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8 things you shouldn't do ...but which work

8 Dinge, die Du nicht tun sollst ...die aber funktionieren

Break the rules, benefit from the gains

We asked some successful athletes and coaches about things that go against the conventional rules and ideas and yet have worked well for them. Here are their answers:

Michael Warren - Strength coach and performance expert

I like to train the same muscle group twice a day.

When it comes to training, the conventional wisdom is that you need to give the muscle enough time to recover between workouts and many say you can't train the same muscle again for the 48 hours following the workout.

I started this type of training 6 to 7 years ago out of necessity. I had quite a hectic schedule with clients and simply didn't have enough time for a full training session. However, most days I had time to train twice during a short window in the morning and a second short window in the evening. This allowed me two training sessions of 45 minutes each per day.

I experimented with different training methods and made good progress with the method described here in two respects - how I felt during the training sessions and the results I achieved. I found that training for just 30 to 45 minutes allowed me to train with focus and intensity. The break between the two training sessions gave me the chance to replenish my energy reserves and refocus before the second training session.

My views on this type of training were reinforced when Charles Poliquin advocated training the same muscle group twice a day. By training this way, I can exceed the total volume that most people would do in one training session, which is a huge advantage for mass gain. I have also found that the quality of my training is superior.

Here are my guidelines for such a workout:

  1. Train the same muscle group during both morning and evening training sessions.
  2. Change the training protocol from the morning session to the evening session. Perform sets with fewer repetitions (6 to 8) in the morning and reduce the weights and perform sets with more repetitions (12 to 20) in the evening training session. The second training session consists of more classic bodybuilding strategies: slow tempo, isometric holds, negative repetitions, descending sets, etc. Vary the exercises and stimulus from the morning to the evening session.
  3. Recover as well as possible. Give yourself 6 to 8 hours between the two training sessions and make sure that you meet your nutritional requirements between the training sessions.
  4. This is not a method you should use forever. You will need to take breaks and return to training once a day every 2 to 4 weeks.

While this method may not be for everyone, it is a method that can be used as a temporary training block to overcome a plateau and stimulate more growth.

Eric Bach - Strength coach and performance expert

I prefer faster fat loss approaches, but the rules say to take it slow

Common sense and general consensus say you should lose body fat slowly to build habits that can be sustained over the long term, prevent metabolic adaptation and combat muscle loss. But I think more aggressively - 30 to 45 days of a fat loss phase is better than the long, slow and steady approach. Here are the reasons why:

  1. You're losing your momentum: being in a state of calorie deficit is an added stressor in an already previously stressful society. This causes most people to break their diets, get stuck in endless cycles of yo-yo dieting and quick fix attempts followed by binge eating and guilt. You can't leave out the momentum and the human element when it comes to fat loss. Go at it with maximum rigor for a limited period of time and then return to a maintainable maintenance or mass-building phase.
  2. Every day you diet, you don't build muscle. It takes much longer to build significant amounts of muscle mass than it does to lose fat. And if you are constantly dieting because you simply can't find a diet that you can stick to in the long term, then you will get stuck in the vicious circle of yo-yo dieting.

Concentrate fully on maximum fat loss. Yes, it will be brutal and you will be hungry. Live with it and then go back to the muscle building process. Not only will it be easier to build muscle without fat, but in the long run, more lean muscle mass will also provide you with a sort of "diet buffer" as you will have a higher metabolic rate and an increased ability to store food as muscle glycogen.

So how can you put together an aggressive fat loss diet? First, you should continue to train as hard as you do when you're building strength. The primary fat loss will come from the change in diet, but you can also add an extra conditioning session or two for additional fat loss, or start each morning with a toning walk or something similar.

As for your diet, scientific research has shown that a calorie deficit in the range of 20 to 25% is sufficient to maximize fat loss without compromising performance or lean muscle mass. Keep your protein intake above 2 grams per kilogram of body weight to maintain lean muscle mass and keep your fat intake above 20% of your total calorie intake to prevent excessive fluctuations in your hormone levels.

Here is an example of what the diet plan for a 90 kilo man might look like:

  • Maintenance calories: Body weight x 31 = 2800 kcal
  • Aggressive deficit: 2800 x 0.75 = 2100 kcal
  • Protein: 200 grams (800 kcal)
  • Carbohydrates: 200 grams (800 kcal)
  • Fat: 2100 - 800 - 800 = 500 kcal, which corresponds to 55 grams of fat.

So a 90 kilo man would eat about 200 grams of protein, 200 grams of carbohydrates and 55 grams of fat per day. Focus first on meeting your calorie count, second on meeting your protein count, and then eat carbs and fats based on your preferred eating style. With this approach, you'll have an aggressive plan for fat loss, a short-term plan to keep your momentum going, and the end in sight to help you stay consistent.

Aaron Fick - Strength Coach

I never plan a de-load week. You know, those weeks while you're supposed to train light and reduce your intensity for a week.

Off-load weeks are wasted training weeks. If you're getting stronger, training is going well and you're seeing gains every week, why intentionally stall the process?

On the other hand, if you're pushing your body so hard every week that you have to take a de-load week, then you probably need to back off a bit and stop killing your body for three weeks a month.

Telling yourself that you're going to intentionally cut the weights and take things easier is a poisoned mindset. It's an excuse to train half-heartedly.

Instead of scheduling an off-load week, start incorporating variations of the basic exercises into your training program that by definition are done with less weights. Try front squats, squats without a weightlifting belt or squats with a pause instead of regular squats. Or perform close bench presses, bench presses with pause or incline bench presses instead of flat bench presses. Give power cleans a chance instead of deadlifts. Doing this ensures that the quality of effort is there, but the ultra heavy weight isn't continuously there to literally fry your nervous system or the rest of your body.

Christian Thibaudeau - Strength coach and performance expert

I like to do explosive training after strength and/or bodybuilding training, which you really shouldn't do.

One of the first things we learn about program design in kinesiology classes is that exercises with the highest neurological demands during a training session should be performed first, when the nervous system is still fresh. Performing these also potentiates the rest of the training session.

And I agree with that. But doing explosive training after the rest of the workout has given me and several other athletes I work with excellent results. It sounds completely counterintuitive, but it works - especially for individuals who are already naturally explosive. Why? I have 2 explanations for this (and the real reason is probably a combination of both:

1. if you're doing basic strength exercises (like bench presses and squats) with a moderate weight and moving it with maximum acceleration, then you need to decelerate the weight before you reach the top end of the range of motion or you'll put a lot of stress on your joints.

And the more acceleration you can produce from the start, the sooner you have to slow down. It's like driving a car and seeing a wall 100 meters away. If you're driving at 30 km/h, you won't be stressed by this - you can take your time and brake just before the obstacle. However, if you are driving at 180 km/h, you will have to brake much earlier. The same applies to training with weights.

If your muscles have already been exhausted before the explosive training, then you cannot produce as much initial acceleration and can therefore accelerate the weight faster. This trains your nervous system to be able to accelerate at points in the range of motion where it would normally decelerate. At this point it should be noted that speed training against the resistance of elastic bands has the same effect - the bands allow you to keep trying to accelerate as they slow you down.

2. performing explosive training focuses primarily on the rapidly contracting muscle fibers. When these are exhausted, it is usually difficult to stimulate them and your body will rely more on the medium-fast contracting fibers. Performing explosive workouts, on the other hand, could force your body to continue using the fast-twitch fibers, depleting them even further.

I use a similar strategy with CrossFit athletes. I have them perform their snatch or clean and jerk after squats and deadlifts. They perform two phases and in the last phase they reverse the order. All of them saw serious gains in their exercises. One was able to increase his weight in the snatch from 245 pounds to 295 pounds and in the clean and jerk from 315 pounds to 375 pounds. Of course, this is an extreme example, but all reported solid gains from this illogical approach.

Tom MacCormick - Personal Trainer and Online Trainer

Training in an unbalanced or non-symmetrical way and this works great for me

You often hear that you need to balance push to pull exercises and upper body to lower body exercises if you want to achieve balanced body development. I disagree with this. This advice is good for beginners, but not for more advanced exercisers.

When you start training, everything is small and weak. In this case, training everything evenly is a good option. However, as you become more muscular and stronger, certain muscles will respond better to your training, while others will lag behind in their development. If you continue to train in a balanced way, you will exacerbate this problem.

Certain muscles that dominate certain exercises will outperform others and exacerbate imbalances. For example, your front shoulder muscles and triceps may minimize the stimulation of your pecs on the bench press. This problem will become a vicious cycle and your body development will become increasingly disproportionate.

Once you have reached a useful level of muscularity, you will need to train asymmetrically to achieve symmetry. For example, my biceps and shoulders don't grow well if they are simply trained with my chest and back. I train them more frequently, which allows for a higher overall volume. While chest and back are trained twice a week, I train my rear shoulder muscles, my lateral shoulder muscles and my biceps four times a week.

Following this approach has paid off for me and has allowed my shoulders and arms to catch up to my chest and back.

Mark Dugdale - IFBB Pro Bodybuilder

I'm doing three "wrong" things.

These are the first two: I don't do cardio but I do hot yoga.

You wouldn't typically associate this with a man preparing for a pro bodybuilding competition. And if you're a competitive athlete, neither would likely be in your trainer's contest prep program.

The even more serious "wrong" thing I like to do, however, is to cut calories to under 1700 kcal per day in the final phase to get absolutely defined.

Most people would say this is way too catabolic, but timing these calories right makes a big difference. Most of my food intake comes from the training window so that the muscles are adequately supported. Lowering my calorie intake so much helps prevent me from having to do cardio. Being defined by diet tends to help maintain muscle better than losing weight with cardio, in my personal experience.

Yes, ultra low calorie intake for months in a row is a perfect recipe for muscle loss, but if your body is primed to burn fat and you reduce dietary fat sources, then your body is able to draw on the stored fat that is covering up your muscles.

I eat a lot of almonds during the diet and during the last few weeks I cut them out completely. My body is looking for the dietary fat and won't find it. The result is that I suffer and my body burns the last bit of fat that most competitive athletes can't get rid of. The end result is an extremely defined body.

Paul Carter - Strength coach and bodybuilding trainer

I often use extremely low volume, high intensity training. The reason this is 'wrong' is because scientific research seems to indicate that volume is by far the most important factor when it comes to building muscle.

When I was 18 years old, I already weighed 100 kilos (and yes, that was all natural) and had only started training four years earlier. If you were to ask me what my training looked like back then, I would have to admit that it was very bro-science and anti-science: 1 to 2 work sets per exercise, training four days a week and each muscle group was trained directly once a week.

My focus was on progressive overload and doing more reps with a specific weight from week to week. I had a surprisingly simple method when it came to choosing reps and setting goals: Pick a weight that you can do 8 reps with and stick with that weight until you can do 12 reps. Once you can do 12 reps with that weight, increase the weight.

That was all. Each week I worked hard on these two sets (if there was a second set, I reduced the weight by 10 to 15% and went to muscle failure) and did my best to surpass my performance from the previous week.

If you keep up with the scientific studies, they will tell you that I was training inefficiently compared to training each muscle group twice a week with a lot more volume. However, through trial and error, I kept coming back to this training because it worked. At some point I realized that real effort very often trumps doing a lot of half-assed work.

Chris Colucci - T Nation Forum Director

I eat two meals a day

A long-standing nutritional principle is that you need to eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours to keep the "metabolic furnace" running at full speed", maintain stable insulin levels and control hunger - which is especially true when you're cutting calories. The only problem here is that these are not all valid statements, that these are not benefits that only come into play with multiple meals and that, more importantly, eating every 120 minutes is not particularly practical.

Although some people have used regular small meals to build muscle and lose body fat, this approach is not essential and you won't jeopardize any of your results if you stick to a more basic approach with fewer meals per day. Any trainer worth their salt will tell you that the most perfectly designed training program and diet is useless if the client doesn't follow it. For non-competitive exercisers who train 5 to 6 hours a week in the gym, spending time planning, preparing and eating regular meals every 2 to 3 hours is impractical at best and literally a waste of time at worst.

Try this the next time you're at work: set your cell phone alarm to ring every two and a half hours and when it rings, immediately stop whatever you're doing, close your eyes and recite the alphabet (in your mind, of course, so you don't look like an insane person) and then go back to work.

Chances are, those 30-second interruptions will get pretty annoying pretty quickly - especially if you're in the middle of a detail-oriented project or meeting, or if you're doing other things that require your full attention. That's a small taste of how disruptive and unnecessary the small regular meals approach is.

Instead, I stick to a late morning breakfast - usually whole eggs, fruit, veggies and rice/toast/bagel/potatoes - and an early evening dinner - usually meat, veggies and some sort of carbs. I also drink a protein shake before and during my training sessions, which falls within my 'eating window' as I train a couple of hours before dinner.

This is not Intermittent Fasting, unless you're using a very generous definition of that approach, but this approach allows me to get through the day without expending mental or physical energy on checking the clock, grabbing food, interrupting my work flow to eat, and treating food like an item on an elongated to-do list.

The only real specificity to this approach is that I eat a protein shake every night right before bed, a couple hours after dinner, to get an amino acid boost and start the nightly recovery and growth process. If we count this 120 kcal protein shake as a meal in its own right, then technically I'm looking at 3 meals a day... which is still what successful strength athletes have done for over a century with no problems.

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