Training. Simplified.

Simplify Your Training, Your Diet, and Your Life to Receive Your Best Results Ever!

     Okay, perhaps the title of this article is slightly over the top.  After all, some of you probably have achieved some pretty good results in your days spent pulling, pushing, and battling the barbell.  But, for a great majority, it could be pretty close to the truth.  If you have spent weeks, months, or, possibly, even years toiling away at ineffective—and often too damn complicated—diets and training programs, it could be that you've never really seen the results you want, much less what you're actually capable of achieving.
     After training and working with many bodybuilders, lifters, and average men and women (my favorite people to train were always just average women who wanted to get in shape—they always trained hard, never complained, always did what I asked of them) over the years, the largest culprit for lack of gains—hands down—was lack of simplicity.
     Women try too many off-the-wall diets and pills, and too many over-complicated, but ineffective, cardio programs, and men use too many advanced training programs, splits, and bodypart workouts of "the champs" to ever see any measurable progress.
     Training should be simple.
     Eating should be simple.
     Life should—for the most part—be simple.  (Please note here that "simple" does not mean lazy, easy, or that you shouldn't think.  It means none of these things.  In fact, one of the best mottos you could have for training and life is "simple but hard".)
Simplicity Simplified
     Some of the largest, strongest, most muscular men in the history of bodybuilding and strength sports have followed simple programs.  Really, how hard is it to train with the basic barbell exercises, follow a diet with lots of healthy carbs, protein, and fat sources, and get enough rest to grow on, but not so much that you atrophy?  (Apparently, the answer to this is "complicated," based on the number of emails I receive on a weekly basis.)
     Here are the basics to creating a simple, result-producing program:
     Follow the "Big 5".  I've written about the Big 5 elsewhere.  It's really pretty easy.  Just do the following each and every week, week in and week out:
  • Squat heavy weights
  • Put heavy weights over your head
  • Pick heavy weights off the floor
  • Drag or carry heavy weights for a distance
  • Consume a lot of calorie dense foods
     Even after writing this article, I can almost guarantee you that some genius will write me, asking, "What do you mean by 'squat heavy weights'?"  What I mean is that you need to use the good ol' fashioned back squat, and get on a heavy squatting regimen.  Sure, you can do some variations—front squats, bottom-position squats, for instance—but the main exercise should be the regular barbell back squat.  Perform 5 sets of 5 reps, or 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1, or perform ramps with either sets of 5, sets of 3, or sets of 1.  Heck, if you want, perform ramps with all three—5, 3, and 1.  Get on the "Squat Nemesis" program, and see what you're actually made of.  Or follow the classic 20-rep breathing squat routine.  (I always liked the way Brooks Kubrik referred to these as "death sets".) Or, what-the-hell, just get on a plain, regular, boring 3 sets of 10 program.  The point is simple: squat heavy stuff.
     What kind of heavy crap do you need to put over your head?  How about the basic barbell overhead press?  But feel free to do dumbbell overhead presses, one-arm overhead presses, power snatches, or even something slightly more esoteric such as sandbag overhead presses.  And for all of you bodybuilders out there, you still can't beat the behind-the-neck press or the Bradford press.
     Need to understand what I mean by picking heavy stuff off the floor?  Any variation of deadlift will do the trick, as will any variation of clean.  I don't care if it's a beer keg or a heavy barrel (actually, both of those are pretty darned good).
    And there's no end to the amount of heavy stuff that you can drag or carry.  Dumbbells, sandbags, kegs, barrels, rocks, you name it, and it works as long as it fits the bill as "heavy."  Carry all of that for either a distance or for a "timed" carry.
CS performs some farmer's walks

     And as for consuming a lot of calorie-dense food, I'm surprised how many people still don't seem to understand, in this day and age, exactly what this means.  It means to consume a lot of good, healthy proteins: steak, chicken (bone or no-bone, skin on or off; it doesn't matter), pork (same rules as chicken applies) and fish.  Cook all of this baked, boiled, grilled, or broiled, just as long as it's not fried.  It means to consume a lot of good, healthy carbs: rice (any kind), oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat breads, potatoes (any kind), and any and all fruits and vegetables should do the trick.  As for fats: Just make sure that you don't eat fried food, grease, and limit the trans-fats.  As for the rest of it, feel free to lather on as much real butter as you want on your food.
     Follow the "two-barbell rule".  The "rule" for this one is pretty simple: start each workout off with at least two barbell exercises before doing anything else.  Preferably, these two exercises should be one of the first 3 of the Big 5.  Squats and deadlifts do the trick.  As do overhead presses and power cleans.  Try my "best leg workout you've never tried" by starting off with bottom-positions squats followed with sumo deficit deadlifts.
The great Bill Starr does some heavy clean and presses in competition

     If you started off the workout with bottom-position squats and sumo deads, then finish it with one-arm dumbbell overhead presses, followed by a couple of farmer's walks until you feel as if your hands are numb, your traps are burning with a searing pain, and your shoulders are about to fall out of their sockets.  That's one hell of a workout, in my opinion. Nothing new under the bodybuilding/strength-building sun would ever be capable of beating it.
     Focus on Specific, Performance-Oriented Goals.  Sometimes when you have goals such as "getting big," "looking good," or "getting ripped", what you really have is nothing specific, but just same vague, wishy-washy want that you desire, but don't really know how to go about getting.  Yes, simplifying things as in my above two tips will help you attain one or two of the above goals, but it's better to pick a specific goal, and then train—and eat in the appropriate manner—in order to reach said goals.
     And here's the thing that a lot of people don't seem to get: set performance-oriented goals in order to achieve your appearance goals.  If you want to be really big and massive—a common goal for most of you who feel like the proverbial 98-pound weakling who's constantly having sand kicked in his face—then learn to set a couple of easy-to-achieve goals related to both diet and training.
     For diet, let's assume that you've been averaging 2,500 calories per day of rather crappy food.  First, eat the kind of food I discussed earlier.  Second, increase your calories by 200 every day until you reach a daily caloric intake of around 4,000 calories.
     For training, pick 3 exercises and focus on increasing your 3-rep max on each of these exercises.    You can't go wrong with squats, power cleans, and overhead presses as your 3 choices, but any 3 similar exercises will do the trick.
     Don't look in the mirror constantly, or lament over the fact that there's no separation between your pectoralis major and minor, or any other crap such as that.  Just eat more food until you reach your caloric goal, and get stronger on your 3 exercises-of-choice. The results in your appearance will quickly follow.
Life or Something Like It
     Time for a little philosophy.
     Even when lifters or bodybuilders simplify their training and diets, they often fail for one other reason, a reason that may be something of a surprise to them since they never really thought of it as a goal-killer: They don't simplify their lives.
     An overcomplicated, stressful, and/or chaotic life can cause all of your hard, worked-for gains to flush down the toilet.
     Keep life simple.  Here are a couple of pointers:

  • Don't worry about what others are doing.  Too many people spend their lives consumed or worried about the lives of other people.  Now, I don't mean that you shouldn't care for other people, or that you shouldn't have compassion for others—that's the opposite of what I'm talking about.  Just don't focus on the lifestyle of other people, or the results others are getting out of their training, or their businesses, or anything else that those other people may be succeeding at.  That stuff is not your business, and causes needless stress that only prevents you from achieving your goals in life.
  • Only worry about what you can control.  The things that are under your control are the only things that you need to concern yourself with.  All of the other stuff needs to leave your mind as soon as it enters.  You control what you put in your body, how hard you train, how hard you work, etc.  You don't control how much muscle you gain from your training and eating, whether it's 5 pounds or 20 pounds—that kind of thing is controlled by your genetics, and your genetics are not under your control.  You don't control how other people treat you; you only control how you treat others and yourself.  You don't control what others are doing in their training, nor should you be concerned in correcting anyone else on how they should, or should not, be training and eating.  You only control how you train, and how you eat, and how you think.
     Getting good results from your training and from your diets really shouldn't be that complicated.  Apply my simplicity tips to your workouts and your life, and the sky really might be the only limit.


  1. Enjoyable read!!!

    One of the few blogs on the net worth reading.

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for your kind words, man. I try my best to offer REAL training advice, and not a lot of the worthless crap you find in a lot other places on the net.


Post a Comment

Feel free to leave us some feedback on the article or any topics you would like us to cover in the future! Much Appreciated!

Popular Posts