by Fred Cantor
Posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 20, 1999
There are too many "rules," too many "self-evident truths," and too much egotism and close-mindedness. The fact is, strength training is simple -- no, not the training itself, which needs to be brutally hard -- but the principles behind the training. Let the scientists and researchers argue amongst themselves -- the disagreements that they have now will be the same disagreements that they'll be having 5 and 10 years from now. I'm too busy training myself and others to wait for the white smoke to arise from the chimney and the "final word" on strength training to be released.
Because there will never be a final word.
Machines or free weight, Olympic lifting or non-Olympic lifting, periodization or high-intensity -- what's all the yelling about? Why is there so much anger -- on both sides-- if the other side disagrees? It's time that we stopped looking for differences in philosophies and started concentrating on the similarities -- because there are a lot more similarities than there are differences.
The goals on both sides are the same: We train to stay healthy, get stronger, and perform more effectively. All these goods can be met and have been met over the years, using machines or free weights, doing one set or multiple sets, and doing a variety of exercises. In fact, there are numerous variables in strength training -- sets, reps, equipment, exercises, etc. The factors, however, that are not debatable, the components that must be satisfied for a strength program to be successful are quite simple:
1. There must be intensity.
2. There must be overload.
3. There must be progression.
That's it. Nothing else. If you don't have those elements, no philosophy, no equipment, no methodology, and no supplement will make the program effective. The flip side, of course, is that if there is progression, overload, and intensity, every program will get good results. If you're not succeeding, look no further. Don't blame the equipment and don't blame the workout program: Remember, the same workout given to 10 people will get 10 different results. You must work hard -- every rep, every set, every day.
When designing a program, ask the following questions:
1. Is the program safe?
2. Is it effective?
3. Is it efficient?
4. Is it practical?
5. Is it purposeful?
6. Is it balanced?
If you cannot answer "yes" for an exercise or protocol, then exclude it from your workout. Make your decision objectively. Don't lose sight of what we're doing: strength training. You should never, ever be comfortable in a weight room. No one has ever reached their strength gain potential by being comfortable. If it's comfort you want, go some place else.
There are no secrets to success. Choose only productive exercises -- they should be chosen for functional, not cosmetic purposes. Do perfect repetitions with maximum effort -- you can either train hard and short or easy and long. Choose the former. Remember: As the intensity increases, the duration and frequency of the workouts decreases. Adjust your workout accordingly.
Above all, be aggressive. Don't fall in love with rep schemes or exercises, and be sure to make changes when adaptation occurs. Add weight. Add reps. Intensify sets. Don't be comfortable.
There are no gimmicks to successful strength training -- just hard, brutal work. Keep it simple and safe. Plan all workouts. Be accountable. Sleep and eat enough to enhance your progress. And finally, have fun and enjoy your workouts and appreciate the opportunity that you have to train hard and to challenge yourself.
That's something both sides can agree on.