7 Training Rules to Break for Big Gains


Jan 18, 2023
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Get Shredded!
I really dislike being told what to do. Always have, probably always will. Therefore, I have a natural tendency to break rules.

I recognize this is not the best trait to have. Being like this can make things unnecessarily difficult in your life.

However, some rules are made to be broken.

I typically get concerned when people start throwing out bullshit fitness and nutrition “rules”.

Especially when they make it seem like a failure to abide by said rules will result in spontaneous human combustion…srs.

You know the one’s I’m talking about.

– Don’t Eat Carbs After 6pm

– Eat Every Two Hours

– Use Light Weights To Get Shredded

– Don’t Do Cardio

– Do All The Cardio

– Eat Extraordinarily Clean All Week and Then Binge Your Ass Off All Weekend

You get the picture.

I’m not going to waste my time telling you to break those rules. We both know that list is a pile of crap.

The rules I’m going to suggest breaking (on occasion) are a little less obvious.

Please note, I am not suggesting breaking these rules ALL of the time, just some of the time. I’m also not suggesting you should break all of these rules at the same time…

Now that I have you throughly confused, let’s get started!

Rule #1 – Always Follow a Program​

Instead -> Stop Depending on a Program

If you have never followed a properly periodized training program before this is NOT for you. In fact, change “stop” to “start” and jump on a program ASAP!

For those of you have been religiously following a program for months, possibly even years, now is the time to mix things up.

I love programming, my business is programming, so this is definitely not a knock on it. Following quality programming is the one thing that really took my training to the next level.

However, with that being said, after following strict programming for years I needed a break. Over the last couple months I ran a self experiment by ditching my conventional programming in favor of what I call “just winging it”. For the experiment I would go into the gym with a rough idea of what I wanted to do but thats it – just an idea. No defined sets, reps, volume, or even specific exercises.

The results? Three straight weeks hitting rep and weight PRs on my squat.

Why do I think this happened? For one, my training immediately got a lot more fun. I really got amped up to go train again. I got bogged down with following programs. I became a robot just following the plan as is.

Don’t allow yourself to be a slave to the percentages.

What I really started doing for the experiment was an unofficial auto-regulation program in my head. When I felt good, I crushed it, and when I didn’t, I took it easy.

Training is not about sets, reps, percentages or even special programs. It’s about creating progressive overload and as long as that is achieved, a typical program is not always needed.

Rule #2- Never Train a Sore Muscle​

Instead -> It’s Perfectly Fine to Train a Sore Muscle

This rule is typical bro logic. The idea is, you can’t train a sore muscle because it is still “recovering” and training it before its fully recovered nullifies all gainz. Huh?

That’s not exactly how it works.

Somewhere along the line muscle soreness got a lot more credit than it deserves.

Let’s get a couple things straight. You can train a sore muscle and doing so will not hinder recovery (within reason).

This is important because a high frequency training approach (which is more optimal for building muscle and strength) often requires training a sore muscle, at least at first.

Muscles are very adaptive. For example, when you only train legs once a week your legs are crushed for 5 days afterwards. As soon as you start training legs more frequently (2-3 times per week) they won’t be sore nearly as long. You just have to get over that initial hump. Despite more bro logic, soreness does not equate to how successful a workout was.

As a side note, if a muscle is really sore and it is painful to go through a full range of motion your performance is likely to suffer. Keep that in mind.

Rule #3 – Always Do an Extensive Warm Up​

Instead -> Essentialize Your Warm Up

You know the guy who comes into the gym and spends over an hour warming up, doing elaborate foam rolling and band work, then proceeds to train for fifteen minutes? Don’t be that guy.

I’m not saying warming up is bad, but at the end of the day if your warm up takes longer than your workout, something needs to be re-evaluated.

We all have a limited amount of time to train. Building muscle and gaining strength requires a lot of volume and volume takes time.

I call this training economy. What is the best way to spend your time in the gym?

If you only have two hours to be at the gym and your workout takes almost that long you have to start thinking about how to get prepared to train in a quicker fashion.

You need to ask yourself a tough question – what is essential to my warm up? The question itself is not hard. You can most likely come up with the top few things pretty easily. However, the hard part is eliminating what you deem non essential.

Rule #4- Take At Least 2 Rest Days a Week​

Instead -> Take NO Rest Days Unless You Need Them

Rest days. Everyone takes them but does everyone need them when they take them?

I’m not saying you need to train everyday. I’m not even recommending it. However, I am empowering you to recognize when you need a rest day.

A lot of my training programs leave the rest day(s) up to the client. I may suggest what I feel is the most optimal breakdown (2 on 1 off, 3 on 1 off, etc.) but at the end of the day the client has final say and as long as the work gets done I’m happy.

Life happens. Naturally, some days you are going to feel better than others. I hate it when people get a terrible nights sleep, wake up feeling like garbage but have to go in and train. On the flip side sometimes you will wake up feeling like you could take over the world but are left to sit home because it’s supposed to be a rest day.

I say screw that. Train when you want and take a rest when you need it.

Auto-regulate your rest days.

Rule #5- Do Fasted Cardio For Fat Loss​

Instead -> Eat Before Doing Cardio

Ahh fasted cardio. The topic seems to pop up a few times a year when either new research comes out or some well known bodybuilder aimlessly defends it on social media.

On one side you have the bodybuilding crowd that swears by it. In their defense, fasted cardio is very common amongst pre contest bodybuilders looking to get shredded. It obviously works, but so does fed cardio…equally if not better.

Scientific literature does NOT support fasted cardio to be better then fed cardio.

The thinking behind doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is that there is no food to go through so to speak so a greater percentage of fat will be “burned”. Without going beyond the scope of this article, that logic demonstrates a poor understanding on how body fat is actually lost.

There is more to fat loss than just fat oxidation. It comes down to 24 hour energy expenditure and the metabolic benefit cardio creates.

Bottom line, do cardio whenever its most convenient to you. There is no evidence to suggest fasted cardio can offer any benefits over fed.

In my opinion, I would much rather see someone do HIIT at some point in the day, fed, than doing low intensity cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Because what it really comes down to is HIIT>LISS

Rule #6- Deload Every 4 Weeks​

Instead – > Only De-load When You Have To

Similarly to taking rest days, de-loading has become something we all do regardless if we really need to or not.

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to plan in recovery time. But, as a common theme in this article I like to make you think before acting.

One of the keys to taking your fitness to the next level is going to come down to how well you know your body. Knowing when to take rest days and de-loads is imperative to optimizing your training.

Everyone has different recovery ability.

You should be able to figure out if you need an active recovery day or de-load after a couple warm up sets. If you feel beat up, tired, and weak it’s probably a good day to take it easy. Depending on how crappy you feel, an entire de-load week (3-5 days) might be necessary.

On the other hand if the warm up sets are flying up and you feel strong as ever (on scheduled de-load week) it might be a good day to hit a PR regardless if it is a de-load week or not.

Some of my best lifts have came on days when I wasn’t supposed to lift heavy that day!

Rule #7 – Never Curl in the Squat Rack​

Instead – > Always Curl in the Squat Rack or a Deadlift Platform if Available

Seriously where else are you supposed to curl?