Whether we are talking about exercise or nutrition, this concept can go a long way. It is something that is overlooked far too often by many. Instead of trying to accomplish a hundred things at one time, picking one or two key things is usually much more effective. With an exercise program, trying to get as strong as possible, as lean as possible, as aerobically endurable as possible, as powerful as possible and also trying to balance out the muscles around the pelvis and trunk because you have lower crossed syndrome along with a right external oblique that is not up to par with the left external oblique, all at the same time will most likely lead to less than desirable results. Can it be done? Maybe. With the right person and situation; but in most cases it will work much better to focus on a couple of key qualities at one time and progress/shift focuses when needed.
This same concept carries over to coaching exercises. When I'm coaching, I usually coach one or two key things at a time. New variables can be added in the next workout or maybe the next set depending on the situation and the person. For example, if I am teaching a beginner how to squat, it would not be very effective if I said get tall, sit back, chest up, push your knees out, push your stomach out, keep your trunk tight, back locked in, grip the floor, drive through your glutes as you stand, etc. all at one time. It would be ridiculous and overwhelming. With a beginner in this situation, I might say get tall and sit back. These are two key things that will help develop a good squat pattern. Once they are nailed in, I can add in some more detail such as pushing the knees out/spreading the floor and filling the stomach with air before descending. Keeping it simple and focusing on one aspect of technique at a time goes a long way.
When it comes to programs, many uninformed trainees constantly try the newest program that they see in a magazine or on the internet that promises to add 5 inches to their arms or 50 pounds to their bench in 5 weeks, without ever allowing ample time for their bodies to adapt and make any kind of real progress. Of course, it is important to advance to different programs after a certain amount of time (depends on the physical quality and situation) but enough time must be given on one program to allow actual progress and progression to be made. Changing programs every week will usually lead to no real progress and even regression. Keep it simple. Allow the results to come and focus on the task at hand. You aren't going to add 5 inches to your arms or a thousand pounds to your bench in 5 weeks anyway. It takes time and dedication to get real results.
This can also carry over to exercise selection. You don't need fancy machines and crazy weight/bosu ball combos to get a great and effective workout. Stick to the tried and tested basics. Do your squat variations, deadlift variations, push, pull, move heavy stuff, sprint, etc. and give your body a stimulus to make it get better. If you had to, you could make an entire workout out of a bodyweight squat. You don't need a building full of fancy crap to get an awesome workout in and make yourself better.
Berardi related this concept to nutrition. Instead of telling someone to eat protein at every meal, get 5 servings of veggies, 4 servings of fruits, take fish oils, drink more water, eat grass fed beef, eat a cup of almonds, get protein after a workout, cut down on soda and candy, etc. all at once, it can be much more effective to pick one small habit at a time. He uses this concept effectively with many many clients through his Precision Nutrition coaching program. One small and attainable habit or goal is focused on for two weeks and if that habit is successfully established after the two weeks, a new habit is introduced. If it is not, a different one might be tried.
Nutrition is often the hardest thing to get clients to be compliant with because I am not following them around all day when they aren't at the gym. During a workout, I can see technique, instruct on what to do next, etc. but I do not have direct control over what goes on the other tons of hours that they are outside of the gym on their own. For people who have had bad nutrition habits for any appreciable amount of time, it can be very hard to get things on track. Coming into the gym and busting your ass a few days a week is great but if you go and eat processed garbage the other hundred some hours that are outside of the gym, progress will be halted, straight up. So helping the client to decide on a small habit that they believe they can adapt can help tons. An example may be eating a serving of vegetables at 3 meals for the day. This would be the goal for the next two weeks. Not too hard to achieve, right? Eventually this habit will be automatic and a new one can be added in. These things will add up and the client will be much more successful. It is something that I plan on using much more often with certain clients and their nutrition habits.
This concept can also carry over to many other things in life. For me right now, I train clients during the day, have school at night and then have plenty of things to do to stay on top of these major things. Instead of trying to accomplish fifty things at once, I will pick a few select goals each day and get them done. If I have something due for school, I'll focus on getting that done. If I have a program that needs to be written for a client, I'll get that done. If you have to pay some bills, go to the bank, play with the kids, get reading done, catch up on stuff for work, etc., pick the most important things and focus on them at one time. Prioritize and keep things simple. Guess what, exercise and proper nutrition should always be at the top of the list. I always hear people complain about how they have no time to exercise. This is just not true. I don't care if its 20 minutes a few times a week. There is always a way to make time. Make that workout one of your habits or your focus for the day and it will happen.
Simple can go a long way. End of story.
Does anybody have any examples or thoughts on this concept?