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There Are No Training Secrets

What stimulated this article was an experience I had last week. As described in the About Me page I’m currently living in SLC Utah training full time at the speed skating oval trying to make National or Olympic qualifying trials (making the team, of course, is the ultimate dream).

The Big Kid Wants Training Secrets

Anyhow, last week I made friends with one of the other skaters (most of the skaters at the oval are, shall we say, unfriendly. Coming from me that’s saying a lot. I personally think they carry the same elitist prick gene that road cyclists carry but I digress). He’s young and big, I shall call him The Big Kid (TBK).

So TBK and I are at dinner talking skating. He tells me that he moved down here to try and make the national team. Ok, I’m down. Except that when I see him at the rink, he’s usually spending more time hitting on the chicks instead of training.

TBK also opines that he is just convinced that the top guys must have some secret. Ah, there’s the rub, he’s still looking for secrets instead of realizing that the only secret is ass busting work over a long period of time. And that’s what stimulated this article.

I still get emails, see posts to my forum, etc. from people looking for that elusive training or diet secret. Something quick and easy, preferably in pill form that can be taken and make you great without putting in ass busting work over a long period of time.

Shortcuts are The American Way

Now, this is the American way, look for a quick fix secret instead of realizing that the only way to succeed is with ass busting work over a long period of time. Give me a pill, a piece of equipment, a piece of clothing (UnderArmor being the new clothing of choice for gym posers everywhere). Anything except for having to put in ass busting work over a period of time.

Anything. Supplement companies, magazines, equipment companies use this to their advantage. Read a muscle magazine, a fishing magazine, a women’s magazine, all use the same cover boilerplate that promises training, fishing or sex secrets. It’s the same wording.

  • 10 Training Secrets for Muscle Building
  • 10 Bassmaster Secrets for Catching a Big Lunker
  • 10 Sex Secrets You Can Use Tonight

Now, this reminds me of me when I was back in college, an athlete who desperately wanted to be better and who got sucked into all of the crap in the magazines. This magic supplement, this magic training program, I read the muscle magazines religiously for years just so I wouldn’t miss that one issue that contained the secret.

Then I got my head (partially anyhow) out of my ass.

Over time, as I gained experience (and the horror of all horrors: maturity), I realized that there are no secrets. The equation is simply ass busting work + time = results. There are no shortcuts, no secrets, no easy solutions (except drugs).

Sure, you need to train smart, you need to apply good principles to your diet and training and some stuff is relatively more effective than other stuff. But once you’ve got the basics, all you can do is bust ass for a long period of time. Or take drugs. Both work and, of course, drugs are easier. See my bromocriptine booklet for example.

So with that said, I give you the training and diet secrets I have developed over the past decade (note: this is why I’ll never be a best selling author).

Training Secrets for Size and Strength Gains (for naturals)

  1. If you are natural, you must get stronger to get bigger. If, over time, you are not adding weight to the bar, you are not growing.
  2. Training a bodypart less than 2X/week will not give you optimal gains. An upper/lower split done Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri is close to optimal for most. Full body twice a week can work very well. Once every 5th day is the least frequently I would ever recommend a natural train. You’ll get less sore training more frequently and you’ll grow better. Save once/week bodypart training for pro bodybuilders (read: steroid users) and the genetically elite.
  3. When in doubt, do less volume, not more. You don’t need a zillion sets to stimulate hypertrophy, the bullshit written in the magazines to the contrary. If you can’t get it done in 4-8 hard sets (sometimes less, rarely more)per muscle group, you need to learn to train with focus and intensity. I had a friend who sold supplements one time who kept asking me to design him a product that would really work. I told him to make a supplement that would make people work hard in the gym and watch their diets. He thought I was joking.
  4. Generally, basic compound exercises are best but isolation stuff has its place. Same for the machines versus free weights ‘argument’: both have their place. Anybody who tell you that you MUST do a certain exercise is arguing from an emotional stance, not a physiological one.
  5. If you think you can gain muscle without eating sufficient food or calories, you should quit bodybuilding and take up something easier, like golf. You can’t magically make muscle out of nothing, you need calories and protein to grow. If you can’t buckle down to eat enough on a consistent basis, you won’t grow an ounce of muscle. And spare me the excuses that you’re not hungry or your schedule won’t allow it. It’s about priorities, eat more or stay skinny.
  6. Most hardgainers train like idiots and don’t eat enough.
  7. Diets should be based around whole foods first, supplements second. Remember the hoopla over zinc and testosterone and ZMA from Balco (hi Victor, hope you’re enjoying the forced sodomy in jail)? Red meat is a great source of zinc, iron, B12 and protein. Not to mention who knows how many other trace nutrients that are involved in optimal human physiology. Eat it every day. Remember all of that crap about indole 3 carbinole. Guess what, it’s found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Every time you hear about a new magic compound, 99 times out of 100 it’s found in some whole food that you’re probably not eating. Eat whole foods with a shitpile of veggies every day.
  8. There is no singular best protein, each one has pros and cons. Generally, I thinnk casein is better for dieting, whey for around workouts, whole proteins the rest of the time. You can’t beat milk (and the dairy calcium has benefits on bodyfat). I think mixing proteins at a given meal is a good idea to eliminate any shortcomings of one. I think food combining (or protein rotation) is a lot of hippy holistic bullshit.  You can read more about this in The Protein Book.

Training Secrets for Fat Loss

  1. You can’t magically lose weight unless you eat less or burn more calories with activity. Not unless you take drugs and those either make you eat less or burn more anyhow.
  2. Don’t complain about how much you hate dieting or exercise. You can either change your diet and activity patterns, or you can stay fat. Those are your two options, except for drugs.
  3. To lose weight and keep it off you must change some aspect of your training and diet and do it forever.
  4. All diet books, no matter what line of bullshit they sell you, are working in terms of what’s in #3. Cutting all of the carbs out of your diet will generally make you eat less, so will cutting out all of the fat, so do diets taht change your eating habits in one fashion or another. Some books go the activity route. At the end of the day, even if they tell you that you don’t have to eat less to lose weight, they will trick you into doing it one way or another

Note: My job, as diet book author, is to turn Eat Less, Exercise, Repeat Forever into a 300 page book. Most diet books do it with 150 pages of recipes.

Everything else that you may come across, including my various gibberings in my books, are just details on the above. But at a fundamental level, until you are dealing with that 1% of 1% of trainees (elite athletes, bodybuilders trying to get to 5% bodyfat without muscle loss), those secrets are about all you need to know.

The ONLY True Dieting and Training Secret

If you want a true training secret, the one that all elite athletes know, here it is.

Hard Work + Consistency + Time = Results.

Burn that into your head and quit looking for quick fixes and secrets.

Because they don’t exist.

Well except for this one of course.

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14 thoughts on “There Are No Training Secrets

  1. You gave the beef on the people with natural lean mass. What about the people who are (apparently) naturally fat and slobby, the ones without any genetic strengths in terms of being muscular and strong but still want to get muscle and lose fat at the same time? Do you have any specific advice: after all, you are not advocating them to eat more, are you, when you say “you can’t put on muscle without a calorie surplus”? Or is that valid only for the naturals?

  2. Folks carrying excess body fat (especially if they are newbies) can often gain muscle while losing fat at the same time, without having to eat at a surplus. They should simply put a good basic training program in place and either eat at maintenance or a slight deficit, recomposition (gaining muscle while losing fat) will geenrally be the outcome.

    Once leaned out, they can worry about explicit muscle gaining and dieting phases.


  3. I love those last 2 lines, about quick fixes and secrets and about them not existing; if everyone believed that then it’d be the end of all infomercials for any weight loss/bodybuilding products. And that equation, can be simply reversed to show how one could be in a position in which they are overweight and unhealthy:

    no work + consistent bad diet + time = obesity

    so to think that there’s an equation out there short of anything that is the exact opposite of the above is illogical.

  4. aaahahaha. i love this guy! no bullshit. just straight up real factual truth.

    best article i’ve ever read.

  5. First, I want to thank you for putting up all the facts without any crap. This stuff is the truth and that is why I will continue to read your articles and books. (and recommend them to others)

    One question though: I pretty much understand how to gain muscle. I also pretty much understand how to lose fat. However, how do you do both, because you have to eat a surplus for one and a deficit for another? Do you just have to alternate between gaining and losing, like 2 weeks gaining, 2 weeks losing fat? My body type is about average, not a hard gainer or a fast gainer, and my goal is under 9% bodyfat, which is not that far away for me, while weighing about 195 lbs (I currently weight 188lbs), but I cannot seem to get past where I am at right now.

    Thank you very much for your help, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your writing.

  6. I love you… (no homo) I’m slowly going to buy all of your books 🙂 2 down, 4(?) to go!

  7. I competed in T&F competitions for my home country when I was younger, and it always seemed like everyone in individual sports was more aloof and unfriendly than the people with whom I played team handball. The team guys tended to be more gregarious, and I wondered whether it was a case of temperament types (introverts vs. extroverts) being attracted to certain types of activities.

  8. Very true..most skinny guys do train like idiots and undereat… Plus they are afraid of gaining a bit fat and want to have those abzz/chest/biceps.. nothing more.. Pitty..

  9. Man…

    This is one straightforwarding article!
    Been laughing at every line, it’s SO TRUE! ahhahahahhahah!

    Thanks, thanks, thanks 😉

  10. Agree whole-heartedly. Makes sense intituitively. Also makes sense in terms of anti-wish fullfillment.

    Also, my personal experience from some pretty dramatic, but safe and on program weight loss, was that “energy math works”. I was running 4#/week weight loss, raised daily diet from 1500 to 2000 calories. Guess what: loss rate went to 3#/week. Do the math. It works. Similar examples from adding an extra hour of biking (got the expected loss). Even similar inituitions from getting much smaller (went from 230 to 160) in terms of the lower calories burned by having a smaller body mass.

    I think, ESPECIALLY for men, that if they just stay on PLAN (eat enough protein, but then a shitload of salad) that they will drop just fine. I won an online contest…and I didn’t do anything funky. Just followed the damn PLAN! 😉

  11. Hey lyle thank you for sharing and writing from your experience. I think I speak for everyone when I say we apperciate your knowledge and understanding and the fact that you share it feely. Thank you

  12. I really bought into the Zone bs in the late 90s. I lost a lot of weight but I looked like a wasted prison camp survivor., like a battered old man on a death march. I could have could have came right out of North Korea. I’m never doin it that extreme again, don’t care how deep cut my abs were.

  13. You forgot the “except for drugs” at the end.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  14. This is perfectly said. Only thing you probably forgot to mention is to emphasize protein intakes in both weight loss/muscle gain diets. I know you emphasize protein intake everytime and its a good thing, but you most likely forgot to mention it here. Otherwise I think this is perfect ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW article about weight loss/muscle gains.

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