It Doesn’t Need To Be So Complicated

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

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!!!!!

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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.

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