The One Question I Hate Answering

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Hate is a strong word.

I generally reserve that word for things like:

  • Mushrooms1
  • Kipping pull-ups
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Talking about my feelings
  • White supremacists

However, a few weeks ago I received an email asking me a question I really do hate answering. No, it wasn’t asking me to send money to a Nigerian Prince. Instead it was from an editor of a website (I don’t recall which one) asking me if I’d be willing to send over a few thoughts regarding “what I felt were some of the best innovations in strength & conditioning heading into 2021?”


I’m sure I could scour my email’s trash bin from the past decade and find a similar email from an editor or freelance writer asking me some iteration of the exact same question.

I’d be remiss, if not come across as the ultimate curmudgeon, if I didn’t recognize that there truly has been some fantastic and innovative advances in strength & conditioning/personal training since I entered the industry in 2002.

The internet, for one thing, has made it infinitely easier to run one’s business and gain access to a wider array of clientele. When I first started offering remote coaching services I had clients mail me a check via the actual mail and had to use a digital camera to take & upload videos onto my computer, which then took three hours per video (give or take a week) to send via email.

Now there are entire websites and resources that make the process seamless. A one-stop shop of fitness-business prowess.

There’s an endless tapestry and selection of exercise equipment, specialty bars, and the like that we can choose from to hone in on specific goals and even body parts.

We also have a vast array of gadgets that bleep and bloop and do everything from measure one’s bar speed to offering feedback on technique to using heart-rate variability to help dictate one’s readiness to train on any given day.

I am not against innovation and stuff that’s new and exciting. I’ve had my fair share of leaning into the latest, brightness, and shiniest new thingamabobbers out there.

That said, I’d also be remiss not to note that we often get far too carried away and miss the forest for the trees. We’ve gotten to the point where technology sorta handcuffs us. We’ll renege on a workout because some app told us a rainbow didn’t appear in Mississippi today.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m being overly facetious here…

…but I am not too far off the mark.

Old Shit Still Works

What worked in 1985, still works today.

More to the point, barbells and dumbbells still work.

Then again, maybe I really am a curmudgeon and today’s fitness crowd requires a bit more gamification in order to be incentivized to exercise?

Either way, here’s my “recipe” for fitness innovation:

1. 3×52

Whenever I teach workshops, especially to other health/fitness professionals, and I go out of my way to expound on exercises I drills I like for this and that, I’ll inevitably be asked…

…”So, Tony, why do you insist on presenting with your shirt off how many sets and reps do you suggest?”

My answer is always 3×52.

If you can motivate yourself (or your clients) to workout 3 times per week, 52 weeks a year, some cool shit is bound to happen.

My bias is toward simple stuff like using easily accessible equipment (barbells and dumbbells), but if it has to entail a super attractive instructor taking you through a workout on a $3000.00 bike/screen in your dining room while listening to Daft Punk go for it.

Consistency of exercise matters more than the mode.

2. Strain a Little

You don’t need to shit your spleen in order to make a workout effective.

Conversely, if your workout consists of 5 lb weights while you watch an episode of Real Housewives you need to try harder.

There has to be a degree of strain in order to force the body to adapt to a stressor.

Keeping things as simple as possible on this front, this is why I’m such a fan of a 5×5 approach for most people. Pick an exercise, say, bench press.

Choose you weight you KNOW you can do for 6-8 reps (but not 10 or more).

Chances are the first 1-3 sets will feel quite doable if not easy. Once you enter the 4th or 5th se territory, that weight is going to become more challenging (as fatigue sets in).

You may find it will look something like this:

Set 1: 155 x5
Set 2: 155×5
Set 3: 155×5
Set 4: 155×4
Set 5: 155×3

The objective would be to stay at that weight until you’re able to complete 5 sets of 5 repetitions.

Once you do, you can then increase the weight 5-10 lbs and start the process all over again.

Easy training is good training. This approach ensures progressive overload without crushing your soul.

3. Make Sure Nutrition Matches Your Goals

One word: Keto.

Just kidding.

Tha fuck outta here.

But seriously, I won’t belabor this point, it’s just common sense.

4. Go to Bed

It amazes people will spend hundreds (if not thousands) of $$ on supplements, Theraguns, fancy boots, and contrast showers that use distilled water filtered through the beard of Jesus in the name of optimal recovery…

…when the cheapest (and best) thing they could do on that front is just go to bed at a decent hour.

That’s not click-baity enough though.

5. That’s It

That’s it.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. To clarify: portobello. But, admittedly, I’ve never partook in psychedelic…;o)

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