Simplify Your Training: Get Results Without the Headaches
Bruce Lee said it best, “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
Feeling overwhelmed by the boatloads of training information available nowadays?
Instead of worrying about what you should add to your training program, 3 sets of 10 vs. 4 sets of 8, whether to use 75 seconds or 85 seconds of rest, do something else – Simplify your training.
Do the things that matter.
Do the things that will actually get you results.
When I was in college, playing on the football team, our training was simple, yet it worked – guys got bigger, stronger and faster. Sure, there were people who always wanted to do extra – add more bicep curls, do more ab work, run extra sprints – but we lifted as a team and our strength workouts typically included the following:
- 4-5 compound exercises – Squats, Deadlifts, Power Cleans, Snatches, Presses, Lunges, Pull Ups, Inverted Rows
- A progression each week – More weight, more reps or more sets for each exercise
Athletics are a great place to find simplicity, especially at the college level. Teams often are limited as to how much time they have to train so they have to make the most of it – They don’t have 30 minutes to sit at a bench or time to do 6 sets of bicep curls (I’m not hating on the exercise, I think it’s great, but when it becomes too much of your training it’s a problem).
You may not be an athlete, but you can still learn about how to simplify your training by looking at how athletes train.
Though I’m no longer playing football, today I still use training concepts I learned as an athlete – for my training and my clients – preferring to keep training simple most days. In a recent workout I did only the following four exercises:
- Barbell Bench Press
- Pull Ups
- Military Press
- Inverted Rows
Just four exercises and 5 sets of each – a far cry from the training programs many people are using. Is this the only way to train? No. Do you have to train like this all the time? No. Hell, I don’t even train like this all the time. However, the point is simple – focus on on less. I’m going to tell you how. You’ll learn how to simplify your training and get results without all the confusion. Read on, my friend, you’ll be happy you did.
5 Simple Steps to Simplify Your Training
1. Decide on Your Goal
What do you want to do? Lose body fat? Gain muscle? Start a healthy lifestyle? The first step in simplifying your training is deciding what you want to get out of training. Depending on your goal, your training will be different – makes sense, right?
Are you looking to gain muscle? You’ll have longer rest times (Think 60+ seconds each set) and eat more.
Want to shed a few pounds? Your rest times will be short (More like 15-30 seconds) and you’ll eat less.
Do you want buns of steel? Do everything that Bret Contreras tells you to do. Seriously, he’s the man when it comes to glute training.
Choose ONE goal, just ONE, and then proceed to step two.
2. Test What Matters for Your Goal
Did you decide on a goal? If you did, great, now you’ll test what is important based on that goal. If you didn’t, then what the hell are you doing?! I’m not sorry for yelling – It’s that important.
Weighing yourself, testing your body fat percentage, seeing what your 3 rep max is for the bench press, measuring your 40 yard dash time – These are all ways to test where you are at. There are plenty of ways to establish a baseline, but the takeaway is to choose the tests that make sense for what you’re trying to achieve.
3. Spend 4 Weeks Focused on Achieving One Goal
This step is where many people falter. Instead of focusing on one goal and making progress towards it, people want to focus on multiple goals at once and ultimately don’t make progress on any of them. Remember, choose ONE goal and focus everything you do on progressing towards that ONE goal – Both your training and nutrition.
Regardless of the goal you decide to work on a few aspects of your training will be similar:
- Progress – Regardless of your goal you’ll focus on progressing week to week – lifting more weight, doing more reps, shortening rest times – stuff like that.
- Lifting – Again, for any goal, lifting is going to be an important component. Whether you’re trying to drop body fat or put on muscle, using compound movements like the ones I mentioned previously will help you get the best results and make the most of your time in the gym.
- Cardio – While the type you use can vary greatly – from an easy walk around the block to high intensity interval training to barbell complexes – some type of cardio component will be involved in most programs.
4. Re-Test and Analyze
After 4 weeks you’ll test again using the same tests you used prior to the first week and analyze the results. Did you get what you wanted from the training? Why or why not? If you’ve been making progress then continue on, but if you haven’t then simply tweak something – add more volume, add more weight, be more strict with your rest time – you shouldn’t completely overhaul your program because, after all, results to take time, but make adjustments as needed.
5. Repeat Steps 1-4
More likely than not it will take more than four weeks to get the results you want, but as you continue to analyze your progress you’ll eventually have to ask yourself an important question: Is my goal still the same?
As a youngin, with all the time in the world, your focus may be on gaining as much muscle as humanly possible or getting ripped, but what happens later when you have a family and two kids? Your goals will evolve (And simplicity will become even more critical).
After testing and analyzing, choose your next goal or continue on with your current one and then go through the whole process again.
Extremely Simple Example Programs
Below you’ll find the general structure of programs you could use for either losing body fat or gaining muscle. Again, these are the basics. The programs below don’t include progressions, auxiliary exercises to use or a few other details – I’ll save the juicy details for another time, but feel free to ask questions in the comments section 🙂 To get more advanced programs, with all the details, work with me directly – online or in person.
Losing Body Fat
The following program is based on a 3 day per week schedule. While I chose a variety of exercises, you could literally choose the same ones each session, focusing on progressing each week and get results.
Monday (Upper Body Circuit)
1a – Dumbbell Bench Press
1b – Single Arm Row
1c – Dumbbell Push Press
1d – Pull Ups/Lat Pulldown
1e – Push Ups
Wednesday (Lower Body Circuit)
1a – Goblet Squat
1b – Single Leg Glute Bridge
1c – Dumbbell Lunge
1d – Dumbbell RDL
1e – Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
Friday (Total Body Circuit)
1a – Dumbbell Deadlift
1b – Dumbbell Bench Press
1c – Dumbbell Step Up
1d – Inverted Rows
1e – Dumbbell RDL
This program is simple – each day has some type of focus. Want to simplify your training? This is one way to go.
Monday (Upper Body – Pull Emphasis) – Pull Ups, Dumbbell Bench Press, Bent Over Rows
Tuesday (Lower Body – Quad Dominant) – Back Squat, Dumbbell Lunges, Bulgarian Split Squats
Thursday (Upper Body – Push Emphasis) – Barbell Bench Press, Inverted Rows, Dips
Friday (Lower Body – Hip Dominant) – Deadlift, RDL, Hip Thrusts
If you’re pursuing the perfect workout program I’m going to let you in on a little secret – it doesn’t exist. There is no one-size-fits-all perfect program, but there are some that are better than others. When you simplify your training, focusing on what matters most, results become easier to achieve.
Remember the following:
- Lift weights
- Do some type of cardio
At the very core, this is what you’ll do with your training. Of course, nutrition plays a vital role in results as well, but in terms of training that is what you’ll do. Got it? Great, now get after it!