PT Grant Lofthouse reveals why you should take a day off from the gym.

Training facilities are like nightclub bathrooms – walk into one and you’ll witness the effects of bodies crippled by their owners’ excess.

“I used to have this ‘train ‘til you puke’ mentality,” says WH&F weight and resistance training expert Grant Lofthouse.

“I didn’t realise I was doing more damage than good and just kept repeating the process of training hard, getting injured, and doing rehab,” he says.

That knowledge gap is common among new clients, according to gym owner Lofthouse, who more often than not come with the brief: “Push me really hard.”

The expensive outcome? “I eventually discovered, after thousands of dollars and time spent on doc and physio bills, that I simply could not train at a high intensity all the time,” Lofthouse says, explaining an approach some schools of thought would call ‘soft’. “I used to punish clients every session and, after four weeks, they would either be burnt out or injured.”

Bill Starr, author of The Strongest Shall Survive, agrees, saying that “the trainee made faster progress if he did not handle maximum poundages at every workout session”. The obvious question is, how can you train at lower intensity, but still reach lofty physique and fitness goals? The answer lies in the heavy, light and medium principles professed by renowned kettlebell training expert Pavel Tsatsouline.

What determines heavy, light and medium?

The total volume (sets and reps) lifted for the day determines whether a session is light, medium or heavy.

  • A heavy day is 4 exercises, each with 5 sets of 6 reps for all exercises. The total volume for the day would be 120 reps.
  • A medium day is about 85per cent of the heavy day (4 exercises with 5 sets of 5 reps for a total of 100 reps).
  • A light day is about 70 per cent of your heavy day (4 exercises with 5 sets of 4 reps for a total 80 reps).

What’s recommended?

Train three times a week. One heavy day (100%) one medium day (85%) and one light day (70%).

To train four or five times per week, simply add more light or medium sessions – not heavy ones. If training twice a week, perform one heavy and one light session a week, and skip the medium.


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