Fitness Fail - three ways to train hard and remain average

Clients and acquaintances ask what they can do to get leaner, faster, and stronger. While many things work well for a while, nothing works indefinitely. The trick to creating noticeable and lasting improvement lies in finding what works well for you over a long term.

On the other hand, here are three great ways train like a beast but remain the same.

1. Make training all about calories

The quickest and easiest way to manipulate calorie balance is not with exercise, but with what you take in. Calories do matter and exercise is critical to health and fitness for many reasons. But the short-term calorie burn is not one of them. Unless you're an advanced endurance athlete, the calories you burn during formal exercise are fairly negligible in the grand scheme of things.

Specific, performance based goals are far more useful than appearance related goals, even if your primary reason for training is to gain or lose weight. Don't exercise to lose 15 pounds or burn X amount of calories per week. Work towards something great. Target a goal that will take you a while and in the mean time forges you into a different person physically and mentally.

Run 5K in less than 20 minutes. Squat your body weight for 20 continuous reps. Hit 5 full unassisted pullups. Let your body weight take care of itself because appearance cannot help but to reflect what you can do. And when you move better, you feel better, which makes it far easier to be active in the Grand Gym (that is, the rest of life).

2. Train primarily for mental health

Physical exercise offers a myriad of known benefits to our psychological health. But I often notice that people who feel the need to exercise nearly every day suffer physical stagnancy or injury. Pushing yourself hard and often may be satisfying to the brain but it's not ideal for the body. There needs to be a work/rest rhythm to adapt well and return stronger.

If you do moderate intensity exercise and/or exercise primarily for mental health - that's fine. But if you want to truly test and raise your physical limits, you must train with intensity and then tell the brain to lay off for a while.

3. Forget that less is more

Really. You can improve by going crazy (ahem, Insanity) with a thousand different exercise variations performed daily. But trust me - for one reason or another, that won't last. Structure is good. Learn just a few of the big movements well, work them hard, rest, and work them hard again.

Everyone assumes that the more fit you are, the more you should train, when in fact it's the opposite. Beginners stand to benefit from more frequent training because they are unable to tax their system as much as intermediate and more advance athletes. The more advanced the athlete, the less frequent training needs to be.

There seems to be a nice rhythm to hitting a specific movement or activity twice per week. If you want to be really fast, sprint and jump twice per week and get some fairly intense dead lifts and/or squats in twice per week.

[I maintain that if you can squat, dead lift, row, pull-up, and press well relative to your size and particular interest, you will have potential to be great in pretty much any sport or skill set to which you apply yourself. But that's another writing...]

You don't have to spend 12 hours per week at the gym. Try about one fourth of that. Two to three training days per week works well IF you're willing to work intelligently at weight training and religiously make those days happen over a long term.


I've worked with a handful of young athletes for nearly 5 months. Five months - and we're just getting started! We don't change things up every other week. We don't do many epic fall-flat-on-your-face combined strength and endurance workouts.  Yet each of them are on the verge of pulling off superhuman feats. We're talking faster sprints, double body weight dead lifts, and repping out chin-ups with 20 or 50 extra pounds tied to their waist.

Define something you want to achieve and stay the course. Focus and pay attention to how you feel, look, and perform. Pretty soon your 315 pound dead lifts feel like 225 use to. Then 405 feels like 315. Then 500 feels like 405. And then one day you're dead lifting 500 pounds for 10 reps.

Sorry for the grainy video, but here's 500 X 10:

There are at least one hundred additional ways to work hard and spin your wheels. If any come to mind, please do share.

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