Sexy Isn’t Always Better

Did OP deliver?

Sex certainly sells. There are plenty of training websites that put up scantily clad women to accumulate traffic (I’ll prove it today with the images). In fact, some of the most popular days in 70’s Big history include scantily clad ladies. The fact that pictures of me in a speedo compete for that top spot is immaterial.

Sexiness also comes in the form of shouting things at you and using cheap tactics to get you to click on a post. “7 WAYS TO GET STRONGER” or “THE 15 REASONS TO DEADLIFT”. Catch phrases, memes, and slogans result in traffic activity, but they lack substance. The same concept applies to training.

Pick a sport, any sport, step right up. How do the best in the world train for that sport? Neat! Fun! Let’s be like them! Now how should you train for that sport? By the gods, we’ll train just like the experts!

It doesn’t work that way.

The best and strongest competitors in a given sport are that way because they have accumulated years of training. They started at the beginning and toiled away to get where they are. It’s foolish to think that any of us can step in, emulate their program, and experience the same results. We can watch Ray Lewis focusing on plyometrics, agilities, and some dumbbell work and draw the conclusion that those training activities make one of the greatest linebackers ever. Ray developed his genetic talent of strength and power as he grew up, and he maintains those qualities. Now, late in his career, he refines agility and explosiveness with a weighted vest as well as keeps his body healthy. He works on solidifying his overall athleticism because he isn’t weak and lacking power for the sport of football.

Let’s look at two examples that are more relevant to all of us: weightlifting and powerlifting.


There are different successful systems of weightlifting in the world. To simplify, we could look at Russian and Bulgarian training. The Russian system traditionally integrates variety and periodizes the training approach. The Bulgarian system is limited to specific movements done at high intensity with high frequency. Budding weightlifters will see videos, past or present, and are awed at the capacity of Klokov or Süleymanoğlu and immediately want to do what they do. Whenever Klokov does any kind of complex, there is a crashing wave of YouTube videos of novice lifters imitating it. The complex is sexy! Klokov is sexy (no homo BRO)! We must do as he does if we are going to be jacked in a speedo and lift more than 70kg.

This even occurs with the top American lifters. The California Strength or MDUSA crews will train a certain way and everyone follows suit. What’s missed is that even our American lifters, who receive so much scorn from USA haters, have trained and advanced to a level in which they can actually handle their programming. That means that the recreational, beginner, and early intermediate lifters of the world have no business trying to follow their program in the same way that they shouldn’t emulate stone cold Bulgarian or Russian programming styles. It’ll just result in the lifter doing too much when a simple 3 or 4 days-a-week program with a basic approach will suffice.


The same thing occurs in powerlifting. Some of the strongest guys in the world are lifting at Westside Barbell, one of the most badass training environments with a badass program. However, in order to train at Westside a guy or girl has to be exceptionally strong already. They have to advanc enough to be worthy of acceptance. Westside’s specific approach is designed for the most advanced powerlifters in the world. To think that it applies to a beginner crowd is clearly a mistake. Does that mean that Westside, or any advanced training approach, can’t be broken down into concepts that can be applied to beginners? Of course not, but that’s not what the training public does. They see bands, chain, boards, sumo variations, wide grips, and boxes and throw them into their training. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen videos of weak people benching 200 with chains or box squatting 300.

The same goes for weightlifting. Trainees will jump into 6-day-a-week programs and squat to max every day. If some training is good, then more training is better! If regular powerlifting is good, then powerlifting with a bunch of random-ass tools and equipment will be better! It’s so fucking sexy.

Potential customers of crazy programming in weightlifting or crazy equipment in powerlifting have to keep in mind several things. First, they are not advanced. You can’t just skip ten years of stress-recovery-adaptation, sorry. Second, they are not on performance enhancement drugs. Most of the best guys in the world are using. Again, I don’t care that they are, but it’s an incredibly important distinction to make when you look at their programming. But keep in mind that even if you are on drugs, you still don’t have the training advancement (the stress-adaptation) of a guy who has been lifting since he was 9 years old. Drugs help with recovery, but they don’t let you jump right into the extremely advanced realm.

Simple programs will always out-weigh complicated programs, especially for weak or beginning lifters. There’s a whole generation of guys out there who don’t make a lot of money because all they say is, “Do less. Be simple. Rest hard.” I’ll point out that the principles in The Texas Method: Advanced are still quite simple. Each lift in training uses the same mechanics as in the meet. Work is distributed across the week, the lifter goes heavy, and he won’t use a bunch of weird exercises or equipment to get there. Because he doesn’t need to yet. The last chapter in the book provides some options of where we’ll go with the programming, and those options include using the slingshot, bands, chains, and maybe a box. However, we’re just throwing these new methods in with the same mechanics because there’s no sense in using different mechanics in training from the meet until we need to.

Take a look at your programming. Is it overly complicated? You’re either trying to do too much for too many goals or you’re trying to emulate a sexy lifter, programming style, or use of equipment. Sex certainly sold you something, but is it providing quality gains? At the end of the day, you can’t ignore the stress-adaptation cycle, even if the alternative is hotter and sexier than a simple and efficient program.

52 thoughts on “Sexy Isn’t Always Better

  1. Picture 1 – Sexy.

    Picture 2 – Needs more RDLs and Hip Thrusts.

    Justin’s writing – spot on. I’ve been doing CrossFit Football and it seems like half the people on their choose to follow the “collegiate” strength programming WAY too soon.

    • I would agree with that as well. If I were giving recommendations on CF Football, pretty much everyone would get time with the Amateur program. Perhaps 4 to 8 weeks (6 being ideal), then advance to the next.

      The reasoning is that most people doing CF Football were doing a program with less strength training before it (usually CrossFit).

  2. Why is it so hard for people to believe you when you tell them to JUST DO SS?!

    Seriously, it’s like they think “the more, the better!”
    I’ll never understand this world, man.

  3. This post really hit home to be, because I’ve been following Cal Strength for a year or so and over the last few months have been following the progress of many of the guys over at Podium Gold Weightlifting (Where Abadjiev is coaching now). I’d probably say that I’m an early intermediate weightlifter, but I admit to having adapted my training a bit to fit the Bulgarian style, even though it might not be appropriate for me. I only work the two lifts three times a week, but I’ve been trying to get PRs once a week and go at least 90% of those PRs on the other two days while front squatting heavy singles and doubles on two other days. I’m not very young (26 years old) or particularly gifted genetically, and sometimes I have a hard time keeping up with the intensity, but it appears that I’ve been making better gains in the last few weeks than I have in quite some time.

    I guess my point is there has to be some type of middle ground where one can approach the methods of these advanced lifters, but not require years of development to benefit from their programming. Take for example a new guy at Podium Gold, Sheldon Stuckart ( He doesn’t seem to have many many years of training like the more advanced guys (Pulaku, Klokov), yet in just over a month on the Bulgarian system he added over 30 kg to his front squat, 20 kg to his snatch, and similar numbers for the Clean and Jerk. I don’t think I would adapt well to the same rigorous training, but I believe that, (as weightlifters, particularly) we can push ourselves towards that type of training without having detrimental effects. Any thoughts?

    • There are too many factors to give a response like one you’re looking for. I don’t know Abadjiev’s current system or supplementation, much about Podium Weightlifting, Sheldon Stuckart’s training history, your training history, or even your numbers, so it’s all irrelevant anyway.

      The point more so is that instead of emulating top competitors and programs, most people need a base of the simple stuff. If they have accumulated that work, then other more advanced programs will yield progress. Who is to say what program will be the most efficient for you? I can’t right now, and probably couldn’t even if I had all of your data anyway.

  4. When we did the consultation I told you I did the Broz gym recommendation of squatting every day a year or so ago to get back into training and you replied “so how did that work for you?” At the time, I didn’t think anything of it and now I know you were thinking “this ass has no business squatting everyday, ass. Fuckin’ ass.”

    • Haha, I mean, it is going to work to some degree, but I could make an argument that it’s only optimal for a select portion of the population.

  5. Mark Sisson had some nice words today on 70’s Big: “70s Big has evolved over the years. What began as an online homage to heavy squats, big deadlifts, bigger meals, even bigger mustaches, short shorts, tank tops, and the hirsute men of the greatest decade ever to grace the 20th century has become a training blog that promotes smart training, smart programming, and smart eating, breaks down complex kinesiological and anatomical concepts, and yes, still pays homage to heavy squats, big deadlifts, bigger meals, even bigger mustaches, short shorts, tank tops, and the hirsute men of the 70s who bore them. If you’re into lifting, check it out.


    • I saw that, and it was nice. I also like Mark’s website — it’s one of the few training/nutrition related websites in my Google Reader.

  6. I increased my squat 400lbs via linear progression. Simple programs work. Most people are just looking for short cuts to avoid hard work.

  7. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wait 30 minutes for the rack while weak guys box squat 250 lbs, then incline the bench and do rubber banded incline 200 lb bench press inside the rack. It drives me fucking crazy. Yes, I’m talking about you guys at South Arlington Golds Gym!

  8. I finally learned my lesson this year, (KISS principle) started with SSLP made progress then transitioned into GSLP. I have never been stronger nor heavier than I am now and I am still moving fwd progressing and isn’t that the point. Long term investment will pay big dividends!

    • I love GSLP, I made great progress on it, especially with pressing. If you can, I highly recommend getting some form of fractional plates to use for the pressing lifts while running GSLP.

  9. This seems as good a time as any for me to ask what people think about Clarence I know Justin has commented on one of his videos so you must have an opinion on him. His squat is huge and so are his lifts. It’s clear that his technique is very good, especially considering he is not coached and it is also clear from his days tricking and his history of county level athletics that he is a very sound athlete and also (and most importantly) works real hard. But how is he so strong? Whenever i watch his videos i find my self thinking “is he using” and honestly i have no idea, it’s scary to think but he could just be that strong without needing it yet. Then you look at his programming, classically Bulgarian in nature, heavy back or front squats daily. That is serious training volume to recover from…do you guys recon he’s on dat dere cell tech?
    Either way i think he is a brilliant lifter and admire his progress.

    • Yeah, I’ve been following him for a while. To me it seems like it’d be difficult for a 17 or 18 year old to get some PEDs, but I think he lives in Ireland and I don’t know how it is there. Regardless, he’s a very good lifter. I’m waiting on him to correct that issue where he pushes the bar forward out of his dip-drive so that he can make those heavier jerks.

      It’ll be cool if he goes to the 2016 Olympics. I think he has the capacity to do so.

      Eh, as far as how he’s that strong…some people just have more potential than others. Combine that with disciplined hard work and at least decent technique (his is pretty good), and you get a high performer. I don’t know how long he’s been lifting.

  10. That sucks. My gym only has one squat rack, and I also suffer watching people f around in it (none of whom own wl shoes) but I have never had to wait that long.

  11. I’m pretty stoked that Mark’s Daily links to the site on this, of all days. Can we at least get some bear-ly legal pics up to complete the ambiance?

  12. Isn’t the MDUSA/CalStrength programming based almost entirely off of the “Do the main movements a lot” concept? Seems like 90% of their lifts are some variation of the snatch/clean and jerk…they just go in a lot?

    Even in Jon North/Donny Shankle’s radio show podcast thing, they pretty much tell callers to just do Snatch/C&J. Or did I miss something?

    • I think you missed the fact that they do it twice a day nearly 6 days a week. Someone more on the “beginner” side of things won’t need to train that much to garner progress.

      The point still revolves around lesser adapted people doing things that they don’t have any business doing. Will that apply to everyone? No.

      • Yeah. I was more thinking that high frequency low weight may help a novice lifter nail down form better, but I did that in my post.

        I understand what you’re saying.

    • We do in fact do the competitive movements, or close variations a lot. But keep in mind that most people only see 3 of the 9-12 workouts per week that we do. There are a lot of position holds, drills, squats, etc that most people dont see.

      But I agree with Justin 100% about this topic. I will use Caleb Ward as an example. He started weightlifting as a 12 year old, broke the American Record for the clean and jerk with a 203kg (446lb) lift at 19 years old. But for his first 3 years of training he trained 3 days a week, with simple linear progression. Had he started doing an advanced routine, like the one he did at age 18 and 19, without those first 3 years of building a base he would not own the current American Record.

  13. It amazes me how many people want to do more movements when they’re still clearly beginners. For those of you that check reddit at all, fitness and weightroom are full of people that jump off of SS/SL when they have squats of like 250 and skip straight to 5/3/1 simply because they’re bored, not because they’ve truly hit the limit of beginner LP. Then they go and complain about slow progression after that and ask everyone why their numbers don’t seem to go up. And then the suggestions to go back to a daily progression like SS always gets dismissed because of a hurt ego.

    Just looking at how far Justin and AC got on a linear progression makes it clear to me that I need to milk my SS gains as long as I can before I try and jump to something more advanced.

      • I think it’s because a lot of people first go to the gym and do like 5 different isolation exercises per muscle, or they’ll switch up the exercises every time they do chest or legs. I used to do that, and I could see why they would then find 5-6 movements boring…but linear progress is so much more satisfying to me.

  14. This week you’re on fire Justin! I hope all these 30+k visiters learn something from this post.

    I agree with willey about “I’m bored”. A lot of people after doing only the main lifts for months despite getting stronger and more muscular, they want to do something more. They want more gains and because it’s so easy to ruine the programming that’s when the problems start.

  15. No sense in overcomplicating things when often simple ideas work better.

    Been down this road with programming (not my own, or yours, Justin) and it just flat out didn’t work.

  16. I think it’s human nature to want to see fast gains for little effort. Figuring out that this is only going to yield short term results, if any at all, is something a lot of people are just going to have to learn the hard way.
    It’s the same thing I see all the time in jiu jitsu… Guys want to spend tons of time doing all kinds of advanced, latest greatest stuff, and their fundamentals are garbage. (Berimbolo, BJJ people, AMIRITE?)

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