“You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake; you are the same decaying organic matter as everything else” –Tyler Durden, Fight Club
“I am merely striving to help you and am offering concrete advice based on experience, gained both from myself and numerous others. So, let this be your slogan…‘Work 21 days – Rest seven!’” Vince Gironda, the world’s greatest bodybuilding trainer.
Just to be clear, no, this is not a P-90X promotion, and the body you see displayed was actually created while Tony Horton was probably still in diapers.
There are many people who came before us who put in the time and effort so that we could have the knowledge that exists in the world today. But who am I? I am just a student attending ASU who loves bodybuilding and physical culture. I have a passion for truth and the will to obtain it. I have discovered much from those who have lived this information, but I also have formulated my own theories based on these experiences and the science behind them. I am a person who wants to give credit to where it is due: to those who put in the time. I want to give the knowledge, for which they both physically and mentally toiled, back to the people it affects and let them know where it came from. Much of it has been corrupted, stolen, or dismissed by others, but I will present to you here what I believe is true. If you don’t believe me, you can simply train to your heart’s content, and eat however you like.
A touchy topic most trainers either do not, or do not want to, address is the topic of genetic potential. You can never get a straight answer from most of them because they either do not know the answer, or don’t care. The primary reason they don’t want to address it is that they want their followers to believe they will always improve as long as they follow the aforementioned trainer’s advice; because that is what the other trainers are promoting and because people do not want to accept that they may have been born inferior to someone else and will reach a set limit. Everyone wants to believe they can become Arnold Schwartzenegger. The secondary reason, which in some ways is just as important as the first, is the fact that the line has gotten EXTREMELY hazy as to what constitutes over or under -training since the steroid era (which I believe we are still living in) started about 60 years ago. No one wants to, or even really CAN, address how far they can push themselves because a pill or injection can make that line just about disappear. Even the information that came from the Master himself is skewed and conflicting as many of his pupils were drawn into the drug culture bodybuilding, and most sports in general, created. Gironda stated that he stopped attending shows because they were merely “pharmaceutical conventions” to him, with little to no knowledge of physical culture being displayed (think of the early 90’s through today, how “bodybuilders” have these giant muscles very much in disproportion to each other and their frames, all with giant, bloated bellies).
I believe there is a limit, that is different for just about everyone, where the testosterone, GH, adrenaline, and epinephrine boosting effects of exercise are diminished by the cortisol raising effects of exercise. This limit will eventually lead to an inevitable "peak" one can reach, where they attain their maximum strength, definition, and size. The tricky thing is that this applies both in the small picture(a single workout) and in the big one (overall weekly workload). Even if you found the maximum beneficial workout limit for a single workout, (greatest workload with the least amount of time) where Gironda probably thought it was the 8x8 with 10-15 sec rest, Mentzer thought it was the single max set theory, etc, you wouldn't be able to perform the same “maximum beneficial workout” every day. Now I don’t want to go over your head so I’ll stop there.
Those who know a decent amount of training philosophy and science have probably heard the concept of intensity vs. volume. If you have not, here it is in a nutshell: Intensity is inversely proportional to volume. Intensity is calculated as load over time. Time spent working out is one’s volume. The shorter the time, the greater the intensity becomes or can become. Most trainers who believe they are “in the know” will promote that higher intensity is better. The problem with stopping there is that one ignores the fact that no time = infinite intensity! If we should have the greatest amount of intensity during all of our workouts, then we should never work out! Basically, if intensity vs. volume were analyzed on a graph, we get no answers because how it affects us is never revealed. Thus, the third dimension of RESULTS must be added. There are actually multiple dimensions within this particular dimension such as: strength, speed, strength-endurance, fat-burning, etc, but more on that later.
And so I get to the idea of the “21/7”. By employing a 21/7 training protocol, you can batter yourself for 21 days, -occasionally trying 2-a-days, 40 min workloads, 5 min workloads, etc. and log everything- and then actively rest 7 days, and test yourself at the beginning of each 21 to see if you have improved from your previous 21 start. If you improve, the training protocol you employed worked, if you don't, then it didn't. From there, it is up to you to decide what to do. If you believe you had too great overall intensity, then you would replace intensity workouts with more volume workouts. If you believe your volume was too great, shorten the workouts and add intensity.
The strategy I propose to start with is to carry out the greatest overall possible intensity with 5-20 minute total workloads you can muster for the entire 21 days, to leave no chance that your intensity (greatest amount of muscle stress with the least amount of time) per day was too little, and then if you do not improve, you can be positive that you must reduce your intensity to see results, rather than be stuck at a crossroads. If you are interested in understanding more of the science behind why your nervous system needs to rest, why muscle over bad nerves will become weaker, and how it can affect your energy and vitality, then I encourage you to read the following article: HERE
A simple way to test results is to measure vertical jump, max pushups in one minute, one mile run, or max pull-ups, along with any other strength endeavor that comes to your mind, be creative. The best thing about the 21/7 is that there are two ways to start.
First, have you been following a regular program and have stopped seeing the results you desire? Are you feeling stressed out at work and lacking the energy to go to the gym? Then start with your 7. Take that yoga class you’ve been skimping out on and/or get that needed and well deserved massage your back has been crying for the past couple years. You can also attend your same workout class or do your old routine and simply cut your weight in half every 4th week.
The second way to start, can you remember the last time you’ve seen a dumbbell? Having trouble remembering exactly how fast you can run 8x 100 yard sprints? If that’s you then begin with your 21 by performing a few simple tests you wish to improve the most. Make the exercise and intense movement a regular part of your day by attending at least 5 times per week, and make 1-3(the number of times most sprinters perform maximum effort sprints per week) of your workouts push you to your absolute limit, nearing total muscular failure.
And don’t forget your slogan, “Work 21 Days – Active Rest Seven!”