Ahhh.....the never ending debate about what is the "best program." Is it Crossfit? Bodybuilding style perhaps? How about powerlifting? Maybe Olympic lifting? What about endurance training? The list is endless and has sparked much debate, smack talking and hurt feelings throughout the years. Is a best program even a real tangible thing to be discovered to begin with? Let's start with some history shall we?
Everything flows in cycles. Training protocols are no different. If you go back in history and do some reading you'll find that the late 1800's to say 1940's were dominated with articles and info on being strong.....really strong....what some today might call "strongman" or "powerlifting." Performing "feats of strength" was the order of the day. Flash forward from the 40's and you have the "bodybuilding renaissance." The advent of movies and T.V. gave importance to the way you looked - not just how strong you were - and movie stars like Steeve Reeves, the first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott and a little known Austrian fellow by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger made "bodybuilding" the order of the day. This period reached its peak in the late 70's to early 80's and to its credit (or not depending on who you talk to) gave us much of what the average person knows about strength training and whose methodology is still followed by tons of people in gyms across America. The next wave to hit our shores was in the form of an endurance based protocol - specifically running - whose stars - Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers - brought running out of the shadows much like bodybuilders did to their training style in the 40's. Its estimated that 25 million people engaged in some aspect of running in the 70's and 80's. The 90's saw a return back to being strong with the success of American Olympic lifter Mark Henry and the return of powerlifting to the table in terms of what some deemed a "science based" approach to training. From the year 2000 we have seen the onslaught of Crossfit and its myriad of "oh so similar" in design but different in name style training programs who have seemed (again according to some) to throw science and logic out the window in favor of a hybridized ultra intense form of training that is probably at its apex in terms of popularity currently.
Now that you've been brought up to speed, is any one of these the best? The short answer is NO. The great Charles Poliquin once said, "Everything works....but for only so long." The body adapts to the demands placed upon it. It does this through the principle of specificity. Lift heavy loads (under 5 reps) and you will get stronger. Run 5 miles a day and you will improve your cardiovascular capability....at running 5 miles a day. Do the same thing over and over for long enough and the timeline will go to zero - you will stop making progress. The problem with all of these camps is in their rigid dogmatic approaches. Even the haphazard, non programmed, just make it really hard approach of Crossfit is dogmatic.
The best training program is one that addresses your needs specifically. Trust me, I rip on bodybuilding - this is largely due in part to the people that make up the activity - not the style of training. Believe me, (I have competed in bodybuilding, running and powerlifting) the self absorbed, idiot bodybuilder puts on running shorts and is now self absorbed, idiot runner, who then decides to powerlift and puts on a singlet and becomes self absorbed, idiot powerlifter. But if a young kid came to me with the specific goal of getting bigger (hypertrophy) I would not rule out programming a body-part split style of training like you see in bodybuilding. What works is just that....it works. Lest we also forget that the body's needs change frequently - a woman in her 50's that is worried about osteoporosis should be lifting heavy loads - like a powerlifter would - to help her bones stay strong. An adventure racer in his 30's would need a multi-faceted approach based on the demands of his race.
To finish, there are a few things that you can take to the bank when looking at solid programming. Does it have an end goal in mind? Is it progressive? Are there factors that are being attended to or manipulated - rest periods, volume, load, and tempo come to mind. Instead of spending time trashing each other we should be coming together in the pursuit of enhanced performance - whatever that might be - and a more quality lifestyle.
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