I got 99 problems!

In training, as well as in life, it’s all about finding the point of diminishing returns if you want to be efficient. I’m not talking about slacking or being lazy at all, just finding the sweet spot for effort in a given pursuit. Effort in this context can be your time, money, attention or any other limited asset.

In close relation to this, you’ve got to figure out where you’ll get most bang for your buck. Look at it this way – if you were an alien landing on earth – which languages would you focus on? If you don’t list English and Mandarin in your top 3, you’re doing it wrong. Those two languages will let you speak to about half of the world’s population. Work on mastering those two languages, and add a bit of Spanish and Arabic, and you’re getting close to full coverage. Hindustani deserves honorable mention as well, but due to the fact that a majority of the people that speak Hindustani also speak English – you’d be better off just getting better there.

How about this: Mandarin is the squat, English is the deadlift and Spanish the bench press. Mandarin is protein, English is fats and Spanish is carbs. Mandarin is injury prevention, English is strength and Mandarin is hypertrophy.

kiss

Way too many people major in the minors and focus all of their energy on some silly little language like Danish for example. While learning Danish is smart if you live in Denmark, it doesn’t really carry over very well to any other language (except Swedish and Norwegian at very high levels of proficiency). For overall usability, you’d be better off just sticking with English.

So what I’m trying to say here is actually really simple. So many people have 99 problems, and yet they’re trying to optimize the last piece of the puzzle – the one percent. The last percent is the meal timing, the fasted cardio, the fancy supplements, the antioxidants, the phytonutrients and all those other fancy words.

Master the basics and everything will follow. If you speak fluent Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic – you’re gonna be hard pressed to find a place where you can’t get by.Throw in a bit of Russian and Hindi and you’ve pretty much got the whole globe covered.

On the other hand, if you speak Finnish, Bulgarian, Basque and Xhosa (btw Xhosa is a really friggin awesome language with “clicks”) – you’re not gonna get very far.

If you master the squat, deadlift, benchpress and the bentover row, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a muscle that’s not big and strong. Throw in some weighted carries and a few other bits and bobs, and you’ve got the whole body covered.

See?

Now go learn Mandarin. <3

PS: Obviously just like there are other interesting and useful languages than the top 5, there are also interesting and useful exercises. Just keep the great picture in mind and remember that most of the time it’s better to work hard on the basics, than to add complexity.

Weakpoint training part one – general thoughts on weakpoint training

I’ve been working on this one for quite a while and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I mentioned in Part five of The List that I’d get back to this topic and here I am. If you think you have weakpoints, please consult part five of The List first.

I’ve come up with three different explanations that can justify training your weakpoints, and I’ll present them to you in this post. The first one is something I dug up from the deepest part of my twisted mind. I present to you my own very own hypothesis on how social psychology effects you and your training. Welcome to my world I hope you enjoy it here. Please hit me back whether you think it’s the greatest post ever or I’m headed to the asylum. <3

Leon Festinger was a brilliant American social psychologist known for his cognitive dissonance theory. In short the theory states that if there’s a lack of compatibility between two cognitive elements, it’s a natural reaction to try to change one of these (unconsciously). In plain English it means something along these lines: “if you’re doing something that doesn’t match your beliefs/morals you’ll most likely change they way you remember/perceive the actions and their consequences”. I know it’s technical and boring, but I’m done with acting all clever and educated now.

How this translates into training is quite simple actually. If you’re doing something that’s a waste of time, your mind will make up reasons as to why it isn’t. You’ll actively look for the benefits of said exercise and will override your rational thinking. This can be used to explain why people tend to defend their style of training.

The link to training your weakpoints? Well if you hammer away at a stubborn muscle, you will (provided you have a minimum of results to show for your hard work) convince yourself that what you’re doing “works”. The way our minds work, simply makes accepting that we got absolutely zero results from something extremely hard.

Secondly it’s a common fact that whatever you focus your attention on will shine. Simply acknowledging the issue and thinking about it will make you pay more attention to the issue at hand. More attention means better results. That simple. Most people also prefer fixing problems actively instead of hoping they go away all by themselves. Again referring to Festinger it’s quite possible that working actively at something changes our perception of reality.

Final point is cost/benefit. How will your weakpoint training affect you routine in general? Will it detract from your program? It probably wont. That means that even though the benefit might be low, the cost is even lower. Even if the added work doesn’t change anything objectively, you’ll more than likely change your perception on the matter. Since our perception dictates how we feel (and not “facts”) – we’ve just changed reality (as you see it).

Over a couple of posts I’ll go into further detail on types of weakpoints as well as how to implement specific work for them into your routine.

Worry about this instead. Part five – hypertrophy.

In case you just started following, here’s a quick link to the first four parts of this series.

As you can see, I’ve covered nutrition, strength, behaviour and little things. To wrap up the list, here’s what you really came for – how to get sw0le!

  1. Strength. Unless you’re already moving significant poundages, forget about hypertrophy. The easiest way to look like you bench 140 is to bench 140.
  2. Finding and following a simple full body program with linear progression until you’ve stalled and reset around three to four times.
  3. Clean up the diet and gradually add a little. Counting calories is not for me, but if you do add 500kcal a day.
  4. Use medium reps (3-6ish) for main lifts, and higher (8-12) for assistance exercises. High rep squats is a classic for a reason though – try it once a week for a month or two. Start out with 20 reps at 50% 1RM and add weight each week.
  5. Forced reps build ego, not muscle.
  6. Weightgainers contain protein powder and shit. I’d rather grab a shake and eat cake any day of the week. Simple refined sugars are simple refined sugars – even if they come in a shiny tub that says “mass gain 5000”.
  7. Patience. I’ve been around this before, but it bears repeating. Busting your ass 3+ times a week over a period of 2-3 years is a surefire way to get jacked.
  8. Volume. A little more volume can be applied here, just don’t go overboard. we’re not trying to get 3-day DOMS here – we’re trying to build muscle. 5×10@50-60% should do the trick.
  9. You don’t have weakpoints if you’re not benching bodyweight and squatting around 1.5x bodyweight. Then you’re just weak. Get stronger.
  10. Worry about building muscle and/or losing fat – there’s no such thing as “toning”, “shaping”, “sculpting” or “defining” muscle. There’s muscle and there’s fat, how you look depends on those two factors.

As you can see there’s nothing new under the sun here. Focusing on big lifts and the long term is key here. I’ll get back to weakpoint training in a later post, as I’ve got my own hypothesis on how weakpoint training and social psychology interrelates. I’m really looking forward to writing that one myself.