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Do not Complicate Your Training

By Carl Phillips

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”.  ~Confucius

We can all be a little guilty of making life more complicated than it needs to be at times.  Training is no different.  We just love to get down into the minutia which can lead us down the path of majoring in the minors.  If we take a step back and focus on keeping our training simple we can keep ourselves on a more enjoyable (and oftentimes more productive) path and also get on with the rest of our life outside of exercise time.  So how can we stop ourselves from over complicating our training?

1) Focus on the Big Rocks

Go 80/20 on your training and ensure that you’re focused on the big rocks.  Forget the small stuff.

In the case of strength training this means more time on full body moves (clean and presses, squats, deadlifts, chin ups etc) and less (or preferably no time) on curls and kick backs!

In the case of cardio it means sprints and other basics.

Add in a few all around mobility/flexibility drills and you’ll see that your training doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.

2) Squat/Hinge, Pull and Press – Rinse and Repeat

Along with sprinting and jumping, these represent basic human movement patterns that any good training programme should be covering.  Some examples of each are below:


Squat (Front, one legged and the many variants)

Step Up

Kettlebell Swing



Chin Up (Various Grips)

Inverted Row



Push Up (and the many variants)

Overhead Pressing

Not all exercises fit neatly into these groups, for example the clean and press could fit into any and all groups to various degrees as it has a global effect on the body and hits pretty much everything from top to toe.

3) Go Minimalist

Getting or staying fit and strong does not have to be complicated or time consuming to be effective.  If you’re pressed for time or simply want to revert to a bare bones approach to fitness then minimalist training could be the answer.

A more minimalist approach to training has many benefits including:

-Eliminating the Unnecessary

A minimalist training approach demands zeroing in on the exercises that will give you the most ‘bang for your buck’.

-You’re In and Out

When you pare exercise down to the essential your exercise sessions don’t take long.  You’re in and out and can complete a full body workout before some other folk are done with their warm up!

This also means you can fit your workouts into your life rather than trying to fit your life around your workouts.


Minimalist and basic sessions make it easy to keep your focus.  How much easier is it to stay focused if your whole workout session comprises of only 3 exercises rather than 10 or more?!

If you go minimalist keep your exercise choice at each session limited (2-4 exercises is a good target for a strength session).  A great example of a comprehensive full body, minimalist strength session would be one using the template above of a squat/hinge, a pull and a press.  Add in a little local work for your core or grip and you’re covered.  This simple template has been used by athletes for many, many years for good reason – it works!

There you go, 3 quick pointers on why you should consider keeping your training simple.  If you choose to try them I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised and have a whole lot more time to get on with the rest of your life. 

Carl is a part time blogger/writer with an interest and passion for (amongst other things) simplicity and getting more out of life.  To find out more check out his blog here:


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