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The Three Levers Of Training - Tucson Personal Training Blog

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The Three Levers Of Training - Tucson Personal Training Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner and Founder

If you’re a homeowner (or business owner), at some point you’ve needed to hire a contractor. There’s a saying in the world of contracting that there are three levers you can pull when selecting a skilled trade: Good, fast, and cheap.

The problem is, you only get to pick two.

* If he’s cheap and good, he’s not going to be fast.

* If he’s cheap and fast, he’s not going to be good.

* If he’s good and fast, he’s not going to be cheap.

The Three Levers Of Training

In the world of training, the same idea exists. There are three levers: Intensity, load, and frequency. And, you guessed it, you only get to pick two. Some may argue you can do all three, and they’d be right. You can, in fact, do all three… for a little while… if you’re young or new to the gym.

For the rest of us, it works just like contractors…

If you train with high intensity and heavy loads, you can’t train frequently.

This is the training we gravitate towards early in our gym life. We hit muscles hard and heavy, then have recovery days in between. What do we do on recovery days? Not much. When I was young, this was my go-to. I’d hit my workouts hard, then be super sore for a couple days. Once recovered, rinse and repeat until fluffy.

As I got older, I began to dial down the intensity and increase the frequency. Now I train almost every day. I’ve noticed that if I go a full day or two without doing anything, I feel like a slug. One of my mentors shared the quote, “Your body is concrete waiting to harden… motion is lotion.” If you haven’t gotten to this point yet, give it a few more birthdays… it’ll happen!

I had a personal trainer friend that I invited to go on a short hike one time and their response was, “No thanks. I’ve got a hard workout tomorrow… I better take it easy today.” My response was, “I’m going to work out when I get back from the hike. Quit being a wuss!”

If you can’t enjoy life for the sake of your workouts, something is off.

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If you train with heavy loads and high frequency, you can’t train intensely.

This is the stereotypical powerlifter model. They hit heavy power lifts every session. Cardio, of course, is a four-letter word.

Training the muscles to become thick and dense is a good thing. The trouble, however, is that the heart is a muscle. And if zero aerobic work is being done, the walls of the heart become thick and dense… not exactly a good thing. I can give numerous examples of powerlifter friends that have heart problems. One had a pretty serious heart attack at a fairly young age.

If you train with high intensity and high frequency, you can’t train with heavy loads.

This modality is the weapon of choice in the classic CrossFit WODs, HIIT-style training, and the popular gym chain that has theories about fruit. The clients that come from these places are usually humbled pretty quickly when they set foot into a true strength training gym.

The flaw with this modality is that in order to get strong, one must train heavy. And in order to train heavy, proper recovery time (3-5 minutes) between sets is critical.

‘Heavy’, of course, is relative. There are ways to train ‘heavy’ without using actual heavy objects. These methods are frequently taught in our facility, and it is beyond the scope of this post to get into the weeds on that. But not everyone has the fitness resume appropriate for grinding on heavy weights.

If getting stronger is not on your list of fitness goals…

First off, you’ve accidentally clicked on the wrong post. Sorry to bother you… go back to social media.

Tudor Bompa, the father of periodization, said it very plainly, “Strength is the mother of all qualities.” You can do whatever exercise you enjoy, but overall strength determines the size of the container of physical capacity… even on non-strength related activities. If you’re weak as a kitten, good luck keeping up with a stronger person on that difficult hike.

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“So, what is the answer?”

So glad you asked. The Cliff’s Notes answer is, “Have seasonality in your training.”

There is always a time for planting, and a time for harvest. This can vary greatly from person to person, so it’s difficult to get into specifics. It’s like that Russian joke: When it’s 10°C outside (50°F for my American friends), Americans are shivering, while Russians are planting cucumbers.

Unless your chosen physical activity is how you pay your bills (I.E. you earn millions of dollars per year catching a football for a living), I recommend shifting your training focus throughout the year. Even professional athletes have an offseason! In our facility, we shift training focus 5-6 times per year. Even coach Matt’s rowing class (obviously a very task-specific class) shifts frequently between seasons of speed versus endurance.

Not only does this allow one to capture a greater overall physical capacity, but it also turns out to be an excellent method for injury prevention. Everything we do in the gym ‘does stuff’ to our bodies… both good and bad. Of course, sitting behind the desk at work all day ‘does stuff’ to our bodies as well. We need to do ‘other stuff’ frequently (like on a daily basis), to undo the stuff life does to us.

Until next time, 

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife, Marie, and dog, Asher. To subscribe to his blog, click here.

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