What does it take to get a college degree? How do you improve your distance while running? How can you gain more muscle or lose body fat?
The answers to these questions aren’t all that complicated. Concepts such as putting in the hours, having focus, and possessing discipline, consistency, and a hard-work ethic are just a few that come to mind when wanting to accomplish most things. These attributes are universal tools that can be applied to what we want to get out of ourselves. Even when you talk to those who’ve accomplished so much in life will mention how they just put in the work, day after day, week after week, and month after month.
Do you notice what’s not on that list? The minutiae, the tiny details, and nitpicking that we ironically seek out so badly. Rarely do you hear a story about sweating the small stuff. They aren’t obsessed with the small, unimportant things that really don’t have much bearing in the big picture of success.
Your perspective on training should be no different. Looking at how you set up your training shouldn’t feel like an algebra problem. Sure, it needs to follow a few tried and true principles, but it need not be an insurmountable task requiring hours of research and rewrites.
The old saying is true: it isn’t rocket science. Building a great physique, one you can be proud of, shouldn’t be a complicated journey. However, it shouldn’t be easy either. As another old saying goes: anything worth having shouldn’t be easy, it should require hard work. So, to be clear, it should be simple but not easy.
How many times have you seen a sample routine from some “guru” that includes an extremely high volume of work, tons of isolation exercises, and a dedication to the gym so extreme you’ll need to pack a lunch for each workout? The body will have only one choice over a short period of time, and that is to break down, stagnate, or even get injured.
I’ll let you know a little secret. They like to make these routines/programs look complicated to make others think they know what they’re talking about. These gurus want to look smart, capable, and professional. If they complicate things enough, they think, other will want to work with them, give them their money, and refer them to others. You’re smarter than that.
What You Need to Know (The Simple Truth)
Here I want to lay out a few things to keep in mind when building out any program. They aren’t exciting, sexy, or complicated-looking but they work. Add these to your principles of hard work, consistency, and discipline and you’ll have a great formula for success – no math required.
- Use mostly multi-joint, compound movements. These are the big exercises that work the most muscle for each set. Think bench presses, pull ups, rows, shoulder presses, squats, leg presses, and dips.
- Train with moderate frequency. Training every body part once per week is fine for some, but most of us need a bit more frequency. Three times per week for beginners is a great starting line – you know the good ole-fashioned 3 full body workouts per week. Twice per week is optimal when you start split training. The only caution is to avoid training too many days per week. Keep it simple.
- Use moderate volume. Since you’ll be training with a bit more frequency you’ll need to keep your training volume in check. No high volume, 20-sets-per-body part workouts where you’re blasting every muscle fiber into oblivion. Take a more moderate approach. Stimulate the muscle optimally and then start the recovery process.
- Shoot for about an hour, no more. Marathon workouts will most-likely leave you looking like, well, a marathon runner. As stated above, stimulate muscle growth. You’re not going to be able to grow in the gym. That is where you break down muscle tissue and send the message for your body to grow stronger and bigger. Don’t send the message of annihilation. There is a point of no return.
- Have some patience. Changing your physique takes time. This is where those time-tested principles come into play. You’ll need to get in the gym each week (consistency), train with focus (hard work), and challenge your self to stick to the plan (discipline) in order to be successful.
You may be uttering under your breath by now that all this seems a little generic. Well it is. But that’s what gets the job done. No long, drawn-out, complicated formulas. Just good, honest, simple principles to follow without much fanfare. The body works better and yields more return when things are kept simple. It can’t sustain complicated for long. If results matter to you keep things simple, hold on to those few powerful principles, and stay the course.