Last week I went over part 1 on how to begin adding new methods into your diet regimen instead of arguing about it and discussing it ad nauseam. We covered the dogma-trendy spectrum and how one should attempt to be in the middle of the spectrum or at least move towards the middle.
Today we go over training, another convoluted area, where yet again you have access to so much information. The sad fact is just like nutrition, much of this information is simply bunk. There are now some reputable sites that constantly churn out good stuff, but these resources are few and far between.
Let’s get into the fun stuff.
When it comes to weight training, the spectrum I covered last time still applies, but less so. You have more mobility on the spectrum with people tending to go through periods of stagnation (or simply being on a program). You also have “program hoppers” or people who never give programs a long enough trial period to reap benefits from said program.
The spectrum is still the same with just different titles, instead of dogma we’ll use stagnation. Instead of trendy, we’ll go with program hoppers.
Stagnation —————————————————————————–Program Hopper
I find a lot of lifters move through both of ends of the spectrum. One of the differences between training and nutrition is that if your program is actually good, there isn’t a need for change in order to be progress. I’ve ran programs for 8+ months and made progress the whole times. I have clients who have run programs for 4-5 months and still made progress.
The issue most many run into when running a program is boredom. Depending on the person, some may simply get bored by a program even if they are making sick progress. Some people just can’t be content with a good thing I guess.
When I refer to stagnation I’m referring to a lack of progress while following a program for an extended period of time.
Let’s turn our attention to the program hoppers of the world. These are the ladies and gentleman who tend to look the same, never get stronger yet bust their asses in the gym all the time. It’s really frustrating when I see these people because you can tell they want results, and are even putting in the effort in the gym to achieve them. They just change things so damn often that they essentially see zero results. (If that sounds like Crossfit to you then you’re right)
If you are constantly swapping exercises, changing rep schemes, changing volumes, changing intensity in an unordered fashion, you won’t make progress. It’s that simple. Conversely, you might actually even make progress only to lose it by making changes that are completely unnecessary and unwarranted.
Let’s go over an example of each.
Steve is 22. He’s been training since he was 17. He’s also been doing the exact same routine since he was 17. Literally the exact same one he found on some website. When he started he made some damn good gainz. He went from 150 to 175 in 4 months. He got a hell of a lot stronger as well.
Unfortunately, he is still 175 and his strength really hasn’t increased noticeably. He works incredibly hard, and the fact he isn’t bored to death by doing the exact same thing for 5 years might be even his most impressive feat.
The thought of switching to something else has crossed his mind but he’s still holding onto the results this particular program gave him in the past.
Program Hopper Pete
Pete is 28. He’s been training since he was 22. In 6 years he’s been on approximately 20 programs. Of these 20 programs, he’s had periods of following each one to a T, but after two weeks, he decides to bastardize them to “work on his weaknesses” and “confuse his muscles.”
Pete wants to get stronger and bigger but just can’t seem to figure out what to do. He’ll hop on a program that does actually work, then get a upset he hasn’t made progress after two weeks…
After not making progress in two weeks he changes a few things. He cycles his main exercise, he changes all of his assistance exercise, he changes all his reps, he changes his training frequency, and on and on.
So what are these two gentlemen to do to become a little more mobile on the spectrum? Let’s go over that now.
He needs to:
- jump on a new program, or make some big changes to his current one (refer to the final section in this article for the changes)
- move to something more intensity based for a short period of time before returning to volume work (assuming his current program is volume intensive, which I can guess would be)
- begin implementing conjugation (changing exercises) and undulation (changing reps)
- experiment with training frequency. Maybe cut a day or two, add a day or two, or even keep the training days the same but perform certain lifts more frequently (squats and bench for example)
- understand when a program has run it’s course
- not worry that all his gainz will be erased by trying something new
Program Hopper Pete
He needs to:
- stop making changes so often. He should go on a program as is for at least 2 months before implementing changes.
- needs to understand that certain exercises should not be changed (the main exercises in 5/3/1 for example). **This isn’t to say these exercises should never be changed, but in a newb, this rule applies.**
- be more process focused, instead of outcome focused
- maybe even hire a coach
- be patient and understand strength doesn’t happen overnight
As you can see both of these guys need to move away from the far end of the spectrum towards the middle. Like I mentioned before, sometimes being a Stagnant Steve isn’t such a bad thing. Guys like Mike Tuscherer have been running a their programs for years without going off it. Their programs are more of a philosophy, but the general rules stay the same.
If you find a program that works for you and you are constantly gaining strength and size, and are having fun while doing it, there is no reason to switch to something new. Remember that.
Tests You Can Run Today
In my last article I went over tests you can begin implementing immediately. Let’s briefly go over these.
- Conjugate your exercises. You don’t have go Westside on this shit and change exercises every damn week. In fact please do not do that. Generally, I like to stick with a main exercise (barbell back squat, barbell deadlift, barbell bench press). If you are going through some serious plateaus you might think about changing them to a close variation. You can conjugate your assistance exercises much more frequently (especially single joint exercises. How frequently? Every 3-8 weeks.
- Undulate your training. This simply means you change your sets and reps on a semi regular basis. You should be going in and doing 5×5 for a year straight (unless you are still making progress than keep on keeping on). You might start with 3×5, 4×5, 5×5, then 3×6, 4×6, 5×6. This is just a very simple and dumbed down example.
- Change your sets and reps. This is pretty much the same point as the one above but it bears repeating. If you are constantly working up to a single on bench and it hasn’t moved in 5 years, try adding days where you are setting rep PR’s, or volume PR’s, these will make you stronger so when you eventually go back to a 1RM, you will, you know, actually be stronger.
- Reduce training frequency. If you’re training 6x/week, go down to 3, 4, or 5. If you are benching 3x/week (let’s be honest you aren’t squatting 3x per week) try reducing that to 2 and increase volume.
- Increase training frequency. If you’re training 3x/week go up to 4, 5, or 6. If you are training the squat and bench once a week increase to 2x/week, then go up from there. Make sure to reduce volume.
- Switch your training split. If you are training with a body part split move to an upper/lower split, or even a full body split.
This list is incredibly brief. Perhaps I’ll elaborate more on each post if I get any interest. There are so many variables you can manipulate and test during training.
Key points I want you to remember. Don’t be stubborn when you aren’t progressing, make the necessary changes. Don’t be that ADHD dude who jumps to whatever is popular and make zero progress for years on end.
Lastly, have some sort of plan and execute it. You should allow for some variation in that program, but you should have a general idea of what you want to accomplish.