Here's what you need to know...
- You've heard that lifting rule, never do the same big lifts on consecutive days? Well, you can break that rule and make progress.
- Try squatting for 100 consecutive days. It's possible to set PRs, recover adequately, and attempt a max lift every day.
- Your form must be perfect. If you squat for 100 days in a row with crappy form, all you'll do is ingrain bad habits.
- Analyze your missed lifts. Learn why they're happening and don't miss for the same reason twice.
- Only a few elite athletes are capable of overtraining. Chances are you're not one of them.
Dogma Vs. Real Life
Sometimes what you read in books and what happens in the real world don't quite match.
The world of fitness and training is the perfect example of the dichotomy between textbooks and real world application. General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is taught in every exercise physiology program and is dogma when it comes to the response to training.
Essentially, it describes the notion that training breaks you down and you need to rest adequately to recover and adapt to the stimulus.
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of overtraining and the common notion that you must cycle your lifts, never doing the big lifts on consecutive days, and definitely not perform a compound lift at a high percentage of your max for long periods of time.
I'm a scientist and I always question dogma, so rather than accept GAS as gospel, I decided to put those ideas to the test and squat every single day for 100 straight days.
The Training Program
I wanted to make this program as simple as possible. I went quasi-Bulgarian style and wrote down the minimum percentages I had to hit every single day:
- 85% of 1RM on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
- 87.5% of 1RM Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
- 90% of 1RM on Sunday
I also attempted a max lift every single day:
- 92.5% of 1RM on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
- 95% of 1RM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
- A PR (or at least an attempt at one) at 102.5% of the current 1RM every Sunday.
The daily squat session usually looked something like this:
It wasn't a cakewalk. Honestly, about one-third of the days it flat-out sucked, but squatting every day changed the game for me.
The strength gains were impressive (adding 60 pounds to my 1RM), but over those 100 days the biggest gains were in my perspective and view of training.
I learned more over those 100 days than I did from any textbook, and a lot of those lessons went against the grain of common thinking.
8 Lessons Learned
1 – Your body is stronger than your mind.
After about four days of training I thought, "There's no way in hell I can make it to 100 days."
My legs were so sore I waddled. I had to skip the stairs for a few days and I may never look at toilet seats the same way again.
Despite what appeared to be debilitating soreness, I managed to foam roll, warm up, and hammer out my training sessions at a high level. You can train through DOMS. It won't be pleasant, but man up and do it anyway.
After years of training you're told that you're not supposed to be able to make substantial progress on your PRs without clearly defined, periodized training programs, i.e., things that get so complicated and convoluted that the Excel spreadsheet looks like more of a mess than my dissertation.
I did the exact opposite.
I simply worked up to a heavy max single every single day. Many days my warm-up sets felt like a car was on my back, but I was always able to get to around 90-95% of the current 1RM.
Your body lies to your mind. Just don't listen to it. You can train a little harder than you think you can.
2 – Getting started is the hardest part.
There is a law in physics: An object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion unless an outside force acts upon it.
This also applies to training. During every single day of the 100 training sessions, the first warm-up set was always the hardest. After I ripped out that first one my mind flipped a switch and it was go time.
If you're mulling over whether to train or not, the answer is yes. Get started, it's all downhill after that.
3 – Do it... over and over and over.
I started this experiment because my squat was the weak link in my chain.
The biggest issue with my squat was a technique flaw, and the best way to get better at something is to practice it. During the 100 days of squatting I performed approximately 3,000 back squats.
That's the equivalent of two years of squatting volume if you squat heavy once a week. While my squat is still far from perfect, it's a million times better than it was 100 days ago.
Caveat: If you want the reps and high volume to ingrain better movement patterns, you'd damn well better be performing the best reps you can. Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
If you decided to cram in two years worth of squatting in 100 days with crappy form, you're going to develop two years worth of bad habits.
4 – If it's important, find a way.
Life is hectic. Traveling for work, work itself, family, training, dating, it all adds up.
There were several days where I had to squat at 3 AM or 11 PM. There were days where I traveled for 16 hours and still had to find time to squat.
It would've been much easier to say, "Well, I squatted 97 days out of 100" but that would have meant failure.
If you want to achieve something, excuses won't get you there.
5 – Success is a road paved in hard work.
I set 8 PRs over the span of the 100 days, each of which were both elating and frustrating.
I'd been stuck at a plateau for over two years and the fact I could smash through that plateau six times in a little over three months taught me something very humbling: I hadn't been training at the level I should've been.
This experiment showed me what hard work really meant. You learn how to push yourself past current milestones and levels of intensity. When you have to mentally bring it every day you learn to embrace the hard work and cherish those "make-or-break" moments.
Just showing up and putting in work doesn't get you where you need to be if the work isn't high quality.
6 – Reaching your goals isn't a linear path.
There were setbacks: knee tweaks, sore legs, tired back, repetition fatigue, lack of interest... the list goes on.
Some days I was able to hit the prescribed percentages I set for myself with ease. Most days I missed a rep or two on my last set. Not missed as in I didn't attempt them, but missed as in the weight buried me.
For every PR there was probably 2-3 misses. Don't let momentary failures cloud your view for the future. View them as learning opportunities and move on.
I began to analyze my misses more than my PRs and learned a lot about why I would miss because I didn't want to miss for the same reason twice.
7 – Get "overtraining" out of your head.
Overtraining and terms like adrenal fatigue have been buzzwords in the fitness scene in the past few years.
Hell, I bought into them and used them as an excuse to skip hard training days when I was tired. After going through this experience my perspective shifted.
During this experiment I was training up to twelve times a week with an average cumulative training time each week of about 20-21 hours. My lightest squatting day was 75% of my 1RM and most days were into the 85-92% range.
My other training consisted of Olympic lifting sessions, some hypertrophy work, and conditioning.
My adrenals are functioning just fine, my sleep has been standard, my mood is actually improved, my appetite is normal, and my immune system is turning away invaders left and right. Besides some typical soreness and a little tweak here and there, I have no signs or symptoms of overtraining.
Only a small number of athletes are even capable of overtraining. Chances are you're not one of them.
8 – Learn the difference between soreness and injury.
Most people can't tell the difference between soreness and real injury.
Pushing through minor aches every day will teach you to sort out what type of feeling equates to soreness and can be trained through, and what type of soreness means injury and needs to be healed.
Challenging dogma and the status quo of thinking is an excellent way to learn and open your mind about new ideas and concepts.
Find something you've long thought to be true and challenge it, no matter the subject.