Having reduced my weight training to two days a week for various reasons, I must use the days I’m in the gym wisely—the selection of movements, the tightness of pace, the intensity of exertion, the quality of focus and the level of awareness. Each workout is based on the last one and the resulting muscle load and recuperation.
I prefer four weekly bouts with the weights, but time, age and condition no longer allow that. I try to pace myself when I stand before the iron, knowing it would be to my advantage, but I insist on pushing each set to maximum. I can’t do four sets of eight moderate reps, smile at the wall, turn and saunter to the next exercise. Hi, Mr. Iron. How are you today?
Not me. I crawl, eyes crossed and tongue hanging out the side of my mouth.
When I was a kid, I did what kids do. I lined up the weights and kicked them, head-butted them, kneed and elbowed them and beat them with a stick. Then I lined them up again and attacked them again. It went on until they quit and I went home and ate and slept. That gruesome methodology worked for years until I grew up, which took a really long time. Now I use common sense.
The six-week and eight-week routine also worked for years—good order, growing discipline, truckloads of gagging patience and goal setting. Hence the season of bulking, the season of power, the season of hardening, the season of cutting, the season of injury, the season of repair. Hello, supersets, tri-sets, giant sets, high reps, low reps, singles. Help!
Common sense saves the day.
Somehow, somewhere along the line we gained some muscle and some muscle understanding. Lucky us—not exactly. We busted our buns, girls and boys. Now no longer kids, we can train with a well-earned looseness of style. Style looseness doesn’t necessarily mean looseness in effort. It means scrutinized looseness in blending the movements we need and want and are able to perform to achieve healthy and sufficient muscle and strength, workout by workout.
I call it tight looseness. Laree calls it loose tightness. She’s also on a diet during the holidays. What can I say?
I get two or three e-mail messages a week from kids my age who suffer elbow and shoulder and knee pain workout to workout, and I think it’s cuz of the day-by-day sameness of their training. Bench, bench, curl, curl, dip, dip.
The certainty of the routine is comforting, but the continual identical overload on less than youthful ligaments and joints is costly. I don’t think the established muscles appreciate or require the sameness of action. They, not unlike the restless mind, young and old, delight in change. They, too, have memory and crave new experiences.
It’s food for thought, hungry yet menu-restricted bombers. My workouts are all different. They’re not haphazard or casual or chaotic but thoughtfully, carefully and wisely unalike yet complementary. I choose from the popular basics. Actually, I choose from whatever I can still do, which includes the popular basics under clever modification, reconstruction and reinvention.
I do four sets of each exercise and typically follow a 12, 10, eight, six rep scheme. Sometimes I try for 20 reps with certain movements—pulley pushdowns—or as many as 50 reps—rope tucks. Four sets enable a complete warmup, the discovery and application of the effective grooves and the enriching overload the region needs. If on any given movement I think one more set would be perfect, I reach for five. Likewise, on rare occasions, if the third set is just right, I hold tight; I don’t fight.
Too much is too much; not enough is not enough.
Lift and shut up, Draper!
Wait! One more thought: I like supersets; I like pushing and pulling combined, not pulling and pulling and pushing and pushing, as some say. I like training by feeling rather than by thinking. My brain helps but mostly gets in the way. But then you knew that too.
Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit www.DaveDraper.com and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.