Really? Only Once a Week?

Yes really!  Only once a week, now you can’t be a couch potato. But if you really want to see some great gains in strength, reduce over-training and dramatically reduce your risk to injury as a result. If you also want to increase your chances of really sticking to a strength training regime. This is remarkably effective. Is it the only way. No of course not, but for the majority of the population, if we could shift the paradigm, many would really benefit.

I have noticed an interesting thing since I’ve opened up shop down here in Puerto Rico and have been advertising “Change your life, once a week.” Friends of my clients are asking, and they will ask my clients. Is it really only once a week? They’ll say yeah! I only go and see him once a week. I’m the strongest I’ve been in years!  If ever! Experiencing this approach helps with creating that shift in attitude, but despite my clients success, I also do not have people lined out the door clamming to get in and train with me. I sense that they just can’t wrap their brain around it.

Ironically, or sadly, there are many who may have never picked up a weight, or done intense exercise, but thanks to the Industrial Fitness complex and its permeation throughout the culture, still have been brainwashed to believe that you just can’t get the results you want without training multiple times a week. The result is that there are so many who just are not willing to even experiment and give this approach an honest shot.

Now I’m also not surprised by this. Arthur Jones experienced this battle his entire career, so did Mike Mentzer. Even Dorian Yates, despite all of his success, still seems to work with a lot of trainers, coaches, and other various athletes, who just struggle to believe that one hard, intense working set is all that is required to really trigger the stimulation we are looking for to build more strength and muscle.

What is often forgotten in this debate is that the lads I mentioned above, didn’t just make this up. It came from years of experience and discovery. When I was certifying in I.A.R.T. We read Arthur Jone’s notes and published work on nautilus training and his biography. What was great to read was over the years, he gradually reduced the frequency of his client’s training and often surprised himself that despite the reduced volume, and frequency, his clients would see even better gains/improvements.

In fact pretty much all of the trainers and athletes you meet who are advocates of this approach came upon this largely because they had experienced some setbacks or plateaus and started doing this because they literally had tried everything else. They also, if they were anything like me really struggled to dial down the frequency of their strength training. I have written before how it took a while before I finally settled on once a week, and being okay with occasionally having to miss a week.

I’ll conclude with a couple great stories I read in the book titled “The Sport Gene” by David Epstein. In it he recounts the story of Danish shot putter Joachim Olsen. In it one of his coaches, So Jasper Anderson, after testing Olsen’s fast twitch to slow twitch fiber ratio, had discovered in fact that he had a much higher ratio of fast twitch fibers than many others he was competing with and against. Now some brief science.  Your fast twitch fibers are powerful! They are the fibers that can grow in size when stimulated and take much longer than your slow twitch fibers to recover/heal. They are chiefly there for your fight or flight response and are therefore used sparingly by your body. As in even in an “all-out” power effort they are the last to fire. So what did they do?  Coach Anderson, reduced Olen’s frequency and volume of weight training. Dramatically! Instead infrequently having him lift really heavy weight. The result?  Joachim Olsen’s muscles ballooned and he won bronze at Athens in 2004.  He had a stellar career, becoming something of a celebrity in Denmark, so much so that they elected him to the Danish Parliament in 2011. Now strength training, using weights, is designed primarily to force you to work your fast twitch fibers. Regardless of those ratios in your own body and genetic limits, the reality is that it requires more time for them to recover. These fibers simply cannot tolerate as much training as the other fiber types. This means that athletes who have higher ratios of fast twitch fiber, simply can’t tolerate as much training as other athletes. This has been pointed out as an issue for the Danish soccer team as well. In soccer, speed kills, but where are Denmark’s speedsters? Amazingly most end up washing out early in their careers from injury. “The guys with a lot of fast-twitch fibers that can contract their muscles very fast have much more risk of a hamstring injury, for instance, than the guys who cannot do the same type of explosive contraction but who never get injured.” – (The Sport Gene)

With these new insights into fiber type and genetics, Denmark’s soccer federation is slowly coming around, but the changes are slow. It is the old school training paradigms and the “doing as much as possible” philosophy which is very difficult to override. But there are more intelligent ways of training and these ideas are slowly filtering into the mainstream as more and more experience the resulting success of using these approaches.