A training philosophy in development – Part 1

This will be a condensed 2 part series of the initial stages of  my developing training philosophy. Part 1 will address the general aspects of training I believe is important to an absolute beginner starting out. In the second part, I will describe in detail my current training program, my reasons for what I do and a small summary of progress to this point.

The idea of developing a training philosophy in the specific sense of the word in S&C circles is often thought to be confined to advanced and elite level lifters. Examples of these advanced lifters, or coaches who market and sell their protocol are Jim Wendler (with 531) and Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength) to name a few. This requires years of experience and ‘time under the bar’. This is not what I mean when I talk about a training philosophy. In my opinion a training philosophy is shaped from the first moment that now elite lifter or respected coach stepped foot in the gym. As they say everyone has to start somewhere. This is a progressive learning process, where lessons learnt from the previous day, month and year allow you to progress and build on your experiences into the next day, month and year.

Cover of "Starting Strength (2nd edition)...
Cover of Starting Strength (2nd edition)

“From this, comes that”

Although many basic fundamentals of training are consistent across the population, individual’s experiences in the gym and their body’s reaction to the training are almost certainly very personal. This is why these programs although a necessary starting point should also, in my opinion, leave room for intelligent training by the beginner. By this I mean identifying the areas of that protocol that worked for you, addressed your weaknesses, and strengthened your strengths, always with an eye on that end goal. This is how I define my training philosophy, which is very personal to me and is always a work in progress. This brings me to my first must required of a beginner. Always keep a training log. A written log is good. A written log with regular video entries for form checks and Personal best (PB) attempts for example is even better. I generally work on a 6 month review system. I go back through my logs, look at the small changes or areas I empahsised in the last 6 months, record what worked and what didn’t. This then gives me areas of weakness to address, and experiment with in the next 6 months.

Personally, I’m not bothered about being ‘Ripped, tanned and vascular’, as Mark Bell from the power project would say. I’m not interested in ‘6 pack abs by summer’. I want to be strong as I possibly can be (and healthy). As a result I train for strength which has some fundamental differences from training to body-build. However, I believe almost all beginners should initially train for strength even if ultimately their goal is to get that beach body, and here’s why.

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I believe in training economically. That is training in a way that is effective and efficient and maximises both. With this in mind, when an individual upon deciding to train is asked who they’d like to look like, or obtain similar athletic and physical attributes, the same names crop up. Popular choices include rugby players and other various sportsmen, and actors like Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. Despite what the media may say, these physiques will not be obtained after the completion of a 12 weeks to ‘arms like James Bond hardcore’  program. Physiques like Daniel Craig’s takes time and unavoidably years of dedication and consistency. Depending on your starting point it could take an average male upwards of two years minimum to achieve anything close to Daniel Craig’s beach body.daniel-craig

This requirement to take a relatively long term view of your training, in my opinion, dictates that a solid strength program will be more effective and efficient in achieving your goal than starting from the off on a body building protocol. Let me explain. Option 1) By the end of year 1 you follow solely a bodybuilding routine, ending the year being able to bench 55kg x10 for example. Option 2) After following a strength program you end the year benching 65kg x10. You’re still not at your goal of Daniel Craig like chesticles but you’re on your way. In your first year newbie gains done properly will ensure any good quality stimulus will result in your body growing. Moving into year two, if we accept the very general, basic idea that building muscle mass requires lifting ever progressively heavier weights, it makes sense that an individual starting their second year of training benching 65kg for reps is on a better footing to build greater muscle mass in that second year than the individual benching 55kg for reps ceterus paribus.

Also, a solid strength base often goes a long way to keeping your body balanced, healthy and injury free when you do start those bodybuilding training sessions in the future. It also ensures that you’re not all show and no go.

I hope this entry has convinced you of the importance of gaining a solid strength base with an eye to a long term goal. I hope it’s also highlighted the importance of training intelligently and encouraged you to think about your own philosophy specific to your strengths and weaknesses in your training.

You can find a list of, in my opinion and many others, the ‘Programs that work’ on the home page. Look out for Part 2.

Strong body. Strong mind

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