You don’t. 5 to 6 compound movements are more than enough. Especially when it comes to training for strength and skills.
In fact, strength is a skill too. A lot of it comes down to building strong neuromuscular connections (between the brain and muscles). And how do you get better at skills? You practice them. A LOT. And OFTEN.
If you train too many exercises, you won’t be able to practice them enough, and you won’t get good in them. A quote from the master himself, Bruce Lee, comes to mind:
“I fear not a man who practiced 10000 kicks once, but I fear the man who practiced one kick 10000 times.”
Same principal here.
I know what you’re thinking – isn’t it BORING to train only 5 fundamental movements?
It is, if you ARE NOT MAKING PROGRESS! As long as you see yourself getting stronger, leaner, faster, improving your technique… you will be engaged and excited about your workouts. You will come for more.
At the end of the day, that’s the main reason why we train – to make progress and reach our goals.
If you are not making progress, and masking it with a large variety of exercises, it is time to reconsider your workout and your priorities in training.
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Late spring 2019. I decided to bring more awareness to mental health issues and raise money for the charity Mind Doncaster, by performing 1000 pull ups.
I have been training Push Ups and Pull Ups EMOM (Every Minute On The Minute) for quite a while at that point, David Goggins being my inspiration. I would break my own PR every now and then, in fact in August 2019 I did 1111 Pull Ups in one training session, and if I remember correctly, in the following days I ran a half marathon as well.
So I knew I would definitely be able to hit at least 1000 reps for World Mental Health Day, 11th October.
I trained most days, somewhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Every minute I would do usually 7-8 Pull Ups. All good on that front, despite some aches here and there.
Organising the event and venue, in which it would take place, turned out to be more difficult.
I wanted to do it in the main shopping centre in town. So that bypassing people could donate a bit too. But the management claimed there was not enough space to set up a pull up bar there. Despite the fact they would routinely display multiple cars inside the shopping centre. OK…
That made me even more determined to do this challenge! Fortunately the manager of a small gym I was training a few clients at, was happy for me to do it at their gym.
The days prior to that I rested. No Pull Ups, just got a massage.
The the big day came. I woke up in the morning, did the Wim Hof Method (including cold shower), had a healthy breakfast and some ceremonial cacao. I cycled to the gym, did some more Wim Hof breathing, set the timer. 3, 2, 1, GO!
I started cranking out 6 Pull Ups every minute on the minute, pacing myself. 100, 200, 300… 600…
It went fairly quickly and I felt great. Energised. But I’ve noticed a problem. The steel bar was not smooth and soon my fingers got sore and began bleeding.
I kept going. I hit 1000 Pull Ups, and I was nowhere close to finishing. I had to do at least another 112 to break my own personal best. I did that, and I kept going.
Roughly from Pull Up no. 1200 things got harder. I had to put on some thin cycling gloves my girlfriend gave me due to my injuries. I dropped down to 5 reps per minute. Time started stretching out, and I moved my attention inwards.
At around 1500 reps I’d be sat on the bench staring into nothingness, or at the timer. When it beeped, I’d do another 5 reps, then go sit on the bench and continue staring. I was getting really exhausted, but I kept going. Just keep going…
I ended up surpassing the goal of 1000 Pull Ups by another thousand. 2000 Pull Ups in 6.5 hours. Hundreds of sets.
I did rep no. 2000, and said I was done. 2000 is enough. But in all honesty, I could have done a few hundred more.
I was on the verge of crying. I could not believe that I managed to push myself this much!
One thing you need to know about myself, I am not a strong person from nature on. I might be more flexible than others, but that’s it.
Even psychologically, my deafult behaviour is not to be a strong independent leader, but to hide and not be seen, due to some childhood trauma (thankfully, no abuse involved. Working on it). Previously I suffered from loneliness, social phobia when I was a kid, I’ve been on the verge of depression and of an eating disorder.
Perhaps that is why I looked up so much to strong people like Bruce Lee or Jean-Claude Van Damme, since my early teens. Hence why I learned martial arts, later Calisthenics.
And now I managed to pull off something this crazy, hard, monotonous and painful. I could not believe it! Honestly, this was one of the most intense moments of my life. Certainly more important than finishing school.
After this experience (as well as from running 13 – 22 miles at a time), I can see how certain people can use monotonous physical activities to reach an altered state of consciousness. Or simply to go into a state of meditation. It is common knowledge that ultramarathon runners wind up hallucinating after tens or a hundred miles.
When you are, sorry for the expression, balls deep in such an event, where you have been doing it for hours, and the end is not in sight, the only thing you can do, is to be present. Let it flow. Do not accept or reject what is happening. You cannot escape to your imagination, and you cannot stop. Just be.
Way too many people in order to achieve their goals, like losing weight or improving their health, chose to get on a drastic diet for a few weeks, maybe months at best. They go from a standard western diet, which is one of the leading contributors to all of the major illnesses our society suffers from, to a raw vegan diet, paleo, or keto diet, if not something way more dodgy. A juice cleanse or some kind of fasting.
And what’s the result?
Perhaps one manages to lose some weight, but it’s not sustainable and one ends up eating the same way they did before. More often then not, the weight starts piling back on, and in the worst cases one ends up doing damage to their metabolism, stuck in the yoyo effect, losing non-adipose tissue, or with an eating disorder.
What’s the solution?
A change of lifestyle. Not a temporary diet. Make smaller improvements you can manage as opposed to drastic interventions. I know that you might be eager to get rid of the excess weight, trust me I’ve been there. I had a time where I barely recognised myself, and wanted to change it as quickly as possible. I was desperate.
Back in 2015 I felt depressed and lonely, and somehow I ended up eating away my emotions. I gained around 20kg in a few months. I could barely recognise myself, and I wanted to get rid of the excess body fat FAST.
That’s where I messed up my eating habits even more, and only made things worse.
What got me through that challenging time of my life, was, you guessed it, making sustainable changes. Eating healthy, mainly unprocessed foods. No crazy fasting or 1 meal a day. 3 regular meals a day. Less than 12 hour window for eating.
Since then (roughly 2015 to early 2017) I haven’t had ANY problems whatsoever with my weight or eating habits.
And the changes I have implemented – I stick to them to this day. Why? Because it improves the quality of my life, I have the energy to go after my goals, and I know that I am lowering the risk of getting cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, even depression!
As I said in my previous video, start small. Do your research or speak to a professional. And most importantly, do it out of love for yourself and others. Because you deserve it!
Do you want to make positive changes in your life, but don’t know where to start?
Don’t become a victim to paralysis-analysis and START SMALL!
In the vast majority of cases, change takes time and it has to be gradual. Yes, some individuals can turn their lives around in an instance, and there is a time and place for radical changes, but that’s only a small percentage.
You want to gradually adjust to the change, stick to it over time, and not become overwhelmed by it. It’s about sustainable change as opposed radical and short-lived interventions and inevitably failing. Way too often we can see people get on a highly restrictive diet, to which they cannot adhere for longer than a few weeks or months. After New Year’s Day the gyms get filled up with new-years-resolutioners, only to return to normal a months later. There is no point to that whatsoever.
Add some more fruit and veg into your diet. Go for a walk in the morning. Do a few sets of squats. Learn about how to start a business for 5 minutes. Practice your instrument for ten minutes a day.
Turn these activities into habits. This will take a few weeks (or 21 days as the saying goes). Then expand them and build upon them.
Instead of learning about Bitcoin for 5 minutes a day, do 10 or 15 minutes now, and perhaps download the Binance app. For the past 3 weeks you have been consistently training pull ups twice a week, for two sets. Make it 3 sets this week. And add a third training session to your schedule. You get the point.
I can guarantee you that after a few months the small changes you have implemented will have snowballed and you’ll look back at what you have achieved with pride. And that’s what it’s about!