean constantly increasing the training load. See, periods of lower stress training make the body more responsive to the bouts of higher training demands. In fact, the greater the contrast is between the high and lower demand periods, the higher and more sustained the progression is.

That might be the real benefit of a deload week: not necessarily the recovery but making the subsequent higher demand periods more effective by decreasing training monotony.

An article by Carl Foster (“Monitoring Training in Athletes with Reference to Overtraining Syndrome” in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, July 1988). Found that the more similar the high and low load periods were, the less progress was made.

That’s the main reason why I like to throw in a bodybuilding week after three weeks of performance work. Both are essentially the opposite and that huge contrast makes the body more receptive to both phases and greater adaptations and gains follow.

This is a concept that I’ve been using for close to twenty years and I even wrote about it in the past here on T-nation (https://www.t-nation.com/training/program-shock-do-the-opposite). At the time, I didn’t fully understand the workings behind the strategy, but it’s something that I was doing with a lot of success.

Also, from a mental standpoint, the drastic shift in focus and mindset from one period to the next will have a dramatic impact on keeping your motivation and interest high, which will have a significant impact on the quality of your training.

Not to mention that it gives you mental relief from always having to try to beat the logbook and use more weight.

DRAMATIC TRAINING LOAD CHANGES INCREASE THE RISK OF INJURY

 

The one downside in important changes in training loads is that it increases the risk of injuries. Sport scientist and coach Tim Gabbett is the top expert in that regard. He found that athletes had a higher incidence of non-contact injuries when the volume of work sharply increased over a short period of time.

That’s why I like a 3 weeks wave for the performance work. Week 1 is always a lower demand week, to allow for a smoother transition from the hypertrophy week. Then the training demands are gradually increased over the next two weeks, culminating in the 3rd week, where you pull all the stops out. There is no sharp change in training load, but it is always changing. This gradual increase in training load minimizes the risk of injuries.

The hypertrophy week is also very effective in itself to lower the risk of injuries:

*You decrease the stress on the joints and tendons by using lighter loads
*You keep promoting repair and reconstruction because you are still training (taking some time off is often worse when it comes to dealing with muscle/tendon overuse injuries)
*You can focus on corrective muscle imbalances

If you can avoid injuries, you can train at your maximum potential for longer, leading to more consistency in your performance and thus better gains.

– CT

Hardcore golf training 

GOLF TRAINING PART 1 – WHY SHOULD GOLFERS STRENGTH TRAIN

Golf and I

Golf is likely the last activity most of you would associate with me. However, it actually used to be my main sport, along with football. Football in autumn and golf in the summer. I played seriously from the age of 13 to 19, at which point I started taking weightlifting (Olympic lifting) seriously, bumping my training up to 6 days a week, often twice a day. So, I stopped playing golf… for 23 years. 

I just got back into it, and the way my brain works is that when I get into something, I need to understand everything about it. And in the case of golf, it led to blending my passion for training and my resurrected love for golf.  

Sadly, my quest for more information about golf-specific training left me on my appetite. I see way too much majoring in the minor, tons of balance and stability exercises but very little focus on strength and power work (there are exceptions).

In this article, I will present to you my views on how one should train to improve golfing performance.

SHOULD GOLFERS LIFT HARD?

 

Golf has always been seen as a game of precision and skill more than one of raw power and strength. I remember when I started playing, no pro golfer exercised, let alone trained. And the likes of Craig Stadler, Rocco Mediate and Corey Pavin did nothing to reinforce that golfers needed to be in good shape to be successful. 

But the game has changed. The top pros now differentiate themselves from the rest of the field in large part because of driving distance. 

To be among the best, you need to hit it long (and straight of course). Rory, DJ, Rahm, Koepka, Bubba, Finau, Dechambeau, Adam Scott, etc. all drive it way over 300 yards on average, routinely reaching 350+ in competition play.

And I’d go as far as saying that the average player who is passionate about the game would gladly give one inch of penis size to gain 20 yards of driving distance!

That’s why you have tons of amateur players buying a new 600$ driver every year: they hope to get a few more extra yards with every upgrade.

Surprisingly (or not) over the past 15 years the average driving distance for the average golfer has not improved at all while that of the pros went up 10-15 yards.

One significant reason for that is the increase of strength and conditioning work among high-level golfers. From the S&C programs that are part of the college golf programs to the regimen that the tops guys are doing even in-season, the top guys understand that training can help them hit it farther and avoid injuries.

The best example of this is Bryson Dechambeau who was first ridiculed for wanting to “bulk up” during the 2018 off-season… only to prove everybody wrong by gaining 20 yards of driving distance in one off-season. For someone who was already hitting it close to 300 yards on average, that is huge. 

Here’s the scoop

Drivers are tightly regulated. A driver’s face has a limit to how “reactive” it can be. It’s called the coefficient of reactivity (COR) which is correlated with ball speed. Simply put, drivers cannot become ‘hotter” than they are now. Drivers from 2015-2016 are just as long as the brand-new models on the market. The only thing they can play with to increase distance is to improve the aerodynamic of the head and the length of the shaft (that is also regulated though), look at Taylor Made: their drivers come with a stock 46” shaft instead of the more normal 44 – 45” length, which can give you a few miles per hour of clubhead speed (but less control). 

The newer drivers are more forgiving, but not long and it will continue on this path.

So, if you want to gain driving distance you should not look for a new driver as a solution, but to physical training.

DISTANCE AND THE VERTICAL JUMP CONNECTION

 

The Titleist Performance Institute found an interesting correlation after analysing a lot of PGA pros: driving distance is correlated with vertical jumping capacity.

Those who jump the highest normally hit it the farthest.

Why is that? After all, golf is a rotational sport while jumping is linear.

It has to do with the way the modern pros swing to hit it further. 

The longest hitters, from the big guns on the PGA Tour to the gorillas on the long drive circuit, apply a lot of force on the ground with their front leg during the downswing. They do that to increase rotational speed. I will explain how in a second. 

The guys who hit it long all do it. In some, it is more visually striking because their front foot actually leaves the floor because the push is so powerful. 

The two best examples on Tour are Bubba Watson and Matt Wolff, who literally jump back when they drive.

Here is a video of Matt Wolff, look at his left foot. 

Same thing with Bubba Watson:

While Rory doesn’t jump like Bubba and Wolff, look at the action of his left leg; we can clearly see the powerful leg extension. And while he doesn’t jump, his left heel leaves the ground when he extends. 

On the long drive circuit, it’s even more noticeable. Look at Kyle Berkshire, he literally jumps back around 6-8”!

Here, Jaimie Sadlowski does a smaller jump back, but it’s still noticeable.

What is really interesting about Berkshire and Sadlowski is that they were world champs despite being on the smaller side, in large part because of their dynamic lower body action.

But even the bigger guys do it. Look here:

Why is the jump back creating clubhead speed?

The reason is simple when you understand how a rotational system works.

Here is what a rotation system looks like. There is the axis of rotation, in the golf swing that’s your spine, and then one “lever” on both sides. For golfing purposes imagine that this is looking at you from the top of your head and the “A” lever is your left hip and the “B” lever is your right hip. Both levers being part of the same structure, they rotate together around the axis; your spine.

If I apply force on one of the levers, the other side will move in the opposite direction, just like a teeter-totter:

If one side goes down because you apply more force, the other goes up. Just like if one side goes up because the kid jumps, the other side goes down.

Now, imagine that this image represents your hips. The axis is your spine, the “A” side is the right/lead hip (for a right-handed golfer) and the “B” side is the left/trail hip. 

If you push into the ground with your lead leg with a combination of vertical and horizontal forces, you make your lead hip moves back. And if your spine stays stable, this will make your trail hip move forward in a rotational pattern.

The more force you can apply to the ground, the faster will your lead hip move back and, consequently, the faster will your trail hip move forward. This means a faster hip rotation.

In reality, the golfers who jump back are really driving that front big toe forward and into the ground, which makes the foot move back and up. If you do it with enough force and speed, the foot will leave the ground and move back.

This will help you hit it longer for three reasons: 

1) a faster hip rotation makes the whole body rotate faster. The faster the body rotates the faster will the clubhead speed be.

2) the faster the hips are, relative to the torso and arms, the more you stretch the core and upper back musculature. Stretching a muscle creates a stretch reflex that increases speed even more.

3) When the hips rotate faster than the torso (and especially, arms) that’s when you create lag. I’m not a golf coach and this is supposed to be a training article, but those of you who know golf, know how important creating lag can be.

Those who can jump higher can apply more force into the ground which means that they can make their hips spin faster. That’s why there is a connection between jumping high and hitting it long.

HOWEVER, this is for those who use the ground well during his swing. An amateur golfer who doesn’t use his lead leg to apply force into the ground will not improve his driving distance by improving his jumping capacity.

I believe that proper golf training depends on the person’s swing. More on that later.

GOLF, SHOT PUT, DISCUS THROW, FIGURE SKATING, BASEBALL

Baseball

For a long time, people believed that getting stronger and more powerful would not help you hit the ball longer.

Which is not unlike how baseball was 40 years ago. Yet, nowadays, every baseball player worth his salt is engaging in serious training. 

Also, consider that the biggest hitters in baseball all tend to be large and strong. Aaron Judge is 6’7” and a lean 285lbs, Mike Trout is 6’2” and a jacked 240lbs (he also hit the gold ball a looooooong way), Pete Alonso is 6’3” and 250lbs, Jorge Soler is 6’4” and 230lbs and so on and so forth. 

And need I mention the “steroid era” hitters. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa looking monstrous and Barry Bonds turning from a contact hitter to the best slugger in baseball after gaining 30lbs of muscle mass.

That’s another issue, right? If strength didn’t help you hit it longer, why use steroids to play baseball? 

I’m not suggesting that baseball players or golfers take steroids. What I’m saying that the fact that these are rampant in baseball indicate that strength will help with hitting longer.

Steroids do not improve technique or reaction time; they make you stronger and more muscular. And the fact that they became rampant in baseball, indicate that they worked at improving performance and therefore that getting stronger indeed help you hit it further.

Of course, what I suggest is getting stronger via training, not drugs.

While the baseball bat is heavier than a golf club, both movements are very similar in mechanical structure as well as the physical capacities required.

“In the past, a lot of golfers hit it very long without strength training!” you may say.

True.

But a lot of baseball players hit it far without training too. But ever since training started in baseball, a lot more players hit it long and the longest hitters hit it longer. Those with the natural gift to hit far might not need training that much. But these are the minority. The people with average genetics will need all the help they can get.

Figure skating

I can also point out to another rotational sport in which strength training was frowned upon for a long time but is now part of every serious participant: figure skating.

Figure skaters were among the first athletes I got to work with.

I worked alongside Martin Gervais, who incidentally had been my golf coach and has been a competitive golfer for over 30 years.

While we used a lot of abdominal and rotational trunk work, we also used strength exercises like the power clean, power snatch, squat, split squat and push press. In fact, a few of our skaters were good enough to qualify for the Quebec Games in weightlifting! One of the girls went as high as a 185lbs power clean and jerk and a 135lbs power snatch… at 15 years of age.

It is worth noting that one of the skaters we trained was Joannie Rochette, who ended up winning silver at the Vancouver Olympics.

Why am I talking about figure skating? While the connection between hitting a baseball and hitting a golf ball are quite obvious; the link between skating and golf is not as apparent.

However, the jumping part of figure skating is very similar in nature to the modern golf swing.

In many jumps, the Axel series, for example, skaters use a plant and push off the leg to speed up their rotation, allowing them to spin 2 or 3 full turns in the air before landing. For women to be able to land a double Axel, they need a lot of leg strength/power, not to jump higher but to create more rotational speed so that they can spin faster in the air, getting more turns in before landing. Those who can hit the triple Axel have extremely strong and powerful legs.

While we think of the core, especially obliques, when it comes to spinning in the air, a large part of the rotational speed comes for a strong leg drive combined with the horizontal movement before planting the leg.

It’s similar to the golf swing. The same things that will make a skater spin fast will make a golfer turn his hips fast.

If you look at the training for skaters, it gives us our first clue about how to train for golf performance. While skaters do indeed use plenty of stability/balance, abdominal/core and rotational work, they also perform quite a bit of basic strength (squats, split squats, deadlifts) and power (power variations of the Olympic lifts, plyometrics, throws) work. 

Obviously, they don’t jump into those later exercises right off the bat, but they must work toward them to reach elite performance.

Figure skaters need even more flexibility, coordination and stability than golfers. Yet, they include a good amount of big basic work in their training. There are no reasons for golfers to be afraid of strength training.

Throws

To me, another great comparison for golfers are shot putters and, especially, discus throwers. Both rotational sports like golf. And if you look at the lower body action, it is very similar to the modern golf swing.

Throwers are among the strongest and most powerful athletes in the world. They often power clean in the high 300 and even 400lbs range (some shot putters have cleaned in the 500) and squat in the 600-800lbs range. And despite their size, they also are extremely explosive and fast. Often registering vertical jumps in the 36 – 40” range (remember the TPI vertical jump vs. driving distance connection) and broad jumps of 10 feet or more. 

And if you look at the delivery phase of a throw, it is very similar to the downswing action, especially with the modern technique with the front leg explosion.

Obviously, there is a difference between throwing a 16 lbs shot or a 4.5 lbs discuss and swinging and a 0.6 to 1.1 lbs golf club. The formers obviously are more strength biased and do require a greater level of strength. But still, both actions are similar and golf swing speed can be enhanced by getting stronger just like a thrower can gain distance by working on their strength and power too. Golfers just don’t need to reach the same levels as the throwers, but the same exercises will be beneficial: power cleans/power snatches, squats and partial squats, jumps, core work, medicine ball throws as well as specific overspeed actions. Throwers throw implements lighter and heavier than their competition weight, golfers should do the same with underweight and overweight “clubs” (more about that in part 2).

FORCE = MASS X ACCELERATION

 

This is one of the most well-known physics formulae and it is super important for golf performance, specifically for clubhead speed.

It means that the force applied to an object (the golf club for us) is equal to the weight of that object in kg (mass) multiplied by the acceleration imparted to that object in m/s2. Force itself is given in Newtons.

What is important for us to understand is that since the mass we are moving will not vary (unless we change driver at every shot, and even then, most drivers are approximately the same weight) the more force we apply, the greater will the acceleration be.

For example, let’s compare someone who applies 50N of force versus one who applies 75N of force to a 0.3kg mass (300g, roughly the weight of a driver).

We have:

50N (the Force) = 0.3kg (the Mass) x Acceleration

In which case acceleration will be 166,67 m/s2 giving us the formula 50N = 0.3kg x 166.67m/s2.

In the second case we have:

75N = 0.3kg x Acceleration

And now the acceleration goes up to 250m/s2

Quite a big difference. And even more important is that the greater the acceleration is, the more velocity (clubhead speed) you can create.

By the way, that formula also explains why you swing a lighter club faster without even trying. For example, if you have 120 grams steel iron shafts and then go to 80 grams graphite shaft you will swing a few miles an hour faster with the same effort. Why? Because if I lower the “mass” part of the equation but maintain the same “force” output, then “acceleration” goes up.

For example:

Let’s go from 340 grams down to 300 grams:

75N = 0.34 kg x Acceleration

Acceleration will be 220m/s2

Versus…

75N = 0.3 kg x Acceleration

Where acceleration will be 250 m/s/2

Pretty simple.

Force is created by your muscles and levers. And all other things being equal, the stronger your muscles are, the more force you can create. The more force you can create, the more acceleration you will be able to produce, and the higher will be the resulting velocity.

This explains why getting stronger, i.e. improving your muscles’ capacity to produce force, can help you increase your clubhead speed.

An extreme example is 5-times world long drive champion, Jason Zuback. In his prime he could power snatch 127,5kg (281lbs), clean & jerk 172.5kg (380lbs) and squat/deadlift way over 600lbs. 

YES, BUT…

 

Here are some common “doubting comments” that will arise when you mention strength training to golfers.

I’ve tried weight training and it didn’t help me hit it further.

This will be addressed more in the “What is specific to your swing” section of part 2 of this series. But the fact is that what will be effective in the weight room depends on how you swing the club. 

In the introduction to this article, I talked about the modern swing technique in which the golfer applies a lot of force into the ground to speed up hip rotation. People using that approach will be able to improve swing speed by making their legs more powerful. However, if you don’t apply the same ground force with your legs (pretty much no mid-handicapper does it) then gaining leg strength and power will not lead to a significant improvement in swing speed.

However, getting the core and back stronger will very likely help.

If being able to produce a lot of force is so important, then why aren’t powerlifters, strongmen and bodybuilders good at hitting a golf ball (in most cases)?

For the same reason that bodybuilders and powerlifters are not necessarily great baseball players, sprinters or football players.

The capacity to produce force is one thing. But it’s not the only element that is important.

The first and most important factor at excelling in golf is to have an efficient and repetitive swing. Applying a lot of force to faulty mechanics will simply amplify mistakes. That’s why you see a lot of athletes from other sports who are able to hit it a long way but are often 50-60 yards offline and hit the ball correctly once every 10 shots.

Also, strength is only the foundation. Past a certain point, getting stronger will not increase clubhead speed. Why? Because a golf swing is fast and doesn’t last long. Meaning that you have a very limited time to apply force in the downswing. Often less than a second.

Here’s the thing: the faster you need to go, the less force you can apply. To be able to use your force production potential you need to go slower, you need time to ramp up force production. This is called the Force-Velocity relationship.

You can be super strong, if you don’t have the capacity to produce force rapidly, it will be wasted.

That’s where explosive work comes in. Stuff like jumps, throws and the power variation of the Olympic lifts. These can improve your body’s capacity to produce force rapidly and thus will allow you to be able to use more of your strength during explosive movements, like a golf swing.

That’s why getting a stronger will, at first, certainly be helpful. But eventually, your focus will need to shift to explosive exercises (still keeping some heavy work to avoid losing strength).

Sticking to only heavy lifting forever is a mistake. But focusing on jumps, throws and other explosive movements when you don’t yet have a foundation of strength is also a mistake.

See, explosive exercises are often called the “bridge” between strength work and sport skill. The explosive work essentially develops your body’s capacity to use a greater proportion of the strength it has, during fast movements. 

If you have a very low amount of strength to start with, jumps and other explosive movements will lead to very little improvements in clubhead speed: because even if you increase your capacity to use the strength you have in a fast movement, it will not do you much good if you don’t have much strength in the first place!

Plenty of golfers hit it long and are not doing a lot of strength work, why should I?

Look at any sport where speed and power are involved, and you will always find examples of elite athletes who didn’t use strength training and still reached the highest level.

Kim Collins ran a 9.84 / 100m without ever lifting heavyweights.

Pretty much every baseball slugger prior to the 1970s did it without lifting.

Let me be clear: if you have genetic advantages for your sport, you will be able to perform at the top level without strength training, often being a lot better than workout warriors without the same advantages.

For example, if a sprinter is born with 5-10% more fast-twitch fibres than other high-level sprinters and naturally has a more efficient stretch reflex, he will not need much (if any) strength work to be explosive. 

In golf, the ratio of fast-twitch fibres can make a HUGE difference in swing speed. That’s one of the reasons why a guy like Jaimie Sadlowski can swing it so fast despite being all of 170lbs. 

Another thing that can be huge for distance is height and arm length.

If you are tall and have long arms you will have a distinct advantage when it comes to driving distance. That’s because longer arms increase the length of the clubhead path which allows you to build more speed. And also, because in a circular system, the further away the end of the chain is to the axis, the faster it will move.

I’ll give you an example. If you increase the length of your driver’s shaft by 1”, going from 45” to 46”, your clubhead speed will go up by a few mph (2-3 mph) without changing your swing (it makes it harder to have a quality impact though).

Same with the irons. If you look at the table below you will see that a PGA pro will swing his 5 iron 4 mph faster than his 7 iron. The swing is likely not different (it’s not like comparing an iron to a wood). The difference is the length of the clubs. 36.75” for the 7 iron and 37.75” for the 5 iron (normally). In that case, one more inch led to 4 more miles per hour.

If you have long arms, you essentially have the same benefit as having a longer shaft, because the arms are connected to the club and spin around your spine.

If you are a guy like Dustin Johnson, who is 6’4” with long arms for his height AND lots of flexibility, you start with the golden ticket for distance! And if you add to that his explosiveness on jumps (he can do some spectacular dunks) you have the recipe for 350-yard bombs down the middle of the fairway!

But we are not all born with optimal levers and muscle fibre make-up. For those who are less gifted, anything that can help increase clubhead speed will help even the field. And don’t forget that, when it comes to the driver, each mile per hour will give you 2-3 yards on solid hits, you don’t need something to give you 10 mph to be beneficial. 

What about golfers who have never used resistance training? Or seniors? Surely, they can’t focus on heavy and explosive work.

Well, there is a difference between golfers who have never lifted and seniors. Someone who is 25 years old and has never lifted will be able to work up to fairly heavy strength training relatively quickly provided that they don’t have injuries or limitations.

If someone is 70 years old with a bad back, heavy and explosive work is likely not in the cards. But the good news is that these people have a very low threshold for performance gains, meaning that even doing lighter work, while doing the variations of the basic movement patterns that they can do safely, will help them. Because their starting point is so low, that any increase will have an important effect.

But obviously the key here is scaling the exercises selection and training parameters to the person’s level and capacities.

I believe that it is important for a golfer to train the squat movement pattern, the hip hinge movement pattern and the single-leg movement pattern. However, that doesn’t mean that they have to use the back squat, power snatch from the hang and walking lunge! 

Look at the table below for an example of a regression/progression that you can use for these patterns. </p

 

I play golf 4-6 days a week and I sometimes practice on top of that. I have no time to train.

That is a real concern. I find myself struggling to find time to train too. I have a home gym which makes things a bit easier. But I get how that can be problematic.

And we can’t all be investing 6-7 hours a day on training and playing like Tiger is doing (Tiger does his training program at 5 am before he starts his practice).

There are two possible situations you might find yourself in: you can live in a country where the golf season is 4 to 7 months long (like me in Canada for example). In that case, you can train seriously during the off-season. Three or even four solid workouts per week. And when the season starts you can keep one workout per week to maintain what you developed during the off-season. 

Maintaining strength is quite possible with one weekly workout per week. 

That might mean playing one less round per week, but if it allows you to perform better at every other round isn’t it worth it? And if you are dead set on playing almost every day, once or twice per week you can play 9 holes instead of 18, and you will have enough time and energy for a workout (that’s what I do).

The second possibility is that you live in a place where golf is played year-round. Florida for example.  In that case, the fact that you can play year-round means that you don’t need to play 5-6 days a week all the time. Why not play 4 times a week and train once or twice? Any solid training is better than no training at all. Afraid of “losing your game” if you play less? Be honest, how much has it improved recently?

WHAT do YOU nEED TO TRAIN THE MOST?

In part 2 of this series, I will address the best exercises for improving golf performance as well as how to plan training. But I want to conclude this first one by talking about what muscles will be the most important for improving your golf.

I already addressed the importance of strong legs. If you use proper ground force application, getting those legs stronger will absolutely help you hit it further. But other benefits of stronger legs include being more stable against strong winds and in uphill and downhill lies.

The core (abdominal, lower back, quadratus lumborum, transversus abdominis, etc.)  is the second most important region. It needs to both be stable and strong/explosive.  A stable core is important for injury prevention (nothing will kill your game faster than a bad back) but also for performance; we all think about swinging fast to hit it far, but once you’ve hit the ball with maximum velocity, you need to decelerate the club to avoid tearing something in your back or hip.

To quote golf strength & conditioning specialist Jason Glass: “Your body will only allow you to accelerate what you can decelerate”.

A strong and stable core is one of the key elements to decelerating the club once you’ve hit the ball. The stronger it is, the better you can decelerate, the more your body will allow you to accelerate.

The upper body (torso, shoulder girdle, arms) are not as important as the lower body, although it is always better to be decently strong overall. 

But two upper body parts play a significant role in your swing: the upper back (latissimus dorsi and, to some extent, the rear delts and rhomboids) and the forearm/hand muscles.

When you properly sequence your swing, the hips rotate faster than the torso and arms, which will stretch the latissimus dorsi. 

This muscle is connected to the hips (iliac crest, sacrum), the spine and the arms (intertubercular groove of the humerus), so when one part to which the lats are attached rotates faster (hips) than the other (arm), you stretch the muscle. Stretching a muscle is like stretching an elastic band or pulling on a bowstring: it increases power potential.

Having a strong upper back will make the latissimus dorsi more rigid (higher muscle tone) which increases power potential, even more, when stretched: if you take a loose elastic band and a tight one, and you both stretch them by the same amount, the tighter one will produce a lot more speed when you release it.

As for the forearms and grip strength, both can help you keep the clubface square when you hit out of thick lies. It will also help prevent the clubface from opening up when you hit it on the toe part. And for those with a lot of wrist hinge in their swing, stronger forearms and hands can help produce more speed.

There is honestly very little need to spend too much effort on training the pectorals, deltoids and arms directly. You can certainly train them, but from experience, gaining too much size there can hurt your swing. Look at my backswing here. Mechanically it’s fine, but the size of the deltoid makes it impossible to keep seeing the ball.

By the way, I have changed my mechanics to involve more hip rotation since then. That was at the beginning of the season.

Pectorals that are too big could also make it harder to keep the lead arm connected to your body (well, it will be connected, but if the chest is bulging too much, the arm will be too far forward). And finally, too much pectoral work could decrease your external shoulder rotation range of motion on the trailing arm, while will make it hard to shallow the club on the way down.

Lower body, core, upper back, forearms, in that order. This is what you need to focus on if you want to improve your performance.

CONCLUSION

 

Sorry, for being so long-winded, without even yet discussing training, but I feel that to get the most out of training, you need to trust that what you are investing your time and effort it will work. This article was in large part to explain why golfers should strength train. Thrusting the process is the first pillar or motivation, which is the real key to successful training.

In part two we will see the best exercises to improve golf performance as well as how you should program training sessions, weeks and phases.

-CT

Containment diet? Are you kidding me!

Training While Confined: Are Mass Gains And Fat Loss Still Possible?

 

So here we are… Everywhere on the planet, pretty much half of the population is confined to their houses. Talk about the experience of a lifetime. I mean, our grand-parents lived through World War II. Us? We will have to contend with COVID-19 crisis. I’m not saying it’s tremendously impactful in many ways though. For a lot of people, it can be a long and painful moment. For others, it will be heart-breaking. Whether it’s because you lost a loved one to the pandemic, lost your job, fell into debts, etc… The negative impact can be emotional as well as economic, if not both.

We don’t have control over the progression of this situation (well, not directly). The only thing we can do to help is to stay home and take all the necessary precautions. So let’s be proactive. Better do something in order to get as positive an outcome as possible.

But there is also an endless list of things you can take the time to do to improve in your lives. Since you are a Thibarmy follower, why not evaluate the elements that affect your training and diet since that’s what we are good at.

What to do with your diet?

 

In the last week or two, this question has been asked very often. People are now training at home. Unless you are part of the lucky few who have a full home gym, most of us must rely on their bodyweight or very few pieces of equipment. Does that mean you are doomed to lose all your hard-earned gains? Not at all. Solutions do exist, such as Christian Thibaudeau’s Beat The Apocalypse programs.

No matter how you train though, it will require some adjustments to your training methodology. But the main objective is still the same: finding ways to make a simple bodyweight exercise harder. This is exactly what our Beat The Apocalypse programs workout series does. Like most of you, we, too, have had to find innovative ways to continue to train our customers and ourselves.

First things first: what to do with your diet? Honestly, do you think I would have created a ”confinement diet”?? Or the “anti-COVID-19” diet?? As in, what’s the best diet to fight the coronavirus? And promises such as “How to boost your immune system so you won’t catch this virus”? I hope not. I will never be that disrespectful to you and I know you are smarter than that.

What I can do however is help you tweak your diet so you can keep pursuing the goal you were striving for before all of this happened. You’re probably feeling like your training sessions are not as efficient at building muscles or strength. That’s possible. But then, what of the calories you eat and macro split? Well, to counter that, what you can do is to try to make the training sessions as productive as possible. And just like with training, the nutrition side of things need some adjustments to fit these new training sessions. So here are some quick tips you can apply to your diet and still achieve your goals.

Losing fat

 

Fat loss is probably the simplest and easiest goal to pursue, even when confined. The equation is the same:  you have to burn more calories than what you are ingesting. Now it’s possible you feel like your training sessions are not as hard as they used to be, and that consequently, you don’t burn as many calories in a single training session. While that might (might!) be true, you can compensate with different types of activity that will make you burn more total calories, whether daily or weekly.

Here’s an example:

One of the clients I work with was on a 1950 kcal/day diet, with a macro breakdown of 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbs. A standard and well-balanced plan. Now that he is confined at home and not working his usual desk job, he is doing lots of manual labour and yard work. He lifts and carries a wheelbarrow full of rock every day. After a couple of days, he texted me and said that he was feeling exhausted as if he was not recovering enough from a usual workout. So I had him write a daily log of his activity and exercises.

Here is the rundown of a typical day:

7:00 am – Hill walking or mid-pace jogging outside for 30-40 minutes in a fasted state.

8:15 am – Breakfast

10:00 am – Workout with bodyweight exercises and resistance bands for about 45 minutes.

Noon – lunch

1:30 pm to 4:30 pm – Working in the garden, renovating his house

5:30 pm – Dinner

7:00 pm – Walk outside for 30-40 min

Now compare to his former, pre-Covid19 training regimen and daily activity:

6:30 am – breakfast (and all the usual family stuff such as driving the kids to school and face traffic to get to the office).

9:00 up until noon – office work, seated

noon – lunch

1:00 pm up until 4:40 pm – office work, seated

5:00 pm – Workout for about an hour and a half with moderate volume and 20 minutes cardio

7:00 pm – Dinner and relax until bed

10:00 pm – Go to bed

That client was still able to lose fat and fuel his workout with 1950 calories daily and a little daily energy expenditure, save for his workout session. But now, he is moving around a lot more, lifting heavy stuff, walking and jogging. Even if bodyweight workouts leave him feeling like he is not working as hard compared to squatting and benching heavy, he is still burning a lot more total calories in a day. No wonder he felt like he was not recovering!

Bonus point, working in the yard is not something that he is used to, which represents a new kind of stimulus. This explains the new aches he felt every day.

The solution was to increase his calories, mainly carbs, to compensate for his increased glycogen need. We increased his calories by 400 kcal, increased the carbs and reduced the fat intake a bit. The end result was more total calories in the form of carbs. We played around with his macros until he was again losing fat while being able to sustain is increased workload.

Fragment your workout

 

Believe it or not, the present situation may be a blessing in disguise for your body composition goal. This is especially true if you are currently working remotely or not working.  While the latter is not great financially (sorry for you if that is the case), there are still a lot of things you can do to be proactive with your exercise regimen. After all, you have more time on your hands and there are a lot of possibilities for activities that will burn more fat. Let’s focus on that silver lining.

One simple method I recommend to increase your daily caloric output is to do multiple short workouts instead of a longer one. Doing a quick cardio session before each meal can be a significant help in the fat loss game. It will also improve macro-nutrient partitioning, which is the way you metabolize your foods. For example, another client I work with kept the same meal plan but the following: he added a 15-minute cardio session (just a brisk walking at a 110-120 bpm pace). This kickstarted his fat loss. We also split is a bodyweight workout in two sessions. One session is done in the morning, and the other one in late PM. This client now feels fuller all day and benefits from a better partitioning of his macro-nutrients.

What about adding muscles?

 

Yeah, I know: gaining muscle with bodyweight workouts seems impossible when it’s already hard to gain muscle with a gym chock full of heavy barbells and dumbbells. Well, think again! Gaining muscle is all about the tension and the volume you put on your muscles.

  • A few easy examples on how to train hard at home:
  • Find push-up variations that require a less advantageous lever.
  • Slow down the eccentric of your pull-up
  • Give single leg squat a try

Put some water bottle or food can in a bag and curl it up. There’s a myriad of ways to make the most basic exercises harder. If you have more time to train, you can add more total volume, fragmenting your workout and increasing the frequency to your workouts. The only rule is to apply more tension and more training volume to your muscles.

The rules don’t differ from what you are used to do in the gym; you just don’t have the barbells you used to.

If you apply these tips properly and still train hard, you will still need that calorie surplus to build muscle. And this, my friend, is no different than any diet plan to add mass. You won’t get fatter because you can’t train ”in” the gym. As long as you can justify these calories to your body, you’ll get the same results. 

So instead of waiting for the gyms to reopen and worrying about losing all your precious gains, take the bull by the horns and kick your butt with the hardest possible training.

The world may be in a significant era of change. Maybe we won’t live the same way after all this. We will surely have to rethink some of our lifestyle habits (for the better, I hope!) But one thing is for sure: the way your bodywork won’t change. And achieving your goals is not a matter of the equipment available to you. The training rules have not changed. The same goes for nutrition. The rules for fat loss or muscle mass are the same.

Remember, the essential thing you muscle needs to grow is ADAPTATION.

And the same goes for yourself: adapt to the situation to succeed.

Stay safe, stay home, and train!

5 things you can do when you don’t have access to a gym

When you are passionate about training, not being able to go to the gym can be a mental (and physical) torture! Not only because of the fear of losing your gainz but also because hard training gives us a neurological response that makes us feel good and can frankly be addictive. I know that when I can’t train for a few days I become more aggressive, less positive and have more frequent mood swings.

All is not lost! There are plenty of things you can do to make the most of this frustrating situation.

1.CHANGE YOUR MINDSET

 

Here are several things you can do to avoid going insane and maintain or even improve your physique and capacities.

Not being able to go to the gym for a few weeks can be a blessing in disguise by “forcing” you to work on things that you need to work on, but rarely do because you don’t like to, or because you’d rather lift.

Here’s an example. Gabriel Chiasson is a bobsleigh athlete I train. Gab decided to take a year off from competition to focus on getting as strong, powerful and fast as possible so that in the pre-Olympic year he would destroy every bobsleigh Canada physical tests. 

We first started focusing on strength and power. He brought his squat up to 265kg (585lbs), his front squat to 220kg (485lbs) and his power snatch to 137kg (300lbs). All up more than significantly compared to where we started.

By doing that we stopped sprinting to allow for more lifting days and better neurological recovery.

But he became addicted to strength gains and wanted to keep focusing on that until he hit specific numbers he had in mind.

But his sport is about pushing a sled as fast as possible. And while strength and power are important, speed is at least as important, if not more so.

Because of the COVID-19 all gyms are closed in Quebec. 

Instead of freaking out about losing his gains, Gab will now focus on his sprinting. Which, arguably, he should have done sooner.

You might not need to sprint fast for your own specific goals. But why not look at this unplanned layoff from heavy lifting to focus on things that you would normally not train but could help you in your future progress?

You could work on mobility, on mind-muscle connection (by doing isometrics or long-duration sets with isometric holds or a slow eccentric). You could read a lot about training or watch videos to learn as much as you can so that your understanding of training becomes a lot better, allowing you to design a better training plan.

You could work on conditioning or fat loss by doing intervals or even steady-state cardio: being in better cardiovascular health can actually help you add more muscle to your frame afterwards.

All of these things will make your comeback to the gym more effective. 

Instead of thinking “I’m gonna lose all my gainz, bro” think “I’m gonna blow up when I come back to the gym”!

2. DO ISOMETRICS

 

Isometrics are as old as physical culture. They were likely around earlier than any other form of structured training. It consists of contracting your muscles without any movement. The version I will be talking about here is called “overcoming isometrics”: you are trying to lift a weight that can’t move. 

For 6-9 seconds you are trying as hard as humanly possible to move that object. This is very effective to strength development: you recruit as many muscle fibers as you do during a regular max effort lift and their firing rate (the real key for strength) can be even higher! 

The downside is that strength will be gained mostly at the trained angle, plus or minus 15 degrees (if you train the 90 degrees angle, you will gain strength mostly from 105 to 75 degrees). But the effect on neurological efficiency will be general and it will allow you to come back strong to the gym.

Here are three home examples. With some imagination, you can easily find exercises for every muscle group.

The first one is for biceps. Hold on to something immovable (in this case a tabletop) as if you wanted to curl it. Use an angle anywhere from 110 to 80 degrees and produce as much “curling force” as possible. Focus on your biceps, not front delts or traps:

The next one is for the front delts. Use a similar set up to the curl, but instead, simply put your fists on the immovable object and you will try to push it forward and up. You might need to use a staggered stance for more stability.

The last one is a classic that you probably did as a kid. Stand up in a doorway and try to push the sides of the doorway with your arms.

The method I like to use if you want to maintain/increase strength and size is to perform each set as follow:

6 seconds max effort/10-15 sec rest x 6… in other words each set has 6 reps lasting 6 seconds with 10-15 sec of rest between reps.

You only need 1-2 sets per exercise.

3. USE HARD BODYWEIGHT METHODS

 

Isometrics can help you maintain or increase strength. Bodyweight training, with the right methods, can allow you to maintain or gain muscle mass.

Let me be clear: if you are decently strong in the gym, bodyweight exercises, performed normally, will not be great at helping you maintain muscle mass. 

The reason is that you are too strong for most of them. For example, when you do push-ups you are pressing roughly 60% of your body weight. If you are 185lbs it is equivalent to bench pressing 110lbs, which is even light for a warm-up for most of us.

Bodyweight squats are even worse. You are lifting 88% of your bodyweight (everything above the knee). But don’t forget that when you squat with a barbell you are also lifting 88% of your weight.

If you weigh 185lbs and your max squat is 400lbs, you are really lifting 562lbs. When doing bodyweight squats you will be lifting 162lbs. Which is 28% of your max. The mechanical loading on the fibers will be very small. So muscle damage and mTOR activation will be low, and these are the two main stimuli for growth.

To make bodyweight training effective at stimulating growth you need to rely on secondary factors like lactate production and growth factors release. These are less powerful than muscle damage and mTOR activation, but they can still allow you to get some growth.

To get both of them you need to reach the “pain zone”. Where the muscles feel on fire. Yes, you can do it by doing normal reps to failure. But on movements like a bodyweight squat, you might need to do 100 reps, which might kill you of boredom before the virus does.

Instead, you can use intensification methods like a slow eccentric (up to 8-10 seconds per rep) or holds during the set or at the beginning of the set.

I use six of these intensification methods in the Beat The Apocalypse – Bodyweight Training Program I designed.

Here is an example of intraset isometric holds.

Here Paul (pro football player) is including 5-15 second holds during the set, doing reps in between.

You can also use one long hold at the beginning of the set as pre-fatigue.

You would hold a position of high tension for anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds, then doing reps to failure.

The added benefit of these methods over simply doing reps to failure is that they improve mind-muscle connection a lot more. Which is an investment in future gains once you get back to the gym.

4. DO MOBILITY WORK

 

Let’s be honest: few of us really do mobility work. Moat lifters hate it. And we justify our avoidance of them by saying how ineffective they are.

They aren’t. They are not a waste of time. When properly done, they can help you improve the range of motion. Reducing the risk of injuries and helping performance in the long run.

I “rediscovered” this myself recently when I decided to get back to golf.

Years of heavy lifting and no mobility work to speak of left me incapable of doing a regular golf swing! 

In fact, I had to postpone my “start” by a few weeks while I worked on my mobility. I did mobility work every day. I did static stretching for specific muscles as well as loaded stretching (do a search, I have written articles on the topic) and active mobility work, in that order.

Within two weeks I was swinging better than when I played competitively 25 years ago!

I could also mention the countless Crossfit participants and athletes that I worked with who couldn’t properly hold a front rack in a power clean/front squat: they had to “hold” the bar on their fingertips in the best case scenario, or simply couldn’t raise the elbows high enough to ut the bar on their shoulders.

They all were able to reach a full grip rack within 1-2 weeks of doing the proper mobility work.

You can absolutely improve mobility if you work at it, and this is the best time to work on this neglected training component. It will add years of hardcore training to your lifting career.

5. GET IN BETTER SHAPE

 

Jogging doesn’t require a gym. 

Sprinting doesn’t require a gym.

Pushing your car like a prowler doesn’t require a gym.

Going bike riding doesn’t require a gym.

Going for a ruck walk with a loaded backpack doesn’t require a gym.

Sure, most of these won’t build muscle on you (pushing your car can do it) directly. But they will get you in better shape.

One of the guys I most deeply respect in our field is Jim Wendler. He was one of the first “big, hardcore” guy to put as much emphasis on conditioning as on lifting (if not more in some cases). Jim trains high school football players which is awesome, the best coaches should work with young athletes, and his motto is “strong legs, strong lungs”. He is 100% correct.

And even if you are not an athlete. You should still put an emphasis on being in good general conditioning. One of my beliefs is that when you are a natural trainee, your body will limit how much muscle you can build if your cardiovascular system is deficient. 

Think about it: your body doesn’t care about looking jacked. It cares about survival. Your muscles require blood flow to bring oxygen and clear metabolites. The more muscles you have, the more oxygen you need, the more CO2, lactate and hydrogen ions you produce, the more blood flow you need.

Having an insufficient cardiovascular system is actually dangerous for your health. It will require a higher heart rate and will likely lead to high blood pressure.

As such the body will limit muscle-building if it “knows” that it won’t be able to support it.

In my opinion that is one of the main reasons behind the cardiovascular issues of bodybuilders: the steroids allow them to bypass this protective limitation of muscle growth. They can “force” the body to add muscle even if the cardiovascular will have a hard time supporting it. This leads to a higher risk of heart and kidney problems. 

The take-home message that investing in your heart and vascular system will allow you to build more muscle in the future.

Don’t get me wrong: don’t become an endurance athlete who does 20k per day. That will surely be bad for muscle growth in most. But doing hard conditioning 2-3 times per week is also an investment in future gains. And when you can’t go to the gym for a few weeks, it’s the perfect time to do it.

You will feel smaller and depleted? Maybe, but in the moderate and long term, it will more than worth it!

CONCLUSION

 

There you have it; five simple things you can do to avoid going insane when you can’t do to the gym, retain or even increase your muscle mass and strength. But more importantly, improve future gains by improving elements that will make your body more responsive to future lifting programs.

Good training and stay positive! 

The little guide to rookie coaches

46 800 hours…that’s about the time I’ve spent working as a coach for the last 13 years. Doesn’t look that much, you say? Let’s dig into these numbers a bit. That’s 3600 hours a year, about 300 hours a month, approximatively 75 hours a week. It is the average amount of time I’ve put into work for different tasks related to the work of a coach. Whether it’s building workout or a nutrition plan, a private session with a client, answering e-mails (and man, we get a lot of them!), or trying to read and learn stuff to stay on the page and improve your knowledge. 

Now if you ask me, is it my dreamed job? Of course, I’ll answer. But living from a passion can also burn you to the ground if you don’t manage your schedule properly. I know it, I’ve been there. I’ve always enjoyed creating programs, sharing knowledge with others, training clients, and writing articles. But to make a living of it, forget the 9-5 schedule and the week-ends. At least when you start. You have to understand you are starting a business of your own. So if you are not ready to put on the hours, chances are you’ll get back to your old day job sooner or later. But there’s a time where you will need to resource yourself and have a break. Otherwise, you will lose this passion. 

The problem is that being a coach is a very demanding job, mentally, as physically. Think of it; you need to teach people and show them how to train, pinpoint their weaknesses, correct their movements, find cues they can understand, write down programs, assess their results, question them, and find solutions when nothing happens, and this list goes on and on. And you’ll get kind words and references if you have results, but especially if the client does his/her job. And what about if the client doesn’t do his/her part of the deal? You’ll take the blame? Sadly, yes. You are a business. So when a client isn’t satisfied, whatever who’s fault it is, it’s your fault because this is the word that will spread around. 

You also have to stay fit yourself. I mean, being Mr. Olympia is way non-necessary, but you need to get a sense of health and fitness. Otherwise, who would like to pay for someone who looks worse than them? It’s hard to hear, but it’s the cold truth. The vast majority of people who are willing to pay for advice are mostly training to look better as a primary goal. So you need to stand apart, and it’s usually done on the first impression, primarily if you work in a commercial gym where most people don’t care that you can lift 500 pounds on the squat. In the strength training field, that’s a bit different, but if you didn’t put on an impressive lift or a world record, you need to have something they haven’t. 

Some coaches will also do great when they finally get a client who’s genetic is just freaking awesome. So even though they are not the most knowledgeable in their field, the fact that he/she gets into fantastic shape fast or that one of your clients get insanely strong will also spread some noise and attract the interest of others around. If you train competitive athletes, having one who finishes first will also give credentials to your business. 

There are all sorts of ways you can build your business and suddenly have too much on your hand to deal with. Because whatever makes your company getting success, you need to be able to keep that motivation that led you to where you are. But every new client will only add hours of work to your schedule and cuts on other activities in your life. At first, we don’t think about it because all we want is for this business to work. You have to consider other areas of your life as the balance that makes you see your business as sustainable in the long run. There will be a time where you will ask yourself: ”How will I be able to do this all my life?”. 

Since I’ve been in this situation myself, trying to keep my head over the water, I will share with you some straightforward tricks, yet very effective ways to make sure you are not drowning in your success. Trust me, at first, they can look quite simple and not that useful, but there will come a time where it can save your career and your sanity. 

Redefine individualization

 

Your clients want to feel like they are unique and will like to feel like you do something unique and different for them. So when they get a new workout program, they expect a unique program built for them. Now, as a rookie coach, and I’ve seen this so often, we usually understand that we need to develop an entirely new plan out of our imagination. Something you never did before and that nobody could have put their hands on. Easy to do when you have 5 to 10 clients, but is your business will turn around those 5 to 10 clients forever? Will you produce new programs for each and everyone when you will reach 30 clients, 50 clients, hell when you will be a superstar coach and will be responsible for 100 clients. 

One of the most significant errors I see from coaches starting in this business is to try to create a whole new program every time they get a new client or every time they renew a client’s plan. But you have to understand this; a workout is a trigger for results, an outcome, one of the tools to get to your client’s goal. If you need to nail a board, a hammer is probably the best, yet most straightforward tool to use. Most people know how to use it, and it’s pretty simple to use, and the chance of injury is usually low (ok, some people might hit their thumb once in a while, but hey, there’s always a minimum risk in each action; otherwise, nothing happen). 

Now let’s move a month later, and you need two boards on the wall. Bigger job, yes, but still the same. The volume of work is a bit higher, but it yet the same thing to do. Would you use a different tool? I mean, the hammer got you successful the first time, so it will probably be of the same help this time. If you ask me the question, I would suggest you use a hammer again. I would suggest you use a hammer up until the workload or until the kind of job you want to accomplish ask for bigger or better or more complex tools. But for the moment and until then, the hammer is the tool of choice. 

Now, why would you build an entirely new program every month? When I say a new program, I mean creating a whole new context of training sessions, where every exercise, sets, reps, rest, and tempo is different and probably leads to a different outcome. The average time of a training program is 4 to 6 weeks for most people. I don’t think you cover all weaknesses in this short of a time frame. I don’t believe that those exercises or the tool use in your last program have expired and are no longer valid. You heard that you need to ”shock the body”? Trust me; there’s no such thing as ”shocking the body”. The word is progression, and you don’t reach progression when you always switch things up. 

What you want to do first: create some basic templates with a different goal for each. For example, you might have 2 or 3 different models focusing on hypertrophy work — 2 or 3 others on strength components – And finally, 2 or 3 where you work more on conditioning or endurance. From those templates, you analyze the need for every client you have and based on the goal of this client, you pick up the right model, the one you consider in line with his goal. Now you probably did an assessment and had a few variables you take notice of.

An example would be a client who’s got an injury, or maybe he has trouble with a particular lift. Take those specific notice, and make some corrections on the template. Correct one or two exercises, switch a back squat for another variation if it’s necessary. Makes small changes that will individualize the program and make this program great for the client. But for the sake of god, don’t start from scratch and build new ones off of the ground. You will lose countless times to do other more important stuff. 

From those programs, make small changes at each renewal, and make them progress, make them see improvement, focus on the weaknesses you can see on each lift. 

You need to schedule business hours

 

As a passion, and as our own business, we tend to answer clients every time they text us or send an e-mail. We plan our time around them, and not around our own life or family. The moment you start to do this is the moment you begin to dig yourself into the ground. Quickly, you’ll find out that your life is pretty unbalanced. You work crazy hours, rarely find time to disconnect your brain from work, put your family and friends aside, and slowly burn the candle by both sides. 

Over time, your work will start to be less efficient, less original; each task becomes heavier and heavier. You lose ”the edge” you got when you started this off. Don’t forget, this ”edge” is what got you there. To keep that fresh energy, you need to schedule time off work. You need to give time to other spheres of your life. Talk with other people that don’t necessarily share the same interest. Learn other stuff. Give time to your families. To be specific, you need to have a life, not only a business. Otherwise, your business becomes your social network. And that’s profoundly bad. I mean, it should part of your social network, not all of it. 

What I’ve done too late in my life, but at least I’ve done it before I lose my mind, is to establish a tight schedule, a calendar where you write working hours. Like you would do for a regular job where you check-in in the morning and check-off at the end of the day. I know it’s hard to do at first because you always fear losing clients or opportunities. But trust me, if someone wants to work with you, he can wait 24-48 hours. Otherwise, it only means that it wouldn’t have last anyway.  

In your calendar, schedule time to answer clients, time to read and learn new stuff, time to write and build programs, and if this is the case, time to work in one-on-one sessions. Respect that schedule, don’t try to override it because you think that you don’t have enough time. Because if this is the case, and you feel that you’re missing time to accomplish all of your tasks, it raises a question: Maybe you have too many clients or your work structure lack sophistication. 

If you have too many clients, that’s a definite problem but not a bad one. Because there’s something you can do about it. Maybe your business is ready to pass to the next level. Perhaps you need to hire someone to help you accomplish tasks. At first, you probably fear not having enough money or not capitalizing fast enough on your business. Because you will need to pay this employee, but if it helps you to run 30 more clients, trust me, soon enough, you’ll double your business size, rentability and will be less stress by all the work you have. Delegating work is probably the first thing we need to think about when we get too short on time. Learn your weaknesses and hire people who are good at these. Your services can only get stronger, and your work structure can only get better. It will help you to focus on tasks you’re good at and will make you appreciate your work even more. 

Learn to say no

 

This one is gold! The word no has been the hardest word to say in my early career. But there’s a powerful meaning in this word. You need to learn to choose where you want to work, with whom you want to work, and the reason you want to do the job. Let me give you some examples. 

There was a  time where I would say yes to everyone who’d like to work with me. I think we all do this — whatever the reason, whether it’s for money, credential, more clients on your curriculum. But here’s the thing, you can’t do everything, and you can’t work with every type of client. For myself, I’ve never been comfortable with clients who have a lot of injuries. And one day I realized I add a lot of clients who needed to work on rehab more than they can work out and progress. And it was pissing me off. I was not comfortable training those clients, and it wasn’t motivating me. So my work wasn’t the best I can be for them. And my level of knowledge in that field wasn’t the best; a lot of other great coaches would have done the work way better. But the fear of losing clients was always there, and I felt like I was giving upon them. 

But your goal as a coach is to be the best you can be to reach the client’s goal and keep him healthy. As soon as I realize that I wasn’t doing this anymore, but instead kept them from having better and more accurate services.  That’s when I started to refer some customers to other coaches. 

Best move I ever did. 

Not only other coaches began to refer me to some clients, too, but even old clients also came back to me after they have corrected their issues and heal their injuries. I’m still doing the same thing nowadays. I can work around some stuff. But if my evaluation tells me you need rehab first, or a mobility specialist, and that we can’t go with further with the core of my services, I’m going to say no and refer you to another coaches or business. Understand me; my door is always open, but if you want to buy a race car but can barely ride on the highway, you maybe need to learn those stuff first and then come back later when you’re ready to drive the big workhorses. 

It also creates a sense of responsibility in front of your clients. Saying no spread the message that you’re in demand, and people tend to gravitate towards a successful business. It’s also a great way to root yourself into a specialization or a trademark. For example, Jason Statham is a well-known actor. I like his movies, his great at kicking ass, always have a punchy line to say and is excellent at being a good, bad guy. He is an action movie actor and his known for this. It doesn’t mean he can’t play comedy or romantic roles, but what he’s good at is kicking ass. And that’s what’s making him hit the nail on every movie he does. 

Hiring him for a romantic role is probably not where his talent last. What I mean here is, know where your good at, get recognized for this, build a name, a trademark, a brand, and dig deep in that field so every time people think about it, they will think of you. By saying no to clients that don’t correspond to your profile and focusing on clients who wish to learn from your philosophy, your knowledge, and applications, you are automatically creating that brand and that name you want. 

Wrap-up: learn to apply these 4 basic points

 

  • You can work endless hours to build your business, but sooner or later, you’re going to lose your mind if you don’t plan some ways to be time-efficient
  • Individualization is not about creating ”whole new” ways of working out for everyone. It’s about assessing what your client needs, and find the right template for him. Build a model you trust in, and tweak them, make small changes to fit a client’s need. 
  • Fix a schedule and respect it. Stop working a bit here and there, stop answering clients anytime, any day. You don’t get to the garage when it’s close; you wait until its open.  Be a business, not an open house. Invest time with your families, friends, have other hobbies, play a sport, music, collect stamps I don’t care, and do things that make you a better human. 
  • Say no to clients that don’t fit the core of your business, your philosophy, or that need things you don’t have in your bag of tools. Refer to other coaches or specialists. Be steady in what you want to spread as a reputation.