T Nation

Increase in Complexity


One of the biggest differences I've noticed in routines today (for example, those on this site) is an increase in complexity.

By complexity, I mean, everything is figured out down to the very last detail; the weights used, the rest periods, the tempo, the explosiveness. And likewise for the nutrition with precise macronutrient breakdowns and meal timing, especially peri-workout.

In contrast, most of the older routines are simpler in that regard, and much of the advice given by bigger and stronger lifters in the forums lean toward a simpler approach.

Granted, I'm sure at elite levels those details make a difference, but that doesn't really seem to be the audience... instead, they seem targeted to people who think they're "elite".

Does the increased complexity actually matter that much? Or is it more a marketing gimmick to give program-ADD people something complex enough to focus on and figure out, instead of jumping to the next program as soon as they get bored?


I guess, rephrased...

For any non-advanced lifter:

How much does "proper" periodization matter... versus lift as much as you can in a given rep range, and increase the weights when you can do more?

How much does precise meal timing and macronutrient breakdown matter... versus eat enough protein to build muscle, and enough calories to grow, but not so much that it's turning into fat?

How much does managing tempo and rest periods matter... versus just do what it takes to keep putting more weight on the bar?

... and how much of this "complexity" is just a matter of fads and marketing and attempts to combat program-ADD?


You may have to change things up more as you get more advanced. What got you deadlifting 400lbs will most likely not work to 600. Also, as you get stronger you need to listen to your body. When I start deadlifting heavy, I'll usually only do it twice a month, it takes that long to feel right again. But at lower weights once a week was fine for me.

People put alot of emphasis on what others are doing you need to know your body yourself.


2 things that are required to grow brah, intensity and frequency. Thats the way its always been and always will be.


Ugh.... what a post.

When have you EVER heard this to be true:

"Oh you're trying to master something new? Just wing it!"


However, I will agree to a small extent that there are cases where over-thinking it is getting ridiculous.

macro-nutrient breakdown = important
meal timing = not important



What do YOU like to do.

When you first start out, you are a beginner. In every sense of the word. Keep it simple, don't sweat the small stuff, be consistent, etc.

As you grow (ha, no pun in intended), you feel the need to "experiment". You know, the 34.5 degree overhead tricep extension on bosu ball with a 4-1-2 tempo, underhanded with curved bar......

Then, a time will come when you will either quit the game or go your way. Do what you are comfortable with. I prefer 5/3/1 style of working out (used to be 5x5) over regular (or irregular) BB split. Does it mean it is superior? Nope, I just enjoy it more. I just don't enjoy adding weight, changing rep, etc.

But, on the flip side, follow one of CT's program and you see a lot of variety, sets, rep schemes, etc. After Having done iBB and 6 weeks to superhero (twice), I actually learned quite a bit. Is the whole program for me? No, but I do incorporate his principles in my workouts on occasions.

Most of the older routines are simple because they work. Now, people needs "flash". Excitement. The "latest" thing. And news travels way faster now.....


Lots of good points being made so far.

Those guys are generally also more experienced and with experience (or time) knowledge becomes engrained so that what might look instinctive or very simple is the result of detail-work becoming second nature. It's why I can pour dry oatmeal into a bowl and know when to stop to get the carbs I want. I can eyeball the amount because I put in time measuring it out before.

An experienced bodybuilder can walk into the gym and know after the second warm-up set what changes he'll have to make to the rest of his day's intended training based on lingering soreness, injuries flaring up, gym crowd, etc. A beginner doesn't know that if your low back is already twinging while squatting 95 pounds, you're not going to be hitting that 3-rep max even though your notebook say you're supposed to.

Details matter, even moreso with non-advanced lifters, because they give context and more precise guidance than freeballing things. Beginners can't always be trusted to make the right decisions - exactly how much to increase the weight, how many calories from carbs to add compared to calories from fat, etc. - without having some sort of guidance laid out.

Whether that guidance is rigid like "increase X percent on Y lifts" or loose like "add three eggs or one small potato per day" depends on who's giving the advice and their particular theories about how to approach things. Wendler's 5/3/1 is percentage-based and crazy popular. Starting Strength is more "loose" (everyone increases the same each workout). Both are successful because both methods work just fine.


For a lot of programs, spreadsheets are floating around online that do all the set, rep, weight calculations for you... that changes calculating everything for every workout to simply inputting your 5 RM.

This is way easier for me than figuring out what to do every time


Every variable adds or detracts from your success.

How much success do you want to have?
If you want to master something, it takes a precise strategy that accounts for as many variables as possible.
If you want to look good for da ladiez, or "get in shape," it just takes some effort.

Basically is your training a hobby or a passion?
If its a true passion you'll want to do everything you can to be a minuscule amount better.


Lots of good responses. I'm not implying the details don't matter, or that you should just "wing it" in the gym. Instead, it's as if many of the newer programs set people up for "majoring in the minors". As a beginner, you don't really have a good understanding of the details that matter the most. They all matter, just some matter more than others.

Does it matter if I eat a chicken breast or steak for my 3rd meal of the day? For a competitive bodybuilder 4 weeks out for competition, that choice can make a difference. For most people, either one is a good choice.

Or, other cases where people are afraid to increase the weight because they're not sure they can get 12 reps, since their program said 12 reps, not 8-12, and they're just not sure what to do.

Just looking through the forums here, you can see cases where people have put "tempo" more important than "progression", or "perfect form" as more important than "proper recovery".

My concern is that this complexity keeps people from grasping the principles behind the program.

For example, many bodybuilding programs, do this:
1. develop CNS efficiency to recruit more muscle fibers (usually via low rep, heavy weights)
2. develop capillary and vascular efficiency to better deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscle fibers (usually via high[er] rep, lighter weights, drop sets, etc; i.e., chasing the pump)
3. use warmups/ramp-ups/activation exercises in order to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible, and "wake them up", since regular daily activity doesn't require all those fibers
4. develop the muscle fibers themselves and stimulate growth (via medium rep, fairly-heavy weights)
5. group muscles in order to have balanced development around the joints, from a joint health standpoint, a physique standpoint, and to prevent underdeveloped muscles from holding back growth.

CT's programs, JM's programs, KingBeef's programs, Doggcrapp, etc. etc. focus on these same things, they just go about doing it differently. But once you understand these ideas, you can tweak your approach to what works best for you.

Personally, I think understanding these concepts, and the ways you go about achieving them, is really more important. Instead of getting caught up in sets/reps/weight used in an activation exercise, learn an activation exercise is supposed to do... and then make sure you've properly activated things.

Really, it would probably be helpful to just have a list of "things that matter", sorted from most to least important, depending on your goal.