Simplicity in Training and Life
Simplicity can be a virtuous thing. For some reason, in our current age, we want to make things decidedly not simple. Perhaps this is because our lives are not simple – we have made them more and more complex by a stream of never-ending texts, instant messages, YouTube videos, music streaming, and the general need to always feel as if we need to be doing something. I might add, however, without us actually doing anything, since we are more slothful and gluttonous – not to mention pear-shaped; especially the younger generation – than ever before.
Life should not be that way. We were built for simplicity – in fact, the only way to enter into the complexity of things is to purposefully simplify. If for instance, you want to enter the depths of your consciousness, the very depths of your being, you don’t do so by anything so complex as various ascetic feats of standing on your head or other odd yogic poses, or by flailing yourself in a medieval manner; you do so by the simple act of awareness, or following your breath, or learning to simply be. In this utter simplicity, the purely complex – which is Itself Simplicity – will naturally emerge.
If you want to excel at anything, don’t look for complexity. Instead, pare things down to a minimum, and I assure you that your results will exceed what you hoped for even when you were engaging in less than minimalist endeavors.
Whatever your goals are in training, the training itself should be sparse. This doesn’t matter whether you are trying to build muscle, lose bodyfat, increase your maximal strength, increase your maximal reps on any given movement, or attempt any combination thereof.
Here is a training session I did just last night which exemplifies simplicity:
I began the workout with deadlifts. After a couple warm-ups with 250 for 5 reps, I put 340 lbs on the bar and did ladders. I started with one rep and added a rep with each subsequent set until I reached 6 reps, then worked my way back down to 1 rep. The sets looked like this: 340x1, 340x2, 340x3, 340x4, 340x5, 340x6, 340x5, 340x4, 340x3, 340x2, 340x1. Each rep was done with power and none of the reps were slow – I felt as if I was beginning to slow down on my set of 6 reps, which is why I didn’t add any more sets of higher reps.
After I finished the deadlifts, I did chins. Once again, I used ladders, working up to 6 reps, and then back down to 1 rep on the final set.
To finish the workout, I did a total of 100 reps on push-ups. It took only a few sets, but I didn’t count sets, instead I just counted reps until I was finished with all 100.
Was the above workout simple? Yes. Was it effective? If several workouts such as the above one are strung together throughout the course of a week, then a month, then months, then it is highly effective.
If you want to know what a workout plan may look like, there are plenty of workouts that fit within this framework. Most of my workouts on this blog fit the bill. Anything from the likes of Pavel Tsatsouline or Dan John should suffice, as well. One of the reasons that Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 training is so popular – not to mention effective – is its simplistic nature.
Diet shouldn’t be any different.
Are you trying to get lean while staying strong? Eat plenty of protein. Eliminate either unhealthy carbs or unhealthy fats. Eat enough calories to add strength, but few enough calories that you can still burn bodyfat. (About 12 times your bodyweight in calories is a good starting point for the majority of individuals.)
Are you trying to get as big as humanly possible? Eat at least 15 times your bodyweight in calories each day. Drink a gallon of milk each day. It’s an oft-repeated statement (even somewhat of a cliche), but it’s still true: KISS – keep it simple, stupid.
One last thing that I must leave you with: Do not compartmentalize your life. It does little good to simplify your training and to simplify your diet without simplifying the rest of your days. When you de-clutter your mind and all of the stuff in your life, you will find it perfectly natural to de-clutter your training and your diet.