Exercise Minimalism: Less Training, More Results?

Mass building, like fat loss, has to be done at the exclusion of everything else.
 — Dan John

A couple of winters ago, I tried Dan John’s Mass Made Simple program. It’s a simple program that rejects the “muscle confusion” nonsense that was being thrown around so much a few years back. Three days a week with the same lifts (and reps per set) every day. The only variable is the number of sets of each exercise, with each day’s “focus” exercise being performed for more sets. I found it very effective, building a surprising amount of muscle in six weeks.

Since then, I’ve used many different training programs, with varying degrees of complexity and success. At heart, though, I like simple, symmetrical programs without too many complex parameters.

Since it’s “get swole” season again, I’ve been experimenting with a stripped-down program to add muscle based on Mass Made Simple. It consists of three exercises (a squat, a row, and a bench press) performed three days a week. OK, four exercises. I do curls, too. For the girls. Sue me.

Like Mass Made Simple, the rep range is fixed for each exercise, and the number of sets varies per day. Each workout takes 35 minutes, max. It sounds way too simple to work.

But it does. It works great.

My lifts are up, my body weight is up, my appetite is up (good signs you’re building muscle!).

Training doesn’t have to be complicated to get results. It just needs to create progressive overload and not get you hurt.

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Originally published at essential.