Sometimes we get so caught up with the idea of "optimizing" our training that we find ourselves unable to switch gears. You don't have to be at your strongest, leanest, and fittest all the time - in fact, many strength athletes and coaches would argue against it.
"You can't have the peaks without the valleys"
Often times life gets in the way, and unfortunately we may often perceive this as a nuisance or detriment, when in fact life's inconveniences serves as a natural mode of deloading our body from mechanical stress. The downside of course is that life's inconveniences are typically fraught with mental stresses, so we have to manage those too.
Training can be very simple, or it can get very complicated. For most people it should be the former, but also remember that without practice, everything is complicated in the beginning. Acquiring skills and honing requires ACTION and AWARENESS. You must take action, but also be aware of the feedback you get from your body: the nuances of the exercise, the consequence of making mistakes, the systemic impact of the whole workout, the muscle messaging you get afterwards (Stiffness, soreness, pain, etc.), and how you adapt to that feedback. Below is a list of the ACTIONS you must take when developing your training regimen, and the part you should pay most attention to (AWARE).
ACTION - Start with the general approach - try many exercises
BE AWARE - of which ones you like best (you are more consistent when you do things you enjoy)
ACTION - Narrow your repertoire - identify a movement fundamentals checklist
BE AWARE - that when training for strength, the human body expresses mechanical efficiency within a limited series of patterns that serve as the basis for all variants (e.g. Hinge Pattern, it's derivatives include: unilateral DL, Good Morning, Hip Thrust, Glute Bridge, Inverted Plank, Hardstyle Swings, Softstyle Swings, Snatch, Clean, Broad Jump, Sprinting, Sumo Deadlift, Medball Slam, Over The Shoulder Throw / Keg Toss, ....). Start with the simplest form, and master it before experimenting.
ACTION - Train all these movement patterns 2-3x weekly, with undulating intensity
BE AWARE - that there is a minimum effective dose for training adaptions. 2x / week / muscle group or pattern is typical, with 3x / week showing a mild advantage. If you try 3x / week per movement but you find recovery taking a hit, go back to 2x / week. This presumes the presence of adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition, stress status.
Undulating intensity means:
Mon - LEGS: HEAVY, 5-8 reps, 8-10 hard sets
Thurs - LEGS: LIGHT, 12-20 reps, 6-8 sets to fatigue
If doing a third day, start with an extra light day - OR - if you are doing SPLIT TRAINING (i.e. LEGS/CHEST/BACK/ARMS all diff days) then you can have 1 extra FULL BODY day to hit ALL MUSCLE GROUPS. Keep it medium intensity, 3-4 sets per muscle group/movement.
ACTION - Predetermine your light and heavy days
BE AWARE - that when left to make the decision yourself, freedom of choice tends to reinforce your bias. So if you tend to find it difficult not going hard every session, without a set program to follow you may find yourself training every session hard & heavy and be on the fast-track to possible overtraining syndrome, AS WELL AS possibly leave some metabolic training adaptations on the table. If you tend to hold yourself back, then if left to decide you will find yourself likely not reaching your minimum effective training stimulus.
The above suggestions aren't meant for you to "optimally strategize your training periodization protocols" (don't I sound so scientific and smart?)....these are just minimum standards to ensure that the time you invest in the gym pays dividends back to your body and psyche.
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