Programs? There ain’t no programs

One of the biggest questions you’ll hear from people, in regards to strength training, is ‘what program are you doing?’ or ‘what program should I use?’

I can’t help but laugh a little when I hear that. Not because it’s a stupid question really, but more because I remember the days back when I was always obsessed with the perfect program. I think we all start out with that mindset to one degree or another, because it’s pushed on us by the fitness industry for one, and really, we just expect that there’s some plan out there that if we just follow it, will lead us to success.

This is true, to an extent. Everybody needs a plan. You have to know where you’re going, and be able to measure progress on that journey. That’s essential. That’s also not what I’m bitching about.

What I’m bitching about is the idea of cookie-cutter monstrosities found in various magazines, books, and websites. Or even worse, sold to you by so-called coaches.

If you just do A1) back squats for 6 sets of 5 with a 4/1/0/1 tempo and 65 seconds of rest in between sets and A2) leg curls for 6 sets of 10 with a 10/5/0/5 tempo and 20 seconds between supersets, you’re on your way to gettin’ JAKKED!!!

Right.

This is where the idea of individualization comes in. When every “program” you see falls into the same generic category of n sets of x reps, this tempo, that rest period, this dumbass A1/A2 superset scheme etc etc etc, you lose that touch, even if it is just what you’ve been waiting for.

Going back to the roadmap analogy, you might find 15 different routes to get you from A to B. Which you pick is largely up to you. In a hurry? Take route 1. Want to enjoy the scenery? Take 2. Need to stop by grandma’s house? Take 3. And so on.

To sit down and create some blanket routine with rigid guidelines and say “here ya go! Best thing ever LOL!”, is faggotry.

In the best case scenario, a weekly routine is just a framework. It gives you a guideline of how to structure and perform each session, and controls how those sessions relate to one another. This is a very important role, mind you.

The real magic is not the routine. The magic is how the routine changes over time. You have to manage issues as they come up. What if progress stalls after three weeks? What do you do? Go find a new magic routine? This could lead into an entirely new rant about consistency, hard work, and sticking to goals.

The other X-factor is the individual response. Once you get past a few hurdles, the structure you choose really isn’t important. Anybody that tells you it is has something to sell you. What’s really important is finding a routine that you like, that has your goals in mind, and that (most importantly) you’ll stick to. Hey guess what? Consistency, hard work, and sticking to goals.

In the ideal situation, as you become more advanced, you’d move away from this “program fever” disease. The biggest and strongest guys don’t have a program. They have a concept of how they should train. What they do in the gym is often unplanned; they’ll go in with an idea of what needs to get done, then just fill in the blanks as they go.

This is the evolution that you should take as well. Rigid programs might create a good foundation, but the more advanced you get, the less you’ll be able to rely on them. In fact, to reach truly amazing levels, you’ll likely need to throw out the idea all together. Yeah yeah, structural balance, posture, WTFever. That stuff’s gotten almost as bad as bro-science. They both use confounding psychology to stop people from going to the gym and working hard. It’s like some damn alien plot to steal all our water, only instead of aliens and water, it’s Internet gurus wanting your money. Go lift some weights and it’s amazing how little any of the trivia will matter.

In summary, roadmap = good. Rigid routine = bad.

Don’t be one of those guys.

I write more by email than I do by blog.

Get on the mailing list and it's like having me write a nice letter to you.

Go check your email for a confirmation message.

Something went wrong.