Slightly More Thinking, Slightly More Doing
I originally wrote this article for stumptuous.com. Stumptuous is run by our friend, Krista Scott-Dixon and has has served as a great resource on strength training for women (and male non-douches) ever since the internet was lifting tiny purple dumbbells.
My impetus for writing the first part (here) was the desire to give people something as simple as possible and still not have it suck. Although both KSD and I like to provide people with enough information to help them become independent, I realized that not everyone wanted (or needed) a full conceptual overview. Sometimes, you just want to get stuff done . . .
This is a simple program. It’s easy to understand and easy to follow – just a bit less so than the original one, which you’ll find here.
The purpose of the original LTMD Program was to provide an antidote for those of you paralyzed by too much information. The purpose of Phase II is to help you keep you moving forward while you continue to learn. As long as you’re familiar with the exercises, it’s something you can print out a copy of and bring to the gym with you right now.
Working out can be quite simple. You need only follow these three steps:
- Show up: consistency is more important than anything else
- Work hard: don’t half-ass things
- Don’t do anything stupid: skip anything wildly inefficient and always weigh risk with reward
While optimizing the efficiency of your workouts is an inevitable goal, it represents perhaps the last 10-20% of your journey. You can choose a program that isn’t great and still walk away with an A in results. Just follow the three steps above.
Let’s divide up duties: your job is to show up and work hard. My job is to give you a program that minimizes injury risks and makes good use of your time. Good? Good. Let’s get to work.
Part 1: Soft tissue
Grab a foam roller. If you don’t have a foam roller, use a medicine ball, aluminum bottle, a rolling pin, or anything else that will let you regulate pressure. Roll it along your body (or your body along it). Hit the following:
- The sides of your legs (between knee and thigh)
- Your quads and hip flexors (knee to hip)
- The inside of your thighs (by the knees and by the groin)
- Your bum
- Your upper back
- Your lats
- Whatever else feels tender
Give each area 8-12 passes. Each spot should take no more than a minute. If there’s a problem area, frequency is the key, not duration. If something’s bugging you, hit it again in an hour.
Part 2: Stretching
Pick the two tightest parts of your body and stretch them. The odds are strongly against these being any part of your back. However they are likely to be the:
- Front of your shoulder and pecs
- Hip flexors
Don’t force anything and only look at range of motion through the joint you’re stretching. Rounding your back out until you look like a hedgehog will not give you more flexible hamstrings; it will give you a bad back.
Some people consider it heretical to perform any static stretching before a workout. Ask them for links to the relevant journal articles. If they can actually name some, read them and draw your own conclusions.
Part 3: Warm-up
Spend 5-10 minutes practicing light versions of the movements you’re going to use during the strength training portion of your program. Those movements might be:
- Glute bridges
- X-band walks
- Reaching to the sky
- Bodyweight split squats
- Scapular push-ups
- Regular or knee push-ups
- Running forward
- Running backward
- Skipping sideways
- Crawling around like a ninja
Remember that the objective is not to fatigue yourself, but to prepare your body for the more intense exercise to come.
Part 4: Loading
It should feel as if you can perform one or two more reps in each set (maintaining good technique throughout) than the number prescribed. If you’re not finishing the set, you obviously selected too heavy a weight. However, if you’re finishing the set, you may be overestimating how difficult things felt. For that reason you will periodically choose one (and only one) exercise and go to failure.
Failure means not being able to perform another rep. Not for a $100,000 cash prize. Not to scare away an axe wielding maniac. That’s how you’ll know.
Naturally, you will want to take whatever precautions necessary to ensure that you don’t get hurt if you’re unable to move the weight from Point A to Point B (refer to Step 3).
Part 5: The exercises
|Day 1||Day 2|
|Circuit 1:A1 1-leg Romanian deadlift (reach overhead)
A2 Seated cable row
A3 Dumbbell bench press
4 sets of 8, rest 60 sec between circuits
B1 Goblet squat
B2 1-arm cable pulldown
B3 Plank on forearms
2-3 sets of 15, rest as needed
|Circuit 1:A1 Split squat
A3 Overhead press
4 sets of 8, rest 60 sec between circuits
B1 Low cable RDL
B2 Bench dumbbell row
B3 Side plank
2-3 sets of 15, rest as needed
Letters denote a series. For example, on Day 1 you will perform the A exercises in the order above. You will rest 60 seconds after each circuit. You will repeat this three times before going through the B exercises – again resting for 60 seconds between your first and second sequence. Within the circuit (i.e. from exercise A1 to A2), rest as little as possible. If you’re going to upchuck, of course take a moment. But push yourself — within reason — to take care of business without too much lollygagging.
Part 6: Intervals
After you finish your strength training, you’ll seal the deal with some conditioning. Intervals may not be easy but they are simple, quick and highly effective. If done properly, they will also be the most difficult 15-20 minutes of your life – every time you do them.
Here’s what you need to do:
Choose an exercise that you can perform safely at a relatively high intensity.
- I recommend a stationary bike. Swimming is ideal for many reasons but pool access is rarely convenient enough. A step mill will be fine and dandy. An elliptical machine will not be. I don’t recommend running unless you’ve already been coached or hail from Kenya. Few of us are sufficiently good natural runners. If you’re really de-conditioned, something as simple as walking fast and/or uphill may be fine
Experiment with whatever level of intensity you can safely handle.
- Seek good medical advice (not to be confused with listening to any old MD) if you have any cause to be concerned. In a healthy person, 90% of maximal heart rate is considered to be a good goal. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, then you will have to go by your own sense of difficulty. Take it easy on your first few days. Move into things progressively. Be careful.
Once you have figured out your own parameters for safe exercise, push them for one minute.
- One single minute and no more. You will do this four or five times.
In between your high intensity minutes, drop your pace as much as you need to in order to recover for your next round.
- Beginners may find they need several minutes to recover. Others may find less than one minute to be adequate. Remember that the effectiveness of this style of training has very little to do with how hard you go during your breaks. Don’t get suckered into thinking that more time at a lower intensity will be more effective. It won’t.
Part 7: Post work-out
Take a few minutes to cool down. You can and should repeat the stretches and soft tissue work from the beginning of this program.
Part 8: The big picture
This program will serve most people well for four weeks or so. I would recommend using it 2-3 times per week. You’ll simply alternate between Day 1 and Day 2, regardless of your training frequency.
Every time you revisit a day you will try to do better than the last. Before you try to up your weight, try to improve your technique. You may have noticed that doing things right is usually more difficult than doing them poorly; the same goes for lifting weights.
If you have questions or comments, please add them on the stumptuous site. Thanks!