Keep It Simple Stupid: Simplicity Gone Wrong

Posted on 28 Feb 2010 20:51

The following was originally a forum post back when I was using a different system on the site. As such it was buried in a non-active forum category and I thought it important enough to re-post here in my blog:

I'll admit it I used to love me some KISS.

Who am I kidding? I still love KISS. I wouldn't be surprised if the name actually stood for that fitness mantra that everybody beats into the ground: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

The KISS formula was deceptively simple, after all. Wear rad makeup and costumes, play simple, rockin, catchy songs. And market the hell out of yourself.

But while I'm a fan of KISS, the band I'm really getting sick of K.I.S.S, the mantra. Because it has become a fall-back for those who simply don't have that much to offer.

Keeping things simple is good, but when KISS becomes KIRS (keep it restrictive) you've got a big problem.

Imagine you go up to a fruit vendor and notice he only has apples for sale. You bring up the lack of variety and he says, "I believe in the KISS principle: keep it simple stupid."

Sounds ridiculous and unlikely, I know! But KISS has become nothing more than a ready answer for 'experts' who only have apples to offer you. Ask for an orange and they are at a loss. They've given you all they've got and you will likely get berated for 'overthinking' it.

If I give you a list of 5 or 6 knee dominant movements to choose from, as opposed to one, to be used as part of a simple beginning strength program, is that complicated? Let's see: The exercises all fall into a "class". I will give you simple parameters in order to use and rotate them. I will not change the basic premise of progression. It's still "simple" but not as restrictive.


Now suppose I give you more ways to progress. Instead of telling you to either load the bar or backtrack I give you ways to continue moving forwards instead of backwards….without burning out or over-reaching. These modes of progression are very simple but not restrictive. They also serve to help remove monotony…which is another source of training induced stress. Would you call that too complicated? Would you rather do endless rounds of mind-numbingly boring workouts only to REDUCE the weight and build back up just so you may be able to put another 5 or 10 pounds on the bar? Simple is simple but do you want simple to mean one step forward two steps back?

Realizing that there are basic parameters that anybody, regardless of advancement, can call on to continue progress and ensure training longevity is what many EXPERTS don't want you to get your head around. Why? Because they want to create dependency. Since they are unable to teach you to fish, they want to be your fish vendor. Don't allow it. Don't fall for it.

There is a difference between keeping things as simple as possible and oversimplification. Einstein said, everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler! In the strength training world this is a tired old fallacy and is known as the reductive fallacy. As we try to reduce things to their "essence" we also restrict their potential. The mistake is similar to grabbing a shovel and digging a twenty foot hole but forgetting to allow for a means to get out. We actually have sayings like this in strength training circles. We say, don't train yourself into a hole. Or don't train yourself into a corner. Good training always allows for an "out".

Other posts in this series:

This page created 28 Feb 2010 20:51
Last updated 22 Oct 2015 19:00

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