Sunday, March 25, 2018


Truthfully, this is just going to be my chance to rant at people who believe in the idea of “programs for steroid users”, but I had no idea how to title that, and this gives me a bit more of a vector.  I’ve already written previously about how work capacity, conditioning and GPP get mixed all together by people who are hoping to sound smart by using all those terms but also don’t know what they mean so they say them all at the same time every time.  To review though; for our purposes here, “work capacity” refers to one’s ability to recover between workouts, rather than the ability to recover WITHIN the workout.  Work capacity is important, because volume is a critical driver of progress, and as such, ability to recover from amount of volume accumulated in training facilitates the ability to UTILIZE enough volume to drive progress.  Without work capacity, a trainee will stall out and not be able to train hard enough to make progress without the risk of overreaching and burning out.

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Or they'll just do this

So how do we acquire work capacity?  Once again, the trifecta of effort, consistency and, most importantly, time.  It simply takes time to accumulate the ability to recover from more and more volume.  You spend years and years just pounding away in training and, in turn, you train your body to be able to recover from this sort of activity.  And each time you go back to train, you push it just a little harder, and continue to stretch your work capacity greater and greater.  Sometimes you take breaks from this approach, and focus more on intensifying and peaking, but after that time is done, it’s back to improve that work capacity so you can get more volume and make more growth.

It’s worth noting as well that it doesn’t necessarily require lifting weight to build work capacity.  Sure, specificity is dandy, but fundamentally we’re talking about improving the body’s ability to recover from physical stress, and this can come from many forms.  This could be acquired from a lifetime of physical labor, or from being active in athletics from a young age, or even simply being an actively engaged human that enjoys physical pursuits with no specific direction.  There really can’t be enough positive things said about the benefit of being and remaining active.

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Most trainees would love to look like that when they're 80...or now

“Get to the part about steroids!” Yeah, ok, fine.  So first, I’m going outside my wheelhouse a bit, as I have zero experience with anabolics.  Never used them, never even seen them, wouldn’t know where to buy them.  However, the reason I bring them up is that, many times, trainees will see a program posted, look at the total volume, balk at it and right away go “Psh, that program only works if you’re on steroids!”  Or they’ll see a program advocated by a particular trainee and say “It only worked for them because they were on steroids.”  Arnold’s 2 a day split program from his Encyclopedia of Modern bodybuilding is notorious for this charge, as are many other programs.

Here’s the thing; yes, chemicals can enhance the recovery process, but they cannot replicate the benefits of a decade or two spent increasing your work capacity.  Yeah, it can improve protein synthesis rates which can result in better growth and recovery, but if you spent your lifetime as a slug and then shoot up a bunch of anabolics, it’s still only going to be so effective.  Crying “steroids” whenever you see a challenging program is taking the easy way out; the reality is, you need to start crying “work capacity!” 

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But how else will you become a sexual tyrannosaurs? 

These athletes and lifters tend to come from a lifetime background of training in some capacity.  The Soviet lifters engaged in play and athletics as soon as they were able to, and constantly stayed in that state while being groomed to be athletes such that, when the time came to train, they had the work capacity of a horse and could handle absurd workloads, which translated into crazy growth.  We saw the same with the Bulgarians.  Arnold shared stories of his childhood where, for insolence, his father would punish him by making him before hundreds of squats and other bodyweight exercises.  Successful bodybuilders were bit by the ironbug at a young age and spent much of their youth training in some way, Eddie Hall was a national level swimmer before transitioning to weights, Mariusz Pudzianowski’s dad was an accomplished weightlifter that taught those skills to his young son who also had an interest in karate and boxing, etc etc.

So yeah, when looking at these routines, it’s quite possible that you shouldn’t follow them, but not necessarily because you “have to be on steroids” to make them work; it’s because you need the WORK CAPACITY to be able to recover from them.  And, consequently, the notion that you can evaluate that a trainee is on steroids purely by the amount of volume they have in their program is absurd; they very well may simply have spent the necessary amount of time to develop the work capacity that grants them recovery from these sessions.  I’ve witnessed first-hand natural trainees progressing off these very “steroids only” programs, and it’s because they were simply lunatics that spent a lifetime becoming machines that fed off volume, and I’ve also witnessed lifetime coach potatoes hop on a cycle of steroids, throw all the volume they could at themselves, and end up looking like a sack of crap because one steroid cycle can’t undo 20+ years of bad living. 

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No, that doesn't mean try different products

This is incentive for WHY you should continue to keep pushing yourself in your training; so that you can expand your work capacity to these levels.  People want to stay on prescriptions of the minimal effective dosage like it’s some sort of badge of honor to do as little work as possible.  Screw that; go hard as often as you can so that you have a super deep well to dig into when it comes time to push the volume.  Keep expanding your body’s ability to recover so that you can keep throwing more at it and continue to grow to a ridiculous level.  Pair this with a solid base of conditioning and you’ll come up with monstrous training programs that accumulate a ton of volume in short order that has you outgrowing everyone.           


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  2. Emevas- curious as to your thoughts on John Broz’s “dark times” and if you’ve experienced something similar.


    1. Hey Will, I'm honestly not familiar with Broz's "dark times" concept to be able to speak intelligently to it. I googled and couldn't find anything definitive on the topic.

    2. My understanding is that it’s an adaptation period to doing more work. He speaks about it mostly in the context of daily squatting, but I imagine it appeals to any extra stimulus/stress. Idea is that you feel terrible for a while (“dark time”) before you adapt. If you have some time, this is a great older Q&A:

    3. I haven't trained in a manner similar to Broz to really be able to comment on it. I do concur with his idea though that being able to set PRs while under fatigue means you'll set even bigger PRs once out of fatigue.

  3. Emevas (or pwnisher). On the subject of work capacity/20 rep squats, I'm planning to run a program using 20 rep squats later in the year. Previously, squatting heavy and hard consistently has left me unable to walk (I thought I was doing smolov jnr), which is something I can't afford in my life at this point. To me, this is an obvious lack of what you'd call work capacity, and I was wondering what your thoughts would be on how to prepare for this so that I can still work and look after my family while squatting heavy (For me) and hard.