“Do as much high quality work as possible, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as possible.” ~ Vladimir Zatsiorsky
Sometimes I’ll flip through the health magazines to “see what’s going on” in the fitness mainstream. Amazing revelations on every page! “This 5-minute Ab Blaster will obliterate your obliques & terrorize your transverse abdominis!” “Do high-intensity interval training on Monday to burn off Sunday Funday!” “This brutal complex will destroy your deltoids, cauterize your quads and blitz your biceps”! I’m only slightly exaggerating. You’re probably familiar with this rhetorical strategy— metaphors of destruction, debt and punishment abound in the glossy world of Popular Fitness. In case it’s not obvious: I’m not a huge fan.
Other than the false promises, my issue with metaphors of this sort is that they erode the underlying goal of all training: improvement! When we talk about training as destruction, training as punishment or training as debt, we tend to forget that our time at the gym is about making ourselves better. It’s about setting goals and working to achieve them. We’re here to build something, not to burn something down. Consider the term “work out.” What are we working out—the demons? It’s exercise, not an exorcism.
I’m guilty here, too. For example, I have a workout called “Death Ladders.” I’ll refer to sessions as “savage” without really thinking about it. And who knows, maybe it doesn’t matter, then again maybe it does. If we start thinking of training as practice, maybe we’ll be more inclined to stop while we’re ahead so we can train again soon, rather than getting so “worked” that we have to take the rest of the week off. If we start thinking of strength as a skill, maybe we can bring mindfulness into the weight room and become much stronger while avoiding the overuse injuries that are far too common in the fitness world.
For clarity on this issue, I really like Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s summation of the core principle of training: “do as much high quality work as possible, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as possible.” Don’t miss that last part: while staying as fresh as possible. That’s the easy part to overlook. The equation that answers Zatsiorsky’s riddle is the holy grail of strength & conditioning, and I won’t claim to have it all figured out, but how about some bullet points to sum things up?
- Only do perfect reps. Grinding out sloppy reps just to hit an arbitrary number won’t do much for you unless you’re a bodybuilder.
- Do what you can, and be obsessed with making it look perfect. This applies to lifting weights and climbing rocks (and pretty much everything else).
- Train frequently. Pick a handful of lifts and practice them often until they improve. Simple.
- Stay fresh. Take a light day when you need to. Use whatever recovery tools you need to use—foam roller, massage, hot tub, etc. Don’t be afraid to cut a session short if you don’t feel right. Also: remember to warm up!
Give it a shot. Instead of waging war against yourself in the weight room, just show up, punch the clock & get some work done. Pay no mind to the hyperbole of the fitness mainstream. Training is a practice. Strength is a skill. Enjoy the process, because that’s all there is.
Head Trainer / Membership Director LCC