Monday, December 13, 2010

The 80-20 Rule and How it Affects Your Training, Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, I discussed how roughly 20 percent of the exercises you perform in a workout will be responsible for approximately 80 percent of your results.  This may be an easy concept to grasp mentally, but a very difficult concept to execute.  Many of us feel that if we want to achieve maximum results, we should perform as many exercises as possible in a given week in order to "cover all the bases."  Besides, what's the point in having an abunbance of machines if it's not worth it to use all of them?


Trust me: if you focus on just a few different movement patterns each week, your results will eclipse the gains made by performing as many exercises as possible in a day/week.  You may be asking "Well, what are the key exercises that will produce the greatest possible gains?"  They are:
  • Squats (and their variations ex. single-leg movements such as lunges and split squats)
  • Deadlifts 
  • Pulling (think dumbbell rows, cable rows, pullups, lat pulldowns, etc.)
  • Pressing (pushup variations, military/overhead presses, bench variations, etc.)
  • Core (hint: not sit-ups)
Speaking of squatting, I love this video.  It shows a girl completely pwning (that's nerd-speak for "owning") a male in the weight room.  She's doing full squats to parallel while the guy in the corner does 1/4 squats (using the same weight) with the pad between his shoulders and the barbell.  (Side note: women can - and should! - lift weights and still be sexy and feminine.  I know most of the SAPT women understand this, but I'm still shocked at the misconceptions I hear touted on a regular basis.  More on this in a future post)

Anyway, if you center your training around those 5 movement patterns, you can't go wrong.  This applies to athletic performance, muscle gain, fat loss, you name it.  The sets, reps, rest period, etc. will determine the training effect received. 

Something else to keep in mind: if performing an exercise will provide a 10% stimulus, but produce 20% fatigue, it's NOT WORTH doing.  There are many exercises that are very neurologically taxing (especially if executed incorrectly), but don't produce very much from a results standpoint.  This can also be the case with how you perform an exercise.  Once your performance on a lift diminishes (i.e. you can't complete the reps with perfect form), STOP the set.  Making a habit of grinding reps is fool-proof recipe for failure.

The workout must also not be so long and voluminous (containing superfluous exercises) that the majority of the training session is done in a state of fatigue.  This will ingrain bad habits - "just going through the motions" with an exercise, executing reps with sloppy technique, etc. - and also dramatically tax the CNS (central nervous system) so that recovery is sub-par.

This post could literally go on and on, but I'll stop it here.

Bottom Line: It is better to perform fewer exercises with intensity and perfect technique than to perform more exercises with sloppy form in a state of fatigue.  And even if you don't feel fatigued, there are hormonal shifts that take place when the volume of exercises becomes too high (ex. cortisol, a stress hormone, will rise sharply) that will negatively affect your results.  So, it is possible to actually gain body fat over time, or lose strength and power output if one consistently trains incorrectly.  So, you know those extra sets of sit-ups or bench presses you're doing?  Those can actually hurt you rather than help you!

Ok, now I'm stopping for real.


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