Today I thought I’d take things a little bit philosophical and give you all an insight into my thoughts on training and recovery. We will get back to Deconstructing the Deadlift next week. For now, let’s think about how we handle our training, our preparation and our recovery – let’s go deep into the process, and work through Coach Fletch’s 13 thoughts.

1. Warm Up

Do people still drop their gym bags by the squat racks and just get to it? I hope not. Take the time to raise your body temperature. I’m not going to remind you how to do this today. But choose multi-joint movements and do it until you break a sweat. It’s as simple as that. If you can achieve that with mobility flow, then awesome; if you want to hit a mile or a thousand meter row, get after it.

2. Mobilise

Joint by joint, people. The more you practice it, the quicker and more efficient it becomes. Ankles need mobility, knees need stability. Hips need mobility and the lower back, in most cases, needs to be rigid. The thoracic spine needs to be mobile, and scapulae need to glide. The shoulder joint pips the hips for its level of movement complexity, so respect this sensitive construct. Your neck must be stable and strong to help withstand possible concussions. Draw your mobility map around these landmarks. It takes approximately 7 months to regenerate and change the shape of the fascia, so get cracking – this won’t solve itself overnight.

3. Activate and Potentiate

That protective cylinder – your core. From the gluteals to the transverse abdominis, the hip flexors and the anterior core. The erectors and the multifidus. Fire it all up. McGill’s Big 3 and more advanced variations. (Just do them). The RKC front and side planks. Banded activations, bridges, bodyweight exercises. Whatever you do, just make it simple and effective. The central nervous system; jump, throw, slam, bound, even skip if that’s the best you have. It has a plyometric effect, and that’s what we are after. It can be a plyo press up or a split stance med ball slam. Think of the main pattern we are working towards. Hinge? Then bound. Squat? Then use a vertical jump variation. Press variation? Rotational ball throw. It does not have to be different, it only has to work. If you’re going to work overhead and/or lift explosively and have the requisite mobility, then overhead squat and work in some Olympic lifting complexes.

4. Lift Heavy

Once, a guy in my first gym said to me, ”You know why you should always train heavy? Because you never know when you are next going to be able to.” He was incarcerated soon after. He was also a strong son of a gun. I suspect from the effect of testosterone and growth hormones on our bodies to the carryover in developing game-changing strength and power. Or slabs of muscle. I think most of us understand this. When and where you can – get after it. Train heavy and with intent and focus. This is relative to you. Don’t compare yourself to others, your journey is your own. But when you can, push.

5. But Sometimes, Don’t

Most of the time we sit in the 80% of the 80/20 rule. This is why we’re not all Olympians (well, among a million other reasons). That’s fine. Dan John describes them as tonic workouts. I just call them flat. It doesn’t matter, the volume will keep things ticking over. Take away the mental effect of not crushing everything. It’s very easy to maintain what you have; don’t worry, it won’t fade away. Learn to de-load volume and intensity. Dare I ask you, but if you have to then simply go through the motions. Just touch a weight you hit last week. And don’t beat yourself up – literally.

6. Keep Changing

The longer that you train, the more you are going to need constant challenges. Adaptation will arrive swiftly. 3-week mini cycles with de-loads for the more experienced and stronger athletes are there for a reason. It is a fallacy that the stronger you get, the more you can train. The opposite is true. The more damage I can inflict, the more recovery I will need. Stan Efferding squatted and deadlifted on alternate weeks to recover enough to stay on track for world record raw totals. There have been countless bodybuilders who never repeat workouts, instead preferring the consistent change in stimulus. Yet still seem to have no problem growing like weeds, and also getting pretty damn strong.
Auto-regulation for the average guy or girl in the gym should be an end goal, as long as you can still be productive.
And if you are the coach, then you are there to auto-regulate the periodisation and planning for them.

7. Actually Try and Complete a Program

Whether it is 5-3-1, Cube, Pendulum, Westside Barbell, Strong Bastard 911, Doggcrapp. Any strength and conditioning template you fancy getting your teeth into. Whether its conjugate or a wave… Just do it. So many people talk about them, but have never tried them. And you don’t need to run the exact prescription. You tailor it to suit your body’s mechanics, and your needs. But those systems have changed people’s perceptions regarding performance by the millions. It will teach to you cast off your training, ADHD and actually make some progress beyond the first major plateau.

8. Do Some Hypertrophy Work

It makes me smile when I hear people say they don’t do direct arm work, but they run a ton of “pre-hab” for everything else. Or they are under 30 years old, and lady luck’s got her eye out for them. If you pull near max loads, especially with an under/over grip. Then consider your biceps. There’s no badge of honor when it comes to torn muscles. The same can be said for volume for the upper back, triceps, pecs, shoulders, the core, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
As far as I’m concerned, look good, feel good, and feel good, fight good!

9. Do Exercises and Patterns That Suit You

If you are 2 meters tall, then a hex bar pull, box squats, partial range press variations and heavy split squats could be better suited to your frame. The same could be said in reverse for shorter lifters. But the list is endless. Older lifters, injured lifters, no matter the category, treat each differently. In bodybuilding, massively pre-exhausting muscle groups and running compound lifts later in the workout has been popular for decades. See if you can work the same weight in the deadlift at the end of your workout over time. And thank me for the lack of injuries and gains in strength and size across the board.

10. Set Goals and Go After Them

Not sure how much I need to write about this. Remember there are real reasons when life gets in the way and we are all victims of this. But if I’m in the same place as I was last year with zero justification for lack of progress, then a little word to the fat controller needs to be had. That can be measured in whatever way you like. Performance, mindset, happiness, knowledge, not just the scales and body comp. Set the bar higher, don’t suffer mediocrity.

11. Eat

If you want to grow muscle, eat more. No, really, you have to eat more. I’m not talking about longevity. But ditch fad diets and consume serious calories to attain more muscle that will stay. Homeostasis takes about 6 months.
And for the love of God, the first and most simple rule of weight loss is a deficit of calories.

12. Recover

In a world of exercise addiction and adrenal fatigue, recovery work can be a cure. Recovery mobility/CV and workouts of all shapes and sizes are a godsend. This is what will keep you in the gym battling demons for a lot longer. Trust me, mobility and DIY yoga and massage/bodywork/SMR and sauna have literally saved my training life. Sleep 8 hours for every 24, and if you can get more, take it! 5 hours for a few days, and testosterone drops. If you’re serious about your training you have to be serious about your sleep.
With recovery CV, please do it to recover, not to further the breakdown. Use breath work in conjunction with LISS or easy recovery circuits. Breathing only through the nose, or in through nose out through your mouth. And for non-competitive athletes in commercial gyms, taping your mouth surely isn’t essential. Now meditation might not be my bag, or writing gratitude lists, but what works for you works. Playing with my family on a beach as the sun melts into tomorrow and my resting pulse rate drops below 60 in a flash. It’s not all a battle.

13. Stretch

Two of the most infuriating things I’ve read in the fitness space of recent years include ‘you must be able to do a pistol squat before you load a bar on your back‘ AND ‘stretching is bad for you’.

Both are untrue.

I think for this week I’ll end it there.

Stay strong,

Coach Fletch.

Author - Fletcher Dalrymple - Personal Trainer & Mentor

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