Too much of good thing?

I love training and in particular strength training, and have made it my hobby to read as much research / info on this field. -Obviously this makes me no expert, just someone who is keen.
There are so many self proclaimed experts that you read an article and it’s difficult not to get sucked in to their methodology (imo).
Trust me, I’m not kissing ass - I’m British we don’t do that. But Charlie’s way, or my interpretation of his way seems ideal. Simple (low level of technical profficiency required) exercises using a lot of prime movers, capable of high loads for strength with med ball and plyos for power, and a few assistance exercises for the weak link(s) or rehab.
Is it just me or have we taken the olympic lifts (variations), swiss ball, kettlebell thing to far?
All this conflicting info is too much. It was starting to influence where i’d train and how often. I’m fed up. Now i just try to think simple: heavy weight, rest. Move heavy weight again. If there is no progress back off and rebuild to improve.
Help me out folks. Am I right or totally off the mark? Tell me to piss off, I lack scientific knowledge, or say something. Strength and conditioning is so diverse and contridictory with no controls - it’s total love-hate man!!


You’re on the right track. Ian King has pointed out the need to maintain consistency in training over time and not following the latest fads. If you’re constantly chasing the latest training fad, there’s no continuity from year to year, and your development will lack direction. Constant refinement of proven methods over the course of many years is what builds high level performance. When most people start to seriously study training theory and methods, they inevitably limit themselves to the most recent material. My advice would be the opposite. Start with the classic texts written by proven coaches (Mach, Roman, Bompa, etc.) and then move forward, trying to understand how those proven appoaches have been gradually refined up to the present. Charlie stated quite correctly that if people simply did what Gerard Mach was doing 40 years ago they would get better results than using the latest “revolutionary” training methods. Derek Hansen also told me that he read a book on sprinting from the 40’s (I believe) that was far superior to most of the material available today.

And your observation about simplicity in training is dead on. Even if the individual components are simple, the subtleties of balancing and managing them provides enough complexity. If the individual components are complicated to begin with, it will be almost impossible to effectively integrate them together into an overall program that you can effective administer. KISS is a cliche, but cliches are cliches for a reason. Beware of novelty. When it comes to training there isn’t much new under the sun.

Well said, Flash!

Thanks Flash. I was beginning to think I was going mad. That’s cool advice and much appreciated.

I agree 100%. So many people out there trying to be smart and innovative. Strength science is actually incredably simple.

One piece of advice however - i believe constant ‘pushing’ is the greatest limiting factor to optimum progression. ~90% of ones best for a given number of repetitions is sufficient in 2 from every 3 workouts.

Sorry David, I’m not sure if I follow. Are you saying that “pushing” as in pushing ones’ limit?
If that’s the case, does your example mean 2 in 3 workouts work to 90% of your 1RM for (example) 1-3 repetitions?
I just want to clarify because what you’re saying seems very interesting.


I’m guessing David means 90% of one possible best at that weight.

Ie 90% at 4RM.

That is how I generally work, I tell my athletes to keep 1 or 2 reps left in them. It is hard at first but over time they can.

I don’t even go anywhere near 90%, more like 60%? :slight_smile:

well how do you quantify weights at 70% moved explosively for sets of 3?
In a way it is 100%, because I’m applying 1RM force to each of those reps.

Just to clarify:

If you can bench 100 for 5 reps - 4x5r @ 90
If you can squat 200 for 3 reps - 6x3r @ 180
If you can clean 150 for 1 rep - 3 singles @ 135 etc etc

Thanks David.

That makes perfect sense. I recall something similar in Arthur Drecshler’s Weightlifting encyclopedia.:wink:

Another point to keep in mind about complications in strength training is that much of the strength training literature is focused specifically on weightlifting sports. If one is a lifting specialist, more variations and manipulations (i.e. complexity) have to be incorporated into the program because that is the only high intenisty component. The more high intensity components in your overall program, the less often you need to vary the individual components. For example, in sprinting you have short sprints, plus special endurance, weights, plyos and med ball throws. With so many high intensity components in the program, each one can be kept simple and cycled less frequently. By contrast, a weightlifter’s training usually comprises only weight training. As such, he needs to manipulate the variables more often. Take home lesson: be careful when translating strength training literature to you own sporting needs.

Wow, good points.

You’re on the right track everyone.

I wasn’t saying that weightlifters necessarily do a wide variety of exercises. The Bulgarians are a great example of a streamlined lifting program: competition lifts, pulls and squats. However, there is much more programmed complexity and variation in the manipulation and cycling of the loading parameters in weightlifting beyond just the exercises. It also depends on which system is used. The Bulgarians used a simple loading method as well, basically going up to their max on any given day and training there. However, I don’t think many athletes can survive that kind of assault on their body on a daily basis for long. By contrast some Soviet coaches (Medvedeyev) were the exact opposite and constantly varied both the exercises and loading parameters.

My point is that the fewer high intensity components you have, the more often you have to change them in some way because they are being applied to the body more frequently at a given volume. By contrast, if there are more high intensity elements, you necessarily have to compromise both the volume and frequency with which you apply each one, which gives you more time before the body adapts to each individual stimulus.

And I’m in complete agreement with you about simple answers being the result of complex questions. There are many factors that go into how and why a training method should be applied. But ultimately, the final product has to be stripped down to its most essential elements. As Bruce Lee would say, hack away the non-essentials. Notice that Charlie usually gives very simple practical advice, usually only a sentence or two. But as soon as someone asks him why, his explanations reveal a tremendous about of details and subtleties that most of us never even considered.

Variations due to adjustments is what I was referring to above when I talked about the complexity involved in integrating and balancing simple components in an overall program. If each element in the training has been planned with a lot of complexity before it is integrated into the overall program (which is most common in strength training), how are you going to maintain that plan when you have to start adjusting everything in reaction the needs of the moment?

… and that’s why this is the best forum on the web.

No offense taken. I needed to clarify my points in more detail. There’s a difference between simple and simpleminded.

I’m in total agreement about the importance of therapy. Once you get used to regular sports massage (even only once or twice a week), you realize the difference it makes. It’s like having a new body. Getting some type of work every day is like a quantum leap. At his peak, Ben Johnson was getting some type of massage work twice a day, six days a week! And from Waldemar no less! Imagine what your body could handle with that kind of support.