KISS – a great band, and a great acronym. Keep It Simple, Stupid! Words to live by in both training, and nutrition. But, keep in mind, simple doesn’t mean easy.
It’s easy to create a workout that will exhaust people and leave them “feeling it.” Throw a bunch of different movements together, perform a bunch of reps of each, and you’ll wind up in a puddle of sweat on the floor. However, the goal of each workout should not be to exhaust you, but to make you better. This requires a judicious selection of exercises. Coach Jason Brown said it best: “The sign of a great coach isn’t what they put in a training program, but what they do NOT put in a training program. Showing restraint is the hallmark of a great coach.”
Why do we need restraint? Because as we’ve covered several times previously, training doesn’t make you fitter; recovering from training does. If you do too much, you can’t recover. At best, you’ll be burned out and demoralized, and at worst, you’ll break. When we’re talking about stress and fatigue, we’re not talking about muscle soreness. We’re talking about systemic fatigue – training, family, work, all of these create stress, and we can only handle so much. So, how much is too much?
In a typical bodybuilding session, bodybuilders will perform 8-10 movements. Most of these movements are single joint movements that, while they fatigue muscles, don’t overly stress the nervous system. So, despite the volume of work, bodybuilders can recover (not to mention many of them have supplemental chemical help for recovery).
CrossFit is built around “functional movements,” one criterion of which is that they are compound (i.e. multi-joint). These movements are neurologically demanding, meaning that they do stress our nervous systems. And typically, our lower body movements recruit more muscles than upper body movements, making them the most taxing. Now, think about how many movements we perform that involve our lower bodies. For most of us, 4-6 movements in a session is all our bodies can handle. For exclusively upper body movements, 5-7 is okay.
This is why in a typical training session, we perform a main lift, and our metcons are couplets and triplets. Occasionally, you’ll see a chipper. But, very rarely will the total number of movements performed in a day exceed 6. Even on accessory days, you’ll see at most 3-4 accessory lifts after the main one. And I think we can all agree, every workout is challenging in its own way, no matter how simple the format. Again, simple does not mean easy.
The same is true when it comes to nutrition. There are numerous methods that work to help people get the results they want: tracking macros, intermittent fasting, cycling carbs based on workout/rest days, etc. These are more complicated approaches that don’t need to be the starting point on your nutritional journey. Instead, focus first on eating protein with every meal, and adding in a colored vegetable too. And, always make sure you’re getting enough water and sleep. The approach is simple, but adherence can be challenging.
Since consistency is THE biggest factor in being successful, the simpler the approach, the greater the likelihood of adherence. So, don’t overcomplicate things. Keep it simple, stupid! See you in the gym.
by Erik Castiglione