A Fantastic Pair of T-Nation Articles

“There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as if everything is a miracle. I believe in the latter.”

~ Albert Einstein

Chad Waterbury has put up two fantastic training articles this week over at the site I love to hate, the infamous,  T-Nation.   For the life of me, I don’t know why the T-Nation boys don’t dial-down the knuckle-draggin’, goober antics a bit (check that — I do know why — but damn, does everything have to be about makin’ a buck?).  As I’ve said before, as is the case with many main stream physical culture outlets, you really have to endure a lot of knee-deep slop-wading to finally reach the real gems.  T-Nation, though, does provide a lucrative (I would imagine) platform for a stable of very astute strength and conditioning minds, so maybe I ought to cut them some slack.  First and foremost on that long list of astute strength and conditioning minds is Chad Waterbury.

I’ve talked about one of Chad’s previous T-Nation articles (a real jewel) in this post, and he’s come through with clarity and insight once again, here and here.  And although I haven’t mentioned these particular methodologies by name, if you go back over my weight training workout posts, you’ll see that I employ these two principles routinely.  Chad does an excellent job of detailing the “whys” behind these two methodologies/principles.  And although I’ve never really “named” them anything as such, I keep them straight in my mind thusly:

  1. Heavy and fast, for a 10-second blast.  Manage fatigue, and
  2. 25 for a bigger engine

Read over Chad’s articles, and these two pithy comments will come to make much more sense.

The first article (Heavier Weight, Less Time), elegantly describes the reasoning behind why I utilize heavy weights, and move them at a fast (or, as I like to say, deliberate, or “snappy”) speed, for a relatively low number of repetitions (or, if you prefer — and Chad does, here — a short period of time, i.e., 10 seconds or less).  As I’ve stated before, this method is about overall fatigue management as well, and using the proper protocols to reach and tap into those all-important, fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Most of my weight lifting sets last from 1 to 3 repetitions, which corresponds to less than 10 seconds per set.  And if you’ll notice, the vast majority of my sprinting is done for a time period (or “set”) of approximately 10 seconds, as well.  This method is also a close correlate of the drop-off method of managing fatigue that I talked about here.  In fact, these two principles are, by necessity, married at the hip.

The principles underscored in Chad’s second article (Counting Your Reps for More Muscle) are those I utilize when I want to phase into a hypertrophy cycle, i.e., build a bigger engine.  Now, I’m lucky (I suppose) in the fact that I gain/maintain muscle mass with a fair amount of ease, so I prefer to spend the majority of my workout time chasing what I perceive to be my broad weakness, short-duration power.   As an aside, the Paleo lifestyle has only intensified my muscle gain/maintenance ability, quite a lovely side-affect.  Now  personally, I spend approximately 85% of my time in the speed-strength and strength-speed realms (both flavors of the “power” modality), and in the pure strength realm in support of chasing those power gains.  My “power-oriented” to “strength-oriented” workout ratio clocks in at about a 3-to-1 ratio.  Every now and again, though, you’ll notice a distinct phase in my workouts to some combination of a 25-rep (20-25 repetitions per exercise is what I prefer) scheme.  The next time this comes about, I’ll make sure to flag it as such.  And let me say as well, that while the division between strength and power work is subtle — all hues and shades — and sometimes hard to see in a workout, the difference between a strength/power workout and a hypertrophy oriented workout is stark.  We’re talkin’ proverbial apples and oranges, here.

Now, everyone has to find their own way, and their own ratio.  85/15 is what I’ve found — over much trial and error, tweaking and refining — works for me and for my goals; but will it suffice for you?  Only time in the gym, intense effort and keen observation will answer that question.  But hey, that’s all part of the joy of discovery, and the thrill of the ride.  Now go out and define your ratio.

In Health,


10 responses to “A Fantastic Pair of T-Nation Articles

  1. Hey Keith,

    Great posts. Some of the older posts make more sense now. I will need to figure out my ratio, but as a more “hard gainer” I would guess I need more strength than the 15%. I will work on this. Thanks again.


    • Yeah, just use my ratios as a starting point and go on from there. Also, as you continue on with the Paleo lifestyle, you may find that you become less and less of a “hardgainer”. So, so much depends upon hormone response and gene expression.

  2. Keith,

    Some great articles there. One question I have about training modality frequency: I know you do a lot of fixie intervals en route to/from workouts. Does this make up most of your interval training? For me, on the ship, I want to focus on power, mixing in the occasional strength and skill day (when I focus on strict muscle ups, pistols, hand stands, levers, etc). How often should I work my intervals in? Is 1 hard interval session per week enough?

    The primary type of intervals that I do are either 15:15 second protocols with KB snatches, http://bjjbryce.blogspot.com/2009/01/vo2-snatch-variant.html , or Steep incline runs for either a tabata (20:10) or 30:30 protocol. I definitely enjoy both types and find them to be brutal, cardiovascularly, as they both push me up near a heart rate of 190-200. Since my focus has shifted to power, what advice would you have on balancing that with a desire to make some small but consistent improvements in my anaerobic and aerobic capacities?


    • Bryce,
      With my current work schedule the way it is, I can only manage one interval session (fixie and/or sprint) per week. Ideally, and if time/scheduling were not the concern that it unfortunately is, I’d double that. An ideal workout week for me would be about 5 short but intense bouts spaced throughout the week, divvied up thusly: power, strength, sprint, power, sprint.

  3. I got a lot out of the “25 for a bigger engine” article. I realized that I may have been doing too few reps… my typical bench press routine is a warmup set of 5 reps, 1-2 reps at max, then 4-6 reps somewhere in between. I oiften do 15/8/4 and 5×5 for other muscle groups, though.

    I did a 3×25 routine yesterday and it was great: fantastic muscle exertion, and all in about 20 minutes.

    Squats at ~1.25x bodyweight
    Pullups, 1.07* bodyweight
    Hang cleans, 0.65* bodyweight

    My last few sets of the squats and cleans were 2 reps each. For the pullups, I was in a “combat load” situation after rep #14 (that is, one rep at a time)

    Excellent workout style, I highly recommend mixing it in.

  4. Richard is right; Jeff is sandbagging. The guy looks like a poster boy for the Paleo/EF lifestyle. My twin Richard and I are the real hard gainers.

    But, back on topic. This all makes sense to mix in the blast + big engine. In December I started on the stronglifts 5×5 and had some good, sore workouts. Been making gains, but I miss the EF protocol and snap. So, I’ll wrap up the 5×5 at the end of the month and start mixing in both starting in February to promote more muscle confusion.

    Seems like this discussion couldn’t come at a better time for me.

    • Successful strength and conditioning can be distilled down to mostly an identification of, and a knowledgeable, pinpoint targeting of, a trainee’s (or your own, as the case may be) weaknesses. It’s a never-ending identification/rectification cycle.

  5. Hey Keith,

    Great post. I just found this and enjoyed Chad’s articles a great deal. Kind of one of those ‘Ah ha’ moments when you read it. I think I’d always been so focused on 3 or 5 sets of 5 that I never really considered total reps. I tried it this morning and did a write up about it and some similarities to EDT.


    As always, you’re the bearer of kick ass content. Keep it up.

    Tom Woodward

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