Sinister, Occam’s Razor, and 2018

Last year, I suggested this approach to planning out your training for the upcoming year. Now at the start of 2018, that idea along with a couple philosophies are guiding my own plan for the next 12 months.

occams razor

“Occam’s Razor,” when boiled down to its simplest level, states: “All things being equal, the simplest explanation is the best one.” The base of Occam’s Razor is—or should be—a decision between two equal theories, and deciding that the simplest is the best (but not necessarily perfect) explanation. As Dr. Suess said: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Please keep in mind that there are “anti-razor” philosophies. Karl Menger (an anti-razor scientist) stated: “Entities must not be reduced to the point of inadequacy.” I think Karl would like specialized variety in programming.

Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher, stated: “If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several, for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices.” Another nod to Occam’s Razor and recognizing carryover in training.

Putting this philosophical “stuff” into practice: that is the question or thought running through your head at the moment, yes? Let’s break it down by goals and timeframes.

My goals for the year

  • Sinister
  • SFL in May (see requirements here)
  • GFM in May
  • SFB in October
  • Survive my traveling and teaching schedule, including teaching SFG Level II in February and SFG Level I in June.

So, what does that all mean? I need to work on my overall goal of Sinister while preparing to teach the Level II in February and implementing some barbell work to prep for SFL in May. GFM in May will not require any special preparation. SFB in October is far enough off to not influence my training until after the SFL, and working toward Sinister will keep me pretty dialed-in for teaching the Level I in June. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

How can I say that? Occam’s Razor, Anti-razor and St. Aquinas. Occam’s Razor can direct me to the simplest program design. Anti-razor can mix in the needed specialized variety, and St. Aquinas can remind me of carryover and not using two tools when one will do.

Programming for Simple (and Sinister)

Since Sinister is the overarching goal for the year, I will begin with programming to reach Simple. This will hinge around 3 main practice sessions:

Day One

  • Prep: Foam roller and GFM
  • 24kg Get-up+ x 1+1 (get-up+ includes an arm bar, bent arm bar and bridges at the elbow and hand on the way up)
  • 24kg Half-Kneeling Windmill series x 1+1
  • 32kg One-arm Swing x 5 reps every 30 seconds x 10 minutes (20 sets total)
  • rest one minute
  • 32kg Get-up x 1 EMOTM x 10 minutes
  • Stretch
  • Increasing a rep each set and decreasing sets to keep volume around 100 total reps. Rep increases will be done when the session can be “easily” completed. After Simple is achieved, I will begin again with the 36kg for both swings and get-ups. (Rinse and repeat—just like shampoo.)

Day Two

  • Prep: Foam roller and GFM
  • 24kg Get-up+ x 5+5
  • 24kg Half-Kneeling Windmill series x 1+1
  • Strength Aerobics {Clean + Press + Squat + Snatch} x double 24kg x 10 seconds “on” and 30 seconds rest x 15-20 sets
  • Stretch
  • Variations here can include Jerk or Push-press instead of the Press and Double 32kg KBs and the occasional single 36kg KB session.

Day Three

  • Prep: Foam roller and GFM
  • 24kg Get-up+ x 1+1
  • 24kg Half-Kneeling Windmill series
  • 32kg One-arm Swing x 10 EMOTM x 10 minutes
  • Rest one minute
  • 32kg Get-up x 1 EMOTM x 10 minutes
  • Stretch

Once Simple is achieved, I will likely switch to 12 weeks of Strong Endurance plans with the 36kg.

Please note that I already incorporated what I need for preparing to teach the Level II SFG with the double kettlebell work and half-kneeling windmill series (which includes the half-kneeling bent press—if you don’t know what these are, see a Level II SFG Instructor).

Brett Mobility

Programming the barbell work for SFL

In January, I will run a bit of testing to see where I am in relation to the SFL standards, but from a programming standpoint, below is an outline of the barbell work.

If a standalone day, the prep work of foam roller, GFM and get-up+ will be performed along with “ramp up sets” for the lifts of the day. If combined with the S&S programming the barbell lifts will be performed after the prep work and will occur on Day One and Three.

For each lift, I will work at a given weight until 5 reps x 3 sets is complete then increase weight and drop reps back to 3. Goal is to hit the 5 reps x 3 sets with the testing weights for the technique standards and 3 reps x 3 sets on the strength standards. Leaving no doubt.

Starting weights will be light.

Day One: Squat and MP

  • Squat x 3 reps x 3 sets
  • MP x 3 reps x 3 sets
  • Assistance work: One-arm row x 5+5 x 5 sets

Day Two: DL and Bench

  • DL x 3 reps x 3 sets
  • Bench x 3 reps x 3 sets
  • Pull-ups x 5 x 5 sets (adding weight as needed)

Completing the Year

This takes me through May and the SFL. The simplest programming is the most direct toward the goal (Razor) which you can see in the Sinister programming. And includes the specialized variety needed for the different teaching requirements (Anti-razor). While using carryover instead of feeling the need to “train everything” (Aquinas). In fact, I may not train the DL every week since the swings provide significant carryover to my DL. Once the SFL is complete, I will drop the barbell work and simply incorporate some of the SFB exercises into the three main training days to shift focus toward October. Past October, the focus will be hitting Sinister.

Surviving imperfect circumstances

“Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”
—Mike Tyson

Will this plan survive contact with the enemy?

What is the enemy you may ask? Life, travel and work are my enemies. There will be weeks heavy with travel that will mean missed sessions and less than perfect sleep and nutrition. There will be months of “perfect” action on the plan. I need to be open to both and adjust as needed. Push when working more or harder makes sense, and backing off and adding rest days when needed.

Hopefully you enjoyed this “peak behind the curtain” with my planning for 2018. If you are surprised it isn’t more complicated, then, I am happy to surprise you and introduce some philosophy into your programming thoughts.

Brett Jones

Brett Jones
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Director of Education. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching—e-mail him for more info.

Brett is the author of Iron Cardio.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
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17 thoughts on “Sinister, Occam’s Razor, and 2018

  • I suppose I’m very simple, as I don’t understand why you don’t simply swing and tgu every day until you can do Simple > Sinister 😀
    Just joking, but I’m a Pavel Purist.
    That’s something we Finns have in common with the Russians: we are basically lazy, but when we do, we do it for a valid cause, effectively and rapidly.
    That’s what keeps me reading these threads, the original simplicity in swinging and playing around with an iron bell.

  • Great article, Brett! I was just wondering if this is the only training you do in a week? Or do you start over with Day 1 the day after Day 3?

  • Wow Mr. Jones !!! Super Article !!! I Love everything I read from You, Pavel and StrongFirst ! Effectively, I am happily surprise to see how simple are your programming ! Your articles are So fun and pleasing to read, So instructive, So eye opener and So motivating !
    I love the article section of

    Thank you so much StrongFirst, Pavel and Brett Jones !

    Now, I really want to know more about Strong Endurance ! In a book maybe ???

    Thank you!

    Bruno U.

  • Menger’s comment is not actually “anti-razor”. William of Occam did not argue for simplicity, but against needless complexity – not to “needlessly multiply entities”. So William would agree with Karl that an explanation that does not deal with all the evidence is inadequate. Simplicity is not the goal, but simplicity with adequate explanatory power!

    • Well:

      Occam’s razor has met some opposition from people who have considered it too extreme or rash. Walter Chatton (c. 1290–1343) was a contemporary of William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347) who took exception to Occam’s razor and Ockham’s use of it. In response he devised his own anti-razor: “If three things are not enough to verify an affirmative proposition about things, a fourth must be added, and so on.” Although there have been a number of philosophers who have formulated similar anti-razors since Chatton’s time, no one anti-razor has perpetuated in as much notability as Chatton’s anti-razor, although this could be the case of the Late Renaissance Italian motto of unknown attribution Se non è vero, è ben trovato (“Even if it is not true, it is well conceived”) when referred to a particularly artful explanation.

      Anti-razors have also been created by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), and Karl Menger (1902–1985). Leibniz’s version took the form of a principle of plenitude, as Arthur Lovejoy has called it: the idea being that God created the most varied and populous of possible worlds. Kant felt a need to moderate the effects of Occam’s razor and thus created his own counter-razor: “The variety of beings should not rashly be diminished.”[75]

      Karl Menger found mathematicians to be too parsimonious with regard to variables, so he formulated his Law Against Miserliness, which took one of two forms: “Entities must not be reduced to the point of inadequacy” and “It is vain to do with fewer what requires more.” A less serious but (some[who?] might say) even more extremist anti-razor is ‘Pataphysics, the “science of imaginary solutions” developed by Alfred Jarry (1873–1907). Perhaps the ultimate in anti-reductionism, “‘Pataphysics seeks no less than to view each event in the universe as completely unique, subject to no laws but its own.” Variations on this theme were subsequently explored by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges in his story/mock-essay “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”. There is also Crabtree’s Bludgeon, which cynically states that “[n]o set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated.”

  • “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” ~ quote attributed to a paraphrase of comments made by Albert Einstein.

    “Make your training as simple as possible, but not simpler” ~ quote attributed to paraphrasing Brett Jones explaining training.

    “The point of strength training is to get stronger … not work out harder or longer” ~ heard at a cert.

  • Really appreciate all your insights, Brett. Quoting the great philosophers (including St. Thomas Aquinas – the patron saint of students at Catholic universities), sharing your goals and programming, and most importantly, sharing all the incredible knowledge you continue to accumulate in an Occam’s Razor-like way, well it’s just don’t right brilliant! Thank you!


  • Nice plug on the Strong Endurance program. i’m sorry, but this program is terrible. Half windmills? 5 swings every 30 seconds?

    Sounds more like Occam’s Electric Razor.

    • Dan,
      those are half kneeling windmills
      not half windmills.

      The S&S standard is 10 reps every 30 seconds so 5 reps every 30 is a step in the process.

      Opinions vary – the program feels great.

  • Rich
    Here is the original article on Strength Aerobics:

    The goal with Strength Aerobics is to hit and maintain a 65-70% HR (basically). Doing a series of mainly strength moves {Clean + Press + Squat}

    Strong Endurance uses higher power output ballistics (mainly but not exclusively) for brief high intensity sets with variable rest periods – Craig Marker provides some insight here:

  • Really nice article Brett. I like what you’re calling Strength Aerobics. Gonna give this a try.
    And from what I’ve been able to figure out about Strong Endurance from reading some other articles on this site, what you’re calling Strength Aerobics seems to be a faster pace (with just 30 sec off) than what you’d do with a Strong Endurance plan (where I’m guessing the rests would be more in the order of 2 – 3 min).
    Any chance you could elaborate a bit on the differences between the two.
    Many thanks.

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