Complexity Doesn't Equal Effectiveness

    Just because your program is complex doesn't mean it's any more effective than others. Too often I see people try to get fancy with their programming without knowing the science behind what they’re doing to begin with.

    So you just read a book that talks about time under tension. Cool. That doesn’t mean that now you write in all your tempos for your lifts from bench press to calf raises. Just because you put “3,1,3,0” after an exercise doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing, or that it’s even effective. If your goal is hypertrophy, but you decide to do 3x6 @ 3,1,3,0, then you just wasted your time.

    It takes more than a chapter in a book to get a true understanding for the complexity behind programming. True hypertrophy would have to be either 3x10-12 at the aforementioned tempo, or if you wanted to keep the rep scheme of 3x6, you would need to follow an 8,0,2,1 tempo, or at least something along those lines.

    Bands and chains can make for an interesting Friday night, but you don’t necessarily need them for an effective program. Just because Louie Simmons advocates accommodating resistance doesn't mean that you know how to even use it properly. If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone misusing bands, I’d have enough money to do some serious damage off the Dollar Menu.

    Yes bands can be a great tool, when they are used properly. With the keyword being properly. There needs to be enough resistance through an entire ROM, not just the last 20%. The reps also need to be completed quickly and explosively to induce the proper power effects. If you’re grinding through reps using bands, again, you’re wasting your time.

    The biggest issue I see with people trying to be complex with their programming is that there is no continuity from program to program. There’s no plan. It’s just a bunch of stuff followed by more stuff. Periodization is key. If you just have a bunch of meso- and microcycles, that doesn't mean you’ve created an effective macrocycle.

    There should be deliberate flow between each mesocycle. If you move from a 4 week hypertrophy phase (which is way too short for hypertrophy anyway) to a 10 week strength, to a 4 week power, back to strength, and then end with hypertrophy before competition begins, you just wasted everyone’s time because your athletes are not peaked for their competition.

    Along with that, is gimmicky program hopping. If you are going to dedicate time to follow a style or philosophy, then give it the correct amount of time required. I once witnessed a team follow Wendler’s 5/3/1 programming for 4 weeks. That’s right, 4 weeks. It is touted as a MINIMUM of 16 weeks of programming to maximize the effects. There have been people that follow 4 weeks of Cal Strength and Dave Spitz, then 4 weeks of Louie Simmons, then 4 weeks of 5/3/1, so on and so forth. And there is no continuity between the programs. And when they switch from Simmons to 5/3/1 they completely ditch bands and never address them again. Like ever.

    So what is effective then? You might be surprised, but simplicity is the most effective. Especially when you are first beginning. A good rule of thumb that my friend Mike once told me is, “If you can’t explain what physiological effects the program is going to cause, then don’t write it.”

    Simple means simple. I’m talking push-pull, horizontal-vertical. Everything even (or as even as possible) and maybe throwing in some weighted carries also. Count your reps. If you have 90 reps of pressing in one week, you should have an equal amount of reps with various pulling exercises also.

    The core lifts are great. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, cleans, whatever you decide. You don’t need chains or whips, or fat grips or skinny grips, or anything else. Follow it up with some accessory lifts that will help support smaller muscles and joint health, and you’ll be golden. Just don’t go crazy and write up 8 exercises per day with 3-4 sets per exercise. Keeping to 5 exercises or less per day is probably best. Most people won’t finish anything more than that anyway.

    And remember, just because you saw Mattie Rogers, Westside Barbell, or JJ Watt do it, doesn’t mean that you need to have all of your athletes do it now too.