Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Simple isn't sexy, but it works

I can't tell you how many times over the last two decades of training that I've heard the same story from advanced guys about a common mistake they often made in their training or dieting, that kept them spinning their wheels.  

"Everytime I deviated from simplicity I made less and less progress."

And yet I can't tell you how many times I've read in regards to what I write about, or espouse, that I'm not offering anything "new" or groundbreaking.

Well no shit, Sherlock.  

I'm not sure why people believe that complicated means better.  But that often appears to be the case in regards to training, dieting, supplementation, etc.  The more moving parts a training or diet program has in it, and the harder it is to explain, the more worth it seems to have.  At least, on the surface or in some internet debate.

I think it's because people really love to debate and talk about training and dieting that makes those kinds of programs so popular.  These days, it seems, lots of people would rather talk and debate about training and dieting methodologies rather than DO THEM.  I literally had a discussion the other day where, of course, studies had to be thrown in to determine whether or not something was valid or not.  When in this particular case, all that people had to do was actually TRY what was being debated.  That's where we are at now, and have been for a while in regards to what is trending. Nothing is actually tried.  It's just all debated on whether it will or won't work.  

I watched a foremost expert in the field of strength training with more than 30 years of training some of the best athletes in the world defend his stance that doing antagonist muscle stretching before working the agonist muscle gave an increase in strength.  In this instance, it had already been shown in a study but the fact was, instead of just trying it, people wanted to debate it.  

People would rather debate about training and dieting modalities rather than do them.  And of course, the more simple a training plan or diet is, the less merit it appears to have.  Yet most of the guys I see debating about this all the time, don't even look like they lift.  There seems to have been some kind of influx of nerds into lifting now that care more about debating than doing.  Then of course, they get their panties in a knot when you tell them that your ideas work and you have a mountain of anecdotal evidence behind them to show they work, but some study says otherwise.  

At some point, we have to get back to actual results.  Because after all, isn't that all that really matters?  As one of my friends, who also has a PhD in this field told me, "at some point you have to get back to results.  Fuck your arguments.  Produce or shut the fuck up."  

I recently did a series of seminars in Australia with two of the very best in their respective fields.  I can't say who, as then that qualifies me as a "name dropper".  I never realized talking about the people I work with and talk with on a daily and weekly basis, guys that are also close friends, meant I was name dropping but apparently it does.  So I will say it was Bert and Ernie.  

Anyway, if there was a common theme shared between the three of us it was this - 

1.  Keep things as simple as possible
2.  The answers usually lie somewhere in moderation, not extremes.
3.  Don't deviate from what is working.
4.  Make choices based on what can be done long term, i.e. longevity.  

When Bert was going over his dieting strategy, I was shocked.  Shocked because it was so simple.  It was exactly what I used to adhere to, and I what I eventually came back to when the diet information overload got to me.  

For years and years, I thought dieting was a really simple idea.  You figured out your total calories needed to gain, maintain, or lose weight, factored in protein and fat requirements, filled in carbs with the rest and had your "diet".  This is exactly what Dorian Yates did during the years he was winning the Mr. Olympia.  

He simply reduced calories over time from 6,000 a day to 3,500 a day, and got shredded to the bone.  Of course he did cardio and trained, etc.  However his dieting strategy was that simple.  But people will tell you now that it isn't that simple, and that while that worked for him, it won't work for everyone.  

But because there is a new diet every few weeks in the industry filled with "science" as to why it works and is far more efficient in it's approach than the simplicity of "counting calories."  After all, you don't need a degree in nutritional science to use an online calculator to figure this out.  So something that simple surely cannot work.  That would mean people could sit down and iron out a diet all by themselves, thus making diet coaches obsolete.  Even worse now, is the diet coaches who use such simple and doable methods often get questioned because it doesn't seem complex enough.  There has to be some crazy method involved that other people couldn't possibly fathom on their own in order to get leaner, or grow.  

When Ernie and I were going over both offseason and contest peaking cycles, everyone was amazed at how simple it was to plan these out, so long as you adhered to some simple rules about planning...

1.  Leave your ego at the door - Don't plan your cycle around unrealistic goals
2.  Don't miss or grind any reps in training

Simple.  And it works.  

And simplicity is what has really become a lost art in training and diet.  It's not sex or fancy and people constantly bitch that "this guy isn't writing anything new, and has nothing original to say."  

I could make up some crazy ass training scheme or diet scheme, and use all sorts of fancy studies and manipulate them and I guess it could be a big craze but in the end, like a lot of fads that come and go, it would be seen as such and take away from what really works, and what people should be doing.

I think it's hard for people to accept that, to get shredded you're probably going to have to eat chicken and broccoli, and that to get stronger it's just going to take a long time more than likely, and you're just going to have to do the basics over and over and over again, but that is actually what works.  I could sit here and write out all the complex and trendy diets and training methodologies that have popped up over the years, and show that they didn't last or have any sustainability but that would be a waste of my time.  I've literally had to have arguments with people that doing more reps had far bigger benefits for hypertrophy than staying in low rep ranges.  Nevermind that it's been proven for decades and decades, and that there are lots of studies that show it's far more efficient.  

"No, you can gain the same degree of hypertrophy doing low reps as well."

You may can, but it's terribly inefficient at best, and pretty dumb at worst.

And for all the talk about people understanding what works and doesn't, I often see these very complex and dynamic systems pop up, and people get crazy about them, then they fall off after a while and everyone gets that they don't have merit.  

Then they fall for it all over again in a few months when a new fad pops up.  My guess is, these are the same people that spend money on trendy clothing and haircuts, get armband tattoos, and grow a beard because they think beard culture is awesome (yes I have a beard because I hate shaving more than having a beard).

I remember a conversation a few years ago where a guy told me that the naturally gifted guys could get away with just doing the basics because it was all they needed.  That the people who weren't gifted would need to train in a more complex way to get to that level.

This made no sense to me at all.  So then why didn't the naturally gifted guys also train in such a manner?  Wouldn't this have made them even more elite?  Like, elite elite?  Does that make any sense?

I think some of this falls back on special snowflake syndrome.  That being, if a guy isn't elite or competing at a high level or getting massive gainz from his program, then it must be because the program is flawed.  It can't be because genetically he might be more inferior than someone else.  His mom told him he was special, so it has to be true.  

And yet, as I opened the article with, even the very special snowflakes, the genetically elite often found where they went wrong was when they deviated from staying basic and made things far more complicated than they had to be.  So if the elite didn't benefit from getting fancy, you probably won't either.  

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  1. Reminds me of your blog on Klokov, one of my favorite quotes, (paraphrasing) he said something to the effect that people ask him all sorts of training questions and his reply was, "Train with barbell." Sometimes it really is as complicated as picking heavy shit up, and putting heavy shit down.


  3. Missed your posts, glad you're back! This is what people need to be reading no about the newest dieting fad or supplement. Thank you.

  4. This pretty much sums everything up perfectly stop making training so complicated. In retrospect when I was a noob i wish I had realized all you really need is the basics.

  5. Lol! @ Bert and Ernie