The Narrow Gait to Progress


“Train with intensity in the weight room two or at most three days per week. Rest well. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to various lack of gains, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to spectacular, game-changing progress, and only a few find it.”

So you want to get bigger or stronger, faster, quicker, or more powerful over the summer? Do you work hard in the gym and on the playing field, and want to see freakish and sustainable results? The kind that make someone see a performance and say, “Oh it’s just genetics.”

Genetics do matter. But it’s definitely not JUST genetics.

Athletes who grossly over-train by simply following the instruction of their two, three, or four coaches make me do a quadruple face palm.

Athletes, coaches, parents…let’s quit pretending that this is a mystery. Or rocket science. This is VERY basic human physiology.

You need to train with intensity; work hard to stimulate adaptation. But then you need to recover. Recovery doesn’t mean sitting around. But it does mean intentionally holding off on intense work, in favor of doing other things that are less stressful. Recovery means not confusing training and preparation for competition with actual competition!

When you’re in your teens or twenties, it’s easy to establish a pattern of doing far too much or nothing at all. Some athletes want to train with intensity for four, even six days per week. But just because you can get away with abusing your body by training hard every day does not mean that this is optimal.

The challenging, hard-to-find, and narrow road, is to work hard, and smart, and deliberately rest and recover.

The body functions as a unit, recovers as a unit. The stress (catabolic and energy producing) hormones that cause you to go hard on “shoulders day” or conditioning or long distance runs are the same hormones interfering with getting the FULL benefit from that killer workout that you completed yesterday.

That’s why I advise full body training days for everyone except those primarily interested in competitive bodybuilding. Unless you have a great reason to train yourself like Frankenstein’s monster. For every day that you train with high intensity […I know that most motivated athletes won’t listen to me, but…] you really should have one, even two days of rest or relatively lower intensity work.

If you want to get stronger and  more athletic, remember that less is more. Fill your “off” days with a light hike. Seek out some jumps and stumps with a mountain bike. Pick up trash along the highway. Team athletes, spend the “low intensity” days working on tactics or skill work, but -intentionally- no hard running, intense games, or conditioning. Learn to kick-flip a skateboard. Write a letter to your grandparents. Stop with the “recovery run,” the “little bit of abs, chest, and calves” or whatever, and just sit the heck down and recover.

Are two weight training days per week really enough?

Absolutely! If you are a hardworking athlete interested in working smarter and not just harder. This advice is not meant for a casual gym-goer or a slacker. That crowd can train just about every day because they never -truly- stress the system. And typically, they get bored or injured at around the 8-week mark, and fall back into the typical altogether sedentary lifestyle.

I built my deadlift to over 600 pounds, bench pressed 375, squatted 500 lbs for reps, (at under 200 lbs body weight), chin-ups with well over 100 pounds added, all while weight training two days per week. ***Please believe this – I’m not special. I can roll out exhibit A, B, C, D, E…all real people who had been training for years and then were startled at the results they saw when CUTTING BACK to two hard training days per week, and doing some general activity or light corrective exercise on the off days.

Either that, or all of the guys and girls who I train for the long-term just happen to be “genetic freaks.”

Please don’t confuse this with general activity for weight loss. Body composition changes happen in the kitchen and through exercising for better movement quality which allows you to do more things, more often, out in the real world. To lose weight, you will need to be physically active more than twice per week.

And don’t confuse this with two days per week advice with physical therapy rehabilitative and corrective exercises. These are mostly lower intensity activities which should be completed more frequently.

Don’t confuse “recovery” with fancy diet schemes and supplements. Nutrition certainly effects recovery, but for now I will assume that you’re going to eat mostly non processed foods most of the time. Just drink -some- darn milk, eat the lean protein and vegetables. Eat moms home cooked soup or stew and there’s no need for the fancy collagen supplements ; )

Two days per week does not include a lot of random stretching or doing the seated leg curl machine. You can do “cardio” and foam rolling on your own time. When training day comes, you need to get down to business. The two days per week plan has you doing a targeted mobility / stability warm-up, then getting on with the fundamental movement patterns and “big lifts” suited to your body and interests.

Ahhh seriously. Just see how far you come, how you look and feel and perform, when you train with consistency and -truly- respect recovery.


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