A training program should have PURPOSE. You’re following it for a specific reason, I hope. These days almost anyone can be a “personal trainer.” But let’s be real, just because someone does a workout themselves, likes it and puts it on paper to sell, DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE DOING THAT. It also does not mean it is a sound program.
A training program should be progressive, should work towards a specific goal, and in my professional option should be functional. If that’s not your jam, well then by all means go buy the 6 week summer shred from literally any insta-famous fit chick. But if you want to learn, and train with purpose, this one’s for you sister.
These five things are typically missing from most workout, fitness, or training programs. I have come to find this through my own clients telling about other programs they’ve tried, as well as purchasing and trying programs myself.
Rest is a massive component of training and should almost always be specified in a program. Rest helps:
For example if I am programming for high strength or power, the rest is going to be longer (3 minutes or so) because I want the trainees muscles to fully recover for each working set. Whereas in accessory work geared towards muscle growth (hypertrophy) and getting a pump, I will program for short rest periods (under 30 seconds), to illicit more of a burn out effect on the muscles.
If rest is not programmed in, how are you supposed to know how long to wait between sets or exercises? As long as you want? Until you feel “ready”? No, wrong. Well, it’s wrong if you’re looking to get the most from your training.
Make sure rest is a part of your training program and if it’s not, you need to ask why?
Most online programs and training templates in general are 4-8 weeks long and then they end. Then there are “memberships” out there that might provide a new program each month but the phases don’t build on one another.
You train to make progress…right? Whether it be in movement patterns, work capacity, strength, endurance or power, you want to improve.
You will not improve if you do not use progressive overload somehow. Progressive overload refers to overloading your body in comparison to what it has previously experienced. You can do this through tempo, sets and reps (volume), increasing weight, or decreasing rest periods. There are many ways to use progressive overload in order to make gains. These are just a few of the big ones.
So if you’re not told to add weight, or reps, slow down your tempo, or decrease rest periods, you are likely NOT using progressive overload and need a new program.
Progressive overload does NOT mean to try crap loads different exercises every time your enter the gym. Which leads me to my next point…
Most workout programs try to be too fancy. Perhaps the creator thinks they need to change things up weekly, or even every day. And again, if you like that type of training, you go glen co-co. Just don’t expect to get REALLY good anything when you focus on everything (which is really focusing on nothing).
How do we gauge progress in strength or movement quality or pain reduction if we do not train some of the same movements consistently? You can’t! Movement patterns are skills. Skills need repetition in order to improve.
Yes, muscles need to be surprised and challenged from new angles. But for the most part, functional, compound movements will get you what you’re looking for in terms of strength and physique. Be consistent, and embrace getting GOOD at a few movements. It all goes back to mastering the basics. If you have not yet done so, there is LITERALLY no need to get fancy. Unless you’re into getting injured. Then have it.
Our next mistake is in fact linked to injury prevention and rehab.
Do you know the phases of movement? Do you pay attention to them? Or do you just go through the motions with each exercise you perform during a workout? Most people do the latter. It’s what I did before going to school and working in college athletics. So if that’s you, you’re not alone and you’re not stupid. You’re the norm at the gym.
If you want to get the most from your training, you need tempo to be prescribed.
You should know how slowly or quickly you should be performing the concentric and eccentric phases of each exercise you do. Are you supposed to lower for one second or three seconds? Trust me there is a HUGE difference. And your muscles will react in very different ways to those two tempo examples.
Along with eccentric and concentric, are you supposed to pause at the top or bottom of the movement? Should you be pausing at the bottom of your squat? Or shooting out of the hole like a cannon? You should know. If you don’t, find a new a program.
So, does your program include specific tempos?…and is it functional?
Listen, movement and workouts for most humans just need to be balanced. You spend the majority of your day sitting, or unaware of the way your body moves (or doesn’t move). Do you really think bicep curls and squats on a freaking bosu ball are the best forms of movement for your body?
The answer is no. No they are not. You were MADE to do four to five movements. Squat, hinge, push, pull, and carry.
If you’re still here and your current program does none of those…get out NOW.
Often times, workout programs are created with a heavy “bodybuilding” focus. Are you trying to be a body builder? Or live functionally into your dying days? If you’re trying to be a body builder, then duh, follow a body building program. But if you’re a normal chick who wants to lift weights, get stronger, and move functionally, then you should be doing squats, hip hinging, pushing, pulling and carrying things.
I am even okay with core work that doesn’t involve farmer carries. BUT, your program should focus on training the core FUNCTIONALLY – either causing or resisting rotation. Enter: planks, pallof presses, windmills, hollow holds and more.
Are you doing squats? Do you know how to hip hinge? Do you do upper body pushing (push ups and overhead presses) and pulling (pull ups and rowing)? If not…find a new program.
Does it include rest periods?
Is it functionally focused?
Is the tempo prescribed?
Does it provide consistency but still include progressive overload?
If yes, then girl you’ve got yourself a kick ass program.
If not, then I have just thing.
Built By Annie is a 12 month progressive strength and hypertrophy program designed with these principles in mind. And it will change the way you look at “workout” programs forever.
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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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