Inspiring your health and fitness
Its the war, not the battle that counts.

Its the war, not the battle that counts.


It can’t be stressed enough that consistency is key. Embracing the ‘grind’ as many athletes will tell you is the key to success. In this blog I’ll talk briefly about the 80-10-10 rule and why getting yourself into the gym is the major contributing factor to your success.

80-10-10 rule

The 80-10-10 rule is something I stumbled across years ago, and it rings true today as much as it did back then. When I first heard it, it was like an alarm bell going off in my head. A ‘Yes of course’ moment if you will. The 80-10-10 rule states that 80% of your workouts will simply be ‘ok’. Not particularly brutal, not particularly easy. These workouts leave us with a good feeling that we’ve achieved something, if not too much. These sessions are the ‘grind’. They happen every day up and down the country in successful gyms and sports clubs. These sessions are the foundations of your development as an athlete or person trying to improve their physicality. 80% of your sessions are simply getting the work done. We’re not asking that you particularly enjoy them, nor are we suggesting you hate or dread them. They are simply ‘money in the bank’ if you will.

That leaves us with 20% of our sessions left. Out of this 20%, 10% we will call ‘under par’ sessions. I never use the word bad as I don’t feel we should attach emotion to our sessions, and I don’t think there is ever such a thing as a bad session*. Having an under-par training session is nothing new; again it happens to us all. Often there is no rhyme or reason to them, they just simply happen over the grand scheme of our training. These might manifest themselves as the session where you felt weaker than usual, or you got tired quicker than normal, or even the session where your skill level seemed to drop off for no apparent reason. I’m here to tell you not to worry about these sessions. As soon as we start micro-managing performance or skill level from day to day we are on the path to madness! Please accept that under-par days simply just happen. Whether it is biorhythms, sleep patterns, work, life or the inexplicable movements of the universe it really doesn’t matter! Attach NO EMOTION to your training. As soon as you can free yourself mentally and look at training objectively you’ll start to feel better about the process and under-par sessions will be a thing of the past. Well, not exactly, they just simply become ‘sessions’.

So that leaves us with the last 10%. This is the ‘Instagram/Facebook’ 10%. You know these people!!! These are the ones we are constantly hearing about or seeing all over social media sites. These people can inspire but also inadvertently make you feel like you’re not working hard enough or not strong enough etc. The social media crowd are the people who post pictures of themselves looking great or lifting huge weights, or pictures of their food etc. These are the people who just HAVE to tell the world how good they’ve been or how hard they’ve trained. But anyway I digress…

The superman/superwoman sessions make us feel great. These are the times we hit the gym and literally feel like we can do anything. The days when we look training in the eye and think ‘give me your best shot – I can take it’ (name the film anyone?)

Super sessions again, can happen without any prior warning. Often they are just grind sessions that turn into something special. I say run with it! These are feel-good sessions that can really motivate and inspire you keep up the good work. They’re music to the ears of trainers because we love to hear about positive gym experiences. But, I will say this – don’t expect these sessions every day. They don’t make up the majority of your training life. Here’s the take-home for most of you – These sessions aren’t even that relevant…

The science of the grind, acute vs chronic responses to training

A single training lesson is relatively powerless in influencing the adaptation of an athlete. Only by the accumulation of about a week’s (or micro cycles) worth of training stimuli is the athlete forced to adapt to the new training demands. NSCA – Basics of Strength & Conditioning Manual

Ok, now I know some of you guys get bored with my science chat, but it really does hammer home the point. Time is the one thing just about everyone regardless of genetic potential needs in order to achieve training adaptations. General adaptation syndrome or GAS is the common held idea that the body will adapt to the stresses placed upon it over time. We are all essentially in homeostasis – I.e. our bodies are stable and surviving. When we put the body under due stress (through training) the body will signal responses aimed at returning the body to homeostasis. Now, the body can cope with a single bout of exercise without having to make any physiological changes. However it takes approximately a week to see even a miniscule change in terms of biological chemistry / mechanics. So that superman session you had – won’t change much in terms of your gains, and the under par session? Well that won’t change much either. It’s the grind that gets results – sound familiar?

The law of diminishing returns

Initial performance gains that many people see in the early stages of their training are in fact neural adaptations to exercise. I.e. the brain simply becomes better at using your existing muscle fibres. In the beginning of a training program you might see quite large gains in strength or performance – This is especially true in beginners and less so in experienced trainers.  Then the law of diminishing returns kicks in. This law states that as we get closer to our genetic potential, our gains and adaptations slow significantly. This is true in sport and other areas of life. When you start something fresh you generally have a very steep learning curve followed by a plateau. This describes the ‘grind’ time better than anything. It’s the moment of plateau where even though you might feel you’re not improving, by persevering and simply getting the job done, you will eventually see improvement. Even if it’s just a small one.

Improving long term – Back to basics

So if we need time to improve, but also don’t want to fall fowl of the law of diminishing returns, what’s the optimal training plan? Well the simple answer is the one that works. Monitoring and evaluation of your goals and performance OVER TIME is important. Again, don’t focus on 1 off sessions, but look deeper into the overall  progression of your training and the adaptations you have made, be they physiological (fat loss, muscle gain, fitness) performance related (improved lifting technique) or psychological (improved state of mind).

Follow these simple training principles for continued results:

Progression – slowly make subtle increases over time. You can progress the resistance (weight lifted moved) the volume (amount of work done, for example doing more sets) Rest (increase or decrease) intensity (work harder) and many other variables. The progression principle can be used in resistance training, conditioning, skill training and even psychological or emotional training. Word of warning – progress slowly and manipulate one variable at a time to minimize overtraining or exhaustion.

Specificity – You can’t ride 2 horses with one ass… This is a personal bugbear and something I think Cross Fitters are particularly guilty of. Pick something you want to improve on and train specifically for that goal. If you want to get stronger, lift weights. If you want to lose fat, focus on your nutrition, if you want to increase V02 max or improve your conditioning then sprints and other cardio based work should be programmed into your training. If you train moderately across all spectrums you’ll get moderate results (if any). You must be specific to your goals. Periodise your training to incorporate different goals you may have. Read this blog on periodization.

Overload – You must stress the body for adaptation to occur. Hard work gets results, but smart hard work gets great results. Overload doesn’t mean adding weight to your bar every session, or trying to hit a personal best in every workout. It’s another form of progression, and it must be monitored carefully to ensure we don’t lose the specific adaptations we are trying to induce. Overload too much or too quickly and exercise form/technique or skill will be greatly affected, tiredness and exhaustion will kick in and you’ll lose the overall accumulated benefit of your sessions.

The law of reversibility – It’s the old idea of use it or lose it! This is really frustrating for me when I spend weeks working on the strength of a client, and they turn around to me and say “My fitness has dropped a bit”. Well yeah – we were concentrating on strength! What I’m actually trying to get at here is that you need to accept a certain decrease in performance parameters over the course of training. That’s what periodization and development is all about. It’s like plate spinning, but if you try to train (for example) strength training and skill development and conditioning  concurrently you will essentially find that you get less results overall. .

In conclusion

Malcolm Gladwell coined the 10,000 hour rule in his book the outliers – suggesting it takes 10,000 hours to become a true expert in anything. This is even true in the gym. It takes time and you must manage your expectations. Be wary of quick fixes or fads, if they worked everyone would be doing them. Attach no emotional attachment to your training. The only attachment you will have is when you have learned the best path and achieved your goals. Everything else is just the grind.

Thanks for reading.


Sands, Wurth & Hewit, The Basics of Strength & Conditioning Manual. Journal of Strength & Conditioning. 2012

Hoffman, J Physiological aspects of performance. Human Kinetics. 2001

Enoka, R, Neuromechanics of Human Movement. Human Kinetics. 2008