The Barbell

The simplest solution is the best one in 95% of cases according to the National Solution Research Association.

Alright, the part about NSRA is made up. However, as my experience shows, simple is always the best, almost magically. These words should be carved in your brain. And they should pop up and block any new modern fad pseudo-sophisticated bullshit clever marketers are trying to feed you with. Any time you find yourself bombarded with “brand new” and “ultra-intricate”, just walk away. All that crap won’t endure long. On the other hand, simplicity is a time-tested concept that works.

Additionally, simple is your biggest friend in tough times. It is that loyal pillar you can lean on unconditionally. It will always be by your side if you can embrace it.

What does this have to do with training and nutrition? When times get rough, you need to simplify. You must simplify. Otherwise, you are doomed to fail.

Let me explain what I mean.

My Routine

Here is how my mesocycle looks at the moment of writing this article:

Day 1

A) Barbell Bench Presses or Weighted Dips – 3 sets of 5-6

B) Archer Chin-Ups with Full One-Arm Negatives – 3-5 sets of 1

C) One-Arm Pulldowns – 3 sets of 8-12

Day 2 – Handbalancing

Day 3

A) Barbell Front Squats – 3-5 sets of 3-5

B) Barbell Sumo Deadlifts – 3 sets of 3-5

C) One-Arm Cable Triceps Extensions – 3 sets of 10-12

Day 4 – Handbalancing

Day 5

A) One-Arm Dumbbell Military Presses – 3 sets of 3-5

B) Weighted Neutral-Grip Chin-Ups – 3 sets of 6-8

C) Incline Barbell Bench Presses – 3 sets of 6-8

Day 6 – Handbalancing

Day 7 – Off

You can notice that my current routine is somewhat different from what I did before. The main difference is reintroduction of her majesty the Barbell back into my training. Skeptics and haters might heckle: “Then your so-called Rough Strength method have failed you”. Well, no. I still use the same principles that I used in my training before. Additionally, I never said that there is something wrong with barbells. I have not used them because they were out of my interest and convenience.

The reason I reintroduced them back into my training routine is far more obvious than you think. At one point, my training reached a pretty high level of sophistication despite its external simplicity. Combine this with absolutely absurd stressful events in life and you have won a jackpot. My situation was choking me Dart Vader style. And at the risk of dropping training completely, my mind came to a perfect solution – simplify.

Why barbells? Because there is nothing simpler than them. You come, you lift, and you leave. If you lift heavier weight for the same volume with time, you are stronger. That’s it.

Note that I don’t consider barbell training retarded or something. It requires a decent amount of thinking once you are past chicken weights. But to be honest, with barbells you shouldn’t be in constant mental tension like with calisthenics, or kettlebells, or sandbags.

Have this solution worked? Yes. Even better than I thought. This variety allowed me to enjoy training once more despite my personal issues. It helped me to deal with my problems with new strength. I believe that sustainability of training is far more important than the implements you are using. The barbell is what helped me in my current reality.

Will I drop calisthenics, kettlebells, and sandbags in favor of barbells? I don’t think so.

Finally, let’s get to the question that has probably been digging a hole in your brain since I used a word ‘barbell’ for the first time in this article. Have I lost my strength in barbell exercises comparing to my earlier training? I’ll answer quickly. In lower body strength – yes, in upper body strength – no. I’ve actually gotten stronger in Bench Presses once the skill was relearned.

How to Simplify?

Now, you may think: “Mate, that’s all cool, but what’s in here for me?” Well, if you haven’t made right conclusions already, I will help you.

1. Always pick simple solutions over sophisticated ones.

You know the story. So-called “programs of champions” will not give you a desired result. On the other hand, a simple training routine will.

Ultra-complex machines won’t give you a desired result. A simple implement like a barbell, or a kettlebell, or a sandbag, or even your bodyweight will.

Brand new supplements won’t give you a desired result. Knowing your calories and macros will.

I can go on and on, but there is no point in this. You should have already understood my idea. Simple solutions have WAY MORE chances to succeed.

2. Do not be afraid of simplicity.

This is common. Especially in the modern hi-tech world. Everything seems to be so complex all around you. When it comes to training, there are thousands of approaches. And usually, they all concentrate on a small aspect, almost a secret.

It is really easy to get carried away and to believe that your own training must be complicated too. However, as experience shows, nothing beats the principle of progressive overload. Yes, time under tension, reverse pyramid, 5 x 5, isolation exercises, etc. – they all work. But they don’t matter that much while you are getting stronger in compound exercises on a regular basis.

There is no need to be afraid of simplicity. It simply works.

3. Simple is NOT easy.

This is another misconception. ‘Simple’ is when you can explain it even to your grandmother. ‘Easy’ is when it takes no effort. These terms cannot be used interchangeably.

4. Develop a lost feat of common sense.

If you remember only two thoughts out of this article, this should be a second one. Whenever you are in doubt whether your idea is worth it, just say it out loud to yourself. If it makes no fucking sense, than that’s what it is.

I’m so amused with people doing stupid shit because they either have never said it out loud to themselves (and thus had no chance to understand how ludicrous their idea is), or they haven’t questioned the idea another moron planted in their head.

Common sense is a lost feat. Develop it as soon as possible.

5. As always, apply the Pareto principle.

80% of results come from 20% of effort. The principle of progressive overload, proper amounts of calories and protein daily, 8 hours of sleep, boatloads of patience – that’s all you will ever need to develop strength, to gain health, and to build a body of your dreams.

Closing Thoughts

Whenever you are in doubt – simplify. This rule applies to all areas of life.

Be it training or nutrition, or anything else, you will always be stabbed with “the most hi-tech” and “the most sophisticated” stuff. The screens around will scream for you to pay attention to their newest products. You will always be told that your life is unacceptably wrong without the newest inventions. Marketers here and there will try to amaze you with their “unique diets” and “muscle-building systems”. Anyone will try to force-feed you with anything. But the question you need to ask yourself is “do you really need your life to be that complicated?”

Play rough!

Alex Zinchenko

Every time you don’t like and share this article, you upset a kitten somewhere.

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24 thoughts on “Simplify

  1. Jeffrey

    I have been reading your stuff lately. I greatly enjoy and agree with your training philosophy. Simple, to the point, no bullshit training. With so much shit on the internet, it is refreshing to know there are still humans with their heads screwed on correctly. Keep up the great work.

      1. Jeffrey

        I will be recommending your site to all my training friends. Your one skill a day is brilliant. I could see this working perfectly for my lifestyle as I am a father of two and I work 12 hour days.

  2. Martin

    Been reading your site for a year or so and glad your back with a new post!. You don’t know me from Adam lol, but I hope all the personal stuff you have either got through or have sorted out. Keep up the great posts and keep smiling. Also I love the forest and nature pics on your nInstagram.

    Keep smiling

    Martin :)

  3. Geoff

    Alex – Thank you so much for this article. Sorry to hear about the tough times you faced, but you are a champ and will overcome them.

    Your article arrived at the perfect time for me. I’ve been training the Olympic lifts hard for the last 18 months (not Rough Strength style, but indulge me here). Life stress and training stress were piling up on me, and I neglected my diet and started getting fat. Things were just all moving in the wrong direction. Rather than drop training I had the same instinct as you – simplify.

    For me that meant leaving the gym and working my kettlebells in the great outdoors. My enthusiasm for training was reinvigorated and I am feeling a lot better, but I still felt a little guilty about dropping the Oly work. Your article reaffirmed that I was on the right path for me at this stage of my life. Great inspiration. Thanks!

  4. Ricky

    Again you have hit the nail on the head . I seem to always over think things . Your rough strength principles haven’t changed just your training tools . I have found a simple straight forward dumbbell work out that I will try for the next few months. I will update with results good or bad

  5. simplykickass

    Love your methods Alex.. It fits right into Leonardo de Vinci’s quote “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”..

    Train smart + Train hard = Results.

    How would you go about simplifying a typical bodybuilders body part split routine? Would love to have your insight.

    – Connor.

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author



      Regarding your question, everything depends on the individual. It is a good idea to remember that less is often more in strength training.

      – Alex

  6. Dave

    Your blog is fantastic.

    As a dirt-bag, I can’t have fixed weights lying around. If one is constantly pursuing adventures, then barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells are not really accessible. Can’t have them at home if the address constantly changes; and gyms are not consistent in quality; and transporting them costs a lot.

    In the city I am living in now, there’s only one gym with access to bumper-plates and iron-plates for deadlifts and squats and since it is a CrossFit organization, it’s $15-$20 per class or $200/month membership.The rest of the gyms ($30-$60/month) do have some iron, but none of them have enough weights for 2.0× BW.

    So “Rough Training” is perfect for someone like me.

  7. ignorelimits

    Couldn’t agree more with this article! Simplicity is key.
    Out of interest what makes you choose the cable exercise for your tricep isolation?

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