Simplicity in Training


It is my belief that simple fundamental programming and exercises provide the greatest overall value for the beginning client.  As training maturity is gained, and techniques earned and owned it still remains something that we return to time and time again.  Further, I believe a strong foundation in the basics helps prevent injuries down the road.

Why simple? Programming, exercise selection and management become much easier.                 A vertical push and a vertical pull                                                                                                         A horizontal push and a horizontal pull.                                                                                               A hinge and a a squat                                                                                                                       An “Other movement” (Sprints,Loaded Carries,Crawls etc.)

Clients can develop skill in fundamentals.  You’re presenting them something that is not only beneficial, but also achievable and highly measurable.                                                           Fundamentals are the foundation and are what more sophisticated things are built upon.                 A solid grasp of the fundamentals leads to confidence and independence.

Simple Basics before Sophisticated Basics                                                                             This lesson has hit home recently.  I’ve been working with double kettlebell techniques and have hit a temporary snag in my double swing.  It’s not a strength issue; the problem lies in my fundamentals.

As of this writing I cannot perform 24kg double swings very well, therefore my double cleans, double front squat and double press are compromised as the double swing is required to get the bell into the preparatory position.   I can (for now) still train the double press and double front squat by “cheating” the bell into the racked position, but this is a far less efficient way of doing business.  I am practicing double swings with 16 and 20kg kettlebells (1-2 bell sizes down from 24kg) and am working to improve my overall techniques.  An advantage of having so many trainers and coaches for friends is that I nearly always have someone I can call when I cant figure something out.

My thoughts on simple stuff                                                                                      –Fundamentals are not always simple or easy.                                                                    Fundamentals have stood the test of time.                                                                    Fundamentals lead to skill mastery

To muddy things up further, I believe there really are no “basic” or “advanced” techniques.”  I choose to view them as simple fundamentals or sophisticated fundamentals.  The lines between each blur depending on who is performing the task at hand.

The Fundamentals of the Deadlift as applied to three different clients.


Client A.  Medically cleared with no previous training history.  Screening indicates weak lower back and core musculature.                                                                                                  Teach the hinge pattern, and hinge vs. squat.                                                                             Teach the body positions in the 3 main phases of the deadlift with particular attention to the area around the clients’ knees in the concentric and eccentric phases.                                                     Teach the emergency escape plan.                                                                                           Program sets with a lower volume initially and train with attention to detail.                                     Use linear periodization initially.                                                                                                           Be prepared to substitute a Kettlebell or Sandbag for deadlifting.

                              Deadlift full

Client B.  3 months self-training history.  Screening indicates generally good functional movement with minor areas of tightness and asymmetry.  Has never deadlifted before, but has performed numerous other back/posterior exercises exercises.                          Teach the hinge pattern, and the differences in hinge vs. squat.                                                       Teach the body positions in the 3 main phases of the deadlift.                                                         Teach the emergency escape plan.                                                                                                 Program sets with a moderate repetitions and train with attention to detail.                                     Use linear periodization initially.


Client C.  1.5yrs training experience and ample time under a barbell.  Presently deadlifts 1.5x bodyweight at maximum effort and wants to learn the Power Clean technique.              Teach the emergency escape plan for positions above the hip.                                                  Demonstrate the differences between the Power Clean and the Deadlift up to hip level                     Drill the second pull phase with an unloaded bar.                                                                           Work shoulder/elbow ROM drills (if required)                                                                           Program low rep ranges with multiple sets.                                                                             Continue progressing the standard deadlift up to 2-2.5x bodyweight.                                                 Involve the use of bands, deficits or rack pulls as needed.                                                                 Initial periodization can be linear, then switch to undulating or block.

The above by no means includes all possible things, but does illustrate the common thread of similar fundamentals being used across clients with different levels of ability and meeting each one where they presently stand.

Client A from simple to sophisticated                                                                                           Presupposing a barbell was not initially used, once a sandbag deadlift is learned and can be done at a relatively high weight, the sandbag bent row or sandbag clean can be taught.  Taking things even further, the sandbag client can then learn the clean-front squat press technique.  The sandbag has the additional benefit that it can duplicate the movements of all barbell techniques, rotational movements and loaded carries.                                                                                         Once the Kettlebell deadlift is learned, the squat and the swing are can also be developed. Once the swing is learned the deadlift will improve.                                                                                       Once the stick drill is learned, the movement pattern has been grooved and can be applied to the deadlift.

I follow a similarly simple approach to diet and movement screening. Diets that are difficult to follow usually remain such and complicated movement patterns can trip people up quickly.  Adherence and consistency to a diet will trump diet type, and proper movement learned early yields results with a lower likelihood of injury.


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