Whether you write your own, find them online or have them designed specifically for you it is difficult to know whether you are following a good, bad or even a worthwhile program. How many times have you and a friend followed a program and got completely different results? Worse still, how many times have you followed a program and achieved minimal results? It is soul destroying to commit to a goal and get no closer to achieiving it despite your best efforts. Obviously, there are alot of outside factors in play that may affect results such as the exercise itself, diet, medication, illness, injury or even our ancestral origins, (sorry, I had to throw that one in because I am a big geek and I love the science behind our beings), whatever the reason, it is clear that, that workout was not suitable for you.
So, now we know why previous programs may not have been as effective as we had hoped, we now need to ensure that going forward the same issues are not repeated. When assessing the effectiveness of a program, remember ‘three peas in a pod’. The workout program is the pod and it must contain my three P’s:
Firstly, the personal element. Even if this program is one you found online (if you are struggling to find one, bodybuilding.com has plenty), it still needs to be personalised to you.
To personalise a workout, firstly make sure that it is conducive to your goal i.e. do not follow a weight loss program if your goal is to gain muscle. If the program does support your goals, you then need to look at the exercises it requires you to do and consider any limitations you may have i.e., injury or lack of the required equipment etc. if it does so happen that, for one reason or another, you are unable to safely execute a specifc movement try and find a suitable alternative exercise. Once you are comfortable with the exercise requirements, have a play around with different weights, timings, distances, whatever it is you are using to measure your goal, assess your current ability and instead of just following the weight/distance/time requirments that come as standard in the program, adapt them to your current levels and abilities.
You may also have heard this principle referred to as ‘split’. Basically, this is the strategic calculation of performance. Planning the portions of your workout program ensures that muscles trained are evenly split with appropriate recovery time. This planning stage also acts as a preventative for poor workouts. Imagine not planning your workouts ahead of time, you have progressed through the week, you’ve only one muscle group left to train say, back, but you realise you did arms the day before and now your too sore to effectivley train your back muscles. It’s happened to us all and it is a night mare!
There are many different kinds of split. It can be determined by muscle group or training method, it can be done daily, weekly, bi- weekly etc.
For a beginner weight lifter, a 2 day split would be perfect. This just means that you do all of your body over 2 days, usually and upper body session on day 1 and a lower body session on day 2. Obviously, as you progress, this will progress too, when Arnold Schwarznegger was at the pre-competition stage of his program his split used to be 2 workouts daily, 6 days per week.
My split is currently:
Portion/split is a key element due to the fact that it outlines the workout’s in advance, you can see how and where you are going to progress, it saves time as workout’s are pre-planned and it adds an element of accountability because not going to a pre-planned gym session is a concious decision, it is not just a case of “oh, i never planned to go tonight” or “oh i didnt know what to work on today” there is a definite encouragement for commitment which is one of the purposes of following a program.
Last but by no means least, progression. Our bodies adapt very quickly, there is such a concept of muscle memory and if we do the same thing over and over, our bodies are able to predict and prepare for this. Any program you look at, regardless of goals, needs to progress somehow otherwise, history will repeat itself and it will end up being another ineffective workout and more time wasted. By progressing the workouts we are shocking our bodies into action and forcing them to change to adapt to the new levels.
Progression can come in the form of weight categories, repetitions, distance, speed, timings etc.
Rate of progression is very dependant upon the individual. Personally, I progress by increasing the weight usally every couple of weeks. However, I am constantly assessing this rate and if I am able to easily complete the last 3 reps of my set then I know it is time to take it to the next level.
If the three P’s are contained in the pod, it is a safe bet that it will carry you towards your goals and on completion, you will have that sense of achievement you are looking for! Happy working out folks 🙂