Train Smart or Go Home

There’s a very common theme to modern day fitness and strength training. You’ve seen the memes and motivational pictures. ‘Go Hard or Go Home’, ‘No Pain, No Gain’ and some like the 3 below.


Of course, they’re not all as blunt, there are some with a bit of tact and thought put behind them. However, these images and quotes, they all say the same kind of message.

  • You need to start exercising
  • Be dedicated and committed
  • Make a hard effort and …
  • … Expect to suffer, feel pain and discomfort

Oh goody, sign me up right away for the pain!

While this message attracts a proportion of an average gyms frequent users, do you really think this message conveys a realistic approach to new exercisers and the average population?

The majority of people who aim to exercise to feel healthier, stronger and more capable of managing every-day stresses have busy lives, kids and work. Yes, the most ‘dedicated’ of gym rats have jobs and may have kids too, they are not the average person. This doesn’t mean the average person is failing or is sub-standard, they may just not have had much exposure to physical fitness since leaving school.

Upon joining a gym, the average person is already under the impression that they have to bust their guts, sweat like a maniac and learn to love pain. They have a negative outlook before attempting to start a new lifestyle that entails much habit change. Do they really need this added persuasion to not start??

The reason I’m writing this today is after an experience with some new clients last week.

The enquiry started like most others for semi-private training until I was asked if, as a professional, was I willing to take on two very unfit mothers? On probing I discovered that they were under the impression that they would be running around, pumping weights and getting a good ol butt-kicking! This was their expectation and I am sure it is reflected in the assumptions of many other would be exercisers.

I am guilty of pushing the boundaries too far myself as many other exercisers have too and most will have learned the outcome.

Coach Mike Boyle talks about the Training Cycle of athletes that is very relevant to most gym rats too.

Here’s an excerpt from his book, Advances in Functional Training.

Training cycleSimply put, a trainee Trains too hard for too long, acquires an injury, seeks help from a therapist and then, yes, you guessed it, repeats the sequence over and over and over again… a training ground-hog day where you’re Bill Murray visiting your new best friend the local physical therapist every day!

How hard is hard enough to illicit a training affect?

Many ground-hog gym-rats (gym hogs / ground rats… mmmm, might coin that term more often hehe) will really disagree with me on this next statement, but many leading coaches who promote training for the long haul, suggest not maxing out, not busting a gut day in day out but rather, take a long term view of mastering your skills in the gym at lower intensities before very infrequently testing these skills with harder sessions.

Coach Dan John has worked tirelessly at preventing many from tirelessly working out but coining his Park Bench and Bus Bench programming idea.

From his site here are the low downs:

Park Bench Training Programs: For most of your training year, a training program that has little expectations. You get the work done and gently nudge yourself along in several areas. Counter to what you would think, most people make their best progress here.

Bus Bench Programs: Usually, almost by definition actually, these have a time limit, usually two weeks, six weeks or as many as 16 weeks. At the end of it, there has to be a marked change in what we are focused on. This can also be a peaking program for an athlete. 

So in a nut shell, most gym trainees should be spending the bulk of their year ticking boxes as I call it. Turn up, do the lifts with a moderate effort (squat, deadlift variation, pull, press, brace your abs and some explosive moves if your body permits – see the 40 day program), live another day, and repeat. Yes, you can vary the lifts. There are endless variations of each of these key moves but I’m not going into that in this post.

Once you’ve become very familiar with how your body moves and actually moves better, then by no means, go ahead and test it over a short period of a fortnight or three weeks. This is a great idea as it’ll help you identify your limiting factors or what you need to put focus on to safely progress – again, this is a story for another day, so I’ll say “byee” for now.

If you are unsure how to apply good-sense practice to your training programs, consider checking out our Online Coaching. It is being launched soon, using some good ol tech, passion, commitment, a hint of more passion and heaps of me helping you. So, sign up for early registration here.

Peace y’all,


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