Confidence and Certainty in your Training Program
by Keith Wassung
I have come to the conclusion that weight training is either one of the simplest things in the world, or the most complicated. Developing impressive strength and muscular development seems to be a matter of simply stressing the muscle with increased loads in order to force them to respond with greater strength and muscular development. On the other hand, if the average trainee begins reading just sampling of the available literature available on strength training, they will immediately see differing opinions, conflicts and dogmatic statements, which can cause them to second guess their own training program. Doubt, confusion and frustration can wreak havoc on your progress. It is vitally important that you have confidence in your program even if it is not quite where you want it to be. Stick with the fundamentals of resistance training and combine that with consistent goal setting and record keeping, and you will be on your way to realizing your maximum strength and development potential. Along the way you can experiment and add some variety to your training plan. I am constantly "tinkering" with and fine-tuning my training regime, but I never stray from the fundamentals.
There are approximately 17,000 medical or science journals published in the world and new ones are added each day. A search of the Library of Congress reveals over 35,000 published books on the subject of strength training. Please keep in mind that "medical research" in inherently biased in that the persons conducting the test almost invariably have some type of interest in the results. You could make just about any statement regarding health and or physical development and it is likely you can find some published studies to support your position. I have seen published studies from years back that show that cigarette smoking increases a person's health and longevity. Another example of skewered medical research occurred about 15 years ago when it was widely publicized that a study had been done which proved that taking one aspirin a day would reduce the risk of heart attacks. A follow-up study by the British Physicians Association revealed three interesting things that had not been reported (1) The study was essentially a mail-in survey done on white, male doctors (2) The study only showed that an aspirin a day would prevent a second heart attack and (3) The aspirin used was buffered aspirin, that is coated with magnesium, a valuable mineral who's deficiency is often associated with heart disease, in other words, the magnesium was responsible for any cardiovascular benefit not the drug. Despite the reports risks associated with chronic aspirin use, such as bleeding, increase stroke and male sterility, the number one use of aspirin in the United States is now for prevention of heart attacks. This does not mean that all research is suspect, but it is simply not the only source of information. I would suggest that anyone who is serious about their training should spend a few hours reading up on basic physiology with any good college level anatomy and physiology text such as Guytons Anatomy and Physiology, or Marieb's Essentials of Physiology. This will enable you to sort through and discern much of the research you read.
If you have been training for any length of time then you will have no doubt encountered the gym "know it all" who love to point out the shortcomings of your training. I have found that the more underdeveloped these guys are, the more they believe they know. I am sure you have encountered these weasels more than once. The fact is that they care nothing about true strength and development and are only there for vanity. They cannot accept hard training for one simple reason- BECAUSE ITS HARD! I pretty much ignore these types, except they are kind of fun to watch between sets. When I was training many years ago, there was one of these guys, who was about my height and general structure, except I weighed about 75 more lbs than he did. He had a bit of bicep, chest and shoulder development, and that was about it. He was in the gym 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week and other than bench press, I never saw him do a single compound exercise. Of course he could lecture extensively about why compound movements were dangerous and unproductive for hours. He would often follow me around in the gym, with his latest muscle magazine in hand, lecturing me, in a very loud voice on the latest muscle building secrets.
I once saw him in a restaurant peeling the skin of a piece of baked chicken because he did not want to ingest those harmful fat calories, even though the chicken had more meat on It's chest than he did. He was a constant thorn in my side and I did my best to ignore him, though I knew he drove him crazy that I was making great progress doing only about 12-15 sets, twice a week.
One day I overheard him telling some high school trainees that I had been helping, that my training protocol was absurd and that steroids were responsible for my level of strength and development. I walked over to him and gave him an atomic wedgie that I am sure required extensive surgery to remove the spandex from his butt. (Note: It is best not to piss off someone who can clean in excess of 350lbs as the pulling motion transfers quite nicely to the type of force needed to perform a serious atomic wedgie)
Strength and development is as much of an art, as it is a science. You have to experiment, keep track of your numbers in a training log and make adjustments as necessary.