Posts Tagged ‘minimalist’

The 80/20 Principle and Why It’s Important for your Training Success

As a student of principles and how they impact our lives and the choices we make I want to share with you one of the most profound principles that guides my everyday thinking. This principle validates my minimalist approach to training and productivity.

The 80/20 principle was popularized by Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto in the late 18th century and states that 80 percent of your results in any endeavor will come from 20 percent of your actions and behaviors.

This concept is vitally important when considering your strength training regime. Selecting your most efficient and effective movements (unique to each individual) will channel and enhance the bodies response and results. Not all movements are equally beneficial for all people. One person’s exercise can be very healing while that same movement can be destructive for someone else.

I have been training people for over 23 years and coincidentally figured out I was applying the 80/20 principle to all my clients. I started seeing trends with my clients in that most of them responded well to specific movements and focusing on those movements we were able to achieve higher levels of strength, fitness and fat loss.

So let’s say hypothetically a client does 6 to 8 movements per training session, if you apply the 80/20 principle you will want to spend most of your time focusing on one or two of the movements.  That doesn’t mean you won’t do other movements, it just means you will prioritize the essential ones.

You may be asking, “how do I really know which movements fall into the 20 percent?”

If you find that you are consistently getting stronger in one or two particular movements compared to other movements, you more than likely have found your 20 percent.  If you are not making great gains with a movement or it consistently injures you, that may be a sign that that movement is not in your 20 percent repertoire. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t perform it but it’s probably not going to be the movement to help you best achieve your goals.

In the world of strength training your top 20 percent lifts will allow you to:

  1. Safely load your entire body and get maximal activation of your Central Nervous System. You don’t want to aggressively load the movements that are not in your 20 percent and may cause you injury.
  2. Increase intensity in speed and/or load. This will ensure that the body constantly has to adapt to incremental changes over time which will lead to optimal hormonal health.  
  3. Capitalize on your natural anatomical individuality.

For example: Some people have longer femurs and longer arms which gives them a mechanical advantage for the barbell deadlift. A person with shorter arms and legs can still be awesome at the deadlift but might find that the Squat pattern feels better for them and allows them to use more load.  Same thing rings true for bench pressing and pulling movements. It’s hard to deny that some people are born with anatomical gifts that allow them to excel at a given movement.

Most people will naturally gravitate towards either be a hinge dominant or squat dominant person. Being one or the other doesn’t mean anything negative, it just means your body is better designed to excel at either hinging or squatting. Some rare individuals will be excellent in both. Regardless of your genetic make up, you still want to be able to hinge and squat well.

Hinge Dominant People 

  • Tend to have longer legs and shorter torsos.
  • Longer arms.
  • Will tend to gravitate towards the hinge movements because they naturally feel better with the hinge.
  • Tend to have stiffer ankles and less hip mobility (but this is not always the case).

Squat Dominant People 

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  • Shorter legs and longer torsos.
  • Shorter arms.
  • Will tend to gravitate towards squat like movements because they feel better and enjoy the movement.
  • Tend to have more mobile ankles and hips.

Do you think you are better at hinging or squatting?

Do you have a history with excelling at one particular movement?

Has one of these movements consistently injured you?

Examine your training history and it should shed some light on which movements fall into the 20 percent for you.

I recommend still training your weaker movement but don’t spend as much time on it as your stronger 20 percent movements. Spend more time perfecting what comes naturally to you (20 percent) and you will accelerate your results. That is smart training in my book.

The goal of training should be to stimulate the body, not inhibit it or kill it. Keep your volume sensible and don’t let your training today ruin your training for tomorrow. Quality and minimalist routines trump complicated training plans and overtraining. Focus on the vital few and watch your training success go through the roof.

In the coming weeks I will be expanding on how to find your 20 percent movements and how to use this in programming your training to best reach your goals.

Your questions and feedback are always welcome and I would love to hear what you think about this important training principle.

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28 Day Minimalist Training Plan

Welcome to the 28 Day Minimalist Program.

What inspired this program was my attempt at helping my wife regain strength and fitness after a grueling pregnancy and long recovery post delivery. Having once been a self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast, now deconditioned and fatigued, her motivation for training was almost non-existent.

I employed my go to movements and workout philosophy that guides me every day in my personal training regime in an attempt to support her getting back on track. It occurred to me that this simple yet very effective way of training is not well known to people yet could effect immense benefit.

This program is based on EDT philosophy (Escalating Density Training), a method of training developed by Strength Coach Charles Staley back in the 90’s. EDT requires super setting only two movements repeatedly (as many as you can) in the allotted time frame.

In my program, I’m suggesting a 10 minute block for each day. Simply put you will do as many high quality sets as possible in 10 minutes and then you are done. Write down how many sets and reps you did and the next time you repeat the workout try and beat your previous number by at least one rep. This is NOT a speed workout. Keep the movements controlled and the form crisp. As your fitness capacity increases, so will your set count.

Below you will find three training programs that you do twice a week for 10 minutes at a time. I highly stress the importance of performing quality movements than attempting to beat your number. Take as much rest as you need to ensure better form.

Why a minimalist program:

  • Designed to only require a 10-minute commitment using full body movements.
  • Movements are global and systemic allowing more benefit in a shorter amount of time
  • Multi-joint exercises result in a positive hormonal response that lends itself to building muscle and losing body fat in a short amount of time. (Multi-joint exercises are movements that engage as many of your joints and muscles to work as possible, simultaneously).
  • The 10-minute routines are short enough to help you stay consistent and build momentum.
  • The 10 minutes you actually do is better than the hour long routine you will not do.

Why these movements:

Turkish Getup:

This ancient wrestling exercise involves getting off the floor with a kettlebell overhead. Done properly it improves rotational power, shoulder and hip stability, balance and core stability. People often ask me “what muscle does that work”, to which I respond “all of them.”

  • Strengthens shoulders, hips and core.
  • Mobilizes shoulder and thoracic spine supporting overall body function and performance.
  • Restores the natural rotational patterns of the body.

Goblet Squat:

This Squat variation with a kettlebell allows you to develop hip strength and mobility at the same time. Easy to learn, this movement builds a resilient and strong core while improving posture and leg power.

  • Builds leg strength and power.
  • Strengthens glutes, quads, hamstrings and spinal extensors.
  • Improves ankle, hip and thoracic spine mobility.

Single Leg Deadlift:

This exercise improves your ability to safely move from the hip joint. Effective “hinging” from the hips increases glute and hamstring activation, while simultaneously improving core stability and posture. Performing the movement on one leg also improves ankle and hip stability as well as balance. Strengthens the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, lumbar erectors).

  • Strengthen foot and ankle.
  • Improves hip mobility and trunk stability simultaneously.

Renegade Row:

The Renegade Row is done in a prone position and heavily taxes the core and hips. This drill also helps you learn how to resist rotation while you pull a weight off the ground. The rowing action strengthens the shoulders and lats. This movement is as full body as it gets.

  • Teaches you to resist trunk and pelvis rotation while under load.
  • Strengthens abdominal and hip muscles.
  • Improves upper body strength.

Reverse Lunge:

These days more than ever people need strong glutes. Sitting puts the glutes to sleep and that can be a precursor to people getting lower back pain. The reverse lunge involves you stepping backwards, which strengthens the glutes more than other lunging variations. This movement builds powerful legs and a strong spine.

  • Build leg strength and power.
  • Focuses on building the Glutes and Hamstrings.

Kneeling Press:

This kneeling press variation encourages a more active core/ trunk area. By removing the support of the legs good posture and full engagement of the glutes and abs is heightened. This is an excellent drill to reinforce proper pressing mechanics by setting up a strong structural foundation.

  • Improves ability to stabilize trunk while using arms.
  • Strengthens entire shoulder region.
  • Helps gain awareness on how posture affects function.

The  Weekly Breakdown: 

Monday and Thursday

Getup  1 Left / 1 Right
Goblet Squat  5 Reps

x 10 minutes

Tuesday and Friday

Single Leg Deadlift 5/5

Renegade Row 5/5  

x 10 minutes.

Wednesday and Saturday

Reverse Lunge 5/5

Kneeling Press 5/5

x 10 minutes.

Walk 1 Hour on Sunday.

So there you have it.

Three short yet highly effective training plans to get you into the habit of training almost every day. Ten minutes is repeatable and sustainable. All the movements are multi joint exercises that stimulate great amounts of muscular activation.

Commit to this training plan for 28 days and you will notice a positive increase in energy, strength and stamina. 

As always your feedback and questions are always welcome.

Stay busy, train smart!


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