When you have multiple goals pulling you in different directions, it can be tempting to try to work on all of them at once.
And while we’ve always made it clear our top recommendation is to work on one goal at a time, we know there are still people who want to combine programs – whether that’s more than one GMB program, or any other combination thereof.
So, in this episode, Andy’s back to talk with Ryan about some guidelines for combining programs without losing sight of the big picture.
What you’ll hear:
- 01:25 – We often get asked how to combine programs together, but the better question to ask is “What is your goal?”
- 04:15 – We recommend cycling your training to make sure you’re putting in the optimal type of work for whatever you are working towards. The more you are working on, the less time you can devote to each specific skill.
- 06:35 – To be successful at combining programs you have to boil it down to two points: First, what physical attributes you are developing and second, what skills you are working toward.
- 08:20 – Remember: different training disciplines require different skill sets. One discipline may take longer to develop than another.
- 12:30 – Here’s the best bang-for-your-buck structure for a training session (hint: we designed all of our programs in this way)
- 16:15 – The inverse relationship between strength, conditioning, and technique: The more repetitions you perform the harder it is to maintain proper form.
- 19:20 – Just because you can perform multiple things at once going full throttle doesn’t mean you should. It’s important to remember sometimes you have to check your ego at the door.
- 20:35 – You can combine other programs that are not GMB but you have know where things fit together.
If you’re trying to combine every single thing that you can… well then you’re only dabbling. You’re not really focusing on what you need.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
When and How to Combine Training Programs
Ryan: All right, we’re rolling.
Andy: All right. Welcome to the GMB show unfortunate fluorescent lighting edition. I’m Andy, this is Ryan, for the next 20 plus or minus minutes we’re going to be talking about how you can put together different but related programs that have different benefits and different attributes, different skills. How you can combine different ideas, different sorts of programs, without them collapsing the probability wave into all kinds of negative, nasty consequences.
Ryan: Sounds fun, man, not very scientific at all. I think we should go its all science, right, it’s all science. Yeah, this is something…
Andy: Yeah, I think collapsing the probability wave it’s not actual, it’s not actual any kind of nuclear science involved. It’s not really you don’t even have to call Heisenberg to ask about anything. You don’t have it check on the cat. None of this stuff applies. It’s not as scientific as most people try to make it out to be. Now, there is science behind programming, but when it comes to how it impacts the real world it’s just like Mike Tyson said, “Everybody’s got a plan then they get punched in the mouth.” Your training is a lot like a punch in the mouth sometimes.
Ryan: That’s right. This is one of the questions we get all the time. How can I combine all of these different things together, create the ultimate program for me to do it. You know what? While you can combine things you first need to take a look at is it really necessary or not? It all comes back down to your main goal. If you’re trying to combine every single thing you can you’re only dabbling. You’re not really focusing on what you need and that’s what you really need to take a look at.
Yeah, we might want to be able to do barbell squats with I have no idea planches, iron crosses, what else can we throw in there? One-arm hand stands and all these…
Andy: Agility drills.
Ryan: There you go, just all this fun stuff, but it really comes down to looking at what you can do, you’re lifestyle. Do you have the proper time? Do you have the nutrition dialed in? Do you have your recover? What’s going on in your life and then looking at really what you need.
This isn’t science. This is really just taking a step back and becoming more aware of what’s going on in your life and what you can actually do. We all have to start somewhere. Looking at, I think, the best thing that you could do is find something that you actually want to work on, something that you would enjoy working on and start from there. Sometimes this might mean cutting out some of the other things that you’ve been doing right now.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t do them and that’s what we’re going to talk about today is how you can combine some of these things, but really take a look at making sure that it’s not taking over and affecting some of the other things that you’re trying to do. Let’s just get into it. Andy, why don’t you throw out some things that maybe a person might want to work on and let’s see how we could give some examples of how we could combine things? Is that a good place to start?
Andy: Yeah, I think first I just want to say we have talked about that, at GMB, we do generally recommend picking something to focus on and cycling through it. I’m not going to go into the lasagna and oatmeal cookie lecture again. We’ve talked about cycling before on the website. We’ve talked about, on the show, before how to put some things on the back burner if you don’t need to focus on them. Today, we’re going to talk about how to put things together if you just really, really want to work on different things simultaneously.
With that said though, I do want to also say that you cannot optimize being a generalist. You cannot optimally be general that’s not the way it works. Optimization means specializing. Optimization means you have a goal. Optimization means that you trend towards something. You cannot optimize for everything. That’s why we recommend cycling and what that approach is about is trying to optimize selectively for short periods on this then on this then on this, so that the trend over time is that everything does improve.
If you just want to do everything at once understand that you can’t do it optimally. You can have a lot of scientific theories about how to peritonize and peak and all this stuff, but really that’s not the way life works. You can’t do everything the best you can. There’s being a generalist and then there’s being a dilatant. You can’t do everything at full capacity all the time unless it’s your job and your life. If you really want to do everything you’re working at 50% capacity for each if you’re doing 2 things; 30% capacity each of you do 3 things. If you’re doing 10 things 10% capacity is all you’ve got because nobody has more than 100% unless you’re taking away from other things. That’s really one of those…
Ryan: That’s what it comes down to really, yeah, is you have to look at those percentages.
Andy: It’s always balance.
Ryan: That’s really I think where our discussion is going. That’s out in thing is just to let you know that yes if you really, really want to combine stuff great, go ahead, do it. We’re not going to be the ones that say no you’re going to die. You can do whatever you want, but you just have to understand that you’re not going to be working at full capacity because you have to adjust things in order to be able to continue doing whatever you’re doing.
Looking at those 2 movements that’s the division is going to be 50/50. If your goal is you want to nail the plant and if you want to nail the one-arm handstand then I would step back and look at those individually and focus on one of those at a time. But, this discussion is about combing stuff. How do we combine stuff?
Andy: The way to do that is to look not at the skill you’re trying to do or at your goal of being great at everything because this is either too specific or too general when you’re talking about putting different things together. It’s not useful for our programming perspective.
When you’re looking at programming a training plan you need to look at what attributes you’re developing in your body and what skills you are learning. That’s the way that you’re going to be able to productively put together different ideas in training. At GMB we tend to break things down to strength, flexibility and control. Now there’s also other things like on the strength continuum we also have strength endurance the ability to hold something heavy or hold a position for a long amount of time.
We also have power which is like the opposite side of that, the ability to increase to create force very quickly for a short duration. On the flexibility side, there’s joint mobility and stretchiness flexibility. We all know that you don’t actually make the muscles longer, but there’s also a thing where you train the body not to hold that tonus. On the control side of things there’s different kinds of skills. There’s the vestibular sense that increases that gets more efficient. There’s gross motor, fine motor, things like that.
A lot of things, a lot of stuff to keep in mind and when you want to combine different kinds of programs together it’s not as simple as saying I want to do rings for upper body and lifting for lower body because anyone who’s done either one of those knows that Ali lifting requires a lot more technique and a lot of flexibility that people don’t realize. Also, the rings also uses a lot more of your body than just your upper body too.
The other thing is that a lot of the advance ring skills that people think they’re going to do require a lot more joint range of motion than most people have. They also put tendons under a lot more stress than we’re able to handle. It takes longer to develop than it does just to develop the muscular strength. You can’t just do snatches, iron cross practice and sprints and say that you’ve got a good program because what you’re trying to do is combine disciplines that are stepping on each other’s toes.
There’s a few things that we did. We can learn from reading books like “Supertraining” and getting the Russian strength sequence.
Andy: One is that we know that the nervous system responds differently to different kinds of training. High power stuff, high technique stuff requires a lot more of the nervous systems efficiency. Things like strength require more than endurance. If you’re trying to plan something in a day you want to do things that require more technical control if we’re talking about strength, flexibility and control, more control earlier in the day or earlier in the week. If you’re doing power training that should come earlier in the week than you’re strength endurance. If you’re trying to plan something on Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule you might do your power training on Monday, strength training on Wednesday and on Friday that would be your long holds and your endurance training.
But, then where’s technique and all that? It’s nowhere, so you have to figure out which attributes are still important to you because you’re always going to be making some sort of compromise. Power and technique and speed those things tend to take more let’s say neural attributes, more neural juice to do. As you fatigue your technique goes down. Your power output goes down. Your speed goes down, but after that point you can still work on your max strength. You can still really do a lot of good work on force production. All of your holds, all of those things will work fine later in the week or later in the day.
After that’s done, what you’ve got left is you’ve got long endurance holds or things that don’t require much strength, but might require more cardio breathing endurance. Then, the last thing when you’re too damn tired to even move even though it is exercising control and it is teaching the nervous system stretching is something that you don’t really have to move to do.
When people do ask us about combining, for example the GMB programs, and we get asked a lot about it for Focused Flexibility, Integral Strength and Vitamin because those we specifically made to address Focus Flexibility for the flexibility, Integral Strength of the strength and Vitamin for the motor control. Those are the 3 things that we work on and so we made one course for each. People ask how to put them together.
The way we recommend to do it is to focus on the high skill load stuff early in the morning make that your vitamin or if you’re not doing one of our courses make that your playtime, your practice time for learning new skills and new techniques. Make that when you work on your handstand and that kind of thing. Not immediately when you get out of bed go upside down, but after you wake up, warm up a little bit and make that the time that you work on your skills.
The middle of the day or following the technique practice that’s when you can work on the strength moves. You would want to move from the faster movements to the slower movements, from the power moves to the grinds over the course of that session. Then, later in the day it could be in the evening or if it’s one massively long session it could be at the end of it that’s when you would do your flexibility. That’s the way we recommend to do it is to start with technique go to strength and then wind up with flexibility last either in the day or in the week or whatever your micro cycle is.
Ryan: Not even combining programs, but the way that we set things up in GMB is that way. Where let’s see even if you’re only focusing on one particular program. You’ll always start off with the mobility. You warm up and then you’ll go into the technical aspect working on a particular skill. Then, follow up with conditioning, that’s strength work and then finally into your stretching. It’s not just thinking about combining the programs, but it’s just the way that we like to do everything.
If you look at a decathlete, even mens gymnastics is a good example where there’s multiple events that they have to prepare themselves for. They’re not going to train and do everything in a single day as well. The way that Andy just described is exactly the way that I used to train whereas we would have to look at those 6 things that we had to work on. We broke those up throughout the week. In the beginning of the week we’d make sure that we really focus on the skill aspect of things. Then, towards the end of the week would be more of our conditioning, our endurance work that we would use in order to strengthen ourselves for the particular skills that we would once again go and look at the following week.
A decathlete is another good example of training because they’re not just going to do every single event each day. They’re looking at it as a whole. If you do want to combine these programs you also need to understand that you’re not going to be able to perform the movements, the skills that are within that program at a very high level while you’re doing this. The reason why is simply because you’re using other things, other pieces of the program. You do have to have that acceptance to know that you’re going to have to bring it down just a little bit and at least start there.
When you do want to combine programs take them down a few levels. Start working on the most basic movements and then gradually work your up. Instead of thinking I stopped, I don’t even know, my strength output was at this level when I was just doing X movement don’t think that you’re going to be able to keep performing at that level by tacking on another program.
Andy: We’ve gotten questions before and this isn’t to try to make anyone seem like they’re stupid or anything. We’ve gotten questions before there were like I used to be able to do 20 pushups, but I just did this workout and I tried to do pushups and I could only do 15. I wonder if the workout made me weaker. No, the workout made you tired. I see variations on that question asked in different ways. It’s not that the person is dumb.
It’s just that we get hung up on this idea that this is a measure of our strength or this is a test and then we should be able to always meet that all the time. You have to know that your strength and your energy are going to go up and down depending on your other activities. Just like Ryan said, you’re not going to be able to practice all of these movements and skills at the highest level. Which is why when we teach and we show people at seminars we’ll practice the technique at the highest level that we can safely do the technique. Then, we’ll work on strength training at a less sophisticated level of a similar movement and then finally we’ll do conditioning at almost the easiest or at least one level easier or a less sophisticated movement version of that same movement.
It’s all built into the way that we program stuff, but that’s the way that the body works. When you’re working on strength you can’t do it at the highest level of technique that you have. When you’re working on conditioning you can’t do it at the highest level of technique you have because you’re more and more reps of it.
Ryan: You can try, but it’s going to be horrible.
Andy: Yeah, you can try.
Ryan: It’s going to be horrible. Your form is going to off. It’s not really going to be helping you to be honest trying to do that.
Andy: Yeah, here’s the thing, if you can do. Let’s just make the technique cartwheels. Now, if you can do 5 perfect cartwheels and I know that’s not a challenge for a lot of people, but just bear with me here. You do 5 perfect cartwheels, so you say my cartwheels are really good. Now, I’m going to do my endurance work. I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to cartwheel. Cool, that’s fine. I’ve done that before actually.
It’s not a terrible workout, but here’s the thing. How many cartwheels are you going to do in 8 sets of 20 seconds, like 40 maybe? I don’t know. If you can do 5 perfect cartwheels that’s 5 cartwheels that are getting you better at cartwheels. If you do 40 cartwheels at the level of quality that you can do in a [tapeta 00:18:23] when you’re pushing as hard as you can you’re doing 40 pretty bad cartwheels. Now, is that going to make your cartwheels better or worse do you think? You’re practicing the bad ones more than you’re practicing the good ones. This is why you need to bring the sophistication level down for the endurance.
When you’re trying to combine programs and things and looking at different exercises you need to know that your conditioning needs to be at a lower level of sophistication. It needs to be easier technique than the skill work that you do and the then the strength work.
Ryan: Practicing those good habits instead of doing crappy movements which are going to cause you just to practice bad habits.
Andy: Yeah and so the things that you condition on you’re doing more reps of them more quickly so it’s needs to be something that is not technically challenging for you.
Ryan: Yeah, this is really good. Let’s just be honest a lot of it comes down to ego too with a lot of people. It’s tough to really take a step back and say listen maybe you can do it at this level, but it doesn’t mean that you should be doing it. Bring it down and just because you do take it down a few levels honestly just really trust us on this. You’re going to get better by doing it this way. You really will. Trust in the process is another way to look at it too.
Once again, yes, you can combine programs just understand that you have to make these adjustments. As long as you know this process, this way that we have things lined out where we first focus on looking at the technical side of it, the skill work coming in to it with the conditioning and then going into a little bit deeper of the strength work. Always bringing the level of sophistication of the skill down progression wise or level however you want to say it working it that way is going to help you to get better. Also, make sure that you’re focusing on those good habits.
Andy: Yeah and it’s not just with our stuff. This goes for we have people in our alpha community they’re doing Rings 1 along with kettlebell lifting that’s totally okay because as long as you know that rings 1 is mostly your technique and your strength and the kettlebells then you’re using for conditioning and that’s fine. You just have to know where things fit together and that you’re not trying to do a full kettlebell program that addresses everything plus a full bodyweight program that addresses everything plus a full weightlifting program that addresses everything at the same time. You can’t address everything multiple times at the same time because unless you quit doing other things.
There’s being a generalist works great if that’s your job otherwise trying to do too many things it just makes you a dilatant. You’re just dabbling in a bunch of crap. You have to really know what it is that you’re after with each aspect, each program you want to put together or with each exercise you want to add why, know why. Know which aspects of that, which attributes you’re going towards and how they impact all the other ones. Again, it’s not rocket science. It is not quantum physics. It’s not something where we have to devise clever formulas for. A lot of it is you put the plan together and then you wait to get punched in the face by reality with it. Then, you readjust your sights and you try again maybe.
Ryan: No and that’s good. That’s really just what it comes back down to. Have that plan, follow the plan, but understand that it’s probably going to be, it will probably need an adjustment and just allow for that and you can do it.
Andy: It will because we’re all individual and we all have different ways we spend our energy and out attention during the day and during the week. It’s always going to be different for all of us. We all have different injuries and different situations we’re coming from. Make your plans based on what you see other people doing; ask for help from someone like us or someone who is even better looking than us. Then, know that you’re going to have to adjust it.
Ryan: Yeah, all right, with that in mind if you do have any questions about how you could do that or maybe you have some comments where maybe you don’t agree with what we have to say. That’s great, we love to hear about that and learn from you. Feel free, leave us a comment, send us an email. We love talking to people. Thanks for listening and until next time that’s all I got. Later everybody thanks.
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