The House of Cards

17 Jun 2009 01:58

By Joe Weir

Very recently I came across someone, and more importantly their training, and it warrants some blog attention.

This whole mess stems from single's training, which I dare say I know a thing or two about, and volume. The gist of the discussion is that if you perform more than one, or two, singles you are headed down the road to over-training. This person went from one extreme end, over-training, to the other, barely getting a training effect, and after posting a few comments and opinions I realized it was over before it began.

I presented clear and concise points regarding volume manipulation, fatigue dissipation, etc. yet he refused to consider anything other than the fact that one rep was the most volume he could do without risking overtraining. He even went as far as to say one rep was OPTIMAL. Throw in some random facts about TUT and a couple of seemingly accurate percentages for optimal stimulus and you have quite the tangled web. If you're interested in reading the conversation or want proof that I'm not making this up, haha, here's the tangled web.

As you can see he treats his training like an experiment, which I applaud, except that his study parameters are a bit out of whack. The most recent conclusion is that volume has NO effect on the stimulus. Yes, I said no effect. His study? Performing single rep sets of biceps curls, 6 sets on one arm and 1 set on the other. After 28 days of this he had gained the same amount of strength in each bicep curl (+1.5kg). I don't have to go into the problems with this 'study' as they are quite obvious but rather I'll go into the reason WHY he was compelled to do this.


A while back Eric Troy wrote an article about Belief Perseverance and that is precisely the method to this particular person's madness. If you hinge everything on a belief, then it will become just that, or at least you'll rationalize everything to fit it. Without this belief there is no training and this is where the analogy comes in. Dealing with such an ingrained belief perseverance is like trying to take out the card holding the house up. Try as you may, that card will not budge because without it the house collapses, without this belief his training collapses; it IS the foundation for his training.

If we take a look at some of the specifics its easy to see how his house is built.

The first thing I want to look at is this quote "to ~95-97% the TUT and the Effort are relatively short/low but if you go beyond ~95-97% the TUT and Effort explode." Does this make sense? Kind of, but not in the manner he has presented it. I would argue that 95-97% is in no way a low effort, if it was you wouldn't perform singles in the 90%+ range, you would need to be in the 95%+ range. I agree effort will increase as you approach your relative max, duh, but saying that TUT increases automatically assumes you will hit a sticking point and struggle through some of the ROM. I've had time where a weight in that range took no longer to complete than any other rep, To me that is probably the biggest hole I could put in his bucket.

Let's think about that 95-97%. Where the hell does that come from? and how can you make such a generalization about tut and effort with such a precise range of 2%. You can't, its a number that has been plucked out of the air and just so happens that it can be rationalized to fit his experimental data.

Already we're starting to see that his house is on a rocky foundation.

Here's another quote to look at "If you lift your 1RM workout after workout you'll lose strength quickly, a few weeks, 2-3 months at best depending of the frequency… If you stay around 95-97% you'll never accumulate fatigue because the time under tension is very short…while a heavy single at 95-97% will take 2-3 seconds at most. Maximum force generation with as little fatigue as possible. It's like a Static Hold. If you can hold a weight 5 seconds before falling, then you must stop at after 2-3 seconds if not Force is not increased but fatigue/effort explode. "

Again, we have some very precise data here. If you lift your 1RM workout after workout then you're 1) consolidating that hard earned number 2) probably not at the same 1RM anymore. We're talking about 1 rep, not 12.

Going back to the quote, he says that for a 5 second, max, static hold the dynamic movement should last only 2-3 seconds. And how do I measure this? With a precision of 2 seconds I'd need someone to yell at me to stop once I got 3 seconds. I can barely count to 10 using my fingers, let alone count to 3 while pulling a 97% deadlift.

Just looking at the above examples you can see how he has turned it into his own pseudo-science and ultimately into his own concrete training principles. I think the worst part about all of this is that one factor has been considered, overtraining, i.e. THE CARD. While looking only at this one aspect you neglect the very thing that creates fatigue. The training stressors. By severly limiting these you ensure overtraining is avoided but you also ensure that your gains are minimal or almost non-existent.

The important lesson to be learned from all of this is that you cannot let these beliefs control you or your training. Pull the card out and rebuild your house with a better, stronger foundation.


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