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12 Insights From Lifting Weights Every Third Day

I'm a miser, mostly.

Or, to avoid sounding like a douche, I'd like to use the word, 'efficient'

I'm the guy who would love spending the least to dish out the most at any restaurant.

Of course, I like extending this wicked vice of mine to everything in life. Work, entertainment; training...

This walk on the road of exploring training economy took me towards going way beyond on the training frequency continuum and try reducing my weekly training days as less as I can.

Most of the readers here know already of how much I am a fan of training three times a week, especially when it comes to adding muscle while staying as strong as possible..

And when one dusts off some old copies of Peary Rader's Iron Man or John McCallum's Complete Keys To Progress, it isn't much of a secret how after hundreds, if not thousands of trials, these bright minds found the ideal frequency for a 'real', non steroid using population seeking muscle gain to be 2 to at most 3 days a week of solid training.

Who would benefit from an insanely (only to the ones unfamiliar to twice a week training) minimalist program such as this?

  • Busy as hell folks
  • You just had a new baby
  • People who have a highly challenged recovery
  • Someone who doesn't enjoy spending a lot of time in the gym
  • If the gym is a really long drive from your place
Of course, these are just examples. Don't let them stop you from training with a 2X program and utilize its unique merit.

So where was I? Oh yes, the program. Okay, here's what I did:

Day 1:
A1: Back Squats
A2: Incline Presses

B: Barbell Hip Thrusts

A1: Deadlift
A2: Pull Ups

B: Good Mornings

On the A exercise, I did 1 to 3 sets to 1 to 3 solid, relatively heavy reps. This was followed by 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps carried near failure to ensure a sufficient hypertrophy stimulus.

The B Exercise is simple. You only do one single set of 8 to 15 reps. Again, taken relatively closer to failure, but there's no rush.

You take two days off between each training session.

Following are the major observations I could gather from this experiment of mine:

1. It's hard to deal with the absence of training stimulus: This must have to do with the mind seeking soreness which may just subside after the first off day depending upon how stimulating the previous workout was.

2. There is a new-found time available at hand for doing more things: The benefits become more evident as we start using the newly found time for better purposes. Choices can range from cooking to playing with the kids more to pampering the wife more.

3. The mind is freer to think: This is especially true if you are like me and would like to visualize every training session days before it happens. Lesser training days puts lesser load on your mind.

4. I've to constantly stop myself from 'not doing anything: This is a challenge especially when you are coming from a high frequency program. The urge to just go and lift something will be tremendous on your off days during the initial few weeks.

5. Think in terms of Brief infrequent doses of growth igniting spurts: Each workout of yours is like a dose of Human Growth Hormone aimed towards pulling you closer to your better and stronger version. This kind of imagery helps when getting a perspective when you're training lesser. Get the hard lifts done. Then sit back and relax observing yourself grow.

6. Diet needs to be dialed in, since there are more non training days: Be responsible on those days when you once used to train and enjoy some luxury to indulge in minor overeating. That needs to be kept in check now.

7. It can sometimes get difficult to remember when is the next training day: Although I follow an 'every third day' template rather than two fixed days a week, you can as well try the latter option if you were the most memory challenged kid at school.

8. I'm literally resisting myself from hitting the gym on this second off day.

9. A great way to handle exercise addiction: Stop fantasizing over always continuing to have something heavy over your shoulders and start thinking about the life outside the gym as well. And there are few things better than this twice a week lifting pattern to help you get there.

10. Much less is needed than we think on such a training day: My initial thought was to cram my weekly training into two days. Oh, how wrong was I. One big lesson this experiment has taught me is that when it comes to training efficiency, 2+2 is not always 4. Sometimes it can 3. On other days it can be 5. If you choose your lifts wisely, very few key movements (such as the ones I chose) can give you amazing results. Don't forget that the strongest people ever have trained with a very small set of lifts diligently.

11. But you do need to train HARD. Examples of hard work: 20 rep squats, big compound lifts with a right mix of intensity or volume etc. But ease into your program rather than rushing into it headfirst.

12. When you only have that one day to train, you are compelled to give it your all compared to when you know you can always come tomorrow. Lesser training days may offer lesser opportunities to bring out your inner animal, but they may also present a lesser chance to fail.

As coach Charles Staley would put it best: "What you do not include in your twice a week lifting program is as important as what you include in it."