"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
-Leonardo Da Vinci
I was reading through the recent fitness equipment supplier catalog that came in the mail today. It is 75 pages long. I realized that fitness has become too complex. Check out the picture of a typical commercial gym below.
Too much! In fact, it reminds me of the book Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. In it, he explains that we desire options, but if we have more than a few, it causes anxiety, stress, and less happiness. He used examples of consumer goods, but it also applies to fitness and gyms. How many pieces of equipment are in the picture above? No one uses all of that, ever.
In my opinion, all of these fitness options are distracting. We can act busy, but are we really being productive? I use less than 10% of the equipment at the gym where I currently train. I keep it basic and simple. It is much easier to focus on the your goals. I prefer using barbells and kettlebells. Even using just those, there is still a ton of options: the load, reps, sets, rest periods, speed, and several other subtle variations.
There is a lot of redundancy in your typical commerical gym, mostly to woo new members. Ironically, the most versatile pieces of equipment, like a power rack, are the least prevalent. Performing basic movements on solid ground (like we live our lives and play our sports) has been supplemented with hyper-stable environments such as machines that you lock your body into. Or, hyper-unstable like exercise balls and BOSU balls.
Once we strip away all of the bells and whistles, it comes down to understanding how the body works. If you have a good understanding of how the body works, then exercise programming gets simpler. As the saying goes, "the best athletes just do the basics better than lesser athletes." I think that is what Da Vinci was getting at!