The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
I believe this principle applies to nearly everything in life, including improving your physique.
The foundation of building muscle for drug-free lifters is a devotion to getting stronger on the basic compound exercises to the point where everything else is irrelevant.
I’ve written about intensity in the past, but honestly building your workout routines around compound exercises like squatting, deadlifting, benchpress, pull-ups, etc. and going balls-to-the-wall on each and every set is going to be the determinate for success in building muscle.
It is the 20% cause that produces 80% of the results.
But honestly, the percentage is probably even higher than that.
In fact, as a drug-free lifter, I would say at least 90% of your ultimate muscle mass will come from the free-weight, compound movements. And they should receive 90% of your focus, 90% of the time. The other stuff is just icing on the cake and 90% of the time only serves as a distraction that keeps people from achieving their goals.
Most bodybuilding articles should focus on telling people how to get stronger on the basic exercises. The other 10% should be honest enough to tell experienced bodybuilder how to recognize when they’ve reached their limit (or d*mn close) and then focus on getting lean and “finishing” their physiques.
Instead, 90% of bodybuilding articles focus on useless irrelevancies.
Read this article to understand what your genetic limits are.
One major problem with the popular bodybuilding media is that they have to keep throwing new and “inspiring” things out there in order to keep their readers’ interest – and they have to keep people’s interest or they lose supplement sales by having less readership to sell their products to.
That’s how most of the industry works, and has worked since the the mid-1950s/early-1960s. The problem is, the lack of focus caused by constant exposure to interesting/inspiring articles touting different approaches causes people to become experts in irrelevancy and flit around from one “cutting-edge” routine/supplement to another, accomplishing next-to-nothing in the long run.
To be fair though, it isn’t always caused by financial motivation. Some websites, such as bodybuilding.com are so huge that there has to be a million different and conflicting ideas there – that’s the inevitable result of having so much input from so many different people with different training philosophies and experiences.
The opposite are other websites that are so dogmatic their minds are completely closed to anything other than their “accepted” training approaches.
So what’s the closing message?
Simple: if you’re serious about success in improving your physique stop wasting time in the gym bullshitting yourself doing the easy stuff.
Focus on compound movements, lifting with 100% focus and determination with every set.
That’s the 80% or 90% of where success will come from.