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The Stoics Approach to Strength Training

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Fitness

billkaz“It is quality rather than quantity that matters.” – Seneca

Author, Ryan Holiday recently came out with a great book about stoicism. It’s been selling out like a Led Zeppelin reunion tour.

While reading it I couldn’t help but think how the philosophy applies to training.

As Ryan says, “stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon… it’s built for action, not endless debate.”

That’s like the Renegade philosophy of training.

There’s no need to make it complicated. What worked for Arthur Saxon and George Hackenshmidt in the early 1900’s still works today.

We haven’t evolved into another species.

What worked for Bill Kazmaier, Ed Coan and Doug Young in the 70’s and 80’s still works just as well today.

One of the things stoicism reminds us of is to remember how small everything is.

The angle of the bench, the rest periods, the peak contraction.

None of that is more important than taking a few big exercises and getting progressively stronger on them.

But remember the stoics philosophy here to take things as they are.

Some days you will have great workouts and hit new PR’s. Other days will suck and you won’t be able to move the bar.

Don’t get too high or too low about either circumstance.

All the guys mentioned above and most of the strongest, most jacked dudes since the 70’s have trained in a similar manner.

They cycled their big lifts, with their eyes set on setting new PR’s throughout the year.

Then they chose a few basic assistance exercises and did reps on them. Some were tracked. Some were just done for a pump.

This is the ultimate combo of size and strength building.

Focus only on what truly matters. Forget the rest. That way you can break the shackles that prevent you from ever progressing.

The constant second-guessing, and reading 999 different opinions per week. The comparing yourself to everyone else’s selfie’s all day long.

If you’re getting stronger on 3-8 big exercises your training is just where it needs to be. No chances needed.

“Show me a man who isn’t a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear. I could show you a man who has been a Consul who is a slave to his ‘little old woman’, a millionaire who is the slave of a little girl in domestic service. And there is no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed.” – Seneca

We’re all slaves to something. There’s no need to add training to the mix. It should be a fun form of stress relief. But for many it’s just another source of anxiety.

“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.”- Marcus Aurelius

I understand that nowadays everyone wants to do something “cool” or unique with their workouts. I understand that Crossfit is on everyone’s radar. I understand the obsession with “functional training.”

But at some point you have to ask yourself what your goals are.

Is it to “increase your work capacity?”

“To be fit?”

“To get better at parlor tricks or running laps?”

If, above all else, you want to get bigger and stronger your training should really reflect that.

Jay Ferruggia

PS. For a focused size and strength building program check out MGS 2.0.