November 14, 2011 — 2 Comments

No, not the “be good 80% of the time and don’t give a shit 20% of the time” 80/20 rule.  The other one: 80% of your gains come from 20% of the stuff you do.

The very awesome carnivorous man behind the turn around of Livestrong.com, Adam Bornstein (@bornfitness) posted something today: “if you change your exercises every single workout, you’re probably limiting what you’re capable of achieving #thehardtruth” I agree with a caveat or two.
Why I agree: working towards goals means improving in certain things, and in order to reach those goals you must practice whatever IT is that you are trying to improve.  Repetition of good practice gets you where you want to be. Indeed this is true in respect to S&C.  Martin Berkham of leangains.com generally has people workout 3x week only doing the big lifts, and recovering fully afterwards; but there is no arguing that his program is solely focused on strength and getting lean and jacked. I have no problem with this if that is the only goal someone has. Berkham’s program (and other similar programs) works really well for those two goals, involves little variance, is easy to follow, and requires relatively little time commitment.  I don’t like two of these, the other two I do like.
Little variance
1. Boring. As. Shit. The counter point is “is progress boring? is getting leaner boring?” and they’re good counters.  I won’t even argue them, except for once you’ve reached a certain leanness, and a certain level of strength, I think getting better at other stuff too is a good idea. I certainly believe so.  I’m not impressed when people add a few lbs to a lift each month-there is a point of diminishing returns of how strong you are relative to athleticism and physical abilities.  So, once you’ve reached some basic strength levels, it’s probably not too important if your back squat, dead lift, or bench improve a few lbs.  AND, once those gains start coming slower and slower, which they will, that’s when people get discouraged, and start doing really dumb stuff because they’ve stalled, and been bored as shit for a while.  My thought is: keep doing the big lifts in the program, but focus on gaining new skills.  I say this because strength maintenance is easier than strength gain.
2. Specific adaptations. You get good at the handful of things you do, maybe even really good, but you suck at everything else.  You can’t dance, you can’t change direction, you basically are an uncoordinated yet fit looking person.
Relatively little time
1. I don’t like the minimal effective dose attitude at all. It annoys me. Why are we encouraging people to move as little as possible? We should be encouraging people to move as much as possible. I’m disinteresting in perpetuating a lazy, pathetic culture that wants easy minimal effort approaches to getting the things they want.
Easy to follow
1. Awesome because as a whole our society is predominately incredibly uneducated in regards to fitness and nutrition and health. These “only do the big lifts” systems cater and are great for the people out there (lots of them) who do not give a shit about learning enough to form any of their own thoughts on health, or to question things being told to them. Please see Adam’s articles debunking myths here, here, and here as a start.
2. People can’t afford personal trainers, or any good coaching.
It works really well
1. Just reiterating that if your only goal is to look jacked, and gain strength, a lean gains-esque program is awesome.
So, rather than just sounding negative, here is what I personally like to do, and I feel works well for utilizing the principles of the 80/20 rule.
Prioritize your individual goals, be it strength, mobility, awesome pecs, whatever, and do as Adam says: repeat them often enough to actually get closer to achieving what you are capable of achieving IN THOSE GOALS. (I think everyone’s priority should be to move better-and I know that is terribly general, and am doing a post about that).  Then, add in the right amount of variance in your workouts to keep things fun and interesting, to not neglect other skills and capabilities, to spend more time moving, that are easy to do, and aren’t just plain stupid.  The right amount of variance will vary from person to person, because too much “stuff” will take away from the goals, but amounts less than that do all the positives I just wrote above.  And just plain stupid stuff involves many things we see in gyms quite frequently-know why you are doing something. My variance stuff involves unilateral work, explosive training, core stuff (i hesitate saying that…), climbing and other MovNat things, playing sports that you enjoy, hiking.
The big guns of S&C.  S=Deadlift, front squat, overhead press, pull-ups (weighted); C=pushups, horizontal row, some rotation, some carrying and some explosive thing. And sprinting (but please do not just start sprinting without working up to it for god’s sake). Do the big guns twice a week, and work hard and heavy for 3 sets, I like triples on the S and volume on the C, and singles on the explosive (not max singles, just explosive singles). Really quick something like:
Mon-Workout A 1. Heavy BB DL 3×3 & 1 arm bench press 3x an easy 5, supersetted. 2.Weighted pull-ups 3×3 and step ups 3×10/leg supersetted. 3. Power cleans 15, 1 rep every 30 seconds. 4. 2×10 alternating med ball wall rugby throws 5. unilateral farmer walks 3xgym floor length/arm
Tuesday-Pushups, horizontal rows, rowing machine, jump rope, and other stuff you find fun. But not much, and not heavy. Go hiking and do fun stuff for example. PLAY.
Wednesday-Workout B 1. heavy BB front squat 3×5 & BB overhead press 3×3, supersetted, 2. Bent over DB row 3×5 and bulgarian split squats DB goblet hold 3×5/leg 3. DB snatch 20 total, alternating arms, 1 rep every 30 seconds. 4. 20 half getups 5. KB or DB unilateral rack walks 3xgym floor length/arm
Thursday-PLAY like but different to Tuesday
Friday-workout A
Sat-Sprint and play
Sun-Watch football and drink beer.
The following week do B on mon and fri, and A on wednesday.
Each workout starts with turkish getups and dynamic stretching drills, and in-between pairings would go ankle mob, wall slides, and the workout would end with quad&hip combo stretch.
The caveat here is if you are lacking basic strength or mobility, and/or are injured-then you should leave the playing around and exploring until you’ve fixed yourself and gained a good strength and mobility base.
So that’s my more than 140 character response to Adam’s tweet.

2 responses to 80/20


    Hey, Clifton! Nice to see you’ve got a blog going! You mention links to some articles debunking myths, but there are no links on the “here, here, and here” portion of the “Easy To Follow” paragraph. Think you could fix those for us? Thanks!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. “Nut Up or Shut Up” « Chris Garay's Blog - November 28, 2011

    […] I will leave you with a quote from Clifton Harski’s recent post “80/20″ on his blog, Strong. Naturally: I don’t like the minimal effective dose attitude at all. It […]

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