"Any fool can create a program that is so demanding that it would virtually kill the toughest Marine or hardiest of elite athletes, but not any fool can create a tough program that produces progress without unnecessary pain.”
~ Dr. Mel C. Siff ~
As much as I encourage the basics in training, of equal importance is understanding how to properly organize a training plan so you are able to break through plateaus and make consistent gains in size, strength, speed & performance.
After a while, you will hit a wall in your training program if you simply push for "hard workouts" without a plan and without science.
After spending a large part of 2012 prepping for my Navy SEAL Challenge my workouts were high in volume, frequency and focused on work capacity and mental toughness. Getting stronger in the squat, bench and deadlift were not a priority for the 6 months leading up to my 20X Challenge.
Although I did use the big 3 powerlifts frequently, I did not see how being able to deadlift 600 lbs instead of 500 lbs would give me the edge during a 12 hr challenge. Instead, I was able to deadlift over 500 lbs and run 5 miles right after a deadlift session. Then I would come home and go through a barbell and bodyweight circuit for 10 minutes.
The long span (6 months) of high volume training that I went through proved to me how the body AND mind can thrive on a high volume of training, even in your mid 30s.
This style of training certainly goes against the typical recommendation of training 3 x week that you see so often recommended among the 5 million fitness gurus who fear that your T Levels will drop if you train beyond this 3 x weekly workout regime.
When I program 3 x week it's NOT because I fear someone can't handle 4 or 5 x weekly training. My concern is people do not want dedicate more than 3 x week training for themselves. In addition, 3 x week training has proven to be VERY effective because of all the recovery you get both mentally and physically.
When I am only training 3 x week, mentally I am telling myself that I MUST make each training session count. If someone trains 5 days a week, they start to coast because they know they'll be back tomorrow and the next day. If you're training, you need to make each session count.
On average, in my mid 30s, I was training 5 days a week, often times 6 days a week as I prepped for The 20X SEAL Challenge.
The workouts were a blend of 3 - 4 aggressive strength sessions combined with 2 - 3 conditioning & durability sessions. My appetite went UP, I ate MORE and still leaned out AND lost weight. I went from about 222 down to 208. Training sessions often lasted 1 hour because of all the running and rucking I did, and at least once a week, if not twice, training lasted 90 minutes or slightly more. I needed the volume to prep for the 12 hour challenge. Specificity is a must. Sometimes I would train in the morning and again in the afternoon to prepare the mind and body.
Contrary to popular belief, my T levels didn't go down as I trained more than 3 x week, beyond 45 minutes per workout. I began leaving a 275 lb bar loaded in my garage and used GTG (Grease The Groove) with the Deadlift on average 3 x week. I would finish upper body workouts with a few sets of squats often times building up to 315 for sets of 3 - 5 reps. This is called "Easy Strength". You don't get kill it, you just get in the work. Just enough to stimulate, not annihilate.
I trained my body AND my mind to tolerate a higher volume of squats and deadlifts by using them with less volume and intensity yet the frequency was increased. It also taught me a lesson in strength. I started to recall how the strongest guys were never grinding reps. They always made the big lifts look clean. That being said, sometimes, intensity can back fire on you.
While prepping for The SEALFit Challenge, I pushed the volume of training up and up and up until I felt like I was on the brink of over training and then I backed off with 3 - 4 workouts a week for 2 - 3 weeks. During this "back off" phase, I reduced the volume of training by approximately 1/3 yet still trained heavy & aggressive. It was similar to what you see inside Gladiator STRONG along with regular running.
This style of preiodization is what we call accumulation, intensification and then realization.
The realization phase can also become a super compensation phase, where the body rebounds thanks to the extra rest and you end up making BIG gains in size, strength & work capacity.
The realization phase is what led me up to the Navy SEAL Challenge in my best shape ever, not just physically but also mentally. As Louie Simmons says, Any idiot can squat, bench, clean and curl but it takes science to create consistent results.
I learned through personal experience, after a while, performing only 5 x 5 programs and slight variations without science will stop you dead in your tracks. 5 x 5 will work for a beginner and intermediate but after years & years in training, your body will need more than 5 x 5 or the 3 x 10 common sets and reps.
In addition, if you are consistently under-trained and never push your body beyond the norms, your body will adapt and never feel uncomfortable enough to grow stronger or build more muscle. When it comes to training and life, comfort is the very thing that stops ALL progress.
This truth in preparing for this 12 hour challenge hit me HARD back when I began my prep for the SEALFit Challenge. I was often times training 3 or 4 x week before my commitment to this challenge, but most of those workouts were lasting approximately 35 minutes on average.
Those 35 minute workouts were NOT pushing my body outside of my comfort zone. They were hard. They were intense. But they were NOT pushing me to new and higher grounds.
What about you? Are you stuck in the same ol', same ol'?
I bet you are. After The SEALFit Challenge passed my body was on the brink of over training, or, very likely, I WAS over trained, I just didn't realize it as my mind was so dead set on NOT quitting during the 12 hours. I FEARED being unprepared for The 20X Challenge. In turn, I was obsessed about taking any workout I could come up with and challenging myself.
I found old training plans from a bunch of Tier 1 operators and DID them!
I would go through entire training sessions wearing a 40 lb vest. It didn't matter if I was deadlifting or performing calisthenics or running, the vest stayed ON.
I would wake up in the morning, have 2 glasses of water, then go to my garage and perform a bodyweight circuit for 10 minutes to start my day.
If I went out to eat with the family, on the way home I'd have my wife let me out of the car so I can run home the final 2 miles.
If I was about to shower I'd do 50 squats and 50 push ups in the bathroom so I could "earn the right" to take a shower.
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