You must go slow. You must go fast. Supplements are good. Supplements are bad. Do 20-rep squats; no, do heavy singles. You must bulk. You must keep your bodyfat as low as possible. Cycle your training. Split your training into phases. Time your sets with a stopwatch. What program are you using: Heavy Duty, Hardgainer, SuperSlowTM, Periodization…? Talk about information overload! It’s a wonder most new trainees don’t just grab a beer, a bag of chips, and become a couch potato watching TV!
What’s a trainee to do? Maybe there’s more in common among the various groups touting different lifting methods than most people realize? How about looking at the common denominators that exist in the groups, rather than argue over differences? These common denominators would be part of the foundation of common sense. In this article, we’ll find some of the commonalties among the various groups and programs.
Add the iron!
I don’t think I’ve read any of the advocates of various training programs state: “Keep the weight the same at all times—adding weight to the bar isn’t important.” To get stronger, and bigger, you must add iron to the bar! It’s called progression. It doesn’t matter if you do singles, 20’s, SuperSlow, a pseudo-scientific plasmatic cycle, or measure the time under load. If you aren’t adding iron consistently over a significant period of time, don’t expect much. This is a common denominator.
The big movements
I don’t think you’ll find exercises like triceps kickbacks, concentration curls and sissy squats as a common denominator. What you will find as a common denominator is using the big compound exercises that involve a lot of muscle in one movement. Deadlifts, presses, bench presses, and yes, the O-lifts involve a great deal of muscle. How about squats? The choir sings in unison with this exercise. It’s a great one.
To progress, you should go to the gym and not break a sweat. Don’t push yourself…ever. How many groups do you hear singing this tune? Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to understand that to get bigger and stronger you must put in some hard training. The differences lie in the details of what constitutes “hard training.” However, the bottom line is that hard training is necessary to force the body to change and adapt by getting bigger and stronger. Yet another common denominator is found.
You must use good technique. Most will agree that even if you’re lifting a rock, barbell, or using a machine, proper technique needs to be used. A breakdown in technique is one of the major contributors to injury regardless of the rep speed, rep range or lift performed. Many coaches and trainers don’t emphasize it enough in my opinion, but they certainly don’t advocate out-of-control technique.
One of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever read was in an article by a pro bodybuilder, or should I say ghostwriter, who stated, “There’s no such thing as overtraining, only undereating.” A common denominator among all the groups is that “overtraining” does in fact exist. What leads to overtraining is often argued in terms of volume and frequency, not whether it exists.
I believe the majority agrees that a lifting belt isn’t necessary in the quest to become bigger and stronger. Some lifters would rather die first than give up their belt. Some powerlifters state that a belt makes it “safer” to lift. In my opinion, this is hardly the case. If you watch an Olympic-lifting competition, you’ll rarely find the lifters wearing any belt at all. A lifting belt really isn’t needed to become bigger and stronger. One more tick mark under the category of common ground.
Eat like a bird! Chips and soda to feed the body! Candy, cookies, and creme puffs are the ticket to building muscle. Nobody advocates such nonsense. The common opinion is that good food is needed to build muscle. You must provide the fuel. The arguments are about quantities, types, and percentages. Another one in the common ground category; you must provide the fuel in the form of good food to build muscle and might.
How many groups do you see arguing over what’s the best supplement? Can you picture Fred Hahn and Dave Maurice battling over what creatine to use? Not likely! Could this be one of the common denominators? The common denominator is you don’t need supplements. They aren’t necessary, period. So, who are the people touting supplements and training information? They sell the supplements! And, often the “training articles” in their magazines are nothing but supplement ads in disguise. Definitely, these articles are only good for floor protection when training a puppy.
Everyone agrees that sleep is an important ingredient to build strength and muscle. You won’t find anyone arguing that sleep doesn’t matter in the muscle growth equation. Yet another common denominator: you must get enough quality sleep.
There’s certainly no group that advocates getting injured! I’m sure avoiding injury is a common denominator. Yet, I’m sometimes puzzled why injury prevention isn’t given as much attention as it deserves in articles and books. Maybe some coaches and trainers are afraid their “methods” will be questioned? Maybe their egos are too big to admit they made a mistake? I don’t know. But, I’m certain they advocate injury avoidance. I do know that if you get injured, you can be sure that the person at fault can be found in your closest mirror.
The final word
There certainly can be information overload when it comes to training. Too many trainees get caught up in the intricate details and lose sight of the basics. There are basic common denominators shared by all the different “methods,” “programs” and “groups.” These are essentially the basic elements for becoming bigger and stronger. To summarize:
- You must strive to continually add iron to the bar, and do it consistently.
- Use the big movements that involve a lot of muscle, e.g., squats, deadlifts, presses.
- Train hard!
- Use excellent technique, whether you’re using a barbell, rock or machine.
- Avoid overtraining.
- You don’t need a lifting belt.
- You must fuel your body with enough good food to grow bigger and stronger.
- Supplements aren’t needed.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid injury.