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Shugart's Hammer
Wrecking Balls vs. Brooms

Chris Shugart
Director of Content

Join date: Oct 2002
Posts: 17781

Wrecking Balls vs. Brooms: The Evils of Busy Work

It's a nasty little concept.

I hated it as a student and as a teacher.

They call it busy work.

Busy work is assigned when a teacher doesn't really have much planned for her students that day, or the planned lesson only takes part of the class period. Basically, busy work is filler -- just something to keep the little bastards occupied so they don't claw the walls down or impregnate one another.

Well, guess what? As an avid gym-goer you've probably become at expert at busy work. And you might not even realize it.

The Law of the Vital Few

It all goes back to something called The Pareto Principle: the "law of the vital few" or the "principle of factor sparsity." You probably know it simply as the 80/20 rule.

In short, 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions or efforts. With the Velocity Life as the context, you could say that roughly...

...80% of the results you get in the gym come from only 20% of the exercises you perform. The rest? Just busy work: filler.

...80% of the results you get from your eating plan come from 20% of what you're doing. The rest? Minutia -- little things that don't add up to much in the long run.

Training Example: A few weeks ago I worked deadlifts back into my training program. I'd had an injury that made me hesitant about doing deadlifts, but it was time to get them rolling again. On deadlift days I typically train low body plus abs, and I always start the workout with deads.

Now, the deadlift is one of the most taxing and powerfully effective exercises you can do. No matter what I do after my five sets of deadlifts -- hamstring curls, extensions, calf raises, etc. -- it's those initial deadlifts that are going to give me 80% of my results for that workout. So, I know to give them all I have. In fact, if that's all I do for the whole workout, well, I've still had a pretty damn good training session.

Diet Example: My friend Stephen has recently adopted my 100 Gram Carb Cure plan. He also started drinking a lot of green tea. As expected, Stephen is now auto-regulating his diet, and the 15 or 20 pounds of body fat he needs to lose are starting to fall off.

Now, is it the Carb Cure that's leading to most of the fat loss results, or is it the potential fat-burning effects of the green tea? Eighty-percent of the results, no doubt, are because Stephen has dropped the junk food and flour-filled crapola. The green tea may not be hurting, and it may be helping a bit, but its contribution is very minimal compared to dropping carbs down to 100 grams.

The Carb Cure is the wrecking ball. The green tea is the broom.

Know Your Balls from Your Brooms

Weird thing is, most folks don't know what that 20% wrecking ball stuff is, and they often assume that the big results are being caused by something that's really just busy work.

Knowing the difference is critical to your results. For example, if funds are tight, you'll want to focus on the supplements that give you the most bang for your buck -- the "vital few." That may be a good protein powder like Metabolic Drive, or peri-workout nutrition products, or HOT-ROX if your #1 goal is fat loss.

If time is tight, then you'll want to focus on those few exercises that give you 80% of the results. For me, that's always been the deadlift, squat, lunge, dip and pull-up, to name a few. Sure, toss in the cable kickbacks and tibia raises if you have time, but know that they're not going to be your big-bang movements.

And here's the most important thing: Make very, very sure you're DOING those 20% things that give you 80% of your results! A workout filled with busy work isn't going to give you the body you're after, no matter how long you stay in the gym. Twenty minutes of deadlifts and pull-ups are going to be a whole lot more effective that two hours of "filler."

Likewise, switching from white bread to a whole grain bread may give you a bit more fiber, but ditching the bread altogether is what's going to give you a fast, dramatic improvement in body composition and health.

Want to reach your body goals? Keep the brooms handy. But seek out those wrecking ball actions and behaviors that really get the job done. -- Chris

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Level 4

Join date: Mar 2008
Posts: 72

I suspect that if you reduced things down to their bare minimum, you could get pretty decent gains by deadlifting heavy as often as recovery allowed.

I've implemented this in my own workouts for a while. I plan on being in the gym three days a week (M/W/F) and I do five exercises for 5x5: front squats, cable high to low wood choppers, hang cleans, bench press superset with alternating sets of pull-ups and chin-ups. Short and sweet.

However, one very frustrating thing is seeing all the people at the gym who have no wrecking ball. As far as I can see, most everything they're doing is busy work. Hey, I'm not rocket scientist super genius, but when I see people that never break a sweat, or women using dumbbells that weigh less than their groceries, I want to cry.

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Level 1

Join date: Dec 2009
Posts: 49

Only concentrate on yourself, Rock. Can't save everyone.

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Chris Shugart
Director of Content

Join date: Oct 2002
Posts: 17781

almightyfod wrote:
Only concentrate on yourself, Rock. Can't save everyone.

This is common advice, and not bad advice at all.

My only issue is that sometimes training in a commercial gym is like training in the middle of a three-ring circus and being advised to simply not pay attention to the dancing elephants and guy being shot out of a cannon. Good advice, but hard to follow.

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Level 5

Join date: Feb 2003
Posts: 558

It's the people that consider using a broom (literally) as an exercise that drive me nuts. That's called "life" not a "workout." But, you can track it as some sort of calorie burning thing on tracking websites.

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Level 3

Join date: Jun 2010
Posts: 125

Wow, this is another awesome article. They are all great, but some really hit me.

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