The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

It’s no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #1
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Beyond Starting Strength

    I've been having this conversation with another member via PMs...

    Suppose you are not a powerlifter, and you've used up your linear progression (3 cycles) on the Starting Strength routine. It is then recommended to switch to a more complex method of progression to keep those lifts moving. But suppose you were more into bodybuilding than powerlifting? Couldn't you continue to use linear progression and cycles but choose different lifts? In other words, switching out back squat for front squat, switching out bench for bar dips, etc... Couldn't you continue progressing this way for a very long time?
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  3. #2
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    I still think doing any exercise 3 times per week, bodybuilding or not, is too much if its always a heavy load. Now if it was a ramping load throughout the week, then I can see it working.

    I think the DC/HCT-12 upper/lower split is perfect for a post starting strength routine. If I had to do it all over again I would go from starting strength right to a DC type upper/lower split, except I would rotate 2 exercises instead of 3. That way your CNS is protected because you are only going heavy once a week on any given exercise, but you are still hitting each bodypart twice every 9 days. I would not rest-pause though. Either 1 all out set or a pyramid or something bodybuildingish.

  4. #3
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    So you think auto-regulation is the next step after linear progression? I'm not sure I agree with that.

    But my question is that you've only used linear progression on about six lifts (Starting Strength), couldn't you continue with linear progression when using some different lifts?
    Last edited by Off Road; 02-07-2011 at 08:29 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    So you think auto-regulation is the next step after linear progression? I'm not sure I agree with that.

    But my question is that you've only used linear progression on about six lifts (Starting Strength), couldn't you continue with linear progression when using some different lifts?
    Probably, but it depends on the lifts. All compounds or are we talking smaller lifts too?

    But I dont think its ever too early to go to an auto-reg type routine...worst case scenario is you simply progress a little slower, but at the same time, it will be much longer before you plateau. I think routines where you are trying to progress every single workout on the same lift, 3 times a week, lead to a quick plateau. Thats how it was for me on starting strength at least....very quick plateau. Not just physical, but mental too. I think going balls out heavy twice per week is perfect for a beginner.
    Last edited by mchicia1; 02-07-2011 at 08:50 AM.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mchicia1 View Post
    I think going balls out heavy twice per week is perfect for a beginner.
    I agree with that. Squatting three times a week to start with may be okay as you are learning the lifts, but dropping it to twice a week seems smarter once you are pushing some heavier weights.

    Routines aside, I want to talk more about switching lifts instead of switching progression schemes or routines... I'm guessing you are more in favor of switching routines and I'm more in favor of switching lifts.
    Last edited by Off Road; 02-07-2011 at 08:58 AM.
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  7. #6
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    If you "used up" the linear progression on the three lifts during SS, you are going to "use up" the linear progression on any other lifts you add rather quickly if they are at all similar to the first three.

    So for an ex: say you stalled at 315 on backsquat during SS. You then switch to front squat starting at 135, but rapidly increase to 255 maybe, and stall. The big problem is that you stopped working the back squat, so when you go back to it, you likely wont be able to do 315 anymore.... You may have built some more muscle/strength by switching to front squat, but you probably also lose muscle/strength by not doing back squat.

    Solution: Go straight from SS or other linear progressions right into the Conjugate Method.

  8. #7
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fanelli View Post
    Solution: Go straight from SS or other linear progressions right into the Conjugate Method.
    Would that not be a similar approach to switching lifts in linear progression?
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  9. #8
    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    Figured I'd add to this since I was that member, lol.

    But, for me in particular, when I switch lifts out, I seem to have awhile on them whereas I stalled on a similar movement before. Something like bench press to weighted dips. As well, I feel it the next day with the DOMS.

    I'd like to add to this though. Say you want to always benchpress or always squat? I liked some of McRoberts and other peoples ideas of doing a long cycle where you start at 85% (before you got stuck) and progressively add weight until you're back at 100% and then rather than go in 5 lb jumps every week, you go for 1 lb jumps. It's something I've never tried before but I'll be putting into practice soon.

    @Dan - I can see where that would be a problem but many people like Alan Aragon suggest you use a maintenance set when you switch things up. Like, if you were going to squat and you stalled at 3x 5.. you might switch to 2 x 10 but then add a 1 x5 to maintain those neural adaptions. It also works quite well with different movements as long as volume is in check.

    I think a lot of this is variable though. As I was mentioning to OR, I don't see a routine like Texas Method working for me. If you had 1 week set up like this:

    Monday - volume
    Squat 5x5
    Benchpress 5x5
    Power clean 5x3

    Wed - light
    Squat 2x5 @ 80%
    Press 3x5
    Chinups 2 x f

    Friday - intensity
    Squat 1x3rm
    Benchpress 1x3rm
    Deadlift 1x3rm

    For myself, I can already tell what would happen when I was tired or unmotivated. The 5x5's on mondays would become 2-3x5.. I might drop wed all together if I just didnt feel like driving to the gym.. things like that. It happens all the time and people terminate programs because of it.

    On the other hand, a more simple abbreviated routine such as:

    Workout 1: Squat, Dips
    Workout 2: Press, romanian DL
    Workout 3: Benchpress, dumbell rows

    Might be easier to stick to. Maybe I'm wrong - I donno. I've just never lasted a long time on routines with a lot of volume.

    So kind of back to what OR was asking, do you think you need heavy - medium - light type of things or do you feel doing longer, slower cycles and or switching movements works just fine?
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  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Would that not be a similar approach to switching lifts in linear progression?
    Maybe similar, but only slightly. After SS, Linear progression CAN work, but its not consistant. As the next previous poster pointed out, you could maintain one lift, while building on another, but I still dont think this works too well.

    Another important aspect after SS, is specialization. SS is a "basic program". Its an introduction to strength training. You could simply switch from 3x5 to 3x10 after starting strength and get a bit more linear progression. But you'd be "specializing" in the 10 rep range, and would lose your strength or potential in the 5 rep range.

    You could try to periodize things to maintain certain aspects while building upon others, but even this doesn't work too well. So some form of "concurrent periodization" is the best approach.

    Also, with the conjugate method, I think it works much better to make the smallest changes necessary to continue progress. So if you were benching for 3x5 on SS, you might change up the grip an inch or two or add bands..... But you want to keep the movement pattern pretty similar. Doing this will allow you to build upon a general movement pattern, and not have to worry about maintanence.

    Ex: If you got up to 225 on bench for 3x5. Then you switch to bench with bands and build up to 185lbs for 3x5. As long as this was a good choice, getting stronger on the bench with bands should make you stronger on the regular bench WITHOUT EVEN HAVING TO TRAIN BENCH.

    I guess you could try to make the conjugate method work while still staying pretty general, but im not sure why you'd want to stay general instead of narrowing down your goals.

    Now you said "suppose you are not a powerlifter" and "suppose your goals are more bodybuilding related". I think this is also where people run into problems. They think "bodybuilding goal" are more general. So instead of trying to get to where they can squat or bench a ton, they keep switching things up or focus on lifts that dont allow heavy loading.


    I see what your trying to suggest, but based on my experience it didn't work too well. I'd get stronger in a lift, and then switch things up and get stronger in that lift. When I went back to the orginal lift, I had gotten significantly weaker.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fanelli View Post
    I see what your trying to suggest, but based on my experience it didn't work too well. I'd get stronger in a lift, and then switch things up and get stronger in that lift. When I went back to the orginal lift, I had gotten significantly weaker.
    But if you had considerable experience with this type of training, then you'd know that the lift will come back fast and surpass your previous bests. Same point as the conjugate guys try to make, they don't deadlift to make their deadlift stronger. Your arguments for conjugate training just lend strength to my idea, so thanks for that.
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  12. #11
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    Ya, on paper what you are suggesting makes sense, but I just dont think it usually works out that way. I think after SS people should be training strength in the 1-3 rep range, and then hypertrophy in the 6-15+ range.


    If what you are saying is correct, you should be able to just maintain bench for example with 1-2 sets per week, while training dips for a few weeks. Then your bench will increase as your shoulder's/triceps/chest get stronger from dips???

    I know all the principles and theories suggest this should work, but I think in the real world its a bit tricky to make it happen that way.

    Im interested to see if anyone has trained exclusively this way though....

  13. #12
    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fanelli View Post

    Another important aspect after SS, is specialization. SS is a "basic program". Its an introduction to strength training. You could simply switch from 3x5 to 3x10 after starting strength and get a bit more linear progression. But you'd be "specializing" in the 10 rep range, and would lose your strength or potential in the 5 rep range.
    Dan, maybe you missed my suggestion regarding reps.

    After reading different things and from Alan Aragon, sometimes it can be helpful to keep a "maintenance set" where you would do 2x10 and then do a set of 1x5 at your previous best weight for 5 reps in order to maintain neurological efficiency for the 5 rep adaptions. When I've done this, it has worked well for me.
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  14. #13
    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fanelli View Post
    Ya, on paper what you are suggesting makes sense, but I just dont think it usually works out that way. I think after SS people should be training strength in the 1-3 rep range, and then hypertrophy in the 6-15+ range.


    If what you are saying is correct, you should be able to just maintain bench for example with 1-2 sets per week, while training dips for a few weeks. Then your bench will increase as your shoulder's/triceps/chest get stronger from dips???

    I know all the principles and theories suggest this should work, but I think in the real world its a bit tricky to make it happen that way.

    Im interested to see if anyone has trained exclusively this way though....
    I've had similar experiences with this. For a long time now, I have not done weighted dips. I was on an upper/lower program which just involved bench presses and a low incline dumbell presse for all my pressing work. I also did 5/3/1 after this with the BBB which did not include dips either. I set new pr's for my bench press recently. A couple weeks ago, I decided to do some weighted dips, to my surprise, I lifted slightly more weight than I ever have before on that movement despite not doing it for months.
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  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fanelli View Post
    Im interested to see if anyone has trained exclusively this way though....
    I trained exclusively like that for many years, and I've known many others that have done the same. Once we get past the "routines" and look at the "principals", then we start learning. So in this case, I am wondering if more complex forms of progression are required so early in the "bodybuilding" game (ie. right after Starting Strength)? Or, would it be better to use the faster linear progression on other lifts?
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  16. #15
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    I trained dips exclusively for years. When I switched to bench press, I was able to hit 300lbs in very short order. I've known others that have done the same thing. That lends validity to the fact that you can get stronger in a lift even though you aren't training it directly. I think it's similar to the Westside guys training box squats and goodmornings to improve their squat and deadlifts.
    Last edited by Off Road; 02-07-2011 at 04:13 PM.
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  17. #16
    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    For me, personally, I'm going to try that long cycle I talked about with you OR. I bought some additional collars that weigh 1/2 lb each and used that to increase all my worksets by 1 lb today rather than 5.

    Sometimes, I think stuff can get over complicated and less can become more (variable of course) I've always been a ****ty squatter in the fact that I can benchpress 50 lbs more than my squat and I can over head press my bodyweight. As of now, I'm squatting more than I ever have and the only thing I've done differently is take a 2 month break from lifting.
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  18. #17
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    Good luck Rich. Microloading can be productive, or so I've heard. I've never really tried it as I was more into cycles, and then I'd cut all the work at the end of a cycle to milk progress on a few lifts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichMcGuire View Post
    Dan, maybe you missed my suggestion regarding reps.

    After reading different things and from Alan Aragon, sometimes it can be helpful to keep a "maintenance set" where you would do 2x10 and then do a set of 1x5 at your previous best weight for 5 reps in order to maintain neurological efficiency for the 5 rep adaptions. When I've done this, it has worked well for me.
    Ya, I saw what you were saying, I was just trying to voice that from my experience, once lineary progression stopped I couldn't get it to work anymore.... I tried different rep ranges, and varying the exercises, but was hit or miss at best. The only thing that has work consistantly for ME, was switching to the conjugate method..

    Part of this might be pyschological I guess.

  20. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    I trained dips exclusively for years. When I switched to bench press, I was able to hit 300lbs in very short order. I've known others that have done the same thing. That lends validity to the fact that you can get stronger in a lift even though you aren't training it directly. I think it's similar to the Westside guys training box squats and goodmornings to improve their squat and deadlifts.
    Ya, you cant argue with what has worked for you.... The thing is, when you switch to a new lift, it has to address a specific weakness, otherwise improving in that lift wont have any carryover.

    So if on the dips your triceps were a limiting factor, you then switched to bench and were able to really overload your triceps well. Then going back to dips with stronger triceps it was no longer a limiting factor.

    I guess im not disagreeing with you or Rich, im just questioning that continuing linear progression is a smart idea.

    The other thing I question now is planned progressions. I know they can work, and they work well for some people, but in my experience and those around me, planned progressions never panned out.

    Linear progression would be the most basic form of planned progression. You could potentially tell me how much you'd be lifting in 3 months from now.

    Then there would be slightly more complicated forms of planned progression like those in Texas Method, and then cycled planned progressions.

    My opinion is that once linear progression stops (or even starts to slow) people should move away from planned progressions, and more into "autoregulation". I also think people mistake autoregulation with being complex or advanced, but its actually simpler. You dont have to use any percentages, or worry about sets/reps. Instead you go to the gym and just set and break new PR's when possible.

    I wish I would have gotten into this type of training much sooner. It teaches you how to gauge what you can do, as well as identify weaknesses. In addition, it is a great way to prevent training from being "stale". The worst thing for me was trying planned progression schemes only to find out that I was not getting stronger, or even getting weaker.

    I just dont see varying the exercises on SS as a viable option. These three exercises are the "BIG 3" it seems counterproductive to stop training them so early. Sure, you are training other exercises to improve the big 3, but you are still avoiding them.

    The other thing you have to consider is diminishing returns. You might run SS for 6 months before you stall. If you then put those lifts on maintanence, and make small changes to continue linear progression, you'll probably be lucky if you get 2-3 weeks of linear progression on these new lifts.(unless they are very different from the initial 3). But if they are very different from the initial 3, then they wont have as much carryover either. Conjugate training like Westside probably works well because you are constantly changing the exercises. You can work lockout strength one week, and the next week work your strength off the chest. Im not saying all of that variety is necessary, but its a good way of covering your bases and allows more room for error IMO.

  21. #20
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    Some good points Dan, but you need to know that Starting Strength is not a 3 week, or three month program. The first cycle should take a long time to complete, and then you have two more cycles that should take at least 12 weeks each. So, realistcally you should be using the big 3 lifts in Starting Strength for over a year before you are done with that routine. Those guys that said they did it for a few months didn't do it correctly.

    Now once your done with your 3 cycles of Starting Strength, there are a whole world of other lifts out there that may benefit from linear progression or you could go for another year or so utilizing the Texas Method and still doing the big 3 lifts. I'm not saying one is right or one is wrong, but certainly there must be some merit to utilizing linear progression on some other lifts.
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  22. #21
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    Something to consider is that you can add autoregulation principles to linear progression. This is the basic premise behind what I'm doing right now. My program is taken directly from somewhere else (Strength Villains) and the guy that developed it (Johnny Pain) has worked with Coach Rip extensively. I feel like his program is a more refined and productive version of SS. You get the best of both worlds.

    Basically, you do 3 sets of 5 with the same weight, however the last set is an all out effort so if you can get more than 5 reps then you do. You still add the same amount of weight each set of the next session (providing you get all the prescribed reps) but the reps very well might change because they are an all out set.

    An example would be:
    OH Press
    95 x 5
    95 x 5
    95 x 9

    Next session
    OH Press
    97.5 x 5
    97.5 x 5
    97.5 x 8

    Hope that makes sense
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    So you think auto-regulation is the next step after linear progression? I'm not sure I agree with that.

    But my question is that you've only used linear progression on about six lifts (Starting Strength), couldn't you continue with linear progression when using some different lifts?
    No. Want to know why? It is one of the major problems with linear progression. Sticking with a given compound lift for more than a few weeks quickly leads to neural stagnation and or at the very least detraining of muscles less specifically targeted by any given lift you choose. So, for example, if all you do are good mornings you will find that you have neglected working certain aspects of the hips, glutes, and quads which would be more targeted with back squats and so on.


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  24. #23
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    Offroad,

    I like the idea. The supportin muscles in the lift would be stronger allowing the weaker muscle to catch up.

    Switch the movement up every few months and start over with a higher base.
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  25. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cards View Post
    Offroad,

    I like the idea. The supportin muscles in the lift would be stronger allowing the weaker muscle to catch up.

    Switch the movement up every few months and start over with a higher base.
    Too infrequent of a switch. You need to switch every 1-2 weeks.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Some good points Dan, but you need to know that Starting Strength is not a 3 week, or three month program. The first cycle should take a long time to complete, and then you have two more cycles that should take at least 12 weeks each. So, realistcally you should be using the big 3 lifts in Starting Strength for over a year before you are done with that routine. Those guys that said they did it for a few months didn't do it correctly.

    Now once your done with your 3 cycles of Starting Strength, there are a whole world of other lifts out there that may benefit from linear progression or you could go for another year or so utilizing the Texas Method and still doing the big 3 lifts. I'm not saying one is right or one is wrong, but certainly there must be some merit to utilizing linear progression on some other lifts.
    I am aware of everything you said. I wasn't aware of SS when I started lifting, but instead gave it a run a few years back. Since I wasn't a novice lifter, I was only able to run it for a few months and didn't get much out of it. From the SS forums I could see that there were guys that ran SS for 6-12 months and then went on to TM and other programs. These guys got fairly strong, but a few guys doing this doensn't mean its the "right way" to train. There may have been HUNDREDS or THOUSANDS of guys that weren't able to get these kind of results with the program.

    Part of the problem may be a personality issue. Some people will get bored with the program and linear progression. Also, as I mentioned above, planned progression is hugely inneficient. On one workout you may be able to do XXlbs for 3x8, but you are only doing 3x5 (as prescribed). Then you may have workouts where you are supposed to do a XXlbs for 3x5 but are only able to do it for 3x3. The reason more people dont stick with linear progressions longer is they just dont work very well.

    Even bb'ing guys that just train by the "beat the book" method use a lot of autoregulation in their training. Anytime I use something similar to SS, its only a TEMPLATE at best. I might be trying to beat my previous 3x5 weight, but im certainly not going to limit my progress to only 5lbs (or even 2.5lbs if microloading). And if im unable to beat my PR, im not going to just chalk the day up as a failure. Im going to find something to progress on for that day and walk out of the gym successful.

    Also another thing to consider is that most effective training methods are going to be cyclical in some way. This is to account for diminishing returns as well as recovery and supercompensation. Progressing linearly produces diminishing returns VERY rapidly to the point where you can easily start working backwards. You could keep reducing the progression by microloading until you are only adding a few ounces each week, but really who wants to do that? As you get more advanced you need some workouts that are harder, and some that are easier.

    My opinion is that SS is a great NOVICE program. Its high frequency, sub-maximal, and progressive. You learn the lifts quickly and progress toward your limits quickly as well. But the sooner you stall the better. Then you are ready to start training with more "advanced" methods and start learning more about what YOU NEED TO DO to keep progressing.

    Look into the Conjugate method more. Thats really what you are preposing. But the conjugate method is going to involve more frequent but less extreme variations. If you are switching things up every 3-6 months your strength levels are going to be bouncing around. The goal is to switch things up when its NEEDED, and then come back to that movement/quality when its ready to be trained again.

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