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Chapter 17: Results
The book of Matthew has some of the best advice for life and lifting disputes -
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
As the old saying goes, "You can't argue with success."
One of my pet peeves is seeing someone comment on an 800-pound deadlifter's video, "He's doing his reps touch and go. That doesn't build strength," or comment on a pro bodybuilder's video, "He's doing half reps. That doesn't build size."
The results are directly in front of you. Unless you're saying they're magicians performing illusions, the results are undeniable.
Using these examples, maybe resetting every rep of the deadlift might be better for most people, and maybe full range of motion exercises tend to produce more hypertrophy than partial range of motion exercises. But to see success directly in front of you and then say the means someone used to attain it don't work is to deny reality.
Maybe something could work better, or maybe something works for reasons that the proponent doesn't understand (low-carb diets usually fall into this category; when people cut out all their carbs, they usually end up eating fewer calories, but it's the reduced calories that caused the weight loss, not the lack of carbs), but those are entirely different scenarios from flatly saying it doesn't work.
An example I like to use for this is DAILY MAX SQUATTING. It was popularized by the Bulgarian weightlifting coach Ivan Abadjiev in the 1980s and produced some of the strongest weightlifters of all time. It is exactly what it sounds like - working up to a near-max squat every day or almost every day of the week.
The whole bit earlier in this book about the general volume and intensity ranges that tend to be most beneficial? Yeah, that's out the window (at least how most people apply it. If you've downloaded the Bulgarian Manual, you know that to make this style of training even more effective, you end up training in a manner that is much more "kosher." But I digress.
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Daily max training defies a lot of the basics of modern periodization theory except for the SAID principle. But it works - if your body can handle it. For me personally, as a drug-free lifter, I added almost 100 pounds to my squat in 10 weeks by walking into a gym, working up to the heaviest set of squats I could manage with good form and no psychological arousal, wrapping up my squat training for the day, and repeating the process 6 to 7 days per week. Volume was "too low," intensity was "too high," frequency was WAY "too high: . . . and none of that mattered, because it worked.
Again, that's not to say it's the universal best approach for all people at all times, and it's not saying that perhaps something else couldn't have worked better for me at that time. But, however you look at it, IT DID WORK.
Identifying trends of things that usually produce results or that should produce results is worthwhile, but keep an open mind and don't automatically write off something that is counter-intuitive conceptually but that's getting people the desired outcomes in practice.
Chapter 21: Contentment and Quality of Life
This is the last thing I want to leave you with in our Stuff That Matters discussion.
Picking things up and putting them down is a hobby.
There are things that REALLY matter in life. Close friends and loved ones, cultivating empathy, providing for yourself and your dependents financialy, etc.
Unless your ability to pick up heavy things or your ability to pose on stage or in front of a camera is contributing to those things and putting food on your table, it's a hobby.
That's not to say hobbies are unimportant. They give us a sense of release from the grind of day-to-day life, they help us keep our sanity, they give us personal depth, they give us a sense of fulfillment via mastering skills, and a host of other things. Heck, the gym may even be your "third place," which many consider essential for the cohesiveness of human communities.
However, never forget context.
Does lifting give you more confidence, help you be a better spouse/parent/friend, alleviate stress, and help contribute to a sense of enjoyment of life, self-worth, and achievement? Great! You're doing it 100% right. If you never gain another pound of muscle, or never hit another PR, but working out continues to fulfill those other purposes to contribute to the really important things in life, you're doing it right.
Does lifting stress you out, distract you from the people and interactions around you, make you feel like you'll never be good enough, and detract from the more meaningful aspects of life? If so, it's irrelevant what you achieve in the gym or in a sport. It if builds your body up while tearing the rest of your life down, you're doing it wrong, your physique or PRs be damned.
Because, keep in mind - this is a hobby. Pursuing gains isn't a reasonable excuse for missing work, skipping family gatherings, neglecting time with your friends, or feeling bad about yourself.
It should be fun, it should be challenging, and it should enhance the rest of your life, not consume it.