Clutter: Is It Bogging Down Your Exercise Program

I had recently read a book, On Writing Well, by William Zinsser - in order to improve my writing skills and create better content for you to enjoy.  One concept of the book talks about reducing clutter within your sentences.  This is done by removing words that don't add meaning to your work. 

After thinking about this concept, I realized this same concept is what helps drive good programming.  

There are an indefinite number of exercises one can choose from - different rep schemes, tempo schemes, set schemes etc... With all these things to consider, it is very easy to add clutter into your program. 

In this case, clutter is defined as any exercises and extras in your workout program that don't add to your goal.  For example, that extra set of accessory work, or that AMRAP of burpees at the end of your workout.  

How do you decide if one or more of the exercises you are doing is cluttering your workout programs?

It all starts with a NEEDS ANALYSIS.

A needs analysis will help you determine what the person following the program ACTUALLY needs to reach their goals.  If any exercise you select does not move you closer to your goals it should be removed.  These extra sets or reps, can drain your nervous system using up precious resources that are needed for the most important exercises.  Similar to the author using an adverb that means the same as a verb.  Clutter in a sentence can distract the reader - similarly, clutter in your program can distract your nervous system.

Now just because I said everything in your program must fulfill a need towards a goal, that doesn't mean you can't put your favorite exercises into you program.  You just need a REASON for why it was selected.

With all the choices and information one has to pick from, the final point is to avoid clutter. Here a few tips to keep in mind when creating a program for yourself or others:

  • Master The Basics
    • If a person can't do basic movements with good technique - such as a body weight squat - these people definitely struggle when you try and progress them beyond their means. 
    • Master the basics first, then progress from there.  And when in doubt use “K.I.S.S.” (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.  
  • Have A "Why" To Everything In The Program
    • If the "why" isn't good or doesn't align with the goals, remove it.  It doesn't need to be in the program and constitutes as clutter. 
  • Keep The Goal The Goal
    • As Dan John always says, focus on the goal and don't lose sight of it.  As new fitness trends tend to come and go, be strategic about what you add in.  You can't focus on everything at the same time - so keep the goal the goal.  If it's weight loss, then inefficient exercise is the way to go.  If you want to be faster, train to be faster.  Stronger?  Then lift heavy stuff.  Just remember to always keep the goal the goal.

Move Well, Stay Strong.