The 80/20 Rule For Muscle Building
In the late 1800s, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto began to talk about something that would later become known as “Pareto’s Principle”, or the “80/20 rule”.
For those unfamiliar, the 80/20 rule states that “80% of consequences come from 20% of causes” — or for our purposes, “80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts”.
The story goes that when wandering around his back garden one day, Pareto noticed that around 20% of his pea plants were producing around 80% of his healthy pea pods. This tells us that this Pareto guy was apparently dull enough to grow peas in his back garden, but it also gives us an insight into how you can get stuck with your muscle building efforts. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Once he’d stopped molesting peas, Pareto moved on to studying the distribution of wealth in his native Italy. He found that around 80% of Italy’s land was owned by only 20% of it’s residents. The rule was proved again and again in all walks of life, until eventually it became known as Pareto’s Principle, or the 80/20 rule.
In the business world, it is commonly known that 80% of a businesses income will come from 20% of it’s customers. In the charity world, 80% of donations are made by 20% of donors. And in the healthcare world, 80% of spending is used on 20% of patients.
So you’re probably thinking, okay, fine, you’ve proved something is common with finance and garden peas. So what? Why should I care about it for my muscle building goals?
Here’s why: 80% of your gains come from 20% of your efforts.
Right now you’re probably sceptical about that statement — like, how can 20% of the things you do be producing the vast majority of your results? It seems totally backwards. And I get it, I’d probably have thought the same thing a few years back if I was reading this article, too.
Let’s break it down and go through how the 80/20 rule applies to muscle building.
I was in the gym yesterday afternoon for the first time after a few weeks out. I’d been pretty ill, so I needed to take it steady when coming back for my first time, and just focus on the important stuff — instead of wearing myself out with all the fluff that goes with it.
So, I boiled my entire workout down to basics. I trained my upper body, and I did the four most important movements — with the most accurate form I could and the most challenging weight I could:
Overhead Press (i.e. Military Press)
Horizontal Press (i.e. Bench Press)
Overhead Pull (i.e. Pullups)
Horizontal Pull (i.e. Row)
Why did I choose these movements? These are the 20% of the exercises that give the biggest benefit when it comes to building muscle. Big, compound movements that allow you to load a decent amount of weight through the muscle you’re trying to train.
As much as the internet likes to throw made up, magic bean like exercises with bands and chains and bosu balls in everyone’s faces, the fact remains that doing the basic, heavy, compound lifts — WELL — will allow you to build a lot more muscle than anyone who’s messing around doing 100 rep sets with a my little pony as a training partner.
Listen, I’m not denying that pec flyes, bicep curls or side raises work, or that they feel good and give you a great pump. They do. And I do all of those exercises. But the truth is that these exercises are called “accessories” for a reason. They aren’t, and were never meant to be, the star of the show. They’re the 80% of the work you’re doing that’s only accounting for 20% of your results. It’s not time well spent!
Double down on the bang-for-your-buck exercises that are producing 80% of your results. Build your entire workout plan around the vertical & horizontal push/pulls, the squat, deadlift, leg press movements. You don’t have to be married to one exercise, but these types of movements are important. If a bench press isn’t for you, go for a dumbbell press, smith machine press, normal machine press or something else. As long as it’s a horizontal press. You get the idea.
If you’re not sure how to get started and you want a workout plan to help you on your way, check out www.musclebuildingmastery.net to download your free 6 week workout plan.
Thanks for reading