29 Jun The Goldilocks Equation
By Tucker Loken
People have been exploring how to find the place of balance in life for thousands of years. Going way back, the Greeks had the concept of the Golden Mean, the place between the vice of excess and the vice of deficiency. Fast forward to today, and we might call it the sweet spot or the place where you get the most bang for your buck, without over, or underdoing something. I like to call it the Goldilocks equation – add something here, subtract something there, and eventually you get to a happy medium. It’s the state where it’s not too hard, not too soft, not too hot, not too cold…. but just right.
What does this have to do with Powerlifting, or Bodybuilding? Everything. This is where people so routinely go wrong. We can all look back at the times when we over trained and either hurt ourselves, or just tired out our body and did poorly at a meet, or competition. We push too hard too often, we over diet, we do something too much.
The subtleties of finding that place are the toughest part because it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist. You can take almost anything in life, you barely notice it when it’s just right. Think about how many times you’ve had coffee, and you start to wake up and feel good, and then you decided to have a little bit more, and you don’t notice until you’ve gotten a little bit more than a buzz and you’re just a little bit shaky and too stimulated. Alcohol is the same, one drink might put you in the perfect place to just relax and chill out from the day, but once you have another you start to feel that little bit of an extra buzz, and that’s what’s telling you that you’ve had enough. What if we stopped before we passed the point of optimal stimulation, or relaxation and didn’t need some kind of negative feedback to tell us to stop? That requires a lot of faith in the process, and a lot of self-control.
This is where it transfers to your training – finding a place between deficiency and excess where your body can grow and get stronger optimally. It passes us by all too often, but this is why focusing on the long term, and taking notice of things week by week is so important. If you start with a moderate amount of volume and intensity and make gains from that, there’s not much of a reason to change. If the changes are noticeable within a week, or two, then you’ve hit the nail on the head. How many of us get frustrated after only one workout, or one week of a moderate level of intensity and volume? Within one session you’re ready to add extra exercises, or increase the weight that you’re pushing, because it feels like you’re being lazy, or weak, or not doing everything you can to make progress as quickly as possible.
Tracking your progress is a huge piece to this, and it’s pretty much the only way to give yourself peace of mind during the process. If it’s bodybuilding, taking your weight and pictures every week is important. Regardless if you’re bulking, or cutting, if you see yourself changing in the direction you want, bigger and heavier, or lighter and leaner, then you’re doing something right. In powerlifting, it’s a little bit more long term because you’ll be hitting different reps and percentages as you go, but filming your lifts and seeing the speed and assessing just how heavy it felt for you is a great determinant. If 80% moves like 80% should, both in the feeling of the lift and from the camera angle, then you’re in the right place. If 85% still moves just like you would expect it to, you’re still doing things right.
Because that sweet spot isn’t glamorous, or any kind of intense state of stimulus, it can feel like an eternity waiting for the gains to come. Look back at all the times you rushed it and hurt yourself, or screwed up in some way. Now, imagine if you hadn’t done that and if you had just kept on the slow and steady path. You’d be way past where you are now.
Everyone is always trying to find out the secrets of the pros and how they got there, but more often than not they will all say it’s about small gains over time that mount up to huge changes. That staying injury free and going hard enough that you make gains, but not so hard that you don’t recover and can’t get all your workouts in is all it really takes. They might not say it verbatim, but what they are saying is basically the same – find that place where your body finds harmony between stimulus and recovery and stay there.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never have a crazy workout again, or that you won’t push it when the time is right, but for the majority of time it’ll feel like you’re not doing enough, until you realize you’re doing exactly enough because the gains are coming week in week out and your body feels fresh and strong. Getting over the hump and trusting the process is difficult because you’re so used to even the lightest negative feedback that tells you when it’s time to back off. If you stop just short of that though, and don’t even need your body to tell you to back off, you just find that place instinctually, you’ll make quality gains over time, and your progress will be faster than it’s ever been before.