The Real Reason That “One Weird Trick” Works

Fitness marketing always seems to advertise that one weird trick, strange secret, or simple solution. The marketers play into your fitness frustration and sell you a special way to overcome the obstacles…
Do X to get jacked.
Eat Y to get shredded.
Drink Z to get strong.


Fill in the blank with whatever “weird trick” that serves as the selling point of the particular program or product. Maybe it’s carb cycling, metabolic resistance training, intermittent fasting, German volume training, nutrient timing, or a specific supplement.

Here’s the truth: It doesn’t matter what it is, because what it is doesn’t matter.

Touting one weird trick is nothing but flashy marketing. It tests well. It sizzles. It sells. But it isn’t real.

That’s not to say you won’t see any results following weird-trick programs or using strange-secret products. You probably will. And if you’re crushing both your training and nutrition, those results will be great. But it won’t be because of that one weird trick they talk about in the ads.

Marketing is meant to elicit a specific response. With fitness, that usually means signing up, opting in, downloading, or purchasing the one weird trick that’s guaranteed to get you the results you’ve always wanted.

But you don’t need weird tricks or strange secrets to get results.

Progress is simple. It comes from following the basics, consistency, and time. Period. Everything else is just fluff.

Why That “One Weird Trick” Seems to Work

Fluff? It can’t all be fluff, right?

What about those people that start flexible dieting and suddenly lose a ton of fat? Or the person that added an easy hundred pounds to their squat as soon as they tried high-frequency training? Or the person that packed 15 pounds of lean mass on their frame after starting to take that mass gainer?

It all seems legit. And it is—kind of.

In fitness, there are all kinds of people getting amazing results from all kinds of things. Bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, yoga, jogging, and everything in between can all work. And truth be told, one isn’t inherently better or worse than the other.

Boiled down, you’ll lose weight in a caloric deficit and you’ll gain weight in a caloric surplus. It doesn’t really matter how you do it—ballet or boxing, broccoli or Breyers.

one weird trick

Because everything can work, everything will work for different people.

This is why some people rave about this strategy while other people love another. It’s also why there’s so much dogma surrounding training, nutrition, and supplementation. But the basic laws of shedding fat, gaining muscle, and building strength are immutable.

No fad, argument, or well-designed sales page will ever replace the basics. They simply can’t.

The key to real progress comes from finding the strategies that fit you, your goals, and your lifestyle. That’s a plan you’ll follow and that’s a plan that’ll work—regardless of the tools, tricks, tactics, or techniques.

You’ll get better results perfectly following a decent plan than you’ll get decently following a perfect plan. What you do doesn’t matter nearly as much as actually doing it.

Why That “One Weird Trick” Actually Works (Two Main Reasons)

The weird tricks and sexy-sounding secrets aren’t what get results. But that doesn’t mean the cool new training program you got won’t work. Remember, everything can work.

But the reason why they work has little—if anything—to do with the hook.

Hormone optimization training, intermittent fasting, lactic acid training, flexible dieting, and every other weird trick out there is fine and dandy. But the tactics don’t matter nearly as much as the results.

Here are the two main reasons why that “one weird trick” actually works:

Reason #1: Change Means Change

The SAID Principle is the backbone of exercise science. SAID stands for specific adaptation to imposed demands, which is essentially a nerdy sports science way of saying your results (specific adaptation) depend on your training (the imposed demands).

Think of it like practice.

If you want to get better at running, you need to train for running. The same goes for any sort of fitness goal—shredded abs, bulging biceps, setting PRs, and literally everything else. Training sparks adaptation, which leads to results.

But what happens when your body’s already adapted to your current training program? You stop getting results and progress comes to a standstill.

That’s not because the program is suddenly ineffective, you’ve simply adapted to it. In other words, you’ve gotten the results out of that particular plan and it’s time for a new stimulus.

A change in stimulus means a change in result.

When you adopt a new training tactic, you’ll spark new progress. This is why a properly designed program will include some form of periodization. It keeps you moving forward and helps you avoid plateaus.

That “one weird trick” does the same thing.

It’s change. And change will always breed more change. By offering a new strategy, regardless of what that strategy might be, it offers a different stimulus and new progress.

Different demands will lead to different adaptation. Because science.

one weird trick

Reason #2: Increased Adherence

The strange secrets and strategies you’ll see in infomercials and sponsored posts are the fluff. It’s the fluff that sells the program. But it’s sticking to the basics that gets the results.

Following a properly designed program for you and your goals, will get you results. But the key is following the plan.

Adherence. That’s the real trick.

All of these weird tricks can work because they can increase adherence to the plan. Usually you’ll see it in three major ways:

  1. It gives you a means of accountability.
  2. It offers pattern interrupt.
  3. It increases awareness.

Accountability and Adherence

According to a study done by Gail Matthews, accountability is key to success with any goal. Her study found that people that had regular accountability “accomplished significantly more” than those that didn’t.

In the study, participants stuck to their goals better when they sent weekly reports to a friend. The simple act of having weekly accountability led to better adherence.

You can even hold yourself accountable.

The Weight Watchers point system is an excellent example of personal accountability for better adherence. Because of the points assigned to everything they eat, people can hold themselves to their dietary goals, stick to the plan, and get results.

With accountability comes increased adherence.

Pattern Interrupt and Adherence

In Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) pattern interrupt is a popular way to change a person’s state. Everybody has behavioural patterns or mental pathways we habitually follow. These patterns or pathways lead to familiar outcomes—both positive and negative.

According to NLP, we can break these habit-formed sequences by introducing pattern interrupts.

A pattern interrupt can be anything that’ll bring your mind out of its usual pathway and break the sequence. With fitness, tracking your food is a great example of pattern interrupt that improves adherence.

Let’s be real. Sometimes life gets annoying and settling in to binge on netflix and ice cream is everything you want to do. That’s fine, but it’s also the kind of pattern that could completely ruin your fat loss goals.

Tracking foods introduces a pattern interrupt that’ll allow you to indulge without going overboard. Maybe you still post up with some Ben & Jerry’s, but you have a serving instead of a pint. Or maybe you decide against the ice cream altogether.

Either way, pattern interrupt just helped you stick to your plan.

Awareness and Adherence

Sometimes simply being more aware of the steps you take to reach goals will help you stick to your goals that much more. Literally.

Thanks to technology, it’s beyond easy to track your daily steps. Years ago, people had no real awareness of their daily activity. But now? Completely different. Not only are people aware of their daily steps, they’re using that awareness to keep up with their fitness goals.

Merely being more aware of your physical activity and nutrition habits will instantly help you make better choices and stick to your plan.

Often times, a good plan will incorporate a few of these. And each has the potential to help you change habits, see results, and boost overall adherence in a big way.

When you’re held accountable, studies show you’re more likely to stick with your goal. When you have a pattern interrupt, you’ll think twice before posting up on the couch with a full pint Ben & Jerry’s after a rough day. And when you increase your awareness, you’ll be able to maintain sustainable progress and create long-term habits.

Simply put, any sort of trick, tool, or tactic that gives you more accountability, pattern interrupt, and awareness will help you get better results.

Designing Your Own One Weird Trick

Essentially anything can be an effective “trick.” In fact, you can even make your own. The best part? It can be literally anything that offers change and boosts adherence.

Here are a few simple ideas to point you in the right direction:

  • Drink at least half your bodyweight (lbs) in ounces of water per day.
  • Have five servings of veggies each day.
  • Add a dynamic warm up to your workouts.
  • Try a new training style for the next month.

one weird trickAnything that introduces a new stimulus, adds accountability, offers pattern interrupt, and increases awareness will spark new progress.

Even something as simple taking gym selfies with a wicked pump can be your one weird trick. Sending post-workout photos to friends and posting them online is a great way to add accountability, increase adherence, and get better results.

At the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone. You know what kind of “weird trick” is going to best help you get the most out of your training program. If it helps you stick to your plan, you’ll get better results—no matter what it is.

Pick something, anything, and leverage your very own weird trick to shed more fat, sculpt more muscle, and see serious success.



About the Author

Ben is a writer, fitness coach, entrepreneur, and founder of BENTRAINED. Simplifying the world of strength and conditioning, Ben has worked with everyone from athletes, bodybuilders, and world record-holding powerlifters to average Joes and Janes. His coaching focuses on using simple strategies to achieve optimal performance both in the gym and in life.