Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Some Words on Weightlifting Routines

Three years into my obsession with weightlifting and strength training, I thought I'd say a little bit about routines. A a novice, you have the idea that there is a perfect routine that'll make you stronger and bigger than any other one. This is how programs like the Ed Coan deadlift routine and Arnold Schwarzeneggar's training cycle get spread around, as though following these respective programs will make a neophyte deadlift 800 lbs and win the Mr. Olympia. It takes genetics, years of hard work, and a whole lot of drugs to achieve a world record in powerlifting or to become a champion level bodybuilder, which really should be obvious. But nothing is obvious to the novice. The novice consults the internet, as he does in all things, and he finds links to beginner programs like Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5 by 5. Maybe he realizes that he needs to start small and work his way up to an advanced program. The aforementioned Starting Strength is a popular choice. The beginner uses five exercises (the low bar squat, the bench press, the press, the deadlift, and the power clean) and performs 3 sets of 5 three times a week, then he adds weight, usually five or ten pounds, until he can't add any more. This is called linear progression, and it's a fine way to begin a strength training career. But it's not the only way. In fact, I really don't think it matters once you understand the basics of training. Yet the novice has quickly become a zealot. He's gained ten pounds or so, has increased his numbers in those five lifts, and he feels as though he knows everything. He's a regular on the Starting Strength forums, and has joined the cult of personality formed around the program's creator, mediocre powerlifter and average Texan Mark Rippetoe. Rippetoe's philosophy is that you are not a special snowflake. You respond to training the same way that everyone else does; therefore, you need to program exactly like everyone else. Once you're finished with your linear progression, you should tackle an intermediate program like the Texas Method, which focuses on weekly or monthly progress. This is the only way to get strong, just like the low bar squat is the only way to squat. Accessory movements are a waste of time. Deadlifting more than once or twice a week is a waste of time. There are objective truths, is what Mark Rippetoe wants you to think.  There is only The Program, and nothing else.

All that's a bunch of bullshit. If you have the determination and the genetic talent, you can lift weights however you want. You can do ten sets of ten; you can workout every single day for hours on end. The routine doesn't matter; there is no best way to lift weights except the way that makes you progress. Plenty of people have no set routine. I don't anymore. I know what exercises I'm going to perform on a given day, but the reps and sets and variation are dependent on how I feel. And it's working great. My training has focused on setting personal records nearly everyday; I got this from John Phung, and it's really revitalized my training. Do what makes you want to lift weights, is what I'm saying. Performing a strict routine that has you doing the same rep ranges every workout is mind numbingly boring. Experiment, like people used to do before the internet consolidated all of human knowledge. Every time I weened myself from a program written by somebody else for somebody else, I've made progress. This is my advice, for whatever it's worth.

   Franco didn't give a shit about 5 by 5, and neither should you.

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