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April 4, 2023

197 | 8 Biggest Program Mistakes and How To Fix Them

So I lied, and there are only seven program mistakes and how to fix them. But I digress. Let’s begin

Program Mistake Number One

Switching things up way too often. As I do programs by other coaches, I am reminded that even some of the most educated people in the space make changes well before they need to. I don’t know if this comes from a worry that people are going to get bored, or just the desire to implement different variations, and have fun with the actual program design. While I understand both of these, the results that people want are probably on the other side of fairly boring programming.

In the postpartum program that I followed, which I do suggest if people, I got to a point where I was modifying over 50% of the programming simply because it was changing week to week and it just wasn’t needed. I wanted to continue the same movements that I had done the week before in order to progress. How are we gauging progress if we are switching up variations and sets and reps every week?

Mind you this is in regards to general strength and hypertrophy training and programming. Not something like CrossFit. Which honestly should still have progressive phases. There’s just a lot more ground to cover in CrossFit. 

Put simply, number one is to stick to, at least the same movements per week for an entire month. The sets and reps my vary, depending on the goal of the program, but keep the movements the same. The reason for doing this is two things. We can gauge progress, not only in adding more weight or mechanical load to each movement, but also building those neurological pathways for each pattern. We don’t only build muscle. Part of that process is neurological adaptation, which can’t happen if we are switching it up willy-nilly every week.

Numbers two and three

2 = not working at a high enough intensity.

3 = trash volume just to add volume.

The only program I have followed that had high volume that I could understand was German volume training, and a program by Hattie Boil (who has been training for over 13 years and gave very large ranges of volume based on your training history). She can handle high volume at high intensities, because of the capacity that she has worked up over a decade. That is not the case for most people doing high-volume work. Note that I said that she is working at high intensities, as in using high, challenging RPE, and at a high volume. This is what I would consider advanced training.

Most programming involving high volume, mostly in the form of a lot of exercises, is not also working at a high enough intensity to get the results that people desire. Which are in this case, muscle games, or strength gains. More is not always more.

Mechanical load or tension is the main driver of both strength and hypertrophy. So this should be the focus regardless of volume. It’s not that high volume is bad. It’s just that we want to make sure that the trainee is working at a high enough intensity to stimulate muscle growth. think about working at an RPE of eight, or only leaving one to two reps in the tank on most exercises if this is the goal. Which would be an RIR of 1-2.

Number four

is not using warm up sets in order to find the load you are going to use for your actual working sets. Often times we leave gains on the table because your first or maybe even first two sets were not at high enough intensities for the goal of the actual sit and rep scheme. This goes back to RPE, or RIR. Making sure that every set is actually at a proper working load and is challenging. Integrating warm-up sets can be helpful and will ensure that no gains are left on the table.

Yes, I am talking about accessory work. In addition to your main exercises. You won’t always need warm-up sets. But certainly at the beginning of a new phase you might want to use them. Until you know what your proper working load is.

Number five mostly applies to people who program for themselves. And that is only programming what you like, and or are good at. This is a reason in the last two years I have followed other people’s programming. While I straight up, do not enjoy it as much as my own programming overall, I enjoy the fact that I am exposed to things that I would not typically program for myself. I use other people’s programming for a base and then modify as I like.

Just be sure to follow a program that will integrate and work on your weaknesses.

Number six and seven go hand-in-hand much like two and three did.

6 = not utilizing tempo

7 = not sticking to or programming specified rest periods

In short, using a tempo, will just ensure time under tension, and has neurological benefits as well when looking at building solid movement patterns. And especially if we are hitting the intensities that I talked about earlier, it will likely be beneficial to actually stick to an implement rest periods. And you will need them, and want them if you are working at a high enough intensity. You shouldn’t be able to start performing your next set after 15 seconds of rest if you’re working at a high enough intensity. You should need that whole minute, for instance.

These are, of course, all things that we implement in all 36 phases of Built by Annie, even in the at home versions. We still move with intent, tempo, consistency, and proper rest periods.

You can always join the waitlist, or if the doors are open, then we welcome you inside. Regardless of if you join my program, program for yourself, or follow someone else’s, make sure you are not committing these mistakes, and I hope you can use today’s episode to get more gains.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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