With my clients, and with general inquiries, I frequently get asked about Trainer “X” or System “X”. There was a time I kept up more with what other people did but I am no longer really interested in the latest fad. What I am more interested in is personalizing training and nutrition for the individual and hopefully that brings about success, however that is defined. A lot of trainers and training programs are selling a lie. They are selling a lie that in some cases is known and in others it’s not. So, let me explain.
The early history of bodybuilding, pre 60’s, programs were typically strength based, lower volume. Look back at the physiques of those days. They tend to be exaggerations of a normal physique but not grotesquely. The same thing with the numbers lifted, the men were strong but the numbers nowhere near rival what they do today in general. When you think about what you can achieve naturally, look to these men.
In the 60’s and 70’s bodies started changing, and the numbers started increasing. And make no mistake, there is a simple cause for MOST of it: chemical enhancement. Being chemically enhanced allows one to train more often and with greater intensity without the fear of overtraining, or at least overtraining as quickly. But these programs influenced bodybuilding to a large degree and general fitness as well. With the general idea that more is better, more volume and weight were quickly adopted as a means to an end, without any critical reflection.
Bodybuilding, in general, never really recovered from this. Yes, there were distant voices in the wilderness like Mentzer, Yates, and a few others in terms of training volume, but to a large degree to this day, the general amount of work really hasn’t changed for the average trainee wanting to get bigger and stronger. But the underlying lie is that this original work that was done in the 60’s-70’s, and the vast majority of work that higher level bodybuilders do today, is done chemically enhanced in various degrees.
If you are a natural trainee, you cannot out nutrition and recover from too much training be it volume, frequency and/or intensity. At some point your body stops compensating for the stress and you become overtrained. But simply look around any fitness center and you see natural men and women training 5-6 days a week for over an hour thinking they are progressing. Most of them never get anywhere, look at attrition rates for a fitness center. Injuries, lack of motivation, and other symptoms of the disease infect their thinking wondering what they’ve done wrong. Honestly, they have believed the lie without knowing it is a lie and suffered the consequences for an unknown history.
New training systems and new trainers are really no different. Most of them train people as they train, so the lie continues. The fitness industry is like a whore on crack, she fucks you to get her next fix. But that fix only lasts so long, so something new has to come along to replace the old. This cycle is pernicious and emotionally based, no one wants be training on an “old” system, but instead, wants to be current and hip if you will. New stuff is sexy old stuff passé.
What is lost in all of this is a solution to the lie. Volume works. Intensity works. Frequency works. But those variables are not held constant for everyone. Some don’t tolerate volume as well; others intensity, and still yet others more or less frequency. BUT it is never just that simple.
What about your life too? Is this a high stress time? Do you have the resources to eat properly? What about your recovery and rest cycle? Are you in general happy? EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM out there that is sold acts in isolation of your everyday life and to that end, it isn’t PART of your life. If you aren’t thinking about how it fits with your life, you are further shortchanging yourself.
Years ago, I had a client who was enamored with German Volume Training. The program he was on was limited volume and frequency, but was producing regular gains. The program by all accounts not only had been effective but still was effective. He wanted me to set him up on a program that fit his limitations and equipment. Fine. Once I started talking to him about his current life and the next sixteen weeks, it was the last thing he should be on. When I started talking to him about it, he got very defensive. He ended up not working with me for that sixteen weeks. I heard from him a year later, after a serious injury done during the GVT (he tore up his shoulder) and then pneumonia followed shortly after the injury—about the time his stress was peaking (he is involved in the tax business). He set himself up for failure.
The moral of the story is simple: training programs that are the result of past practices of high volume and frequency typically are part of the chemical enhancement tradition. They do not serve the typical trainee well at all. More so when combined with a life that cannot support the additional work, the body rebels and goals are not reached. The fact that you do not progress may not be your fault; you are part of a much bigger lie about what works and what does not.