There was an explosion of strength training eBooks not long ago, with seemingly every powerlifter, strongman, and fitness guru putting out a book on how to lift weights. This led some curious aficionados of the iron to experiment with lots of the programs offered by those who possessed the special knowledge. Built into some programs was a protection scheme designed to dissuade one from trying the other guy’s plan. A subtle jab at the subconscious of the trainee that their progress would be adversely affected by “program hopping.” I hopped around plenty, but not without a tug of guilt for abandoning someone’s program, perhaps before I’d given it a “fair shot.” It took me quite some time to have this epiphany, but it finally arrived. I couldn’t stick with someone else’s program because I just didn’t want to do someone else’s program.
It’s remarkable in its simplicity, but it is the common theme in every program I’ve tried. As I reflect back on the last 8 or 9 years of strength training, the main reason I gave up on a program was because I looked at the next day’s workout and realized I didn’t want to do it, so I’d start a new program, typically one in which the first workout in the plan seemed liked one I wanted to do at the time! A few weeks later, I’d check the program to determine the next day’s workout and sure enough, it was Groundhog Day.
I have cleared all the past programs from my mind. My sole objective each day is to go to the gym and try to improve on a lift or two. I rotate a small number of compound movements:
- Front Squats
- High Bar Squats
- Stiff-legged Deadlifts
- Touch & Go Conventional Deadlifts
- Sumo Deadlifts
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Wide Grip Bench Press
- Weighted Dips
- Overhead Press
- Behind-the-neck Press or Push Press
- Pendlay Rows
I basically just pick from the list and go do it. I may just do Cleans, or I may do something like what I did today: Front Squats, Weighted Dips, Pull-ups.
My primary mission is to stay lean and get stronger. Period. I am not worried about hypertrophy specifically since I’m almost 53 years old. Research shows growing large amounts of new muscle at my age is difficult–honestly it’s always difficult without using drugs–but increasing one’s strength can continue for years. Even slow progress is progress.
I will lift more weight than the last time I did the lift, and will likely continue in that manner, adding weight each time I do the lift, until I can’t do a triple with the selected weight. Then I’ll take 90% of that last weight and start again.
Periodically on the main powerlifts, and maybe Cleans, I will work up to a top single for the day with some back off sets. Just for fun. I did this the other day with Squats and Wide Grip Bench. On a separate day I did it with Sumo Deadlifts. When I don’t want to lift, I don’t, so the off days come naturally instead of forced by someone’s else’s idea of when it should be.
If I can point to any one person as a primary influence leading to this epiphany it would have to be Jamie Lewis. It took me a while to understand that his Chaos training theory was exactly that. It’s not a program, but a concept. The concept of going to the gym and doing something meaningful and then going back and doing something meaningful again the next day. Exactly what isn’t set in stone, but by meaningful it should be something resembling a competitive lift. Matt Perryman was also a powerful influence and I still claim that Squat Every Day is the best book on training I’ve ever read, even though the large majority of the book isn’t about training at all.
I’m excited to lift tomorrow and that’s a big deal after all these years. What will I do? Let me think…. I’m going to deadlift. A lot. Maybe some ab wheel. Then I’ll come home and eat. I’ll worry about what I’m going to training on Tuesday tomorrow night.