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Currently, overly complex program and diet setup seems to be a common theme running rampart throughout the lives of a lot of fitness enthusiasts.

Given the overload of information, it makes complete sense as to why it exists, but it also begs the question — how did this happen?

What sudden change it atmospheric pressure caused us to turn such a seemingly simple lifestyle choice of being fit and healthy, into something that requires several science degrees to figure out?

I’ve harped on the topic of a human need for ‘quick fix’ solutions before…

And whilst it’s still valid, it’s not the point of this article. Today I’m arguing that a lot of enthusiasts these days are looking for a more (dare I say it) complex way of achieving their goals.

Why the sudden requirement for complexity?

Why do we need to apply an equation to everything we do (and if we do want to apply one, why does it hurt someone on my facebook page if I publicise the fact that I’m doing so).

Let’s bring science and ‘recent studies’ to the fore for a second — do they have a baring on this or is Bro-Science REALLY the key to simplification and the path of the Adonis?

Hang on a second…

I’m not saying that just because some juiced-up bodybuilder achieves results with any one of their methods that they are correct above all else, nor am I saying that just because some dude in a lab proved his theory on a controlled group of fifty rats that all other techniques and methods of sharpening ones physique are invalid. What I’m saying is, that in a world full of ‘what works on paper ‘ vs ‘bro-science’, I think there’s really only one real answer (and you’re probably gonna hate it).

It’s ‘what works for you’

That’s the f*cking answer right there. If you’ve tried Intermittent Fasting and thought it sucked but the ‘science’ on Pubmed said it was awesome, then just maybe, it wasn’t for you.

If you’ve tried Rest-Pause training and you didn’t manage to increase your size/strength thus thinking it ‘seriously blows’, then maybe THAT style of training wasn’t for you either (given that you were hopefully eating correctly and training for long enough on said program to give it a chance to work).

I could go on…

But I probably don’t need to.

If you’ve found a pub-med study that you can selectively cherry-pick and use to prove your chosen path of fitness is ‘righteous above all others’ then that’s just fine — please don’t turn it into a religion and tell the rest of us with proven results, that we are in fact WRONG. And the reasons is this…

On the path to the temple of ‘self-improvement’, there are more paths that lead to it, than those that lead away.

Even if those paths aren’t as ‘direct’ as they could be, they will more than likely get you there eventually in one way or another.

Training and dieting methods have largely stayed the same for a number of years. Yes we are privy to more information, but the core of what lies beneath any given program’s success is the human desire for self improvement and the undertaking of something new (a brand new variable) that will change a person’s physique/health either positively, or negatively is the key ingredient. The other important ‘key’ to all of this is ‘motivation’ and ‘consistency’.

But some form of ‘change’ is the only factor that tells us if a training program is working or if it isn’t right?

If after a given period of time you don’t see a muscle swell, an abdominal reveal itself or an increase in cardio-endurance, you quickly move onto the next training method/technique/program citing that the previous one was ineffective or perhaps even a little bit ‘sh*t’.

Maybe it WAS sh*t, but did you give it a chance? Maybe not. Perhaps you were doing things incorrectly — not eating enough, eating too much, missing a workout here and there.

Factors such as these all lead to an overwhelming sense of ‘program’ dissonance and disapointment.

My guess is, that more than likely you were simply over-complicating things and expecting the unachievable like losing a tonne of fat whilst gaining a significant amount of muscle (without steroids) or trying to reveal an over-night six-pack (no, not beer).

You’ve probably lost a bit of the simplicity that made your training fun and a stress reprieve rather than a stress additive.

We’ve all been there…

And it largely happens in the early days of training when you just can’t seem to progress and those ‘newbie gains’ have worn off after say the first year or so.
And the reason for that is this…

The body is clever at adaptation

We throw a training/dieting method or two at it, we see results for a period of time, then the body figures it all out and our progress stalls. It’s at this point we begin the process of complicating things: We buy a few supplements, add a day of training, go on an extreme form of diet and so on.

Instead of simplifying our diets and training, we’ve now added additional variables to over-complicate things and make it even MORE difficult to gauge what is and what isn’t working.

So my advice to you is this…

Simplify your diet and training

Train to live, not the other way round — Go back to the basics. Lift heavy, eat correctly, rest, recover and repeat.

Remember when you first started this whole ‘training’ thing and your friends insinuated that you were just on a health kick? (Yes, that’s exactly what happened to me in the beginning).

Those times were simple weren’t they? You started eating ‘better’ and trained several days a week (up from zero days no doubt).

You’ve probably just lost a bit of the simplicity that made your training fun and a stress reprieve rather than a stress additive.

Your lifestyle should be affording you freedom to do the things you love. If you’re training isn’t allowing you that luxury, perhaps you need to re-asses how complex the ‘approach’ has become.

Maybe you need to steer clear of the one-hundred different fitness websites touting different methods, ideals and techniques (besides this one of course :)) and take in just a FEW — perhaps give Pubmed a miss for a a few days while you’re at it.

Simplify, cleanse, reassess and go back to basics.

Enjoy your week :)

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Hey Man,

    Good post. I have been following the reveal the steel to the best that facilities will deliver. Have found as I travel a fair bit that most gyms have an approximation on the actual exercise (eg not every hotel gym has a bench press in free weight form, but they usually have a machine).

    I have been pluggin away and have notices a 20% increase in my max weight for a few things (deadlift, squat, bench). I reckon that could be accounted in part for comfort as well as improvement.

    I like the Reveal the Steel programme for its simplicity. I can just knuckle in and focus on the small number of excercises.

    With respect to food I am mostly there – alcohol my one great vice – is tricky to avoid when you live on a tropical holiday destination. However the rest is pretty easy to stick to.


    • That’s fantastic Michael.
      I’ve found that during extended periods of travel or vacation, that ‘doing what you can’ is ultimately better than doing nothing.

      Mainly because returning to your previous ‘form’ once you get back takes a lot longer due to the loss of ‘conditioning’. My trip to the states last year saw me train for maybe 20mins every 2nd or 3rd day with hardly a reduction of muscle size nor fat increase. (check that post out here if you havent already >

      I’m excited to see you’re getting some solid results from Reveal The Steel and look forward to the end result come Week 17-18 :)

  • I find testing and tweaking a routine too often is usually where most people find themselves in the land of “complicated training”. Even if they never meant to get there. Minor adjustments to basic movements will keep the progress going while also creating less of a headache. Great reminders, Clint.

  • Alykhan Gulamali says:


    I agree simplicity and consistency are keys to success.  If you have an overwhelmingly complex routine, chances are you won’t stick to it.


    • Back when I first started training, my programs were WAY over-complicated.
      I think it was a case of truly believing greater complexity = better gains/progress.

  • Jared says:

    When I started training, I kept things simple because that was all I knew… then it’s like over time and as you learn more, you complicate things more…

    I’m only now realizing that I have to go backwards in this regard, and remove some of the complexity for better gains. Great reminder – cheers!

  • Jared says:

    Totally agree with your comments, the times I fail are when things get too complex and I’m all over the place with training and eating. When I stick to simpler programmes I get the results I’m looking for.

  • Clint thats so true.  All the time I find people obsessed with the small stuff that really doesn’t matter when it comes to getting into shape, and completely neglect the basics.  If you are eating clean and lifting heavy you are doing great.

    • Some of the greatest physiques I saw when I was growing up, were from those that trained 3 times per week and just ate really well.
      Back then, we didn’t have a wealth of ‘current internet knowledge’ to hinder the basics and make it more complicated than it needs to be — one of the down sides of too much information i suppose :)

  • Some great points there Clint, as expected!

    I would add my experience to the mix…

    As someone who’s lifted, consistently, for about 20 years i am happy to confirm that my lifting programs are very much a case of evolution; adding in new things here and there, and dropping what no longer seems needed. In the last couple of years I’ve added in myo reps and 1 and 1/4 reps, and cycle these with the odd bit of 5×5’s, supersets and EDT. 
    On the diet front, the only real additions over recent years has been Intermittent Fasting (it is the best thing I’ve come across for me that gives me diet freedom), and eating from a paleo concept (note, this doesn’t mean being dogmatically paleo, whatever that means, but aiming for the least amount processed food in my diet as possible).

    With respect to clients, I totally echo your advice; find what works for you. This has been the only route to success that I’ve been able to find that works for ALL my clients, so my job becomes a dual one; know your stuff about how to eat and train (basically being a walking encyclopedia) and then work with my clients to find the blend of those things that fits in with their lifestyle. Rinse and repeat:)

    Keep up the good work,

  • Jojo says:

    Thank you Clint for getting right to the point of all our problems when it comes to getting fit and getting tired of the endless routines and not getting the result we want for our body. Sometimes when you start simple along the way it gets complex, and you wonder why it happened and you get frustrated, because you’re not getting what you want. Thank you for the Great motivation!

  • Great post Clint. Before I get into the subject matter, a couple notes on the blog structure.

    I really appreciate the subheading use that is evident in all of your posts. The scanability of your blog is really effective, so much so that although the word count gets hefty in some posts, I hardly find myself leaving prior to my reading the whole piece.

    Complementing this is your use of colored text that emphasizes your points and indented quotes that really stand out from the script. Paragraph breaks are also a great asset to your posts in general, and this one specifically.

    When it comes to the content, I couldn`t agree more. I can`t express how sick I am of hearing people compel others to get off what they`re doing and onto this new program that promises results.

    I think people attach fitness so strongly to their identity that they don`t want to succumb to the basic training styles. They feel that as enthusiasts, they should be preforming cutting edge programs that result in unprecedented results. It`s weight lifting, and granted it is a science, it doesn`t have to become fully quantified. It takes all the fun out of it.

    I really appreciate seeing a guy who knows the ropes in the fitness industry come down to earth and level with people. I respect your practicality in the scope of weight lifting and your ability to translate your ideals into coherent, informative and physically stimulating blog posts.

    Keep em coming good sir.

    • Clint says:

      Thanks for the kind words Dylan – I’m loving the positive feedback on the new blog/site layout and format.

      I’ll keep writing, if you keep reading :)

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