The Theory of 11

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"What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? Eleven, exactly! One louder."

-Nigel Tufnel

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I never met a weight I could lift for 10 reps but couldn't do for 11.

I suppose that weight exists. In theory. It's really a matter of effort. Intensity. Will.

I DON'T DO 10.


I don't force the madness on my poor clientele, but a long time ago, when I first "caught" resistance training, I decided to do one more. Because I could.

It's just that I always thought the whole decimal numeral system was way overrated, physiologically. While I'm glad that humans weren't made with six fingers to a hand, I highly doubt that after 10, muscle fibers suddenly become suspicious of your training goals.

"What? Wait! Forget fast and powerful, because now we're on 11 and that's just toning."

Blleeaacchh: toning. Hmmmph.

What if that eleventh rep is performed with a resistance that you would have loved to stop (or a more sane person would have stopped) at 7 or 9 with?

Eleven is not for beginners. I mean, sure, anyone can do an exercise for eleven reps, but that has nothing to do with Eleven. Eleven is for when you're willing and able to truly pay for results. It takes years, certainly not weeks or months, to perfect form and generate the kind of intensity that allows you to even approach Eleven.

You can't test the Theory of 11 too soon after a big meal.

A side note for less-than beginners: exercise is not boring! Yeah, it's boring when you look at exercise and functional performance like this:

Really, when you have only one machine to work with? Thankfully, most of us are given many opportunities to get things in order.

Is the economy uncertain? Are the kids learning the hard way? Another environmental disaster got you down? Need something you can feel? Well, how about treating it with some sets, reps, time, and other variables that you DO have some control over? Exercise doesn't fix everything, and it certainly can be taken too far. But it's way better than another 10 hours at the office or 3rd bowl/bag/drink over Golden Girls reruns.

Okay, where were we?

Eleven is for when you decide to quit screwing around with muscle confusion and fall head-over-heels in love with the idea of approaching your limits. What ever happened to the good old fashion value of devoting yourself to something? While muscle confusion can leave you tired and sore and maybe even regretful the next morning, doing one rep more with even just one pound more than what almost killed you last time - that's lasting, sacrificial love. Baby.

And to keep it simple, let's set just one ground rule. Bench press doesn't count. Do it with just about any other multijoint "big" movement, because applying the bench press to the Theory of 11 is like putting make-up on your butt.

Er, something like that. It's just not made to work that way, okay?

So forget your drop sets and supersets and trisets and complex high-threshold inverse periodized supercalifragilistic regimen and get down to freakin' business.

Eleven is done with 10 pounds more than your current "8-rep max," which you would really be able to do for 20 reps if you would only let go the umteen sets of whaa-whuu reps of "assistance" waste of time isolation exercises. Use those for specific corrective movements, if needed. Otherwise save the "chiseling" for the day when you have heaps and heaps of lean material for sculpting.

Because this one goes to 11.

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-References? What do you think this post is? Is it serious? Absolutely! Empirically PROVEN? Hell no.

-Talk to your MD and all that disclaimer stuff if you haven't started on your path to the Theory. Eleven can be modified to suit you, ya know?

-You're probably not over trained. You're just tired and have a lot going on. Short-term: no big deal. Long-term, make some adjustments to life.

-Other miscellaneous backpedaling:

-Even during your best, most consistent periods of training, not every day will hold a new personal record. It doesn't work like that. But getting some training in, at say, 80% of your best, when you're not feeling completely up to snuff, is paramount to getting those days where you create new limits.

-The more you truly realize the potential of 11 (i.e. the more intensely you train), the less margin of error you have with good form and missing workouts and such. The equation looks like: The Theory of 11 - Lots of Discipline = Injury. Yeah, I know about that too.

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