It Doesn’t Need To Be So Complicated

Share This:

Regardless of the guru, my answer’s always the same, “It doesn’t need to be so complicated” I’ll tell them.

Talk about making things complicated! What does this sign even mean??? (Photo Credit:

That’s a quote from one of my favorite bloggers, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who always seems to have a knack for keeping it real and telling it like it is.

Even though the good doc specializes and resides more on the nutritional side of things, fighting the good fight against obesity (and many of the asinine policies surrounding the food industry), he’s someone whose insight I respect a ton and it’s not uncommon for me to see value in his message and how it permeates into the strength and conditioning community.

Take this shining example taking from a blog post of his not too long ago:

Even if the nutritional gurus and zealots were absolutely, 100%, scientifically bang-on with their edicts and commandments, I’d still stick with that message.

Not because I necessarily know better about nutrition, but rather because I work with actual people, real life folks who go to work, who worry about their finances, who shuttle their kids back and forth to hockey, who are trying to do their best. And while there’s no doubt that it’s possible one of these nutrition gurus will actually, indisputably, get it right, it won’t change the fact that real people need to like the lives they’re living, even if they’re not nutritionally perfect.

Real life folks? Here are my recommendations:

  • Cook more.
  • Use whole ingredients.
  • Eat out less frequently.
  • Cook together as a family.
  • Eat together around a table.

And while those instructions may not satisfy the gurus and zealots who demand perfection, I’m guessing they’ll take you a very long way health wise.

It doesn’t need to be so complicated.

How many times as trainers and coaches have we worked with a client or athlete who refuses to accept the notion that they’re completely average and that the basics don’t apply to them?

Unless there’s some fancy algorithm involved or some Russian’s name attached to it, they can’t be bothered.

What do you mean just squats?   My last trainer had me doing cluster sets of band resisted squats vs. chains off a BOSU ball using a 5114 tempo with exactly 88 seconds of rest in between each set.  On one leg.

Please, I know how to squat.

And then your eyes start bleeding because their squat is just god awful, and you have to break it to them – tactfully, of course – that, “no, your knees aren’t supposed to cave in on the descent.” And, “no, 225 lbs isn’t really all that impressive.”  And, “um, yeah, are you going to finish the rest of those reps later, or are you actually going to squat to depth?”

I’m guessing many of you reading who are trainers and coaches are nodding your heads in agreement as you read this.

It’s frustrating to say the least when you have to remind people that there’s nothing wrong with mastering the basics. That they’re not above paying their dues. In fact, 99% of the time if one masters the basics and stops making things so overly complicated, they’ll probably see infinitely better results – regardless of whether their goals are strength and performance based or fat loss.

So, in keeping with the doc’s theme above, for REAL people, here are my recommendations:

– Focus on compound movements that force you to integrate the entire body: squat, deadlift, chin-ups, bench press, military press, lunge variation, row, etc.

– For the love of god, step away from the Smith machine.

– And would it kill you to wash your gyms shorts on occasion?

– Stress QUALITY over quantity. I’d rather someone go to the gym and perform 5×5 deadlifts (making sure technique is solid on each rep) than spend an hour doing god-knows-what.

– 3x per week, full-body, is a solid approach for most people.

– Throw in a day (or two) of interval based training and you’re golden.

– Please don’t skip your soft tissue or mobility work.

– Walking shouldn’t be considered exercise.  It’s called life.

– How much weight should you use?  If you can easily hit all your reps, bump the weight up 5-10 lbs.  It’s not rocket science.  And no, you won’t get big a bulky.  Stop thinking you’re going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger in a week.

– Just to mix it up a bit, save “bench day” for any day other than Monday. Trust me, the world won’t end.

– Training sessions should be no longer than 45-60 minutes (75 minutes, tops if you include SportsCenter highlight breaks).

– The bulk of your exercises should be barbell and dumbbell based.

– If you can’t perform at least five bodyweight chin-ups (man or woman), you have no business performing 46 sets of bicep curls.

– Do some push-ups (or TRX rows) instead.

– Find a good training partner.  It makes all the difference in the world.

– Less is more.  Try to limit yourself to 3-5 exercises per session.

– Don’t be intimidated to ask for help or to be coached.  Even the best in the business ask for help from time to time.

Obviously some of these are said tongue-in-cheek, and in no way exemplifies a complete list.  But in the grand scheme of things, it’s no coincidence that none of the above are earth shattering or new or are going to start a fitness revolution.  That’s the point.

It Doesn’t Need to be So Complicated!!!!!

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  • I really appreciate this post both for the points on nutrition and training. Recently my life has been crazy hectic, moving back up north, and I don’t have a gym membership. On the rare occasions I do get into a gym, I make a point to focus on the staples. If I don’t have a lot of time, it’s good to know that I am being as productive as possible with what I do have.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Right on Juliet. It’s pretty funny: I look at many of the programs we write for ourselves at CP, and they’re all pretty unremarkable. We’re always deadliftng, always doing some form of squat variation, lots of rows, push-ups, etc. It all comes down to focusing on the BIG ROCKS, right?

  • Jay

    I could not agree more! I would add once you have determined your goals pick a program that fits the goals and stop looking at/for other programs!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Couldn’t agree more Jay!

  • Andrew Meadows

    Freakin awesome post! The body was meant to move through certain patterns. Strengthen those patterns!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Glad you liked it Andrew. Thanks for reading.

  • Nick

    Makes me like the routine I wrote for myself for the semester that much more. Reading your/Bruno’s/Smitty’s blogs is a freakin’ goldmine. I want a 405 DL this semester @ 160something bodyweight. It’s coming.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, when you do got for 405 (and nail it), we’ll want to see video. Thanks for reading Nick.

      • Nick

        Don’t know my true 1rm but I’ve hit 335×2 so I think I have to add about 50lbs by late December. I shall overcome! Good lookin’ out on the big awesome lifts. My workouts are so much better than even a year ago thanks to y’alls’ blogs. Yeah, plural possessive Y’all ftw.

        • TonyGentilcore

          Let me guess: you’re from the south???…..;o) Good luck my man Happy lifting!

  • Thanks for the kind shout out Tony! Great piece too.

    • TonyGentilcore

      My pleasure Doc. Love your stuff.

  • Chris

    I’ve seen that video a million times, and it never gets old.

    • TonyGentilcore

      LOL. I totally agree. I wonder if they guy who’s actually in the video has seen it????

  • V66B

    I see you recommend 45-60 minutes for workout length. Is for the general public or athletes as well? Am I correct in thinking that a full-time athlete who has been training for years would have a longer workout length (or possibly multiple sessions per day)?

    • TonyGentilcore

      That was just a GENERAL number I threw out there that I feel is most applicable to general population. For advanced athletes, you have to remember that their CNS is pretty advanced too, and they won’t require as much “stimulus” as a normal person. That said, it’s not uncommon for their sessions to take longer because proper recovery comes into play and there’s just more “systems” that need to be trained in order for them to be successful. Hopefully that makes sense.

  • Sangita

    Why did you put up a horror video with your post…as it is I am an insomniac! BTW I don’t remember that scene from the Exorcist..

    • TonyGentilcore

      hahahaha. Good call Sangita – that video IS a horror show!

  • Sangita

    Great Post..!

  • Keith F

    I’m forwarding this to everyone in my world! Great job of driving this point home. Thanks for being awesome 😉

    • TonyGentilcore

      Whoa, can I have your email list?????? Okay, kidding. Thanks for reading and spreading the world Keith.

  • Tom G

    Great post, Tony. I’ve read your blog since the herald days for its consistently high level of awesomeness.
    In this one post, you’ve put together some terrific guiding principals for someone like me (former athlete, weekend warrior, someone trying to stay strong and dropkick Father Time). I think that this post would be tremendously useful for 95% of the general population. I’ve already forwarded this to my teenage son, who is now starting to take some of his old man’s advice about training (he was once shocked when I showed him that a squat rack would be used for something other than bicep curls).

    • TonyGentilcore

      Wow, thanks Tom. Thanks for reading since the Herald days! And, hopefully your son starts listening to you…..;o)

  • Pingback: Top Good Reads of the Week: Edition 12 | LaVack Fitness()

  • Stressing the quality of a lift is more important than the quantity

  • Pingback: Inspired Fit Strong – 26 Things Worth Reading()

  • Pingback: Happy Labour Day! « Weight Plates and Roller Skates()

  • Pingback: Good Reads #6 | Jeremy Smith()

  • Pingback: Top Good Reads of the Week: Edition 12()