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Hard Training Vs Easier Training
An Honest Evaluation Of What Training Will Work Best For You
This actually isn’t some trick question or some clickbait title, this is an actual serious question you need to ask yourself in terms of actually enjoying the gym and getting the most out of it.
While my programming typically panders to the former—training hard—training easier (keyword “easier” not “easy”) might actually be something that is going to work better for you.
This all revolves around the most important concept of being successful with your physique and fitness goals—consistency.
While I operate on a framework of “I enjoy whatever is going to give the most efficient, optimal results” for some this might not work. You might not really care about getting there the fastest or “optimal” way, you just want to get a little closer to wherever “there” might be for you.
This is a slippery slope so jump in the raft and let’s ride it together.
“Hard” vs “Easier” Training
This really could be almost another “intensity vs volume” type comparison, which it is to a certain degree, but also a little deeper than just those 2 factors.
While yes, high-intensity training is going to be harder training, meaning you need less volume than training less intense thus easier/less intense training needs more volume, we also need to consider other aspects such as frequency, the overall time of workouts, etc.
We can think of hard training as the above or simply just training in a way and focus that is going to net us an optimal result, whereas when we think of easier training the goal is really just to get a workout, make some progress, and don’t really care if it’s the “best way” or not.
Hard training is going to be your mentality in the gym, a “whatever it takes” type mentality. It is mentally taxing as well as physically—you will have to hype yourself up and mentally put yourself into places where you can perform at max capacity and push new PRs as frequently as possible.
Training hard is all business, all gas no brakes. It’s not pretty, it’s raw, gritty, and will require you to be in that mode most of the time you’re at the gym.
Training hard is ripping a set, pushing out reps, grunting, and doing whatever to get just that one extra rep that you didn’t do the last session. It is that “gun to your head” mentality that if you had a gun to your head and would be shot if you stopped before, you couldn’t get another rep.
Training hard means it hurts to sit down and take a shit for the next couple of days after a leg day.
On another hand, training hard could mean training more, more volume, more sets, more frequency, and/or more days a week. That’s another flip side of training hard where it’s harder over the course of the week vs session to session.
Again, this person is going to train meticulously, tracking everything, putting in all their effort, and likely really tuning into programming and cues like Reps in Reserve (RIR) and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)—so in a sense, they are training harder by metric of thinking more about training as well. (I have to be fair to my high-volume brothers here who also train hard haha).
In short, training hard means we are maximizing effort, intent, and execution to seek the fastest, best result.
Training easier on the other hand is… well easier than all the above. While yes you still need to progressive overload over time and challenge yourself in the gym, maybe going 9 or 10 out of 10 in the gym is just not something you enjoy or want to do.
Maybe you don’t care about the extra effort of tracking or really thinking about training. You just want to go in, do some exercises, get a good workout, and leave without any extra thought to it.
I’d define what I’m talking about here as just above going through the motions. You’re training with some type of intensity but not to the point you’re really redlining at all.
You’re likely going to need some more volume if you train this way due to the lack of intensity, but that’s fine because it’s trading time for results not an additional effort for results. You just don’t want to go into the gym like a madman and break PRs with the mental taxing that comes with training that way.
This person likely doesn’t really care to get jacked, just wants to look good and be healthy, they accept the slower progress because they don’t really have an end goal—it’s just about the act itself and the benefits.
On the flip side, this person may already have an impressive physique, isn’t really in love with the process of training hard anymore, and just wants to maintain with as little effort as possible (nothing wrong with that, it’s not lazy to do as little for your desired result—it’s smart).
In short, this method of training is just nothing special or particularly hard on the day-to-day, you are just doing at or just above the minimum to get from point A to point B, the destination isn’t the real goal, the process itself is.
Which One Is Better (For You)?
While I very easily could say objectively from a progress point of view that training harder is better because you will see progress faster and it simply is the optimal way.
But this is only one factor, at the end of the day, neither is actually better than the other when you factor in the most important aspect of any training plan or style: which one will you perform the most consistently, actually do, and stick with for years to come?
That is all that really matters, but before we have the answer to this, we have to take a very hard look at ourselves and make this decision from a place of honesty and not laziness/lack of effort.
You have to ask yourself how you truly like training and what your real goals are in the gym. If you truly *want* to maximize progress and get from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible then obviously your “best” is harder training.
If you really don’t care that much, just like the gym, making some progress, looking better than average, and are okay with it taking you extra years to really reach an impressive physique + just really cannot bring yourself to redline frequently in the gym, then training easier might be “best” for you.
The key is your goals and preferences need to be in absolute alignment here and you need to understand the tradeoffs for both methods.
Read that line again.
You must align your goals with your actions. If your goal is getting as jacked as possible but you don’t like training hard, then either your goal needs to change or you need to suck it up.
* My Little Caveat
Ironically, I have found that many enjoy training hard when the training is done intelligently, maybe with less frequency, less volume, and/or less time in the gym.
I’m going to shamelessly plug my programs and training philosophy here, not because I think it’s the best or only way, but because of how I’ve seen it play out in the real world—which is better than theory. If you know you only need to train hard for short durations, for less amount of time, and fewer days a week then it honestly becomes “easier” than something done 6 days a week for 2 hours a session.
The above is exactly how it played out for me and hundreds of people who have messaged me.
Putting It All Together
At the end of the day, you know yourself infinitely better than I do. You have to make this decision based on your own goals and self-awareness. This also isn’t a fixed phenomenon, the seasons of life change and maybe you just don’t care as much at this point or maybe you care more and adjust accordingly.
The main takeaway is there is no “best”, rather, the “best” is going to be what you can get in and do every day because you enjoy it and will actually stick with it—consistency trumps all when it comes to a healthy and fit lifestyle.
Anyone who says you must do things a certain way is selling you a load of shit with a price tag. This is your life, your fitness journey, you make the rules and do whatever works for you, not what some influencer or guru tells you that you have to do so that you purchase their program (hence I don’t sell programs, they are included in my substack subscription).
All I ask is that you be honest with yourself and your goals and preferences. At the end of the day, if those line up, you will win, and that’s all I want to see all of you do!
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.