Training Programs Vs. Training Principles?


Which Should You Pay Closer Attention To?

For most people (especially beginners) having a training program of some sort is handy to have. It provides some structure from the get-go, gives you guidance on how to progress and can be tailored depending on the goal(s) you want. Essentially, a training program gives you everything (depending on the program) so that the groundwork has been done for you. 

All you need to do is follow it and hope it’s decent enough to give you the results you hope for! The problem however, is that many people follow training programs without knowledge of why the program is put together the way it is, the principles it’s based upon, how it goes about promising certain results, or whether it’s meant to produce results in the short/long-term. Training programs are like cars. You can see how good it is on the outside (you don’t have to be an expert), but only a mechanic will be able to tell whether what’s under the hood will get you from A to B, and how well it will get you there and, whether it can get you even further. A training program will tell you that it will get you to a certain goal, but only when you know everything behind the program itself, will you be able to truly decide whether it really is optimal or not for your goals.

In my experience, people pay too much attention to training programs and not enough to the principles actually backing it. If you did, that would certainly safe you a lot of time, disappointment and setbacks in the future!

What Principles Am I Talking About?

There are many training programs out there, and whether you are looking for size, strength or both, most of the programs will claim to be the one. Sadly, most are short-term in the results they produce, which is why people switch backwards and forwards every 6/8 weeks between different programs and always end up asking questions such as:

Why is it stopped working?

How do I kick start my progress?

Why is this program different from others?

Just because a program says: build your way to ultimate strength in just 8 weeks with this strength builder routine, does not mean the program is actually great. What you should decide to do at that point is ask yourself: what exactly are the training principles that lead to the design of such program? That will then give you a much better idea of whether or not the program in question will be able to do what it says (provided of course you follow it to the tee and your nutrition, sleep, recovery etc is in order). 

When it comes to long-term optimal training for size and strength, I like to build my training around a few fundamental principles rather than reply on the 100’s of programs that are on the internet to guide me. Not only will that increase flexibility in my own training, but it will give me the complete freedom to adjust my own program continuously were necessary to keep driving my progress in the right direction.

Many people frequently fall into the trap of following pre-written programs and hopping to others at the first sign of setback, only to never fully understand WHY. They end up in a closed circuit of program A —-> setback 1 —-> program B —-> setback 2 ——> program C. Before you know it, people have tried 100’s of programs, wasted valuable time (and possibly money!) and still not fully understanding the very basic principles of what makes training a success over the long-term. Even if you are looking for variety in your training and want to try something different, you can! But, you don’t have to follow another generic internet training program to achieve that. Knowing the basic concepts, you can then use those to adjust your own training and programming to add the variety you want. The difference is, you will now know exactly what you have to do to make sure this change works for you and not against you. I can’t remember the last time I followed a training template online! 

When considering key principles that guide long-term success, I am talking about a few things: progressive overload. The key to all progress over time. Any great, long-term training plan will have this component as it’s central point. If it doesn’t then it’s surely going to real quick, stop working in your favour. Volume and intensity regulation. A training plan should consider both on a regular basis. Anyone who follows one or the other without using both will quickly reach a stalling point.

Most programs however will tend to focus on one or the other, which is why most programs are sub-optimal in the long-term. Most online programs tend to be geared towards either strength or mass, but the fact is, you need to improve both over time to continue progressing.

Size is needed for more strength, and strength is needed for more size. This concept you do need to have sealed into your mind if you are in this for the long-term. Knowing the basic principles will allow you to design your training in a way which will accommodate both volume and intensity on a regular basis.

Another important principle to consider is non-linear periodisation. Many programs tend to be quite linear in their approach. In most cases, it’s simply keeping everything the same and increasing the weight on the bar each session. It might work for a new lifter, but for those with 6 months or more weight lifting experience, non-linear is your friend for the future. Non-linear will allow you to continue progressively overloading over time through managing periods of volume and intensity to allow for optimal recovery.

Lastly the actual makeup of your program will be important – split or more full body? Whichever allows you to optimally manage volume and intensity, frequency and recovery and allow you to over time progressively overload.



Let YOU Be The Guide To Your Ultimate Training Success

I am not saying that all pre-written training plans are bad. Some do make good use of the basic training principles that lifters need to have to make progress over the long-term. However, the most important thing is that you actually know the essential principles that will guide your success over the long-term.

Rather than waste valuable time, energy and money jumping between different training programs, it’s better to know exactly what these fundamental concepts are that make a optimal, long-term successful plan. Once you know them, you will have much better long-term control, flexibility and freedom over your own training. That will be much better than constantly scratching your head when a new training plan you decide to follow, stops working.

Any questions? Ask away!


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