It’s recently dawned on me that if you follow my training recommendations, you’ll be essentially training like an Olympic weightlifter, although you may not actually be doing the O-lifts themselves. The salient points of such an approach include:

• Performing (relatively) many sets of (relatively) few reps. Most people of course, do just the opposite. Their focus is on trying to accomplish the workout’s objectives over the smallest possible number of sets (usually 3-4 per exercise). Now of course, if you told me you could only perform one set, I’d recommend taking that set to failure. But guess what? We’re not bound by that restriction! So instead, I’m asking you to do as little as possible in one set, and make up the balance by performing many sets. This is the only way to ensure intra-set recovery of your Type IIb motor units. It’s also safer and less psychologically daunting, but consider that a bonus.

• Using acceleration as leverage for triggering anaerobic metabolism and Type IIb fiber stimulation. Muscles don’t know how much weight is on the bar, they only know how much tension they’re experiencing. We can safely develop the highest tensions using moderate weights, provided we focus on accelerating each and every rep to maximum speed. If you’re worried about momentum lifting the weight, don’t be: it was your muscles that created the momentum in the first place.

• Finding the easiest way to move a weight, not the hardest. This ties into the previous point. The nervous system is designed for efficiency, not inefficiency. Probably has something to do with conservation of energy, or maybe mother nature’s disinterest in you doing anything but living long enough for you to pass your genes on to the next generation. Nonetheless, the best way to train muscles is to find exercises that 1) permit many muscle groups to cooperate in the task as a team, and 2) allow efficient acceleration of the load. What’s that? If you’re efficient, you don’t burn as many calories? Not to worry, we’ll just do a LOT more sets to make up the difference. Like maybe 14 sets per exercise— maybe more.

• Prioritizing performance over pain. “Exercisers” place value on physical activity based on how much it does or doesn’t hurt. If it hurts, it must be working. Athletes, on the other hand, know that it’s the work you do— not how it feels to do that work— that determines the end result. It takes “X” amount of energy to do “X” amount of work, so remember that the next time your buddy helps you with a few forced reps after you hit failure on a set of decline benches.

I could continue with more parallels, but maybe you’d like to chime in yourself…if so, please leave me a comment below.

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“One of the signs of a great teacher is the ability to make the subject matter seem simple. Charles Staley is one of these rare teachers. After listening and talking to him, you suddenly achieve a new awareness of training. You go to the gym and, suddenly, everything makes sense, and you wonder why you haven’t been doing it his way since day one.” – Muscle Media 2000 magazine August, 1999


Prominent both the United States and across the globe, Charles is recognized as an insightful coach and innovator in the field of human performance. His knowledge, skills and reputation have lead to appearances on NBC's The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show, along with numerous radio appearances.


He has authored more than a thousand articles for leading fitness publications and websites, and has lectured to eager audiences around the World.


Charles is not only a thinker, but also a doer: At age 54, he competes in the sport of raw powerlifting, and is a 2-time World Champion (220 and 198-pound weight classes). Find Charles online at www.TargetFocusFitness.com.