Do You Know The 85% Rule For Maximal Progress?

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

True or false: the harder you train the better your results? If you just arrived here from another planet you might assume that’s true.

It makes sense on the surface. But it never seems to pan out that way for most of us.

You can only put the pedal to the medal for so long. When you do it constantly your progress slows down. Sometimes it comes to a halt. Worse yet, you might start to regress.

Sadly, it’s always the skinny-fat, high stress, hardgainer types who want to test this theory. They’re the last people who should be doing this. But they always do. That’s why they find they can only train 2-3 times per week for twenty minutes. That’s why they get crushed from their workouts. That’s one of the reasons they’re always injured. Or sick.

Been there, done that. I used to hit smelling salts at every workout. I’d have Henry Rollins and Ice Cube cranking to level 10. I’d headbutt walls, and stir up all the hatred and anger I could… before a set of curls. Every set of curls. And dumbbell presses. And lunges. And… you get the point.

Obviously, that never worked out so well for me.

If you want to make real progress over the long haul there’s a better approach.

The guy who can train consistently for years on end, without burnout or injury is the one will make the greatest gains. To do that you CAN’T go balls to the wall at every workout. It can’t always be a competition or a day you set new PRs.

You just have to get in and do the work. Eventually the volume and total workload adds up to massive gains. A maximum, 100% effort is not required every single time. 85-90% will do just fine. And that level of intensity is maintainable over a lifetime.

Think about it like this…

Picture anything else you do on a regular basis. It could be surfing, soccer practice, playing an instrument, cooking, writing, or martial arts.

Would you ever get yourself worked up into a lather before those activities? Would you play until your fingers bled? Type until your eyes blurred? Chop onions like the Tasmanian Devil on an 8 ball? Paddle out on your surfboard so hard that you needed an oxygen tank before every wave?

Of course not. To get good at something and see results from it you have to make it a habit. Habits will always trump discipline. To do something habitually it shouldn’t require an off-the-charts level of insane intensity. Every workout doesn’t have to be a 90’s supplement ad.

I’ll finish with a quote from the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda. He was way ahead of his time and also knew a thing or two about building incredible physiques.

“To summarize my recommendations about workout intensity- you should make every attempt to observe the reactions of your muscles to varying intensity loads while sustaining 85% of your maximum effort. Only very infrequently pushing to absolute all out effort, which when practiced regularly actually stunts muscle growth. Or worse- you lose size!”

Train hard. But more importantly, train smart(er).


PS. Our brand new 6 week training program, Renegade Strong is now available for instant download HERE. Get it for 66% off until the end of the week.