This article could be entitled “The 80% Rule Revisited” but it’s not. I’m just asking you to think about what you are doing in the gym on a daily basis and ask yourself, “Why?” (Also a good song, see bottom of page). There should be a reason for everything that you do, at least 80% of the time. When choosing certain movements/exercises you should be asking yourself, “Does this bring me closer to my goal? Is this the training effect that I seek? Is it productive/effective means to get there?” If the answer is no, then you may be wasting your time (and for some, they may need to evaluate the reason they spend time in the gym in the first place). As an example, if your goal is fat loss and you are completing sets of 15 dumbbell curls and you could have done 30 if you really pushed yourself, is this really creating a stimulus for a change in your body? If you are an athlete and your goal is to be explosive and overpower your opponent, is spending time working on your ability to run 5 miles a worthwhile endeavor? To both of these questions I would answer a resounding, NO. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Consider weightlifting Coach Mike Burgener’s philosophy. He has four requirements. Is the exercise ground based, is it a free weight, multi-joint and trained explosively? Fulfilling these requirements 75% of the time (pretty close to 80%) means you are doing things right.
It’s not imperative that you have big dramatic goals. Just being healthy and feeling good about yourself is a fine goal. Or maybe you want a better butt, as was discussed last week. Just make sure you are making good decisions in getting you a step closer to health or a better butt, which some would argue go hand in hand. I am not saying that planning your or anyone else’s training should be complicated. It can be easy to over think things. Just satisfy the fundamental requirements on a regular basis and you are doing better than most lost souls (for more on that refer back here). The uncomfortable and boring stuff is likely the most productive; just keep balance between upper, lower, front, and back.
I understand that training isn’t fun for everyone, all the time. I live in the gym. I like that. Oddly enough I could see where others might not share that love. I think that’s where the other 20% can make things a little more interesting. Sometimes it’s fun to do something just because you feel like it. Or you feel like pushing yourself more one day than another. That’s OK. Lately I’ve been practicing handstands because, well, it’s fun. But about 80% of the time you should have a reason for doing what you are doing. As stated in the book “Easy Strength”, Olympic and World Champion weightlifter Tommy Kono has said that he would “pump up” or take a few weeks to train some bodybuilding movements after training hard in an extremely specific way for several weeks in preparation for competition. He said it prolonged his career by keeping his enthusiasm high and his improvement continuous. This makes great sense to me. If I could be so bold as to speak for Mr. Kono it seems that the switching back and forth kept him sharp and hungry but did not allow him to lose strength while stepping away from the Olympic movements. I think many trainees have adopted this philosophy at one time or another as the monotony of training for long periods of time can be draining.
So I’m not claiming that you need an elaborate plan every time you set foot in the gym but it’s been said many times that it’s tough to know where you are going without a map. Although you might be a man and don’t normally use things such as a map, or ask for directions, in this case I think it’s important. Save yourself the time because you aren’t just losing an hour on your trip, you could be losing many hours per week, in the gym. There are many ways to train. New gimmicks are presented every day. Some might work, most are junk. But if you are serious about reaching your goals, find out how to do it the safest, quickest and most effective way. 80% of time you should know why you have chosen to do one thing vs. another. Keep your eye on the goal, don’t be distracted by the fancy bells and whistles, or what the TV says or the fact that you are going to push, pull, squat and hinge, AGAIN and AGAIN. Then you can again ask yourself, why?
– Mike Baltren