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Thread: programming advice for my perhaps stubborn friend

  1. #1
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    Default programming advice for my perhaps stubborn friend

    I have a friend who got interested in strength training and conditioning about 16 months ago. He’s an interesting fellow. He is the quintessential all-or-nothing type of person, so when he gets interested in something, he goes all in with the gusto dialed up to 11. Over those 16 months, he has dropped his body weight from about 450 down to about 290, and intends to get down to 240-250 by next year. The changes he made to achieve this has been drastic: no more World of Warcraft marathons, no more soda, no more sweets, plus lifting weights 2 hours every morning 4 days a week, jogging or cardio for 30 minutes at least 6 times a week, plus more unscheduled exercises over the weekend.

    So if my friend is doing so well, why am I typing this? Jealousy? Nope. Confusion! My friend’s success has led me to question: has he been exercising in a reckless, inefficient manner and made so much progress simply due to noob gains? Or is there truth behind the internet meme he often cites, “You don’t need a plan, bro. All you need is balls”. After all, in his article titled 5 Fitness Myths That Need to Die, Jordan Feignbaum wrote, “MORE TRAINING=MORE RESULTS”. Yet paradoxically, in another article titled General Strength Training Template for the Intermediate/Advanced, Feigenbaum recommends skipping sets 4 and/or 5 if set 3 or 4 is feeling very heavy, which directly opposes the idea that MORE TRAINING=MORE RESULTS.

    I am a moderate person, and as a scientist-in-training, I try to make my decisions pragmatically, rather than emotionally. After a few years of training with Nautilus machines at my local YMCA, I had the good fortune of being introduced to barbell exercises and the Starting Strength program by another friend. Barbell training made me stronger than Nautilus ever did. Hence, I regarded the programs and rationale in the book Practical Programming for Strength Training 3rd edition as optimal. After all, Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker have many decades of professional experience training themselves and hundreds (or thousands) of clients. These programs are simple and complete, and because there isn’t much variation, it’s easy to determine the rate (or lack) of progress.

    My friend was introduced to exercise by a life-long-super-athlete who deadlifts 500 at BW 170 and mountain bikes like a maniac. They lift weights most mornings for 2 hours. My concern is that my friend was basically told to “exercise as I exercise”, rather than start with the novice linear progression. Although this “program” indeed involves the major barbell exercises, it also involves practically every exercise one can do in the gym, and the “program” shifts exercise selections and rep/set schemes every few weeks, irrespective of whether the prior workout plan has been milked till the point of stagnation. This sort of program might indeed be spot-on for a life-long-super-athlete who has become intimately familiar with their own body and how it responds to different programs. But is this sort of program optimal for a novice? Regardless, I am grateful that this third-person super-athlete inspired my friend to start working out and eating vegetables, which is probably a life-saving change for him. Evidently, my friend responded favorably to abusive workout motivation of being subjected to a variety of not-so-family-friendly insults ad-infinitum. This is probably not an effective motivational tool for most folks just coming into the gym for the first time, but it worked on him.

    This post is also sort of urgent because my friend who lost all that fat is now starting to instruct another mutual friend of ours, who is inexperienced in the way of strength training. So far they have survived 3 workouts together, but our mutual friend did vomit after his first squat day (which was their second workout together). I’m not so sure that is a good thing…

    Just 3 more questions to finish this post up, of which my friend insists the answers are yes, yes, and yes.

    1. Is it beneficial to do 5 heavy sets of deadlifts on deadlift day, instead of just one?
    2. Is not waking up sore every morning an indication that you didn’t work out hard and long enough yesterday?
    3. If a food is made predominantly out of protein, is it inherently good for you?

  2. #2
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    1. It can be. It depends on level of advancement, deadlift frequency, squat frequency, and overall structure and goal of the program.
    2. Soreness is never the goal in and of itself, but I like a little bit of soreness the day after training, but not necessarily crippled. the main factor is progress. Did some metric improve today? If yes, then soreness is irrelevant
    3. Like chicken? Yes this is good for weightlifters.

  3. #3
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    1. Given that the programs in PPST3 recommend 1 work set of deadlifts, I suppose the best way to find out if additional sets are beneficial for an individual is to use the first work set of deadlifts as the measuring stick; if this week’s first set of deadlifts is better than last week’s first set, then continue with doing 5 sets. If there is no improvement, reduce the number of sets. Do you agree?

    2. I suppose I might not be working out hard enough, then! Although my squat and deadlift sessions are excruciating and (unintentionally) disruptive to the tranquility of my local YMCAs, I have hardly any DOMS afterwards. Ironically, I was chastised on these boards many months ago for doing 5x5 for the major movements (except deadlift) when the program calls for 5x3. And I found that after reducing my work sets from 5 to 3, I less often felt depressed after workouts. It was strange, but I would often feel despondent after long workouts even if I achieved a new PR on that day. Perhaps I should just add a 4th set to the major lifts and see how I feel. Are 3 work sets recommended because for most folks 4-5 is too many, or are 3 work sets recommended because sets 4-5 are less useful due to diminishing returns?

    3. I brought this up because my friend fears he will kill all his gains if he doesn’t get at least 300g of protein a day for the rest of his life. From what I have read in primary and secondary literature, such a high dose is only useful insofar that it suppresses appetite. My concern is that he is more focused on protein intake than food quality. He never talks about fiber, which also accomplishes appetite suppression and overall health. I make it a point to inform him that it’s better to get protein from healthy longevity-promoting foods like beans, unsweetened yogurt, ‘clean’ seafood (like Alaskan salmon and sardines), nuts, and seeds, than from unhealthy foods like chicken nuggets, deli meats, fatty red meat, and chemistry-experiment-style whey protein powders.

  4. #4
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    1. Well you wouldn't necessarily just go from 1 set to 5 sets. Maybe you do 2 sets or 3 sets. PPST3 provides templates and principles only. NONE OF THE PROGRAMS IN PPST3 ARE MEANT TO BE PRESCRIPTIVE FOR ANY ACTUAL INDIVIDUAL. I don't have any hard and fast rules on DL volume. Generally though if squat volume and frequency are very high then DL volume will be on the lower end. If you are squatting less frequently with less volume then you may need to bump up DL volume. It just depends on the program. I rarely have high DL volume though as a high frequency event though. In the last two 8-week cycles I programmed for my online barbell club we have 3 high volume deadlift sessions over the course of 8 weeks. There were also some high intensity DL sessions for lower volume and some DL assistance exercises (SLDL, Snatch Grip, etc) on Squat focused days. On the SS LP you would not do high volume DLs.

    2. Usually on the SSLP you aren't getting DOMS after the first week or two. I would do the program as written

    3. All you can do is present people with information. I don't spend my valuable minutes on this Earth trying to "convince" people of anything. It's his life, let him live it.
    Last edited by Andy Baker (KSC); 05-19-2017 at 03:29 PM.

  5. #5
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    1. "NONE OF THE PROGRAMS IN PPST3 ARE MEANT TO BE PRESCRIPTIVE FOR ANY ACTUAL INDIVIDUAL." OK, I didn't know that given that I was chastised for doing 5x5 on these forums, and having listened to Rippetoe state that <2% of the folks who read SS actually followed the program as written. At our levels of advancement (intermediate), any variation to the program that contributes to making our numbers go up is a good thing.

    2. Affirmed.

    3. Yes, I can't enslave his thoughts. But it's hard to resist the natural inclination to be particularly concerned about the health and longevity of my friends and family.

    Thanks for providing this advice, it won't be wasted or forgotten.

  6. #6
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    3. I'm familiar. Trust me. I've been a coach/personal trainer for 15+ years, owned my gym for 10+ years. I have close family / friends that are physical catastrophes. Most never ask my advice on anything and if they do ask they don't listen to anything I have to say anyways. After a while you eventually resign to the fact that there are only a certain amount of lives you'll be able to change, and sadly, most of those lives are not the people we are closest to. Something about a prophet and his hometown comes to mind.

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