The Search For The Perfect Training Method

When I train, I want the perfect training method. I want the ideal balance of strength, conditioning, mobility, everything. I want it to be just intense enough to make me a fitness diety while being fun enough that I don’t actually care.

The question is, does such a training methodology actually exist?

As noted previously, I’m doing Starting Strength yet again. It works fairly well as a strength-building protocol, but one of my issues is that it explicitly advises people to not engage in conditioning work. Now, individual Starting Strength coaches will instruct individual clients otherwise, particularly for health reasons, but the protocol outlined in the books doesn’t.

The general advice is that unless you were doing it before you start lifting, don’t do it during your novice linear progression (also thought of as the Starting Strength period).

Now, to be fair, Starting Strength is about building up your strength. When you train with its methods, you’re trying to build up your strength as much as humanly possible. That means other things, such as conditioning work, tends to get relegated to the back burner. You focus on one thing at a time.

Unfortunately for me, that doesn’t really work for me.

As I said, I want perfection. I want it all.

More importantly, though, I need most of this. I need increased mobility, particularly in my wrists (I can’t hold a front squat rack position to save my life), as well as better strength and conditioning.

HEMA is great. There are a lot of benefits one can gain from it. However, I don’t want to just get my conditioning from fighting. Especially since we’re not even close to being ready to actually spar.

It’s not going to provide the kind of conditioning work I need.

Why is it so important?

The reason this matters is very simple. I’m currently at a weight where weight loss has slowed to a crawl, if it even happens in a given week or not. I don’t want to cut calories for somewhat obvious reasons. That means I need to figure out a way to increase my caloric deficit.

While I get some of that from weight training three days per week, it’s not enough. Especially since the South Georgia heat keeps me from pushing to finish workouts quickly. I’ve had heat stroke before and I’d just as soon not experience that again, you know?

Which means I need some kind of conditioning work to boost that caloric deficit. That’s something that the Starting Strength protocol is explicitly against.

Does it really matter what Starting STrength says?

At the end of the day, this is probably the most important question. I know the arguments against it, that it retards muscle growth and that you won’t maximize your strength gains.

The thing is, does it do so to such a degree that it warrants completely ignoring conditioning while trying to gain strength?

Perhaps more importantly, how strong can one get while also engaging in conditioning work?

If it retards strength gains to a significant enough degree, then the answer is clear. Don’t mix the two. Build your strength, then worry about conditioning. After all, you can build a solid conditioning base in just a few weeks if need be.

However, I’m not completely convinced that it will.

Crossfit And Strength

When I look at Crossfit athletes, I see people who are lean, strong, and conditioned. They certainly seem to balance it all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know all the issues many people have with Crossfit. I get it.

However, I also think that some of the principles underlying Crossfit can be useful for the rest of us. In particular, though, it illustrates you can gain strength while also developing conditioning.

I know that most of who I see are the elite Crossfitters who compete at a really high level at places like the Crossfit Games, but some folks like Dave have also reported gaining strength and conditioning. I trust Dave. I wouldn’t let him write here if I didn’t.

OK, I probably would, but only because he makes me giggle.

Anyway, though, there are ordinary people who aren’t Games athletes who report similar results, so it can be done. I won’t say it’s the perfect training method, but it does seem close.

But How?

That’s the big question now, isn’t it? There are a few ways I could see.

One, of course, would be to start doing Crossfit-style workouts here at home. If I get a grasp of the principles, I could probably start programming for myself. If not, I could probably find a site that would program for me easily enough.

I’m not sure I want to go that route just yet. Maybe later, but not for right now. I somehow think 99-degree temps and learning to do Crossfit might not be a good combination.

Another route I can do is add conditioning work on my off days. This is kind of what I’m planning on doing, and since today is an off day, it’s a fine time to start.

My plan is to do some kettlebell snatches followed by sled drags and maybe even some farmer’s walks just for fun. Do them as a circuit, finishing one then going to the other to keep the heart rate up and build up some cardiovascular conditioning.

Plus, these are resistance exercises, which I suspect will have minimal impact on strength gains.

The fact that kettlebell snatches are incredible for conditioning is just a pleasant bonus.

However, this is probably just where I’m going to start.

Will that make it the perfect training method?


The problem is, I’m not sure such a program is within my grasp at this time. I’m not even sure such a program truly exists.

“Didn’t you just say Crossfit was close to the perfect training method?” Yep. But it’s not, and I’m not convinced anything actually can be. I’m also not convinced that it can’t.

Maybe we’ll find that perfect training methodology somewhere in the great beyond. In the meantime, we need to get stronger, get conditioned, and get better overall.

Frankly, I’m not sure I care if it slows down my strength gains, so long as the strength gains keep on coming.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

5 thoughts on “The Search For The Perfect Training Method”

  1. I have several problems with CrossFit. It’s aimed right at the wealthy and unattached. Seriously, with typical memberships running $80-150/month, it’s not targeting the same demographic or psychographic as some place like Gold’s Gym (I managed a $25/mo membership in college), or Planet Fitness. Also, the hour classes in a set schedule mean you fit yourself to CrossFit, not CrossFit to your schedule. This annoys me, as someone who deals with being a primary caregiver to small humans on a daily basis. I just *can’t* manage that consistently right now. Instead, Mrs. Dave and used several months of CF membership dues and bought ourselves a power rack, barbell, and bumper plates, and I lift at home. I freely admit I’m not up to snuff on my cardio conditioning, but I have plans in that direction. More on CrossFit after I get to my obligatory writing.

    1. One more problem I have: you never actually get good at anything. Seriously, the guys and gals I knew in CF gyms who were actually good at lifting practiced their lifts outside of CF. Ditto running, swimming, kettlebells, etc. CrossFit as it exists, is an exercise non-routine. Even Rich Froening trains non-CF methodologies in order to be better prepared for the games. Consequently, if you want to be good at something, train for that thing. Train movements that will improve your ability to do that thing. Do agility training for martial arts. Skip a speed rope to improve sprints. And vice versa. And also to make yourself quicker on your feet. Do CrossFit because you enjoy it, or because you love the community (which is legit) or because you want to become a generalist. But don’t do CrossFit to get better at dance. Dance to get better at dance.

      1. No argument about that.

        I’m just commenting about general fitness. I would never recommend someone like a powerlifter to undertake Crossfit, for example.

        1. I dunno. I might. At least in the short-term. I mean, just finished a bulking phase and looking to lean out, and maybe boost the ol’ VO2 max, and some CrossFit style HIIT-ish workouts on conditioning days might be just the thing. Once or twice a week or so.

          1. I probably wouldn’t under that circumstance. They’re still going to be lifting fairly intensely and a Crossfit-style HIIT workout would tax their ability to recover from either workout effectively.

            That’s actually a good time for low-intensity steady-state cardio, IMO.

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