9 Ideas to Improve Your Workouts

3 Ideas About Reps

1. Use Countdown Reps

I’m a huge fan of 5 x 5 workouts and this little change can be very valuable. I’ve always thought that the second to last set is the toughest mentally and this is a way to get around that problem. 5-4-3-2-1 … simple. 

2. The “And-One” Method

 “And” is the first rep and “one” is the second. A set of 10 looks like this:

You’ve done 10 reps, but you’ve only counted five. Ten reps can be a struggle for me by rep 8 or 9, but this method somehow tricks the mind. Much of training is a mind game, so accept it and play with it.

3. Embrace “Ish”

John Powell’s approach to the 5 x 5. Each year, he’d set a goal of doing a weight for 5 sets of 5. If he chose 365 as his target weight, he’d plop down on the bench once a week and test himself.

Workout One

He’d then add up the total reps of the workout (10 in this case). As the weeks and months progressed, he’d slowly work up into the teens, and then the low twenties. With a serious enough weight, it could take months to build up to the full 25 reps of a 5 x 5 workout. The upside of this workout may not be obvious, but it allows you to use heavy weights and slowly, steadily, build up the volume. Progress in life and the weightroom is as “ishy” as I can imagine.

3 Ideas About Workouts

1. Punch the Clock

Those are sessions where you just show up and do the work. If you had a plan, you followed it. If you had a preprinted workout, you finished it.

Like a craftsman, much of our training is going to be showing up and doing stuff. It’s also the kind of training that builds a reliable system over time. But there are times that you need to leave it all on the floor and sadly, in my second thought below, “leaving it all on the floor” can actually happen.

2. Perform Challenges

I like to call these workouts and short windows of training “challenges.” I also call these “Kill Yourself Workouts.” They’re great, but you can only do these for about three weeks before you die.

Most gyms that push “balls to the wall” training every session tend to have huge dropout rates, lots of physical therapy issues, and tend to close rather quickly. You certainly can do anything, but there’s wisdom in not doing everything all the time.

3. The Hangover Rule

I’d like to introduce you to “The Hangover Rule.” I’ve had conversations with people from all kinds of sports and I noticed a pattern – their lifetime best effort was often performed the morning after a series of bad decisions. 

Why? How? Don’t know and don’t ask. I’ve learned that extraordinary training sessions and days just pop out of nowhere and you have to enjoy your dance with these rare moments of life.

3 Ideas About Programming

1. Look for Gaps

In programming, I keep my eye on two basic concepts that open the way for a third. First, I’m all about looking for gaps in training. Gaps consist of anything you should be doing, but aren’t doing. Here’s my list of the fundamental human movements:

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Hinge
  • Squat
  • Loaded Carry
  • (Everything Else)


2. Meet the Standards

Next, logically, come the standards.

My standard for instance – 

Power Clean:
Back Squat:
Front Squat:
Standing Press:
Power Clean & Jerk:
Bench Press:

The idea is to have attainable but high standards to keep in your mind every workout, these are not my max’s, but they are numbers I would be disappointed not to reach. 

3. Trust Your Intuition

You must trust yourself and train with intuition. It was once called “instinctive training,” but it’s simply this – when you’ve put the time, effort, and energy into your training, you can sometimes “get a hint” that you need to do X, Y, or Z.

Now that doesn’t mean every day is going to be arm day because the Force is telling you to work your biceps.

If you keep a running log of checking your gaps and trying to fulfill certain standards, you can allow yourself a lot more flexibility in your training because you can see over a week or month whether your “instinct” is right or wrong.

Your strengths won’t go anywhere. In fact, it tends to improve when the whole system is improved. So, when it comes to training on intuition, “Trust, but verify.”

Time Well Spent

I spend considerable time simply “thinking” about how to make my training  better. I urge you to do the same. It’s quality time that might be far more meaningful than much of what you do in the gym each day.


Aspire to Inspire. 


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