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November 18, 2020 Dan Raimondi

I’ve written before about my love for heuristics. Heuristics are simple rules to guide you when action is needed. They reduce clutter by giving you general rules to follow. They’re short cuts.

Another way to think of heuristics is as defaults. Smarter folks than I have written about the importance of defaults, especially when it comes to habits and behaviors (see: Nudge).

Defaults are important. When life gets crazy, having a default helps you reduce decision making. Having default meals that you always eat for breakfast and lunch reduces the stress of having to make that decision. You have predictability.

Defaults can also work against you. If your default is to stop at the drive-through, that can be a positive or negative, depending on the circumstances (i.e. are you trying to lose weight?).

Here’s a specific default I like for my training. This is something I’d likely do if you told me to pick 1 type of workout to do.

  • Work up to a heavy single on a barbell lift.
  • Reduce the weight for 2-4 sets of 3-5 reps.
  • Reduce the weight for another 1-2 sets of 6-10 reps

That’s pretty much it. I like doing that. I generally know what a heavy single is, and I can work across a few different rep ranges to make progress. I have a stimulus for strength and size. I have some options (I can change reps, sets, and even the barbell exercise itself).

It resembles, in some ways, the conjugate training that Andy Baker has laid out in his writing.

The main point is this: what are your defaults? With training, nutrition? With any of your daily habits and behaviors? What do you fall back to, especially when life gets crazy?