In addition to Kettlebells, Pavel Tstatsouline brought something else just as valuable to America-an idea. Certainly this idea was in existence before his arrival, but in my book he popularized it and changed the way many American trainees worked out.
Here it is- he emphasized the idea of never training to failure, nor “training on the nerve.” He admonished us to leave some energy in the bank, to stop a set or session short of failure- well before failure in fact. Bank a rep or two. Stay fresh and strong. Cut it off before you get fatigued.
This idea flew in the face of the common training methods (remember Arthur Jones, Cybergenics and Mike Mentzer?) that conscripted the lifter to keep going until they we’re on death’s doorstep.
You see, they convinced lifters that the only way to build might and muscle was to take each set to absolute muscular failure. With a gun to the head you can’t do another rep. This method promised a physical zenith.
I occasionally trained this way. It was miserable and I could barely stomach my workouts. I was weak, burned out, and going nowhere. I am surprised I stuck with the thing.
I began to study the best lifters in the world and how they trained. They never train to failure. They lift heavy and often, just as Pavel proclaimed. They never get exhausted or strung out. They worked damn hard, but they were careful not to drain themselves. Some squat 3-4 times per day, but never approach that feeling of weakness and exhaustion.
I am adamant that my clients adopt this principle. We never train to failure. We always leave some in the bank. If you could strain to do 8- we cut it off at 5-6.
I have a client that is a well-known Raleigh news personality. Out of respect for her, we will keep her name confidential, but you’ve seen her. She told me about a recent Boot Camp she attended. They beat the living hell out of the participants. Absolutely smoked ’em. No one could walk for days. She hated it, the same way I hated training to failure years ago.
Why is this irresponsible and shortsighted exercise approach so popular? Because popular media say so. You’re supposed to be pummeled into the ground Rocky style to have any chance of having a gorgeous body. Bullshit.
Here’s the American workout plan:
-Beat myself up with endless reps and train till I can’t walk for 3 days at Gym America.
-Eat a balanced diet-whatever that means.
-Suffer, deprive, forget my social life, never enjoy wine or butter again.
Now, I know you would never succumb to such a plan, but trust me, this is what’s being doled out in the commercial gyms and to many “boot camp” participants. These “trainers” should be sued for malpractice.
Give yourself the gift of training correctly. It’s hard work-yes, of course. But it is brief and tolerable and dare I say invigorating. Your workouts should give you energy in a very real way.
If I train you, when I drive away (“finally he’s gone”) you’ll say to yourself, “I could have done a little more.” That’s intentional and planned. And that’s exactly where I want you, in the happy valley between enough stimulus to spur change combined with enough recovery to allow the adaptations to occur. No more no less. Apply the science to your training, not the popular nonsense. As Dr. Squat, Fred Hatfield, said years ago, “You want to burn? Light a match.”
Stay fresh, strong, and never lose your hunger to maximize your health. Keep some in the tank- always.
Best wishes always,
Your trainer Danny