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November 25, 2020 Dan Raimondi

I got into strength training when I was a kid because I was short and little and I didn’t want to be short and little. I didn’t want to be made fun of and I certainly didn’t want to get beat up.

So my dad bought my brother and me some weights and we got a pull up bar and I tried to learn how to lift. I glanced at some muscle magazines occasionally, and, eventually stumbled onto the internet to try and figure more out.

My early exposure to strength training wasn’t a singular approach. I didn’t go right into powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting. I didn’t go right into machines or kettlebells or bands or whatever else. I tried a lot of stuff.

I used my bodyweight to do pull ups and push ups and dips. I used dumbbells and barbells. I’d even use some machines at the local YMCA on Saturday nights. I liked to ride my bike, run on the beach, paddle my kayak, and swim, so I did those too.

It was only years later that I did a powerlifting meet and few years later I did an Olympic lifting meet. I had broad exposure to lots of different stuff.

I think this helped for a few reasons.

  1. I don’t consider myself a powerlifter or an Olympic lifter or a kettlebell guy or runner or whatever. I like to train and that training can shift focus depending on the time of the year and what my goals are. It helps with my motivation to train.
  2. Because I don’t link my identity to 1 particular type of training, I don’t really care that much if I need to take a break from said training. If I can’t squat with a barbell because of some nagging ache or pain, I have no issue switching to a different type of squat or changing it up altogether. I can pivot easily when life gets in the way, and life often gets in the way.
  3. I tried a variety of things and can move in a variety of ways. I think there’s something to be said for having balance in your training. I use “balance” as Jim Wendler describes it, as a way to counter where your training is top-heavy. Becoming more of a generalist and less of a specialist. Being able to walk upstairs without being out of breath as a powerlifter or being able to lift a respectable weight if you’re an endurance athlete.

We train the basic barbell exercises at my gym in the first 4-6 weeks. We cover the squat, press, deadlift, and bench press. We’ll toss in stuff like rows, pull ups/pulldowns, and power cleans. My advice above seems to run counter to the approach to training. Why not more variety? I think you need to look at variety in the long term, not just the short. Too much different stuff hinders learning. Repetition for 4-6 weeks to learn a new skill seems reasonable. 4-6 years without change seems unwise.

What’s the takeaway? Branch out and learn new stuff. You don’t need to stop doing what you love, and you may discover a new skill that you want to pursue or a new goal you think might be fun. At some point in training, the progress slows considerably. It can be fun in those moments to switch your goals in the short term to keep making progress and, hopefully, keep yourself going in the long run.