Select Page

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

I wish I knew when I was young what I know now is a common refrain from old farts, I have to admit.

Realistically, that is simply not possible, because the reason I know so much now about my fields of interest is due to the Internet, and also the work that some people have done recently that simply wasn’t around when I was young.

The frustrating thing is to have trained in so many unproductive ways because of the misinformation that abounded when I was young. In addition to misinformation was the complete cluelessness of the people imparting information.

When I would train for karate or rugby, so much of the stuff was imparted in a monkey see, monkey do sort of way. None of the coaches had an understanding of why something worked, they just said do it. For me it would have gone a long way to understanding the pieces of the puzzle that is sports training.

You don’t just say to me, “do these depth jumps”. You have to explain to me that depth jumps are a plyometric exercise and that plyometrics help develop explosive power.

OK, I’ll grant you that when you research plyometrics you find that they were only being discovered by the west in the 80s, so people simply didn’t know. Remember the old Rocky movies when he was doing pushups with a clap at the top? Plyometrics.

Problem is, without guidance, you dismiss a lot of stuff as bullshit. I didn’t realise the importance of things like clapping pushups because I wasn’t told.

All the training advice was coming from Muscle and Fitness, which was an absolutely shit source of information. The old Iron Man magazine was far better because it was realistic. It had weights routines that would put on good quality strength and muscle and wouldn’t burn you out.

The difference was stark. An entire workout example in Iron Man might be 12 sets. What was recommended in Muscle and Fitness was 15 sets per bodypart and 2 to 3 bodyparts for the workout.

This was the era of the muscle hero; the fool who would spend 2 hours in a single workout. WTF? If you train intensely enough, there is no way you can train for 2 hours. A 2 hour workout can mean only one thing; you are not training intensely enough.

I remember seeing Serge Nubret at a seminar. He liked to do pumping workouts, 20 sets per exercise or something crazy like that. I tried it. It simply didn’t work for me.

I also remember a workout I did where supersetted 3 sets of 10 reps of squats at 400lbs, with 3 sets of 10 reps of deadlifts at 400lbs. I was floored. That was a tough workout. All of a suddem, after 6 sets I didn’t want to do any more that day. The thing is, because of all the misinformation I had been fed, I felt like that wasn’t a complete workout. I felt that I had slacked off. What a load of rubbish. I know now that workout was about as complete a workout as you could get.

It was only in the 90s with the ascendency of Dorian Yates to the pinnacle of bodybuilding that the conventional wisdom of lots of sets was being questioned. If you look now at Dorian’s workout routines, you will see that he did no more that 8 work sets per workout. His actual work sets (as opposed to warmups) were about 32 for the week, doing his whole body once per week. Compare that to the idea that some people advocate of 32 sets per workout, 4 to 6 times a week.

When I was young I struggled to put on muscle beyond a certain point. Now, I look at a weight and I put on muscle. It’s been a life long journey to get to this level of understanding and the journey continues.

I don’t think that I was athletically gifted enough to have become a sports star, but who knows? At least I would have progressed much further down the path of being the best I could have been, in whatever sporting endeavour that was.

I know now that everything is trainable, from balance and co ordination, to explosive power and speed, to mental focus.  You simply need someone who knows how to best train each attribute.

The other thing of course is that most sports need multiple attributes trained. How do you do that without completely burning yourself out? You have to train smart, that’s how. At 50 I maintain the capacity to do reps with 300lbs on bench press. I train weights for about 40 minutes a week now.

I have better cardio than I’ve ever had, thanks to utilizing high intensity training in the form of Tabata training. I do 12 minutes a week of cardio. So an hour a week keeps me in shape.

I know it sounds like an American infomercial for the gullible, but I am living proof.

The thing is, when I was young, if you wanted to train for a sport like, for example rugby, something had to give. You needed to focus on cardio and skills acquisition. The conventional wisdom was that cardio was got through hour long runs. I hate running, so cardio was not done. Weights needed recovery,  so if you focussed on sports training, they were not done. Your choices were do weights or do your sport.

Contrast that idea to your cardio and weights done in an hour. Plenty of time for any sports specific training.

I didn’t have the knowledge when I was young, but now you can.

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.