Or how to get
results in less time
Q: I have trouble accepting what I read in your new book, Lean For Life. You recommend only Jour hours of training a week. Whats more, you advocate only one hard see of each exercise after warm-up. I'm sorry, but that doesn't sound like enough training to produce resuitg How do you justifyresults.a such mount of training?Have you given up your quest for ultimate fitness?
A: Absolutely not. As a lawyer with many other interests and responsibilities, I've always sought maximum results with a minimum expenditure or time. I understand your skepticism, however. You are accustomed to hearing about champion bodybuilders who ail' practicalltrainery
day, often splitting their workouts into morning and evening sessions. These people no doubt train many more hours each week than I recommend. Terry Todd, the extremely knowledgeable coeditor of Iron Game History published at the University of Texas at Austin, observed recently that many bodybuilders spend four or five times as many hours in the gym as I do. He's correct, of course. Doesn't that prove your IX)Illa No, I dpoint?lieve so.
George Sheehan, MD, the venerable old man of running, expressed the basic rationale for my recommendations in his new hook, Genive Sheehan Georgening to Win (Rudale Press, 1992). Sheehan says of elite runners who aver age well over 100 miles per week, "Such training programs dotin not make chns. they discover them."
"These people are animals!"
Speaking at a running clinic where he followed a panel of 100-mile-per-week runners, Sheehan took the microphone and saki; "Forget esaidthing these people told you. They're not like us. They're animals!" Only gifted athletes can survive such training methods, Sheehan explained. Ordinary people, on the other hand, end up sick or injured.
Sheehan points out that Roger Bannister broke the four-minutcmilfour-minute miley five hours of training each week. Bannister later wrote that an additional 10 seconds of improvement would require four times as much training. In other words, you reach a point of diminishing returns. The greatest percentage of improvement comes from the first few hours of training each week. Training beyond that results in minimum change — and dramatically in
creases the likelihood of staleness Or injury.
The same holds true for weight training. As you may know, Bulgaria has produced the world's best Olympic lifters in recent years on a regimen of six-timesa-week heavy training. This may work for genetically gifted, young athletes with unlimited time to train but, as I wrote in Lean For Life, "Most people, even if they had the time and inclination, would be destroyed — physically and mentally by such training."
The Bulgarians are an extreme example, of course, but they illustrate that champions often emerge from training programs that would leave the average person a wreck. Most lifters would realize rimer gains frobetter less training. Moreover, shorter programs arc more enjoyable and allow time for a normal life outside the gym.
As you know, in Lean For Life I recommend that maximum-Intensity workouts be limited to two a week. Any more than that will depress your immune system, according to Dr. David C. Neiman, associate professor of health, leisure and exercise science at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Neiman's advice is based on a study of some 2,300 runners who entered the 1987 Los Angeles Marathon. In the two months before the race, 40% got sick. Those who ran more than 60 miles a week got sick twice as often, according to Neiman, as those who ran less than 20 miles a week. Plus, more than 13% of those who corn Dieted the marapletedere sick within a week, compared to only 296 of those who trained for the event but didn't Compete.
Why ma the high-mildidge runners get sick more often? Neiman said it's because high mileage depresses the activity of the natural killer cells, the cells that kill foreign invaders in the hwy such as virbody,s and bacteria. His work un smaller group of runners showed that natural killer cell activities fell by more than 30% for almost six hours after a long, hard workout.
I've often gotten sick myself after prolonged periods of hard training. I've found that limiting hard training sessions to twice a week keeps me well. So I think Neiman's advice ' ri ht on tar et.
your second point, let me tell you about a recent experience that convinced me
again — that best results come from doing only one hard set of each exercise after warm-up.
I've never been one to do very many sets. I find it boring to do the same exercise over and over. Nevertheless, for a change, I was doing three hard sets per exercise in a recent workout cycle: 12 reps with a medium poundage, eight with a heavy weight and a final back-off set of 20 repetitions. I had been increasing the poundage on all three sets for several weeks. So I thought I was performing close to my limit on all three sets. Then, one day, I decided to do only the first set and forgo the other two. The result was eye-opening.
After a few easy warm-up sets, I loaded the bar with a weight I thought was my 12-rep maximum for this particular exercise, the deadlift. When I reached 12 reps I was still going strong,
so I continued. I did 13, 14 and, finally, I ground out 15 reps!
Obviously, in my earlier workout, I was holding back on the 12-rep set. Whether I knew it or not, I was pacing myself. Subconsciously, I was saving my energy for the two sets to follow. However, when I cut back to one set, I focused totally on that set without thinking about the sets to follow. That freed me to make a better effort; it produced a more intense and, therefore, more productive set.
Many others have had similar experiences. For example, personal trainer Barry Rubin told me that his clients were getting such good results from my one-set method that he decided to try it himself. Barry reported: "I did 12 reps in the bench press with 250. My previous best was 225!"
Why not give my recommendations a try? You've got nothing to lose, except a lot of unproductive hours in the gym.