Skip to content

Simple Training

By Gus

Every athlete should use the simplest program that progresses them toward their goal. Think about advocating the opposite: “Every athlete should use the most complex program that progresses them to their goal.” It doesn’t even pass the sniff test, right?

Many people changing their habits assume it must be a complex or difficult. Ten different exercises per session? Something new to “shock” their muscles? Target new variations every three weeks? Wake up at 4am everyday? Drink a gallon of water by lunchtime? The industry has facilitated these kinds of over-the-top thinking for a while, and many absorb the ideas by osmosis.

If a complex program appeals to you, you stick with it, and follow the plan, I’m sure you’ll see results. More power to you. I believe that the same way I believe if you hit 100 range balls and play 18 holes everyday you’ll get better at golf. I’m personally excited that everyone finds some way of being active instead of sedentary. But I don’t actually believe you have the time or energy to play that much golf. And I don’t actually believe you can stick to a new, complex program long enough for it to have the expected result.

So if you come to me for help I’m going to find the simplest changes that make a difference. When you’re in my gym, I’m going to focus on five movements and getting you stronger at each of them. When we shape your habits, we make the simple easy changes first. We do it that way because it’s feasible and sustainable.

As the easy changes stack up, if you’re still not at your goal, add the slightest complication necessary to keep the results coming. But until you need it, stick with the simple training while it still produces results.

Read more about Simple Training in the Blue Book

Read from Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition pp. 296-207, the section titled “Workout Order.”

This section nails down the simple plan of the Starting Strength novice program. And also includes one of my favorite Rip ideas: 

Remember, if progress is being made on the primary exercises, you are getting stronger and your objective is being accomplished.


A foggy gym.