Structure Keeps Things Moving Optimally
Having structure to your training is pretty important to have. I mean, one of the worst things you can do is to walk into the gym and say ‘eeeeh, yeh, I think I will do that today’ or ‘yeh, let’s do that exercise instead’ without really having any logic behind the decisions you make regarding your training. Admittedly, there are days when your training plans might change at the last moment, you might switch a workout around for whatever reason, but you should always still have a plan of action at the ready.
The thing is, if you are someone who always walks into the gym blind, not really having a plan at the ready and wings it, how will you ever know if you are training optimally or not? Maybe for an advanced lifter this might work out, they can do everything in their head and their experienced enough to do everything on the fly. But for most people, not only will having structure to your training keep you guided, on track, motivated and highly focused, it will help make sure you are training as optimally as you can.
Taking a written plan or ‘log book’ with you to the gym is also great to have and should also be part of your structure. This allows you to track all your lifts and weights with ease and allows analysis of your performance over a determined period of time. This makes it easy to access weak points or problem areas and to make adjustments where necessary to allow you to drive on with your progress. Having a structure of some sort will help keep your training on the right path.
The Side Effects Of Having No Plan?
Walking into the gym and heading straight for a random exercise is quite common practise. You don’t know what’s planned for the training day ahead and so you pick an exercise at random, finish it, then move onto the next random exercise. Ok, so you are in the gym, working and taxing your muscles to some extent. But the lack of structure to your routine (in terms of exercise selection, order and reps/set/weight range) will make it difficult for you to implement a training scheme based on allowing progressive overload. Remember: if you don’t implement progressive overload, you WON’T develop size and strength over the LONG TERM. Picking random exercises also leads to what I like to call an ‘unchained workout’. In other words, there is no cohesion of ‘fluidness’ in your workouts. Nothing reinforces each other. A bit of bicep work and a bit of leg work (usually with machines!) does nothing to help improve your overall size and strength. Everything in your routine must work together as one coherent unit to enhance a particular goal. For instance, if your goal is to improve your squat strength, then you need to plan and structure your workouts around this. That means selecting all the necessary training components (e.g. exercises) that are going to reinforce this goal. A bit of random bicep work and leg work is not going to do anything significant!
Another element of randomness through lack of training structure is what I term ‘just moving weight’ (as opposed to lifting it). You have no plan for reps/sets/weight or how you plan to progress in each of the three over time. You simply pick the weight up and put it down again. Again, with no indication or plan regarding your reps/sets/weight ranges, how will you know what you starting point is and whether or not you are progressing over time? It’s ok to add extra sets/reps here and there on the fly if you feel like you want to push a bit extra out of your workout. Perhaps you feel like you have extra energy to give! But still, you should have a general plan or structure to follow. If you log everything, it’s easy to write up these extra reps/sets. Going into a workout with no indication of reps/sets/weight and were your at is going to cause you to train blind. Not having any idea of what you CAN do, what you HAVE DONE and what actually CHALLENGES you. These things you can only know if you write down, structure and track your rep/set/weight ranges over time.
“Going into a workout with no indication of reps/sets/weight and were your at is going to cause you to train blind”.
What I tend to find is that those people without plans are more inclined to skip the compounds in favour of machines (or at least do the machines first). But this is just my observation! Every well structured training plan should be based mainly around compounds movements and SHOULD have you performing these FIRST. Simply heading straight for the machines or basing your routine around mainly machines is wasted energy, but also wasted POTENTIAL. When it comes to optimal size and strength development, you should always put most of your energy and effort into performing your compounds first. They are typically more taxing, require more effort, utilise several muscle groups, and require you to be reasonably fresh so you can maintain a good level of form (why tire yourself out first doing all sorts of machine work before your compounds?). Having a structure in place will tell you exactly what exercises (compound and machine) will need to be performed, why they need to be performed, in what order, and in what set/rep/weight ranges. Having this sort of plan in place will ensure that your workout is tailored specifically for YOUR GOALS. If you are randomly selecting exercises/rep/sets/weight ranges and have no specific exercise order, then the chances are, you will simply end up in no mans land making very little consistent progress.
Trust Your Plan, Stick With It
Unless you are an extremely advanced lifter, then everyone can benefit from having a plan of action before they hit the gym. Having a clear idea of what you need to do, in terms of exercises to be performed, the order, the reps/sets/weights will ensure that you are always training in line with your goals. If you try to train blind, then you risk training in ways that send you way off course, could even have you regressing or, just stuck in a hole unable to progress. Sometimes you might like to go off plan and try something new, that’s great! Nothing wrong with a bit of experimentation! You might come across some new training ideas. But 99% of the time, having a solid, well thought out plan by your side, will keep your training tailored exactly how you want it. When people walk into the gym blind, they tend to perform very random workouts with very little COHESION between the training elements of their workouts. This leads to nothing more than simply ‘going through the motions’. In other words, progressive overload is OFF the table without a structured plan. Knowing exactly what you need to do and how to do it in the most optimal way possible will ensure that you continue to progressively overload and thus make LONG-TERM gains in size and strength.
Any questions, ask away