The Economics of Training
by Mark Rippetoe | November 29, 2023
Time is money, as they say.
Training takes time, so there is an element of economy to be
considered. If you are training for a purpose, e.g. strength – as
opposed to social exposure, looking at the girls, talking to your
rat-fuck buddies, etc. – the most efficient use of time is a
concern, since time is money. For essentially everybody, a barbell
strength training program is the most efficient use of time for
accomplishing an increase in strength. As opposed to playing around
on the machines in front of the dumbbell rack with no particular
objective in mind, a 3-exercise barbell workout is actually
fitness industry is predicated on multi-station machine-based circuit
training. It’s very easy to teach to the minimum-wage floor staff, it
creates an organized flow through the club, it fosters a sense of
starting and then stopping that is not dependent on any quantifiable
values other than “the pump,” and most importantly it gets you on
and off the exercise floor without tying up an exercise station for
more than a few minutes. It’s a business model, not a training model.
that’s fine; everybody’s gotta eat. But if getting stronger is your
objective, it doesn’t work – at
all. If you cannot
drive up your numbers on the exercises that comprise your time in the
gym, you are not increasing your strength. Because strength is
measured by the amount of force you can apply to an external
resistance, and strength is therefore quantifiable in good
old-fashioned numbers. If the numbers don’t go up, you haven’t gotten
squat is a very good example of a barbell exercise that can produce a
strength increase immediately upon its incorporation into your
workout. You come to the weight room, you learn how to do the squat
you go up to a weight you can do for 5 reps, you do that weight for 3
sets of 5, and then
next workout you go up 10 pounds heavier on the last 3 sets.
And suddenly, you’re involved in the process of getting stronger.
do the same thing for the bench press and the press, alternating
these 2 exercises every other workout, and then you do the deadlift,
working up to 1 heavy set which will almost always be heavier than
the weight you squatted (1 set works better for deadlifts than 3).
This whole process has taken about an hour, has consisted of 3
exercises, works all the muscles in your body, and can be progressed
up through heavier weights for 6-8 months without getting any more
complicated than that.
contrast, your machine-based workout consists of situps, leg
extensions, leg curls, calf raises, back extensions, machine bench
presses, machine overhead presses, the pec deck, lat pulldowns, lat
rows, dumbbell curls, dumbbell tricep kickbacks, cable tricep
pushdowns, and a new machine that works your glutes. And the primary
features of this workout are that 1.) it takes longer, and 2.) the
weights don’t go up after about 3-4 weeks.
other words, if a strength increase is your objective, the barbell
training workout actually makes you stronger while taking less time,
and the machine-based workout doesn’t accomplish a goddamn thing
except the part about the girls. As it turns out, your body – just
like your car – is a system, and all the components of the system
work at the same time. Working them all together makes them better
than separating them into tires, radiator, transmission, engine, and
brakes, and using each component separately. The first way you
actually get somewhere, the second way you stay in the garage. A
faster car requires upgrades in all the components – at
the same time,
since they are interdependent. It’s a good thing we are alive, with
genes and proteins and nerves and shit like that, so we can be our
it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your time.
Most people do not have a defined goal other than getting some
exercise on the way home from the office, and there’s nothing wrong
with that. It’s better than not
getting some exercise, and you still have the girls. But if you have
thought about this and come to the conclusion that you really
honestly want to be stronger than you are now, for your health,
bragging rights, or for the girls, barbell training is your most
efficient option. Time is money, and this becomes a simple economic
calculation if you think about it for a few minutes.
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