Barbell Shrugged

Work Harder, Not Heavier

Doug Larson

Add comment

  • If I’m 160, and want to be 180+, what must I do? I train hard, I eat well, but ithe process seems sluggish. I’m i just being to eager, or irrational. Can you offer any advice?

    • Hey David,
      I was between 160-180 till about 23, training every day and doing basic bodybuilding with the hope of striving for 200 one day. At 24 I picked up CrossFit, and did all that I could to understand and perform the movements, including oly, correctly. With time and a very good squat program, I weighed myself at 25, and am 198 pounds. Very surprised as well. It just shows, I believe, that it takes time and dedication. Not just overeating.


    • Eat more food. Do it slowly to avoid getting fat. Add 100-150 calories every 2-3 days till you’re averaging up to 1000 calories a day more. Then hold at that and see how you do. although I wouldn’t typically recommend this cause I don’t do grains or dairy, eat some rice. Drink lots of milk. My husband is 6ft 165 – he’s really “long and lean” that’s what it takes for him to get to 180 or more. I saw someone mention to back off the conditioning. I wouldn’t. I would just eat more. A few years ago I got really excited about smashing weights and started conditioning less and less over a short period of time and it sucked. I felt like shit and it showed. It became a habit to skip conditioning workouts and they became a real drag. A real trap. Its taken a lot of effort to love cardio again, and I’m still not back to the old level of conditioning.

  • What do you mean by hard and well?

    You should be pushing the strength work, but back off your conditioning a bit. Put the focus on lifting heavy barbells.

    Eating well is great, but you must eat lots of the right things. In would eat mostly paleo, adding in healthy carbs (rice, potato) and some dairy slowly until the scale starts moving. If it comes slow, eat more. Try to add a few healthy shakes with fruit, coconut fat, protein powder, that sort of thing.

    Weigh yourself every morning at around the same time. Mark it down. If you track it you’ll be able to improve.

    • Eating well: i eat paleo/zone, but I’ve added quinoa and hydrolized whey to the mix. I eat 21 blocks a day; 5 block breakfast, 5 block lunch, 3 block snack/shake, 5 block dinner, 3 block snack/shake.
      Training hard: Warm up, some type of fundamental lift(squat, clean, deadlift), met-con, skill work(glute ham raises, weighted hip extensions, etc.), cool down, stretch/mobility work.

    • There’s no doubt that putting on some weight can increase your overall strength, but as a coach Id have to ask if you’ve maximized your strength at your current weight?
      I used to put a lot of emphasis on needing to pack on extra weight to avoid plateauing, when in reality I was nowhere near that point in my training.
      I’ve been right around 160 for about 2 years, and have been able to keep progressing simply by adding in new movements and increasing training volumes.

  • I’ve been lifting for about 8 months now. At the start I weighed 170 (6 ft tall) and am now up to 200. I’m currently doing 5×5 stronglifts 3X per week. My problem is lately I’m having a lot of aches and pains, feeling worn down and my muscles feel tight all the time. Is this a normal part of the process? I started this because at 36 years old I was feeling very weak. The gains were great at first, but now I’m feeling stuck. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

    • With time you have to spread the loading out. An easy tweak would be to only go hard on 5*5 once per week. The other two days could be for speed, form, maybe just much lighter sets of 5. Go heavier when it counts, and lighter on the other days. That should help you feel better. Sleep more too.

  • So how i can alternate between lifting heavy and lifting faster with more quality … how to program them together

    • That’s basically what a conjugate approach is. For example, you could have two days a week to work on the squat. On monday you could go heavy, and later in the week you could do speed reps during a separate session. Works very well. Remember, all the reps are “hard.”

  • good read Chris. How do you guys think about balance and looking to improve strength when you travel a lot for work? I can get after it about 2 weeks a month and the other two I’m dead from travel. I make an effort to work out when I go places but like this week…international trip for 2 days just destroyed me. I couldn’t do much but nap here and there. Thoughts…tips…comments.


    P.s. Typo on your last line…guessing you meant train.

    • I would train heavy and hard when I’m at home. On the road go lighter, go for speed and form more often, mobilize, all that. You’ll probably be better off. Don’t force hard training when your’e drained and feeling like shit. We’ve learned that much.

  • Chris, great post! Just wanted to drop a note and let you guys know how much you are appreciated. I’m 39 and have been dealing with low back pain for 15yrs. I found Barbell Shrugged about a year ago. For ten years I was doing the typical meathead workouts. After learning and practicing my techniques with the olympic lifts I learned from your Technique Wod on YouTube my back has never felt better. On top of that I enjoy working out more than ever now! I especially enjoy your insight and no bullshit comments on the show Chris. Like Mike, I’m laughing every time you speak as well due to your communication and delivery. Keep it real and down to earth. I’m a fan!

  • Awesome post Chris!

    Obviously the goal is to get stronger but at current moment I am only able to afford going to the box 2x a week plus open gym on Sundays. The 2x a week I do the Crossfit class and our gym does focus on strength and I am able to see overall progress over the past month.
    with that being said, what things can I do at home that will allow me to build a faster movement or even strength with no Barbell at all?

    Thanks for any insight!


    • Sounds like the training is working. Progress is progress. Keep it up.

      At home I would spend a lot of time working on mobility and quality of life. Walk often. Keep joints loose. Roll out soft tissues and what not. Take care of your self and fix the shit that needs fixing. That’s huge.

      I would also use my bodyweight at least once a week. Do a bunch of pushups, handstand holds against the wall, squats and jumps of all kinds, go find a hill and sprint a bit, but keep it light. Add that stuff in slowly and see how you do.


  • Chris,

    this is a great article.. thanks for taking time and writing these articles. I have watched weightlifting competitions in my early years , but never got interested getting under the barbell before. Over a year ago I got introduced to barbellshrugged and I started adding barbell movements in my weekly workouts, watching you, Mike, and Doug’s technique WODs , digesting them and learn as much as I can.. You and the team are doing a great!! amount of good by sharing your experiences and allow beginners like myself to study and learn the foundation.

    Also, as someone who is turkish , I can not believe in this article you mentioned Naim “Pocket hercules” in your article. I grew up watching this tiny man, lifting amazing amount of weight and it definitely brought back memories. So Tesekkurler (thank you in turkish) 🙂

    Best Regards,


  • Just to say that i love your show and all the improvements that you guys are doing. I m from Brasil But im livng in a small farm town in the midle of Argentina and you are some of the references that i have to stay tuned about what happens in the world. You help me to stay motivated and keep training…Thanks for everything and some day i hope to drope by in your gym…thanks one more time and keep the good work…

  • How long is it okay to go heavy consistently on a lift before reducing weight on the bar? Is moving heavy weight and maxing out more than one week in a row too much, or would it be more efficient to go a few weeks of lifting lower weight and only doing heavy weight for one week and repeating the cycle?

    • You should “max out” rarely. Heavy is good, and heavier is great…as long as you’re making progress. Backing down is a strategy for getting “unstuck.”

  • Chris, I admire your dedication responding to all the meat heads in these threads.

    You refer to speed work as a compliment to going deeper/pausing -is there specific technique, or other considerations, to speed work or is it simply trying to move moderate loads as quickly as possible? Can you refer any articles or resources on the subject? Also, would you recommend trying to move the bar as fast as possible every time and not limiting it to coupling with technique work (i.e. even when it’s heavy)?

  • […] To be heard you have to beat your drum loud and often. To make more money, find ways of solving more problems and helping more people, right? Sure, and the same thing is true of training and strength. If you want extraordinary results in the gym, you’re going to have to work extraordinarily hard. […]

Your Cart