Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The 80/20 rule of fitness (addressing beginners searching for answers)

The 80/20 principle was a philosophy developed by some Italian guy named Vilfredo Pareto about 100 years ago blah blah blah.   As much as I’m sure you want a rundown of the origins of Italian philosophy…. Let’s skip that so we don’t slip into a coma!  The 80/20 philosophy is something that I have allowed to shape my life over the last few years without even knowing it.   I read an article about old mate Pareto’s principle in some crap magazine next to the toilet when I was at a Gold Coast hotel a few years ago.   It intrigues me to this day how relevant this seemed to mesh with a lot of things in my life.   The basic theory is that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes in life.  Now let me explain for a second.   I applied this to business, a stage of depression I was suffering through, risk assessment and a host of other interesting topics.   However, I mostly found it prevalent in my world of fitness.   You see, everyone involved in the fitness industry has a grand scheme that centres around their own motives.   Some want to be millionaires (haha in the fitness industry… yeah right), some want to use it as a platform to another opportunity and some genuinely enjoy helping people (cough cough).  These grand schemes usually involve some sort of radical thinking at the start, only to be watered down later when you realise complexity is more often than not unnecessary.   So my way of thinking in fitness doesn’t involve extreme measures or radical principles because my goal is not to sell a million copies of some shit book about manipulating sodium for dieting or eating your own placenta.  
In my experience with clients and myself, its 20% of the causes that determine 80% of the outcomes!   So instead of trying to create a ridiculously over-complicated set/rep undulating periodisation schemes or getting on an extremely low carb or watermelon diet…. Just go to the gym and don’t eat shit!!  There’s plenty of time later to get tricky with your programming or manipulating your macronutrients.   Unless you hire the services of a professional, overcomplicated programming and nutrition will be the death of your progress.   Some of my best gains as an aspiring athlete were made when I had no idea what I was doing! 
Stop focussing on all the intangibles that come along with training.   You know what I’m talking about, things like “is 8 reps better than 10?”, “Should I set the angle on my bench press at 30° or 45°?”, “should I stop eating carbs at 6pm?” (that’s ridiculous by the way), “my friend said to eat a whole cabbage after training brah and he’s jacked” …..blah blah you get the point.  
As someone that is new to training or coming back from an extended lay off, the 20% of things that you should focus your time on are:

  • Hitting primarily compound lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Overhead Press).
  • Start at 3 full body session per week.
  • Track your progression (recording the weight increases).
  • Find cardio that you enjoy (more productive and less probability of procrastination).
  • Train within 6-10 reps and control your time under tension. (I have found this to be most productive amongst natural trainees).
  • Find your maintenance calorie level and learn to control/count your calorie intake.  Add or subtract 20% whether you want to cut or gain weight respectively.
  • Eat AT LEAST 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight.
  • Don’t look at either carbs or fat as the enemy!  They both have important physiological processes in the body.
  • In terms of supplements, take a multivitamin, fish oil and a whey protein source if you struggle eating a lot of whole food protein.   Everything else at a beginning stage should not exist to you.   Learn how to train and diet effectively and then add in supplementation if you feel it necessary.
  • The most important aspect is to educate yourself.   This is much harder said than done because the fitness genre is a world of contradiction.   In terms of education I would focus on research done by Layne Norton, Alan Aragon, Dan Duchaine and Lyle Mcdonald just to name a few.   These guys don’t really sell that much other than their time.   That usually a big hint (wink wink).

I feel a little strange writing this as I’m one of the most over-analytical people you would meet.   However, I would almost bet a testicle that if you focus on nothing else beside the dot points above, your fitness productivity would increase 10 fold!   Leave the bodybuilding magazines alone and stop scouring the internet for a new diet fixation.   Follow these simple guidelines (20%) and your outcomes will increase (80%).  As a beginner, less complex = more productive…..EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Train hard and don’t forget to re-rack your weights (you know who you are).   PEACE

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