MTOD #6: Fix the Leaks in Your Training


Most people have more leaks in their training than my first car after I doused the engine in gasoline and burned it to the ground (See picture).

fiery car

Just kidding, that’s just a random picture of a car off the internet. But the point holds true. That car might be what your training program looks like. Which is fine. My training has looked like that too.

My point is: fix the leaks in your training and get better results.

Another shoddy analogy: would you use a pipe full of holes to transport water? No? Me either.

But the “pipe” to your strength goals probably has more leaks than this.

So let’s talk about how to fix the leaks in your training. But first, I need to make a distinction between training and movement.

Training should be as inefficient as possible. Movement should be as efficient as possible. Training is scientific, structured and quantified. Movement is artistic, unstructured, and (often) impossible to quantify. In training, you should be making consistent progress with the metrics you’re using. In movement, you should be improving skill and efficiency. Movement is based more on PRINCIPLES, not necessarily exact methods. Training requires specific methods. Movement is more about “feel” – about solving varied and complex motor problems. Training is more about results and solving predictable motor patterns.

In other words, train like a scientist, move like an artist.

But you can’t train like a scientist if you have leaks in your training.

And you also can’t fix the leaks in your training if you don’t record them. So a training journal is a must.

Side note: a training journal isn’t just a cute personal artifact so you can look back with fondness on “the good ol’ days.” The purpose of a training journal is to help you make better decisions about future training. It’s about seeing where you’ve come from, so you can better figure out how to get where you want to go.

Most people have at least 1-2 of these leaks. If you only have 1-2 you’re probably doing pretty good. More than that and you probably leaving something on the table (like progress, joint health, sanity, etc)


  • Sets + reps (total volume) – interacts with load, rest, and tempo
  • Load – Interacts with sets, reps, and rest
  • Rest – Interacts with everything
  • Range of motion – interacts with everything
  • Frequency – interacts with everything
  • Tempo (time under tension) – interacts with sets, reps, rest, and load
  • Exercise order – interacts with nearly everything. “That which is done first is done best”
  • The goal or REASON why you’re doing it – interacts with whether or not you’ll get your ass in gear and do the work.

All of these elements interact on some level and without keeping track of them, it’s easy to for your training to “leak” your progress.

Now, you don’t actually need to record all of these if they’re implicit and deeply engrained into what you do. You shouldn’t need to record that you did full range of motion. That should be implicit.

As a side note, I like to keep track of this all in Evernote because it easily syncs to all phones, tablets, laptops, etc. The exact format can vary, but mine looks something like this:

[su_box title=”7/31/2014 – Bent Arm Strength (BAS) – Accumulation phase” box_color=”#00aeef”]A1. Standing barbell press
Reps: 5, 5, 5, 5 (recorded as I do them. This is how I keep track of sets)
Rest: 3 minutes between each set
Load: 120#
Tempo: 31X0
Next time: Add 1-2% load

A2. Weighted Chin up
Reps: 5, 5, 5, 5 (recorded as I do them. This is how I keep track of sets)
Rest: 3 minutes between each set
Load: 45#
Tempo: 31X1
Next time: Add 1-2% load (45 + bodyweight)[/su_box]

Couple things I want to point out:

1. I have three different strength sessions.

  • Day 1 – Session A
  • Day 3 – Session B
  • Day 5 – Session C

So for frequency, I do one strength session about every 48 hours and I repeat each session every 6 days.

(Fun fact, the nervous system and soft tissue like tendons take 7-10 times longer to recover than your muscles)

Lately, I’ve been extremely minimalist in my training and I’m trying to do as little as possible while still making progress in every single workout. Once I’ve stopped making progress for 2 sessions, that means it’s time to switch things up.

2. It is EXTREMELY useful to make a note of how your workout went and what you think you’ll be able to add to the next session while it is still fresh in your mind.

The next time you come into the gym, you may have forgotten just how hard (or easy) your last training session was, and you might not optimize loading for that session. Compound that over 50 workouts and you leave a lot of gains on the table.

3. Some people might not understand the structure and nomenclature of all the components of this workout. If you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you in a few hours.

4. The actual weight and reps I use here is not impressive. Time under tension (TUT) for each set, can make the other numbers look deceptive.

With a tempo of 10X1, I could probably do two or three times the volume here. Tempo matters.  And it’s probably the number one leak in most people’s training.
So go out there, fix the leaks in your training, and enjoy steady progress that you can actually see.

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