Easy + Often = Badass

Part 2 of our series “Tao of the Lazy Badass”

Exercise is a tale of two variables: Volume (how much you do) and Intensity (how hard you do it). In weight training, Volume is the number of reps you did and Intensity is how heavy they were (as a percentage of your 1-rep max). In cardio, Volume is how many minutes or hours you ran, rowed, or rucked and Intensity is how high your heart rate was (as a percentage of your max).

You can describe any training session, or week or month or year of training, in terms of how much Volume you accumulated and its average Intensity.

And now pay attention, because this is the important part: In this country we prize intensity for some reason, but it is easier and more reliable, and much more enjoyable, if you leave the intensity alone and just accumulate volume. Put reps in the bank, and keep them fairly light. Put miles on the track, and keep them pretty slow. That is the Tao of the Lazy Badass.

By way of illustration, let’s examine Alexey Faleev’s very effective 5×5 program for “power bodybuilding” (getting big by getting strong). Faleev’s program works so well because it has you putting a lot of reps in the bank, day after day, week after week. Each session is manageable—up to 25 reps, mostly with moderate poundages—and you are fresh and ready for another session the very next day. By the end of the week, you’ve put in 105 quality reps with poundages that were heavy enough to be no joke but well within your capacities. By the end of the month, it’s 400+ reps. After 10 weeks, a thousandreps, of which fewer than twenty were very difficult, and none were more than 80% intensity (i.e. 80% of your 1-rep max). After five of those low-key cycles, you’ve get over a thousand reps each in the squat, bench, and deadlift, and you are a lean, solid dog.

All you did was show up to the gym every day, work up a very light sweat, and leave after 45 minutes. It was easy in terms of exertion, but you got much stronger. Why? Because the royal road to training success is to just accumulate Volume. And although you can skin that cat in several ways—we’ll cover most of them—all of them involve going pretty easy on Intensity so that you can come back and do it again tomorrow. That is why we say that Easy + Often = Badass.

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5 thoughts on “Easy + Often = Badass

  1. Since we last spoke, I’ve tweaked everything to an enjoyable and lightish greasing the groove variant. As much as I can do without hating it an while still being able to give’er the rest of the day. Maintaining that good feeling of a good TGU, or a set up pullups to the throat.

    I was feeling like shit, calorie deficit and too tired in the morning, feeling weaker than I was. And then you reminded me, and then I remembered, of the chinese butcher, and there was harmony once more.

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  2. I’m intrigued to hear you say that, because I feel the same way when I do Simple & Sinister. I think the program subtly presses you to go faster than Pavel intends because it’s so damned boring. Physically or mentally, I soon wear out on that program.

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    1. The /r/kettlebell subreddit ruined me a little, talking about hard vs competition style, and the strong first philosophy. I was going for reps, and they told me it was wrong, that Pavel meant for hard style to be hard.

      This is something that I’d actually like to hear your opinion on. Pavel, when I read or listen to him, usually promotes a GtG approach, but the sometimes, the strong-first approach which seems at odds with GtG. So which is it?

      Or, is the idea essentially GtG with heavy weights? Maybe that’s it? I would be philosophically at peace if not for Strong First.

      As for keeping it interesting, I don’t mind boring as long as it doesn’t take too long. The only rule I have for exercise, outside of running or marching, is that including warmup and cool down, it can’t take much more than 30 minutes, closer to 20 ideally, otherwise I won’t do it because it feels like it takes too long.

      So, I’m enjoying a not killing myself Simple and Sinister on the 24kg now, not rushing towards 32kg, and supplementing throughout the day (for fun), with low effort GtG pullups, pushups, chinups, and L-sits.

      My hips are tight as heck, though–if I were to do just one stretch for them, what should I do? Work towards the partial arts foward splits? Seems like a fun goal to work towards maybe?

      I’m in class while my students are working and I have to attend to them every so often, which is why this reply might be a little scattered. Let me know what you think.

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