Everyone should have a training philosophy – a set of fundamentals that you believe are so true that all of your training and nutrition plans are built upon them, no matter the goal. In physics, they call them laws.
Only with a philosophy can a system be built. And only with a system, can you achieve kaizen. (provided you have a feedback loop in place to continually assess the system)
So, it starts with fundamentals.
What training and nutrition beliefs are you so confident in that you wouldn’t design a program without them in it?
What are you willing to risk your reputation on or defend until your death?
For me, it’s the Fab Five below.
You’ll notice they aren’t very specific. You won’t see an exact rep scheme, nor will you see any specific exercises. You also won’t see a diet with specific macro’s nor foods you can and cannot eat.
For one… I believe a fundamental must be elastic enough that it can be applied to any training/nutrition situation. If a guy wants to lose 25 pounds, the fundamentals must apply. If a guy wants to gain 10lbs of muscle, the same fundamentals must apply. If a guy wants to bench 300lbs or to run a 5k, again, the same fundamentals must apply.
Secondly, I’ve been in the industry for over a decade. I’ve seen enough firsthand and spoke with enough coaches who have been doing this far longer than I have to know that damn near everything works for someone…. for a little while. Crossfit works. Long-distance running works. Bodybuilding works. The Atkin’s Diet works. Paleo works. Intermittent fasting works. But…. they don’t work for everyone all of the time. And that’s the issue and why fundamentals are needed. There has to be something that success stories from all of these different training methodologies and diets have in common, and we know it’s not the sets/reps, macro’s, or mode of exercise. Fundamentals…
The Fab 5 Fundamentals for ZadBod
The Minimum Effective Dose (MED)
We live in a reality where we believe more is always better. More money. More likes. More sex. More beer. More pizza.
And not surprisingly, that’s trickled into our exercise and nutrition plans. If 3 sets are good, 20 sets are better. If 120 grams of protein is good, 250 grams is better.
That erroneous belief has forced us to ignore three very important concepts that, unlike the “more idea,” are actually true:
- The law of diminishing returns – Adding additional energy, time, or effort results in smaller increases in gainz that to the naked eye are pretty much nonexistent.
- The Pareto Principle – 80% of our gainz results from 20% of our effort.
- Time is finite, priceless, and the ultimate end goal for everything we do.
With those three concepts in mind, it’s easy to see the importance of providing the minimum effective dose when designing training and nutrition programs, especially for busy guys.
Why perform 20 sets per body part when 12 sets work just as well? Why count macro’s to get to your weight loss goal when just tracking calories will get you there? Why put RDL’s, squats, and leg curls in a program when the trap bar deadlift will do just as well?
I don’t know about you, but even though I enjoy the gym, I don’t want to spend any more time there than I have to. I have lawns to mow, NBA to watch, and a daughter to play with. The MED allows me to do all of that and more.
As my favorite bodybuilding coach Vince Gironda used to say – when in doubt, do less.
Consistency > Intensity
And that’s the perfect segue into the next fundamental… Consistency always trumps intensity when it comes to sustainable results.
Of course, we already knew that from the tortoise and the hare, but Amazon’s next day shipping has made us second guess the order of importance of those two things.
As you can see, that’s why using the MED is so important. The MED is the what and the consistency is the why.
You and I both have that friend that goes from 0 to 100 mph in everything he does. When it comes to weight loss, he spends $500 on supplements, exercises 2 hours a day, and eats no more than 1,000 calories per day. In one word, we describe him as INTENSE. And it works… for about 3 weeks and then he fizzles out.
When the Atkin’s Diet was popular, I can’t tell you how many of members at my gym lost 15+ pounds in the first 3 weeks. However, by week 8, they were right back to where they started (and then some). The low carbs were just too intense for it to be consistently done.
The key to every long-term success story is always consistency.
It comes down to a simple question – Can I do this 90% of the time forever?
The 4 Horsemen of ZadBod
I have to credit Coach Dan John for this fundamental. He was the first to talk about quadrants and categories when designing programs. Although I also evaluate guys using 4 categories, the categories I use are slightly different than his.
In my opinion, a Vitruvian Guy needs to be balanced in 4 areas, which I refer to as the 4 Horsemen for all of you WCW fans out there.
- Body fat
- Muscle Mass
To neglect even one area results in you being unbalanced and missing out on something in life. Why accept either/or when there’s always and?
So, before any program is developed, we assess these 4 areas and see which one needs the most improvement. We then create a program that addresses that weakness while still training the other 3 areas. Our goal is to get all 4 areas up to par. And by par, I don’t mean a 500lb deadlift, 6% body fat, 18″ biceps, and a mile in under 6 minutes. I’m talking about attainable goals in each area for even the most out of shape dad.
Side note: Please don’t talk to me about interference. I know about mTor and ampk as well as most of the other pathways associated with muscle protein synthesis and endurance. You can run and still gain muscle and strength. You can bulk and still have abs. It just has to be done intelligently with the understanding that you’re not going to win Mr. Olympia or the Boston Marathon.
Better > Best
I live in the real world. This is a world where pizza and beer are always served with Monday Night Football, where a sick kid can keep you up all night and you still have to put in 8 hours at your job the next day, and where mistakes happen frequently.
Unfortunately, many coaches live in an ideal world. This is a world where kale salad and chicken breasts are served with every meal, kids sleep 8 hours every night, and your willpower is unbreakable, even in the face of a Papa John’s meat lover’s pizza.
My friend, the ideal world doesn’t exist. And when a coach makes a program for the ideal world, you’ll get off track before you even get started and immediately toss it aside.
As a Vitruvian Guy, we’re focused on better rather than best.
Would hitting the gym 5 days per week be ideal? Yes. But…. if you haven’t been exercising at all, going for a 20-minute walk 3 times per week is better.
Would green beans and salmon be an ideal dinner? Yes. But…. if you’ve been eating McDonald’s every night for the past 4 years, eating a burger on the grill would be better.
And because we all know that consistency is king when it comes to results, we should always focus on finding better, sustainable ways – not the best, most ideal way.
Better ways are small, subtle improvements that are almost painless to make. They take little time, willpower, and effort. And just like dominoes, if you focus on continually making better ways, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish and more importantly, sustain.
Expand > Contract
Once again, I stole this from Coach Dan John. It was the big picture thinking I needed to be doing when assessing the success of my programs. As soon as I read it, I started applying it to not just my programs, but everything in my life – my businesses, my relationships, my hobbies, etc.
Did the program expand or contract your life?
If you reached every goal we set out to accomplish but answered no to that question, I have failed you because this entire thing we’re doing has one purpose – to expand your life outside the gym.
If it doesn’t allow you to squeeze more out of life, then why do it?
If I can’t give a guy more energy so he doesn’t just come home from work and be glued to his couch, I have failed.
If I can’t help a dad move better so he can play catch with his son, I have failed.
If I can’t give a guy more strength, stamina, and confidence to be a better father, husband, neighbor, and friend, I have failed.
Without question, I believe that fitness and nutrition are keystone habits that makes all else possible. Without fitness, you don’t have health. And without health, you simply cannot sustain happiness.
Your goals are important but don’t miss the forest for the trees.
Putting It All Together
I’m notorious for attempting to do two things at once. I’ll listen to my wife in one ear and an audiobook in the other. Or, I’ll have one eye babysitting my daughter while the other eye is locked on an NBA game. Unfortunately, when I do that, I end up sucking at both. As my wife could often be heard saying, “Tj, did you hear me? You men are terrrrrrrrrrible at multi-tasking.”
And that’s the truth. We are.
Unfortunately, we do the exact same thing when it comes to losing weight. We try a new diet and fitness program at the same time (multi-tasking) and after a few weeks we end up quitting both. Why? Because we’re terrible multi-taskers.
Instead, The Vitruvian Guy philosophy starts with one step(skill) and stays with that step until it’s mastered or we hit a plateau. And because this isn’t high school calculus, there are only 3 steps in my philosophy:
- Tracking (awareness)
Bam. That’s it.
I know it looks too simple to work, but as one of my high school basketball coaches used to say about the game of basketball, “It’s a simple game. Put the round ball in the round rim a few more times than the other team.”
He was right. Basketball really is that simple. So is losing losing 20lbs, running your first 5k, or getting abs.