Supersets, drop sets, giant sets, single leg pistol squats, bosu ball standing shoulder presses, backward lunges, burpees, handstand pushups, German volume training, blah blah blah! I could go on for an entire blog post just naming all the “fancy” shit I see trainers doing with clients on a daily basis, both in real life and on the internet.
And you know what, I totally get it. People want to be entertained by their workout, and many people think if they’re not in the fetal position on the floor at the end of the training session, they’ve not had a good workout. Workout programs for ADD and punishment by workout are all the rage these days, and for the life of me, I will never understand it.
Do you want to know the secret to get really strong and in Really good shape? “Bookmark this page and prepare to be blown away by this secret that trainers don’t want you to know.” Do some form of these exercises, and do them on a regular basis:
- Bench Press
- Overhead Shoulder Press
- Chin-ups or Pull-ups
- Rowing exercises
- Heavy carrying exercises
- Occasional sprinting, battle rope work, sled pushing, etc.
There may be a few more I’d add in there if you were an athlete or someone who wanted to do bodybuilding, but if you’re a regular person who wants to get lean, have some appreciable muscle, and just be generally awesome, that’s pretty much all you need! You don’t need to do endless sets of torturous and oftentimes awkward exercises. You need the basics, you need to learn to properly perform the basics, and you need to get stronger at the basics on a weekly/monthly basis.
Should you squat on a balance ball? Hell no, that’s dangerous and stupid. Do you need to know how to perform a perfect sumo deadlift? Nope, a regular deadlift will be fine. Do you need to do curls to get bigger biceps? Chin-ups work just as well, and work your back and core in the process. I’m going to keep saying it. You Just Need to Learn the Basics.
If you were to go to the gym with me and watch me workout on a typical Monday, my workout would go something like this:
- Barbell Squat- 3 sets of 5 at 85% of my maximum weight
- Bench Press- 4 sets of 4 at 90% of my maximum weight
- Barbell Deadlift- 5 sets of 2 at 95% of my maximum weight
- Dumbbell Carry- 3 sets of 50 steps
- Walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes
The next week on Monday, I would do that same exact workout, except I would try to add in the neighborhood of 2.5 up to 10 extra pounds on each lift from what I did the last time. I’m not going to be doing endless sets of sit-ups. I’m not going to do burpees until I throw up. I’m going to do the basics, I’m going to get stronger at the basics, and I’m going to get in better shape. Period.
If you simply want to exercise, go to the gym and do random exercises that serve no purpose of achieving some kind of end goal. If that’s good for you, that’s your prerogative and that’s just fine. If you want to TRAIN, you go to the gym knowing exactly what you’re doing that day, how heavy and how many reps you’re going do of it, and improve upon those numbers on a consistent basis. Training can be monotonous, it can be boring at times, and it can be brutally hard. But there are few things more gratifying than training smart and doing things in the gym you never thought you could. Exercise might be entertaining because it’s always different, but it only serves to make you sweat, not get better at something. What’s the point of that?
If your current gym routine is just “exercise” and you want to learn to do something more measurable and effective, please feel free to visit my services page and fill out a consultation application. One more time, if you can competently perform the basics, they will serve to make you a better, faster, stronger human being every time. Or just keep exercising. I guess that’s fine too!