This fourth installment in the It's Not That Complicated series focuses on a particular topic: making excuses. For whatever reason, this subject has manifested itself often enough that I have found enough talking points to write about it.

It is human nature to try to find the fastest way to do something...just as it is human nature to want to disavow responsibility when things don’t go as planned. People like instant gratification,and people like things to go right. Patience, planning, and creative thinking are too often dismissed in light of wanting a quick fix or an easy solution to a particular problem. However, this type of thinking is a trap that will only shortchange you in the long run.

With that aside, let's get into it…

1. Stop trying to “diet hack” your weight loss with shortcuts

This has become popular as of late. There are a multitude of diets out there that promise near supraphysiological fat loss—not from calorie reduction...but from constant manipulation of macronutrient intake (mainly carbs). There are other variants that manipulate when you intake calories, or manipulate for how long you intake calories.

Regardless, these diet schemes are all arguing over semantics and broscience. Weight loss is always going to come down to thermodynamics. You are going to have to calorically expend more than you calorically intake for sustained fat loss, PERIOD. There is a reason it is called “the Law of Thermodynamics.” And guess how much evidence there is for it...A LOT. It isn't suddenly disproved because you are front-loading, back-loading, foregoing carbohydrates, fat-loading, protein-loading, or my favorite...“well, I have way more lean mass and I'm a high-level athlete; therefore, 40 years of research does not apply because I am the exception.”

It doesn’t matter what you eat or how “enhanced” your hormones may be—a diet that reduces weight will always reduce calories in some fashion or another. All diets can work if a consistent deficit is created over a period of time (whether a particular diet is optimal for physical performance is a different subject). I've encountered far too many people who want to attribute their weight loss success to, “I did insert-name-of-macronutrient-restricted-diet, and I lost weight!” The thought process of why this diet worked is then attributed to some sort of diet magic. It's not magic—you just found a way to create a deficit. That’s it. If your diet was far healthier than your previous one in regards to macro and micronutrients and you feel healthier, then all the better. But it's still a deficit that is going to deliver fat loss.

There is a reason bodybuilders start contest diets four months out or longer. I don't know of any physique competitor who counts on a magic eight-week diet to get into contest shape (not the good ones anyways). Rejection of this law is just going to lead to continuous frustration in the search for the magical way of eating.

2. Be willing to learn before asking for help

Now, this statement is in no way meant to discourage anyone from asking for help. However, before you do ask for help, at least demonstrate in some fashion that you are willing to learn. I have seen it often—a more novice lifter will ask a more experienced lifter for advice or input (sometimes a lot of advice or input and even have the wiser lifter write him or her a program). Then, he or she will proceed to argue with the proposed feedback, saying why it wont work for them. So...why did you ask in the first place? Furthermore, how do you expect to improve if you are unwilling to change your own beliefs and reasoning? On another note, stop asking for someone to write you a program for free.

3. If you know you need to, then why haven’t you?

Everyone knows their weak points, and everyone knows the lifts at which they excel...and which ones they neglect. I find it highly dubious that someone is entirely ignorant to the fact that their lack of sleep or lack of food (or whatever else it may be) is somehow negatively impacting their training. This applies to both your professional and personal life. We all know what we put our energy into and what we neglect. So when those neglected things suffer, why are we surprised? Some learning, often a lot of learning, will likely be required to improve these things...and that’s probably what discourages most people in the first place. However, until you make the choice to focus on what you have neglected (in whatever aspect that may be), then those things will always be “weak points.”

4. There is no perfect program...just good ones

We've all looked for it, and we've all tried some Frankenstein's monster variation of it...and we've all been disappointed. Having gotten to know some very accomplished lifters, I've never heard any of them speak about the “ultimate program” that got them jacked and put 300 pounds on their totals. They have, however, had “good programs” on which they have made “decent gains." Sometimes they may have made “great gains,” and it “worked for awhile” and they “figured out what worked for them.”

Notice a bit of a trend? They did something for a period of time, it worked well, and they followed it. Then they took what worked well and applied it later on. Training is an active process that requires you to think to some degree or another. Blindly following something and hoping for magical results in two weeks and then changing it because you feel that it's not working is pure impatience and immaturity. You cannot expect “ultimate” results when you are not willing to follow, learn, or listen. (On a side note, I wonder if supplement ads have brainwashed people into believing all of these superlative terms that have no basis in reality).

5. There is no “ultimate” piece of equipment

Just as there is no secret program that doubles your total in six months, there also is no specialty bar or secret squat/bench/deadlift setup that is going to put pounds on the bar any faster than putting forth effort will. Working hard, getting adequate recovery, and repeating that process day-in and day-out for a very long time is what will put pounds on the bar. I hear the same bullshit all the time online: “Man, if only I had a reverse hyper/GHR/safety squat bar/blocks to pull from/could train at a hardcore gym..." Shut the hell up! You're only making excuses. I don’t need to list the number of successful strength athletes who have trained in absolute dungeons with minimal equipment but who have still gotten brutally strong. I've had amazing workouts when traveling that only consisted of me lifting and throwing boulders and also doing pullups off a tree branch. Your complaint that your upper pecs won't grow because the angle on the incline bench is too high and therefore works your shoulders too much is a joke. If that's really the case, then do floor presses or use DBS for god's sake.

Those comments of, “The pins aren’t the right height”, “I don’t have deadlifting mats for deficit pulls”, and “The pullup bar is a straight bar and bothers my wrists”...Really? Like fucking really? Pat Casey benched 600 pounds RAW in a t-shirt on a homemade bench. He did weighted dips as his assistance work by using heavy chains that he got from shipyards and looped through plates. Paul Anderson squatted 900 pounds by digging a hole in the ground and then doing partials standing over the hole (and this was at his house in his front yard). So, I am quite positive that you can find a way to adapt your training. And if you want that bar so bad, then budget for it and stop spending your extra money on Nuclear-Nitro-Preworkout Anabolic Detonator. Oh, and on the matter of weak points…

6. Everything is a weak point when you are weak

If you can't bench press 225 pounds and you ask a coach whether you need to work on your lockout strength with close grips on a 3-board, and he ignores you or laughs his ass off, then had it coming. I constantly see variations of this kind of questioning thrown about by novice lifters, and it's both sad and annoying at the same time. Part of it is paralysis by analysis and a lack of perspective, but it's also sheer overcomplication. For a beginner guy, progressive overload is the name of the game. You just need to keep adding weight to the bar or to keep doing more reps (or both). That’s it—that’s seriously it.

7. Rest periods: If you mess them up, you’ll lose all your gains (NOT)

I'm sure that I’ll take criticism for this one, but unless you are specifically working energy systems development with yourself or your athletes/clients who specifically need this work for performance purposes, then there is no conceivable reason to be overly concerned with your “rest periods.” I've seen this question posed all the time: "how long should I rest between my max/dynamic/repetition/rest-pause/pyramid/GPP/restorative/drop set?" Easy—However long you need in order to do the next set! Trying to set your rest periods to be some specific number, due to the belief that you are going to get some mystical growth hormone surge or fat loss burning effect because you timed all your sets to specific 45-second intervals using a 2/4/1/0 tempo for your dropset DB presses starting with 80% of your 1RM and working down to 50%, isn’t “smart” training. It's called being an OCD imbecile.

Max effort day? Rest long enough to wreck shit on the next set.

Dynamic day? Rest long enough to move the bar with velocity.

Repetition day? Rest long enough to get a wicked pump and burn on the next set. If you are lifting and you aren’t sweating, then you are probably doing it wrong. And if you have time to answer texts and play angry birds, then you are probably not meant for this. (Someone on the team said this in a Q&A, and I cannot for the life of me remember who it was, and I'd like to credit them for it).

In closing, please recognize some basic truths:

Getting lean is a long-term process, and it will involve calories and cutting. Getting strong is a long-term process, and it will involve learning and analysis. Learning from someone else will require listening and a willingness to change. Weak points will need to be addressed, some perspective will be learned in time, and majoring in the minors or obsessing over what you don’t have will neither teach you nor benefit you. And as always, Live, learn, and Pass On.