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Do More With Less

Do More With Less
January 16, 2019 Dan Raimondi

I’ve talked about reducing choice before. When you walk into a gym and see machines, free weights, treadmills, kettlebells, bands, yoga mats- it can be hard to know where to start. And if you do pick something, what should you do? 12 reps? 5 reps? 1 set? 5 sets? Should you lower slow and under control or lift fast and explosively?

First, we should state, it’s not an either/ or dilemma. The mere fact that you’re in the gym is a win.

Second, giving yourself some constraints can help reduce the noise.

So, what are some constraints? You might decide on 2-3 exercises (I’m going to play to my own bias here and say the barbell lifts). So you decide 2-3 barbell exercises that work the entire body- head to toe, front to back. Let’s say barbell squats and presses.

Next, let’s decide on how many reps (the number of times you’ll do the exercise) and sets ( a collection of reps). 5 is an easy middle ground for developing strength. It provides 5 chances to practice the skill of lifting, it’s heavy enough to require your muscles to produce significant force, and enough repetitions to cause some muscle growth (hypertrophy). And to finish off, we’ll do 3 sets. There’s nothing magical about 3 sets of 5- it just happens to be a fine starting point.

Go in on a Monday and start with squats. Work up slowly- that is, add a little bit of weight each set until it’s mildly challenging. At that weight you’re going to do 3 sets of 5 repetitions, resting about 2-3 minutes between. Next, you’re going to do the same thing with presses. That’s Day 1.

Go in on a Thursday and start with deadlifts. Same as with the squats, start light, add a little weight each set, and work up to 3 sets of 5. And finish off with bench presses.

Twice per week, maybe for 35-45 minutes, using just a barbell. When you’ve gotten stronger, you might add in another exercise. Maybe you get stuck and need to change the number of reps you’re doing or how much weight. That’s okay. Keep a good training log so you can reference your workouts.

You don’t need to train 4-5 days per week for 2 hours a day. You don’t need a wide array of machines and expensive toys to get stronger and build muscle. They can be helpful, but don’t let the number of choices distract you- or worse, paralyze you- from the goal. Get stronger, build muscle, develop confidence, and understand that you can, in fact, do this.