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20 "almost" laws of strength training and 8 laws of strength training that actually deserve the name

20 „beinahe“ Gesetze des Krafttrainings und 8 Gesetze des Krafttrainings, die diesen Namen tatsächlich verdienen

In the first part of this article, I presented 14 alleged laws of strength training that many trainers consider to be essential, but which in my view do not deserve this categorization. In this second part, I will discuss the remaining "almost" laws of strength training before finally presenting what I consider to be the 8 "real" laws of strength training.

15 - You must periodize your training

Periodization is essential for training success, right? The Russians swear by it and American sports scientists have spent a lot of time and effort planning detailed training cycles of varying lengths. So periodization must be a must for success, right?

The fact is, periodization is debated in the scientific literature and studies don't tend to show much difference in gains with different periodization models (Kiely 2012, Issurin 2010).

If you are in tune with your body, have a basic amount of common sense, and are familiar with the basics of program design, then you don't really need to periodize your training.

But let me illustrate this statement a little first. What is periodization anyway? It is planning. How can any sane exerciser not follow some form of planning when exercising? Even the biggest moron in the gym knows what his "essential" exercises for chest and biceps are.

The vast majority of respectable exercisers plan their training splits, their training frequency, their exercise selection and their exercise sequence. Based on nutrition and biofeedback, these exercisers tend to vary their intensity and volume on any given day, but their methods include some structure and planning.

For this reason, every respectable exerciser periodizes their workouts. But do you really need an annual plan full of cycles and phases? The vast majority of bodybuilders do not, which is especially true for the best bodybuilders.

Furthermore, life tends to force you into cycles and phases. Stress, new jobs, vacations, injuries, parties, vacations, work, deadlines, new relationships and travel force exercisers to vary their training program.

In addition, periodization does not allow for spontaneous adjustments and can be too rigid. Chuck Vogelpohl was notorious for taking his dynamic effort to the extreme - once he warmed up, he couldn't resist moving heavy weights. And would you want to tell him he's not training properly?

16 - You need to unload and/or fluctuate your training stress

Some exercisers lack overconfidence, which means they never get into a state of overreaching or overtraining. These people don't need unloading weeks. Some exercisers always push themselves to their limits and are prone to overdoing it. These people can benefit greatly from unloading.

But there are also exercisers who intuitively know how hard they should train. They may have reached a slight overreaching on Friday, but after a training-free weekend they are fit to train again on Monday. They make continuous progress due to the fact that they use just the right amount of frequency, volume and intensity for their body week after week, even though they never take a week off training or have a de-load week.

17 - You need to train often

I'm a big fan of HFT (high frequency training). But is it really absolutely necessary? Some of the best gains I've made have come with a HIT program. I did a full body workout every 5 days consisting of heavy basic exercises like squats or front squats, deadlifts or sumo deadlifts, bench presses or close grip bench presses and pull-ups or rowing. I got damn strong and built up a lot of muscle. Mike Mentzer was able to achieve great results with irregular, intensive full-body training and the same is true for many other strong exercisers.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to spend all day in the gym to see results. If more aspiring exercisers knew that they could in fact make amazing gains by working out just six days a month, then more people would probably choose resistance training. However, the prerequisite is that you do it right - no weak isolation exercises are allowed. Go all out on the big basic exercises every five days and you'll see amazing results.

18 - You must do full body workouts or you must do split workouts

The vast majority of bodybuilders split up their training. Many powerlifters also use split programs. Total body workouts work for many individuals, but no single system is ideal for every individual and every goal.

In contrast, neither Olympic weightlifters nor strongmen nor athletes split their workouts. They are the ones who get amazingly toned through daily full body workouts. Split training programs work for many individuals, but no single system is ideal for every individual and every goal.

19 - You need to perform multiple sets

Scientific research clearly shows that multiple sets outperform single sets when it comes to building strength and muscle mass (Krieger 2009, Krieger 2010, Rhea et al. 2002). However, you should look at it this way:

Let's say a trainee performs one exercise per training session and does squats on Monday, bench presses on Wednesday and deadlifts on Friday. He performs five sets per training session.

Let's say that another trainee performs one set of 5 basic exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Both trainers complete 15 sets per week. Do you really think there would be much difference in terms of mass and strength?

Apart from a few warm-up sets, Dorian Yates only performed one set to muscle failure and he had one of the best bodies in the history of bodybuilding.

The first set is by far the most important, while each subsequent set is less and less important. And if you end up training your muscles from more different angles through more exercises performed, then one could argue that you might get better results with one set protocols compared to multiple set protocols.

20 - You need to consistently give it your all and push yourself to your limits

If you don't give it your all in every training session, then you won't make progress, right? Maybe not. Many experts believe that overdoing it will hold more exercisers back than underdoing it. Leaving one repetition in the tank, using less demanding exercises and using dynamic effort training allows exercisers to train more often by protecting their nervous system and joints from severe overload.

Pavel Tsatsouline advises exercisers to "grease the groove" and stop obsessing about maximum performance on every set of every single exercise.

Let's say you train 5 days a week and never go to muscle failure on close bench presses with chains, inverse rowing with elevated feet, front squats with chains, heavy kettlebell swings and farmer's walks. You will be very fit, very strong and very muscular and your joints will thank you for it.


I definitely don't want to tell you that you shouldn't do the things mentioned in the 20 points above. However, some of the principles listed will be more or less important depending on your genetic makeup and your goals. Just keep in mind that these 20 things can be nice to do, but are absolutely not a must for your success.

Below, I'll cover the things you need to do to ensure optimal gains when strength training.

The essential rules that every successful strength athlete follows

1 - Train consistently

Consistency is the name of the game and the strength athlete who trains week after week will make steady gains in strength and muscularity over time.

The exerciser who trains twice a week for 52 weeks of the year will see better long-term results than the exerciser who trains five times a week for only 20 weeks a year. You can't just go to the gym once in a while and expect to see progress. You can't achieve real results if you only train sporadically throughout the year. Short bursts of training can be effective in certain circumstances, but in the end it's consistency that counts.

2 - Train both hard and smart

Training hard is good. Training smart is good. Combine these two approaches and you get the best of both worlds.

You have to train hard, but you don't have to kill yourself at every training session. Push yourself in every training session, but it's damn important that you listen to what your body is telling you and that you make adjustments when needed. You also need to experiment to find out what works best for you and what doesn't work for you. Even though some "dummies" seem to train haphazardly, many are actually amazingly intelligent and/or intuitive when it comes to sensible training programs.

3 . Stimulate the muscles of the entire body

You need to perform the big basic exercises to stimulate body-wide muscle growth, but you also need to specialize certain muscle groups to compensate for weaknesses.

If a muscle is never activated, it won't grow. To get a muscle to grow, you need to stimulate it regularly. Deadlifts stimulate a lot of muscles throughout the body. The forearms, trapezius, latissimus, retractors of the shoulder blades, back extensors, gluteus, hamstrings and even the core and quadriceps muscles are activated during heavy deadlifts. This helps explain why deadlifts are such a great exercise. However, if you only trained deadlifts, your pecs, shoulders and biceps wouldn't even come close to their full hypertrophy potential. Make sure your training programs regularly include enough exercises that work the entire body in combination.

And here's something else that should be common sense: If you want to achieve maximum muscle mass in one muscle group, then you should make sure to get strong on the exercises that cause the highest activation of that muscle. Hip thrusts, for example, cause the strongest activation of the gluteus, so even if you train squats and deadlifts every week, it makes sense to include this exercise in your program if maximum gluteus mass is your goal. Similarly, if hypertrophy of your posterior shoulder muscles is the goal, shoulder presses will not be enough. You will need to include some targeted training that targets the posterior shoulder muscles in your program.

4 - You need to increase your core strength - especially with multi-joint exercises

Progressive overload is the most important aspect in the world of strength training. If you start a strength training program and don't manage to get stronger, then you won't build much muscle mass. You will need to use heavier weights and do more repetitions over time.

Bodybuilders don't always train heavy as a percentage of their 1RM weight, but most successful bodybuilders have focused on building strength in the basic exercises for at least a few years early in their training career.

Strength is the foundation for improvements in other areas such as speed production. You need to be able to do something at moderate speed before you can do it fast. When it comes to strength endurance, you need to be able to do something once before you can do it repeatedly. So simple strength cannot be ignored.

As you become more experienced in the weight room, you should see dramatic strength gains in squat variations, deadlift variations, upper body presses and upper body pulls compared to when you started. And if you want to get good at anything - be it squats, be it deadlifts, be it bench presses, be it power cleans or even Turkish get-ups - then you need to perform these exercises consistently to find the right groove with the neurological activation patterns and maximize motor learning. If you don't do this, you will miss out on unrealized progress.

5 - Warming up is essential

If you don't take your warm-up seriously, it will ultimately and inevitably end in disaster.

You can't just walk into the gym, load up the bar with a bunch of weight plates and force a heavy max repetition. And even if you do manage to force that one nasty repetition, your risk of injury will be astronomical. Depending on your condition and history of injuries, some exercisers may need up to 20 or 30 minutes of general warm-up and mobility training to feel ready for the workout, while others may only need 5 minutes. But everyone needs to get the blood flowing to prepare joints and muscles for moving heavy weights.

Some lighter exercises like hip thrusts and variations of rowing don't require much specific warm-up. Once you've done your general warm-up and completed the sets of your first exercise, you don't need to warm up again for subsequent exercises for the same muscle group. Beginners who ignore the warm-up will learn the hard way to take this component of training more seriously.

7 - Use good form - at least most of the time

Proper exercise form is important, but there are also times to use some momentum and less rigorous exercise form to be able to move slightly heavier weights.

If you go to any gym, you'll typically see exercisers working out at one end of the technique spectrum or the other. Some exercisers are very strict about maintaining optimal technique and never use significant weights due to their dedication to a robotic technique. On the other hand, you also see exercisers who would make better progress if they reduced their weights and stopped relying on momentum and training partners to finish each of their repetitions.

There is certainly some wiggle room when it comes to an acceptable and efficient form of exercise execution. It has even been shown that a light swing can increase muscle activation. Your form will also diminish somewhat if you test your max weights at strategic times throughout the year. A true max single repetition will never look like something out of the textbook. If it does look like that, then you could have used more weight.

However, most of the time you need to be very strict with your form of exercise execution and you need to find the right form of exercise execution on different exercises for your body. This is especially important with the bigger exercises like squats and deadlifts, where the risk of injury is inherently higher than with exercises like dumbbell curls. Not paying attention to your technique will result in pain and injury, which will stall your progress.

7 - Your daily nutritional habits are responsible for your progress

The best training program in the world can't make up for a poor diet. Your hard work in the weight room can be completely worthless if you're sloppy with your diet.

If you want to build a muscular body and perform at your best, you need to take your diet seriously. You need to eat the right amount of calories and the right mix of macronutrients for your goals and physiology. You don't have to be perfect at this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but if you eat a lot of junk every day then you won't reach your potential and you won't see useful gains in strength and muscle.

Strategic supplementation with protein powder and essential fatty acids is very helpful when it comes to improving recovery and preparing the body for growth.

8 - Sleep well and avoid potential stress

If you don't sleep well and are mentally stressed around the clock, your physiology will work against you.

Some people need more sleep than others and some can function well on less sleep, but you should still pay attention to your sleep (quality and quantity) and prioritize it. Make a serious effort to get enough sleep consistently if you are serious about getting results. If you don't, then you will hinder yourself in your pursuit of strength and hypertrophy.

As for stress, your goal should not be to eliminate stress completely, but to optimize it. It's good to be challenged in life, but there is a fine line between eustress (positive stress like a good training session) and dystress (negative stress like a 65-hour work week with unbearable coworkers). Aim to stay in the eustress zone most of the time. Take a step back and analyze your life choices and habits. This is an area where many exercisers can make adjustments that lead to immediate results.


By Bret Contreras

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