Keep It Simple: Classic Tools for Smart Training

These tools are classics – timeless gems in the ever-changing, overcomplicated world of strength and fitness.

In this day and age of accessibility for everything from strength training and nutrition, to mobility and recovery, I find myself wondering where the simplicity has gone. If you are reading this you are most likely a fan of strength training in some form, or on a quest to increase your knowledge base as a coach or enthusiast of the iron game. But have you answered the simplicity question yet?

I have laid out some simple practices to maximize your efforts both in and out of the gym. I think of these practices like the contents of a toolbox. You can either have useful, fundamental tools that form a strong practical foundation, or you can keep jumping from one program or practice to the next, constantly looking for the magic bullet.

Tool #1: Sleep

Yes, I know you know this. Every week another article on sleep comes out, yet it is one of the most mismanaged components in our daily lives:

  • The impact of chronic sleep deprivation can be seen through the negative impact on glucose tolerance and the appetite.
  • The vital and complex physiological processes that take place during sleep are essential to your recovery and growth.
  • The research indicates poor sleep results in poor cognitive performance and increased risk of injury.
  • And if we are ingesting calories we do not need due to being in a sleep deprived state, it is clear where those calories are going to land up.

Do yourself a favor and develop a sleep ritual. Sleep is your reset button to ensure you get up and perform at a high level both inside and outside the gym. Putting all research aside for a moment, get seven hours sleep minimum per night and watch how your productivity develops.

Tool #2: Therapists

The role of therapists is becoming ever more important in today’s fitness and strength training communities, so ensure you have access to some good ones. Aches and pains or injuries are not a matter of “if” but “when”. Having a handful of people you trust and who can get the job done is essential to you getting back to training. The body is a complex system, ever changing and in need of a regular check-up, just like your yearly medical check-up or quarterly dental appointment. The body gets beaten up as volume and intensity shift toward competition preparation, not to mention during the stress of competition itself.

“Your training toolbox should contain simple tools to ensure your training journey is a productive and enjoyable one.”

The wear and tear on your body’s tissues needs to be addressed and looked after. For example, I have a sports massage therapist, a physio, and an osteopath as my go-to team if I have any issues. These tools are essential to getting you back into the gym quickly and keep you there through any rehab or assistance work that you need to do to fix underlying movement concerns or firing patterns. Make sure the therapists you choose are not just a string of credentials; they need to meet your requirements and get the job done every time.

Tool #3: Preparation

Movement preparation is quite the buzz phrase at the moment. Dynamic warmups are nothing new, but there are plenty of great moves for your warmup routine that not only aid in movement preparation but also serve as great prehabilitation tools. Some of my all-time favorites include:

Are you experiencing movement issues in a particular lift? In the words of world-renowned strength coach and trainer Eric Cressey, “trying to fit a round peg into square hole” is the approach most trainees take. There is a reason you are experiencing these issues. Don’t blame the movement or the program if your body gets wrecked due to your woefully poor movement quality and preparation.

Tool #4: Environment

One of the defining points in your training will be your environment. You need to consider a few important things when looking for a training venue:

  1. Coaching staff. You are, after all, paying a fee to be in an environment to get results. This does not entitle you to results, as you have to earn the results through hard work, but the coaching staff play a role in those results. Are the staff knowledgeable and invested in your success. Are they practicing what they preach?
  2. Facility. No point going to a globo gym if you are planning on being a powerlifter or if you need to do a thruster and muscle up WOD as part of your CrossFit preparation. Does the facility ask you to put your weights down gently?
  3. Mindset. Do those around you allow you to float through sessions, or is it a place where those who go there go to train hard and achieve a change in body and mind? Are the members and environment motivating and results driven? You should consider your gym your temple, a place you can go no matter how challenging your work day has been and still get a high quality workout done.

Tool #5: Equipment

You do not need a gym with the latest gadgets to get the job done. Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates achieved phenomenal results training in hell holes – but hell holes that served their needs. Paul Anderson trained in his garden with a hole in the floor and oil drums for squat training. When it comes to strength and conditioning or CrossFit, you will need space, rigs, racks, platforms, and an array of traditional dumbbells, kettlebells, sleds, and barbells.

Good quality bumper plates and flooring go a long way in ensuring an environment not only allows you to train, but has well maintained equipment, too. Alternative kit such as tires, sledgehammers, battle ropes, and the like are important within in these facilities as they add another dimension to training that you won’t find in most standard gyms.

Building Your Training Toolbox

Your training toolbox should now contain some additional simple tools to ensure your training journey is a productive and enjoyable one. These tools are classics – timeless gems in the ever-changing, overcomplicated world of strength and fitness. Put them into practice and feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Check out these related articles:


1. Chennaoui M, et al., Sleep and exercise: A reciprocal issue? Sleep Medicine Reviews (2014),

2. Eric Cressey, The High Performance Handbook (United States: Cressey Training Systems, 2013) PDF Version.

3. Marty Gallagher, The Purposeful Primitive: From Fat and Flaccid to Lean and Powerful (United States: Dragon Door Publications, 2008), 66-67.

Photo courtesy of Breaking Muscle.

Teaser photo courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.