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MarkG

Thoughts On Injuries, Heavy Lifting And Abbreviated Training

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I recently read Beyond Brawn (BB) by Stuart McRobert, so pretty much all of these thoughts are seen through my BB tinted glasses.  I do see the sense in a lot of what he says and thought it was worthy of a bit of discussion.  You may or may not agree!

 

It's not a new book.  He talks about videoing yourself and watching the tapes back later to check your form, so that sets the scene for which decade he's coming from.  Nevertheless, there is some good, timeless advice in there.

 

The book struck a chord with me partly because I am due to hit 40yo this month and BB talks a lot about older lifters, hardgainers (check my stats lol) and things that I can relate to.  There are a lot of things I could talk about from the book, such as program design, nutrition, rest & sleep, stressful lives, the usual training related stuff but the main point I wanted to discuss was injuries in relation to training frequency and recovery.

 

Up until last week I have been training 5 days a week (lifting weights that is).  There were heavy compound lifts in each session.  I had two rest days per week.  BB strongly advises against this.  His training philosophy is based around what he terms, 'Abbreviated Training'.  One of the reasons why I am thinking of reducing my training days is because I get this: -

 

-Training consistently for a number of weeks, increasing the work and/or weight each session.

-Make some good improvements in my lifts, moving towards or even exceeding old PRs.

-Reach a point where things start to ache a bit, hurt a bit when lifting, bother me when not lifting.

-Feel like I am on the verge of an injury and then wonder what to do: Deload, take a few days or a week off, change my program.

-Then progress stops or I hurt something.  Luckily I haven't had that many injuries and none of them serious, but then my progress has hardly been spectacular either.

 

One of the main rules is that you should have more rest days per week than lifting days.  So that sets the limit at 3 days lifting per week, in effect.  His suggested program templates/starting points range from 1 to 3 days per week.  He suggests things such as once per week deadlifting, squatting once or twice at most, avoiding two training days in succession that train the same areas in the heavy exercises (i.e. allow several days between squat/deadlift days).

 

What he is saying is that by training heavy and not recovering properly before doing the same thing again, you are limiting your gains and setting yourself up for injury.  Recovery deserves a much bigger place in our training plans than it often gets, and should be the first thing we look at when we stall or hurt ourselves.

 

I see good friends here on the forum who train upwards of 4 times per week, usually with heavy weights, often way beyond what I could imagine lifting in the near future.  Sadly I also read about all the injuries these same people are carrying, working around, rehabbing.

 

I don't want to make it sound as though he is just saying train less, don't push so hard, because that is simply not the case.  'Poundage progression' and 'excellent exercise form' are right up there on his priority list too.  He suggests that making progress on the big lifts can be done long term if recovery is done correctly.  We should be pushing for more weight on the bar in the key exercises, even though towards the end of a cycle this may mean using ideas such as: microloading, extra rest days, extra sleep, extra food, dropping the number of work sets, dropping accessory exercises, and other things that would ultimately allow us to eek out those extra few weeks or months of progression on the top sets of deads, squats, bench etc.

 

He also accepts that some trainess, particularly the younger ones, may have excellent powers of recovery and will be able to break a lot of the 'rules' and still make massive gains, so please understand that none of the above are intended as blanket statements.  For those of us who do find stagnation in our progress and that the dream of being injury free at any one point can hardly be imagined, then perhaps this abbreviated training may bear some consideration.

 

I have only highlighted some of the thoughts that I was left with when reading the book, so please feel free to read it yourself to form an opinion on its content.  I bought the paper copy, but also easily found a PDF on line with a simple google search.

 

In summary though, if much of what BB says is right, then perhaps a few extra rest days and a few less exercises per session would help to keep the injury rate down around here.  I'm going to try it soon so if you want to watch the guinea pig succeed or fail miserably then check out my log in a month or two!

 

Conflicting thoughts that may spring to mind, and do so for me are that I will miss the extra training days, miss being in my little gym, may worry about whether I'll lose my good habit of training often enough, but I hope to compensate for some of that by introducing one or two days a week where I can work on cardio, soft tissue work and mobility.  I am getting old after all :)

 

Again, this is through BB tinted glasses, and all opinions are subject to change :D

 

 

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I cannot agree more - 5 days a week is overtraining. Especially as you are hitting compound lifts each time...no recovery, higher risk of injury, cumulative fatigue.

Would be 99.999999% certain you do 3 days a week, and have a total rest day in between you will see lifts improve, recovery improve and injuries lessen.
As you say, the 3 sessions you do are still hard graft, compound lifts etc....but less sessions is definitely more :-)

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Hat to admit it, but I made better progress when I trained less

my best progress, after SL, was on the Mike Mahler program I was on, where it was 2x lifting, 2x conditoning, and 2x mobility work each week

I have the disadvantage of low T along with advanced age, YMMV

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I've trained 3 or 4 times a week on SL and 531 over the last 2 years and the best progress I had was with 531 with eating at a surplus. I think the monthly progressions helped recovery at an older age.

 

As you know Mark, I've gone to five times a week from three, having less exercises and shorter sessions. Previously training was taking up to an hour and half but now they take 45 minutes to an hour max.

 

I squat 3 times a week (main focus), bench twice and Deadlift once but I only go heavy on one session. The other sessions will be for technique work but I do seem to react better to more frequency (I think!).

 

I will report back if I crash and burn. :unsure:

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Thanks for the comments guys.

Nick I don't think you'll crash and burn mate. Everyone reacts differently. I think it is worth having an additional option if and when progress stops and that is to cut down on the work you are doing in order to keep progress going on your key lifts.

If you do hit the wall you can always cut down on accessory lifts or cut out a weekly session or reduce work sets and hopefully then get enough recovery going on to allow you to put some more weight on the bar. Even another kg or 0.5kg at a time.

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Interesting.  I don't want you to be right because I don't want to train less than 4 or 5x per week. :D  I do agree that too much stress (in the form of too much volume, too much frequency, too little sleep, poor nutrition, too many external stressors) will eventually result in injury.  Maybe the lesson is to listen to your body.

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I'm a bit sad about the reduced training frequency too but I'm willing to take one for the team and try it out for a cycle or two. If I end up fat and weak then we can chalk it up to experience :)

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Interesting discussion. Personally, I've come to quite the opposite conclusion. When I was lifting 3 days a week (SL5x5), I was hurting much more, and I felt beat up most of the time. It wasn't even muscle soreness but rather tendon pains. Now, I train much more frequently, up to 7/7, but I go heavy(ish) only one or two times per week for each movement. The sessions are shorter, and easier to recover from.

I think you can train most days of the week, or even every day, even with compound lifts, and particularly when your max squat and deadlift is still under 2xBW. Of course you'll need to be smart about it and you can't hit >80% intensities every day. It should also be obvious that you cannot add 5lbs every day.

I think that a huge part of strength gains for novice and intermediate lifters comes from improving proprioception and unfucking your movement patterns, in other words: learning the movements. Strength, particularly in the washed up lifter, is very much a skill. In order to develop this skill, it is important to get as many good reps as possible. Grinders don't help much, in fact they are rather detrimental.

But of course there are many ways to skin that particular cat ;)

ETA inb4 lykantrophic magic recovery

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Nothing but silver bullets will stop him!

I might try training every day adding weight to all my lifts each time going up to 95% then claim I was following your program but it didn't work. Then my current opinion will be validated. Muhahahahaaa.

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I like this thread. THe idea that there's no such thing as overtraining proliferates and I don't have an opinion one way or another but I think it can lead to some bad habits.

 

There are clearly many valid ways to train and the key seems to be trying things and finding out yourself what works rather than taking anyone's word. In my experience, frequency doesn't cause injuries in of itself, rather, grinding shitty reps day in day out is what can cause injury. As a lifting community I'd like to see more emphasis on quality reps rather than being a hard ass and doing whatever it takes to set PRs. Progress in lifting is the result of dedication and consistency and I believe that can work with a whole host of training routines.

 

Even someone like Greg Nuckols who advocates increasing frequency and/or volume to aid progress emphasizes quality reps and cutting AMRAP sets when form begins to breakdown. I wish I would've personally paid much closer attention to that rather than trying to be a hard ass and grinding reps because HARD WORK IS HARD until I injured my spine irrevocably.

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That's sort of my take on it, I call a set done when I grind a rep, and I like the deload  / amrap idea in GSLP; go ahead and deload, use the amrap to build some muscle while you re aproach the #s you had to deload at

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While the concept of overtraining is very real, I think most of us are guilty of giving in too soon.  If overtraining weren't real, rhabdo wouldn't happen.  Yet, I can honestly say that with the right mix of training styles, training every day is very much possible even when you aren't on steroids.

 

One of the lessons I learned while working with a coach was that I was capable of handling a lot more volume than I thought was possible.  I'd be pretty wasted afterwards, but ready to go on the next training session.  It has a lot more to do with the content of your training than it does with the amount of time you spend in the gym.

 

An example of a train 6 days a week program that did pretty well for me would be the "Big-15" program.  Essentially, you had 3 major training days, and three accessory days.  Each accessory day you would focus on either triceps/biceps or shoulders.  The relative recovery was built into the program because those accessory days were essentially active recovery days that also served a purpose.  Those accessory movements do help with keeping injuries at bay and they don't take very long in the gym at all.

 

I'll go out on a limb and say there are several "right" ways to train that all work and keep you injury free.  I'm sure Beyond Brawn was talking about his experience on how he arrived at what worked for him.  I'm also sure it resonates with a lot of lifters.  After my competition I'm planning on doing "something" every day, but still have 3 days that are for the primary lifts.  There's something to be said for building a foundation, and sometimes to build a foundation you have to dig deeper than you would otherwise.  The challenge is not to dig too deep all at once, and allow a week or two of relative rest to let the body recover before moving on to the next block of training.

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Over the last 4 months I've increased frequency while still only training 3 times per week.  I just alternated between upper and lower, so I've gone from 4 sessions per movement per month to 6 sessions per movement per month.  It's worked really well for me.

 

I think 5 days a week is unnecessary if your goal is to just get stronger with the barbell movement.  Obviously most people who touch a weight tend not to have that as their only goal.

 

I think 5 days lends itself more to physique goals because it's easier to split the work up across days. I know some guys do push/pull/legs 6 times a week, basically 3 days on, 1 day off, rinse and repeat.  But with that routine you won't use the barbell movements each time. The first 3 days might be the heavier work with a barbell, the second 3 day phase would be lighter accessory work.

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I like this thread. THe idea that there's no such thing as overtraining proliferates and I don't have an opinion one way or another but I think it can lead to some bad habits.

I agree here, I'm not gonna say overtraining doesn't exist. But I imagine it takes a lot of whatever it may be to really see its symptoms. I am aware that Clarence Kennedy was a supporter of high frequency, he was training 2x/day, probably the whole week through give or take some "deload" days. However he still wound up requiring knee surgery for a very serious case of patellar tendonitis.

There are clearly many valid ways to train and the key seems to be trying things and finding out yourself what works rather than taking anyone's word. In my experience, frequency doesn't cause injuries in of itself, rather, grinding shitty reps day in day out is what can cause injury. As a lifting community I'd like to see more emphasis on quality reps rather than being a hard ass and doing whatever it takes to set PRs. Progress in lifting is the result of dedication and consistency and I believe that can work with a whole host of training routines.

Jeremy Hamilton mentioned this on Omar Isuf's youtube, that endlessly grinding reps actually builds the sticking point in causing even good lifts to have a point where you slow down. High frequency training combined with daily max singles is doable, but that daily max has to be actually below actual max, and it will fluctuate daily. I think daily training can be ok, as long as you monitor volume/intensity and can accept the fact that some sessions will require less work because of other factors.

Even someone like Greg Nuckols who advocates increasing frequency and/or volume to aid progress emphasizes quality reps and cutting AMRAP sets when form begins to breakdown. I wish I would've personally paid much closer attention to that rather than trying to be a hard ass and grinding reps because HARD WORK IS HARD until I injured my spine irrevocably.

I agree, as soon as I detect my technique or positions changing and degrading I will shorten the set and leave some in the tank.
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Can confirm, I overtrained and am now more jacked than Roman statues. Overtraining, not even once.

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You're doing it right, Ghost and in the prime of your life too. Keep up the good work. I'm totally #old #jelly

I'm beginning to doubt the wisdom of Mr Stuart McRobmeofmygainz lol. I think his advice is aimed at a different set of people than Ghost but I'm not sure.

He does say to stick with whatever is working though at any stage.

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Can't stop a ghost, not even with a silver bullet.

He does say to stick with whatever is working though at any stage.

I think the key words are "stick" and "working" ;)

As for different sets of people: of course we all need to eat and sleep, injuries are a real issue (and more so for older lifters), and overtraining is likely a thing for very advanced trainees. But I don't think it's something we need to be concerned about while squating and pulling below double BW.

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Well for now, despite my age, my stick is still working. I'm hoping to get at least another twenty years out of it before it's resigned to just pissing through and stirring tea.

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stick still working crew ftw :P

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