Getting Back to Basics

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Since May I have graduated from grad school, finished up at 1 job, taken on a new role at another, and moved apartments.

Each one of these things was not just a easy, relaxing good time. Each one was its own kind of stressor.

With all of these things going on I had to make sure that I continued to read, write, lift, play golf, and spend time with my girlfriend.

I do not doubt for a second that everyone reading this has some type of craziness going on in their life.

Now, there will definitely be a time of the year where I get to ease off of the hectic life and spend my time in different places and it is actually coming up soon.

During all of this my training went to absolute crap. I tried to get too creative and too cute making programs for myself and it did not end well.

I hopped around on different things and I ended up feeling life crap, moving like crap, and not making any progress.

It is time to get back to basics.

Last week was the tipping point for me because things had settled down a bit and I was able to see that my training has been suffering for a long time.

I looked back with a coworker of mine and he was unable to see what direction I was going in.

The verdict is that when things get out of control, simplify.

No matter what your fitness goal is, there are some exercises that are just going to do the job better than others.

If you want to get strong then squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls are going to get the job done.

If you want to lose weight then squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls are the best strategy.

If you want to improve your performance then squats, dead—You get the point.


When it is time to simplify there are a few things that we need to do.

The first one is to focus your efforts. What do you want to develop?

Pick strength, fat loss, performance in a certain lift, etc. and make it a priority. Secondary goals are great just remember that they are secondary.

Getting stronger involves heavy weights, barbells (usually), and effort. Make sure to do the big lifts and do not miss any attempts.

If you have a laundry list of things to accomplish and your deadline is yesterday then you are not simplifying. You are putting too much on the plate to accomplish.

It is better to do less, do it well, and slowly add things in as others get reached.

Don’t try to find to perfect blend of cardio, lifting, shake weights, and hill sprints. There is no way to make it all work.

Second, is to minimize distractions. Training 3 times per week usually means that you need set aside about 2% of your week to train. This is nothing.

Make the time and do not schedule anything else during that time. Early morning is usually a good option here because no one has any real engagements at 6am.

The best strategy is to get in and get out. Leave your phone away from the floor and don’t spend more time talking than training.

If you need to go into a designed program or take a class, then by all means do it. The point here is to simplify.

Trying to get the artistic juices flowing and coming up with the perfect, unsustainable strategy is going to be a failure. I’ve been there.

The third point is that accessory lifts are accessory. Their goal is to make the bigger lifts better.

Spending too much time doing 16 variations of chest exercises is not going to be as good as heavy bench sets followed by high volume pushups, for example.

Doing too much wastes time, beats on your body, and will make you worse in the long run.

You can even use total numbers to strive for. An example would be training four times a week and finding the time to do 50 or 100 chinups per week.


It does not matter how many sets, reps per set, or if they are even done on one day. Just get them in.

Pushups, chin-ups, pull-ups, RDL’s, GHR’s, and goblet squats are all examples of accessory lifts that can be done in this fashion.

When it comes to training, the same lifts have gotten people the best results since before the first barbell surfaced.

Understand that not every is built for every lift but there is some kind of variation for everyone.

Sticking to the major lifts (squats, deadlifts, upper body presses, and upper body pulls) is going to yield the best results.

When life starts to throw curve balls, simplify the process and go to what works.

Focus your efforts, minimize distractions, and keep accessory work to low priority.

You will be able to stay on track and continue to make progress in trying times.