Of Goals, and the Most Efficient Route

Zack Dechant, of the fantastic Strength & Conditioning-themed blog, Sports Performance Training, knocked another one outta the park a while back with this aptly titled post, More is Better? It’s a keen observation of the coaching community’s tendency to fall back on tradition – on what “worked” last year, or last decade – versus doing the heavy lifting of running those traditional concepts through the critical analysis grinder.

Of course, it’s not just over-burdened S&C coaches who are guilty of this practice.  Even if the only person we train is ourselves, it’s easy to fall-back into sleepwalker mode.  If you’re still rockin’ the 80’s clown-pant gym-wear look, blasting through 4 x 15’s in the DB kickbacks “for killer tris” and eating 6, perfectly timed meals and 2 bags of rice cakes a day (no fat!), then it might be time to put your own “truths” under the spotlight of some serious, critical analysis.  Is the path that I’m currently following the most efficient route to achieving my goals? We should all be asking ourselves this routinely, placing not only group-think but, (and probably most importantly so) what we consider to be our own “knowledge” under the greatest of suspicion.

The following is a snippet from Zack’s post that is think is especially pertinent, here; make sure, though, to check out the entirety of Zack’s post, as it is a true gem.

“…one reason Charlie Francis, famed sprint coach, loved the Olympic lifts was due to the high amounts of motor unit activation.  Instead of spending an hour or more in the weight room after a sprint training session with exercise after exercise, Charlie felt they could hit the majority of the motor units within the body with a few Olympic movements and get out quick.  This way the majority of their time was devoted to adapting to their speed sessions, with the weight room serving as an accessory to the ultimate goal of being faster.  He didn’t want to impede results by fatiguing athletes even more in the weight room.  Often times, they might only perform one or two exercises depending on how their track session went.  But in the end it he still utilized minimal volume that could produce the results he was after.

Hypothetically, if an athlete can achieve the same goal necessary with a 50% reduced workload then it is a far more efficient route to take.  Not doing so takes much more energy.  We don’t want this when that energy could’ve been used for the adaptation process…”

Of course we shouldn’t all flock like crows to everything new and flashy, either, nor should we become stunned into inaction via contraction of the “analysis paralysis” virus.  Keeping up with the latest in applicable research is certainly to be encouraged; however, we never want to fall into the “data mining trap”, or of “being blinded by science” and automatically assuming that, just because certain results were produced in a lab environment, that they should (by virtue of being born of “learned” minds) trump solid empirical evidence shaded to the contrary.   Training is an art, yet the best artists in this medium are adept at knowing both how to integrate relevant and useful science, and what ought to be left to the wayside; useful fodder for debate, perhaps, yet next to useless in real-world application.

And Speaking of Goals and Efficient Routes –

Great article by Bryan Krahn and Christian Thibaudeau, Thibaudeau on Ramping, over at, the site that causes me mad (mad, I tell you!!) surges of cognitive dissonance, T-Nation.

Is your goal strength, hypertrophy, metabolic conditioning, generalized health and well-being, a combination/ratio of all of the above?  Whatever your goal, make sure your plan of attack is the most efficient route to get you there.

Yeah, it happens to me too… –

You head into the gym with a plan, and then have to alter that plan on the fly.  Hey, it’s all good – chalk it up to the God’s of randomness nudging you to change things up just a bit.  You didn’t want to fall into a rut anyway, did you?  Thought not.

For whatever reason, everyone and their mama decided to descend upon the YMCA weight room Tuesday evening, so I had to bust-out a little creative juggling; this is what I ended up with:

clean-grip barbell power snatch (from the floor): 7 sets of 2, approximately 10 secs between sets.  Speed emphasis.  135 lbs


front squat (full range of motion, i.e., ass-to-grass): 135 x 5; 165 x 5; 185 x 3; 195 x 2, 2, 2.  Very little recovery between sets; maybe 1 minute or so, if that.

…followed by a nod Mike Mentzer, and his brand of HIT:

machine flye: 165 lbs x approx. 10 reps, (4,0,4,0 tempo) to positive failure + 10-count continued push; followed immediately by:

weighted dips, single-set-to-failure: 45 x 6 (4,0,4,0 tempo) + rest-pause x 3, 3, 2, 2 (3, 0, x,0 tempo).

Why “to failure” in the upper-body movement, and not for the legs?  Inroad is both systemic and localized.  That said, I won’t totally inroad my lower body unless I’m quite sure that I won’t be biking or running (sprinting) for the next few days (at least).  Quite simply, this is a best-fit compromise between maintaining lower body strength without digging such in inroad hole that I can’t perform well in the other lower body-intensive activities that I enjoy.

Thursday evening explosives –

A basic explosive superset on tap for this session.  Emphasis was on speed and perfect form.

whip snatch to overhead squat: bar x 10; 95 x 3, 3; 115 x 2; 125 x 2; 135 x 2, 2, 2; 140 x 1, 1

straight bar muscle-ups (reg.-grip, pull-up variety): bodyweight x 2 for each of the 10 rounds

2 responses to “Of Goals, and the Most Efficient Route

  1. One of Mentzer’s followers, a man by the name of Bill Sahli, talks about managing stress when performing HIT. So something like a pre-exhaust is low stress while something like drop sets is high stress. As he would say, it’s all about managing stress especially as one gets very strong.

    • Excellent point. And just in case you haven’t yet run across it, here’s a recent Dave Durrell interview with Bill Sahli. Smart guy, Sahli…and DD.

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