Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. -Jim Rohn
Have you ever heard of the aggregation of marginal gains?
It’s basically sweating the small stuff, or the 1%.
It’s similar to the idea behind the push-up grid: One small action can lead to a series of actions, or a chain reaction, which can produce a lot of momentum, power and energy.
Under the microscope, marginal gains can be thought of as sweating over seemingly insignificant detail. But that attention to detail SHOULD pay off in the long run.
I love the idea. I don’t love the practicality of the application.
So, I want to take this idea and give you a laser-focused challenge to start implementing today.
If you follow my rules and accept the challenge…you’ll be a rockstar! Or…a better human!
The Aggregation of Marginal Gains
What can 1% really do…?
To know the idea, you must know the origin.
Dave Brailsford is the genius behind applying the aggregation of marginal gains to fitness, and James Clear has written a phenomenal article about it, and we even discussed it in our podcast episode.
Basically Mr. Brailsford improved EVERYTHING by 1% and it worked…big time!
The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.
And to pull from James Clear’s article, you can see the Dave’s results were astounding:
In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.
In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.
Now, you should note that when Dave applied the principle to his team he looked at everything from pillows, to tires, and even massage lotions.
Since you and I aren’t competing at a professional level I think it’s safe to say we don’t need to focus as much on our pillows, shoe laces, or toothpaste.
So let’s look at a more practical application.
Or, let’s look at using this idea for “the other guy”.
The 2-Rep Challenge
The challenge is simple. I want you to always go the extra mile. Starting today, and forever.
- Unless max effort, do 2 more reps (one set per training sessions)
- Push yourself to run 1 extra minute
- In AMRAPs, always finish the round you’re on despite the clock (this is something Rich Froning has been known to do)
Whenever you get to that point where you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. Your muscles are too fatigued and you can’t imagine another rep, do two more reps.
OK, do 1 more!
Will this equate to 1%…maybe. Maybe not.
But you’ll be surprised at your capabilities and just how far this simple principle can take you.
Let’s take a look at the math to see if it is worth it.
The 2-Rep Marignal Gains Math
Like I said earlier, I love the idea behind the 1% improvement principle, but I want specifics.
I’m going to use myself as an example and you can take a look at my math and adjust for you.
So let’s break it down:
- In a perfect year I train 50 out of 52 weeks.
- I train 5 days a week.
- The average of all my max lifts is 342.5 lb.
- The average % of my max, lifted on any given day, is roughly 70%
- That equates to at least 239.75 lb on the bar on any given training day
- I train 250 days out of the year
- I add two reps to each of these training sessions at an average of 239.75 lb
- That will add 119,875 lb of barbell volume to my training year
Keep in mind, I’m talking about an extra 2 reps for the entire workout. Not an extra 2 reps every time I touch the barbell. Simply add two reps on one set or add one rep to two sets. This is very easy to do.
Let’s put that in context:
I stuck to the One Man One Barbell program for 8 months which equates to 8 cycles. I stuck to the program and added 170 total pounds, across three lifts, to my maxes.
To break that down:
- On average I added 7 lb to every lift every 4 weeks.
But guess what?
An entire cycle’s worth of volume (for me) including all lifts was roughly 90,000 – 100,00 lb of barbell volume.
What does this mean?
- If I simply did an extra two reps per training day, I would have added MORE than an entire One Man One Barbell 4-week cycle which equated to a 7 lb to every lift every 4 weeks!!
- Essentially I can add a month of training to my year by doing very little extra.
And that’s just lifting! In running you could run 1-2 extra marathon-distances to your year, and in CrossFit you could add a TON of work capacity with this simple challenge.
To sum up:
A simple, tiny, or marginal gain can pay off huge!
But this may leave you with a question…
Does the math really work that way?
Could something soooo simple add up to SIGNIFICANT gains?
You tell me.
Do you accept the challenge?
Get to work!
References and Research: Pre-habilitation (i): aggregation of marginal gains, Marginal Gains, Tiny Gains Challenge 2015