Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Dredded "Linear" Training Method

Weights, cardio, then maybe some abs...This may sound like a pretty familiar gym routine to most of you. In fact, this sounded a lot like my workout regimen a couple years ago until results became scarce and severe boredom set in. This common misinterpretation of a good workout program appeals to the masses, but then again, masses of people are not accomplishing shit for their hard work. This popular workout style is what I like to call "Linear Training".
What exactly is Linear Training? Well, simply put, Linear Training is any program that ignores most of the fitness principles for the sake of achieving one specific goal.

For Example:
-Jack is a 22 year old male looking to "get stronger".
-Jack searches the internet for a program that will help him achieve his goals.
-Jack finds a program that requires him to engage in strength training 3 days a week.
-Jack's program states that if he consistently works with heavier weights in the 4-6 rep range, he will indeed get stronger and "become an animal".

Month 1: Jack gets off to a good start, steadily able to "lift more weight". He feels the program is working.

Month 2: Jack's improvements are consistent. After 8 weeks, he notices that he has put on some muscle mass.

Month 3: Jack is happy with his gains in appearance and strength but he feels his improvements slowing. Week 13, Jack plays a game of pickup basketball with his buddies. He feels sluggish and manages to pull his hamstring halfway through the game.

This is a very common occurrence for most recreational athletes and it shouldn't be. Jack's injury and "sluggish" feeling during the game is a direct result of his poor training program. Although he saw improvements in size and strength, his program neglected to address other important fitness components such as flexibility, balance, and endurance to name a few. We can conclude that Jack's gains may be useless to the improvement of his health and lifestyle.

So how can we avoid the meathead approach to building sloppy, useless muscle? Here is a list to help you improve your next workout...

-Consistently adjust the intensity (weights, reps, rest periods, etc.) and duration of your workout sessions.
-Don't just focus on weights. Utilize other tools available to you such as bands, stability balls, kettlebells, medicine balls, etc. *Can't afford equipment or a gym membership? Don't forget to use your own bodyweight. There are countless exercises that can be done without any equipment whatsoever. These movements can be tougher and more effective than using equipment!
-After a few months of training, stay away from machines! Machines won't strengthen stabilizer muscles the way free movements will. At a more experienced stage, only use machines for rehab purposes.
-Stretch daily. Muscle flexibility is very important in preventing injury and maximizing workout effectiveness. Try a yoga class to enhance your stretching experience.
-Play sports? Mimic athletic movement patterns with bands, med balls, and weights. The resistance band torso rotation is a great exercise to strengthen your slapshot or bat swing.
-Focus on core movements that activate many muscle fibers throughout the body. Pushups, pullups, squats, and variations of the three are extremely beneficial for improving core strength as well as the targeted muscle groups.
-Have fun! Try a class that appeals to you or bring your workouts outside on a nice day. This will help to keep you motivated and on track to reach your goals.

TRX Boot Camp.


  1. What would you recommend for a workout plan which would apply your tips in the post? I have a full-time office job, but I would like to remain fit.

    If you could throw in some tips for nutrition, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

  2. Great question Alex. For starters, I would recommend that you stay consistent with a 3 Day a Week program for the first 8 weeks. Here is an example for what you would want to accomplish in those three days...

    Monday__Upper Body (Power)

    Wednesday__Lower Body (Strength)

    .....Monday and Wednesdays workout focus (Strength and Power) should be reversed each week for Upper and Lower Body, for instance:

    Monday__Upper Body (Strength)

    Wednesday__Lower Body (Power)..................

    Friday__Full Body (Muscular Endurance)

    All of these workouts should include exercises that will target the core.
    Ex. Upper Body (Strength)
    Pullups, Pushups, Pushup Rows, Standing Shoulder Press, etc.
    Lower Body (Power)
    Squat Jumps w/Med Ball, Cleans, Mountain Climbers, etc.

    As far as nutrition goes here are some quick tips...
    -Eat every 2-4 hours
    -Shoot for 4-6 smaller meals a day.
    -Drink at least 2 Liters of water per day
    -Stay away from Salty, Sugary, and Fatty Liquids/Condiments (Soda, Heavy Salad Dressings, Sauces, Ketchup, Mayo, Gravy)
    -Too add taste to your food use spices. They will help you burn fat!
    -Consume .8g to 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight (200 lbs: 160-200g of protein)

    Hope this helps. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any more questions. . Thanks!