Purify Your Programming
Program design is an integral part of what goes on in the gym as it is the platform that is put in place to get you where you want to be. There are now endless answers available when it comes to making the perfect program. We have programs available for everything and they are put together by anyone and everyone. While we have the tools to make some big changes, keep in mind that the body will ultimately tell you whether it is working or not. I have had lots of people over the years ask for a program and that's it. Nothing in the way of assessment or personalizing. Basically a spreadsheet of exercises, sets, and reps. Magazines, splits printed off of the internet, and workouts of the day can be found on a lot of gym floors. The side effect being an over reliance on what has worked for someone else. Fairness to the people behind these published programs, they worked for somebody in some way shape or form. But when it comes to these programs, they weren't exactly discussing your own individual circumstances prior to publishing. Successful programming requires you to dig a little deeper as two of your bigger allies will be knowing what needs to be addressed and why you need to address it. This means doing a bit of homework and asking yourself a few important questions.
Where Am I Currently?
You could be either starting from square one or striving for world class. Either way, knowing where you are before moving forward will be key in your programming. Take the time to assess your current level of fitness, your capabilities and more importantly your limitations.
Are there limitations in your movement?
Are there injury considerations that need to be addressed?
What does your exercise history consist of?
What are your daily movement requirements?
This type of self assessment often gets overlooked. Not to mention we often give ourselves a lot more recognition than we sometimes deserve. The result being biting off more than we can chew when it comes to program selection.
What Am I Looking To do?
Having goals in place is essential. However, the problem with setting goals is that it is an unregulated process. There no limitations on what you would like to achieve in the gym and one of the biggest mistakes made is running wild with that notion. While I think it is great to dream big, fitness goals do need to be set intelligently. Approach your programming with reasonable, intelligent, measurable, and time oriented goals in mind as consistency and straight line progression will bring you closer to the bigger objectives.
What Am I Looking To Eliminate?
A bit of a twist on conventional goal setting but what are some things that you are looking to eliminate with your fitness program. Are you looking to eliminate chronic joint pain? Are you looking to lose body fat? Are you looking to eliminate current limitations in strength and muscle building? Ask yourself these types of questions as they expose some vital information when it comes to personalizing a program. The beauty of this question as well is that it provides a contrast to general goal setting. It puts you in a situation where you have to think for yourself and understand what it is that you are actually looking to accomplish.
Is It Written In Pencil Or Is It Written In Stone?
One of the most valuable things that I have learned in the gym is to be ready for variables. I may have a big plan in place for a client but in a split second that may change for a number of reasons. It could have been a high stress day, nutrition could have been off, emotionally someone may not be all in, or there could all of a sudden be aches, pains, or impaired movement that needs to be dealt with. One of the major objectives of a program is consistency so having some plan b's will be a big asset. Not every workout will go as planned but if you have the ability to adjust workloads, or alter exercises according to what you feel you can bring to the table for that particular day you can still get it done. Adjust for the days when you are off and bring it for the ones you are ready for.
Is It Integrated?
When you put some real thought into what you want to get accomplished you realize that your to do list for the gym is longer than you first thought. For most of us that means having a number of dimensions to your programming. One that comes to mind is a lady that I work with who is training for a figure competition. And golf season as she is an avid golfer. This means integrating some tough hypertrophy work with a lot of 3 dimensional movement, mobility, and soft tissue work. Fortunately for me, she was able to take the time to assess her situation and express what she wanted to focus on the most and it can be designed to work because of that. Keep this in mind with your programming. Statements such as mind blowing muscle building and fat incinerating may do just that, it may not always cater to the build muscle, lose fat, fix up that left shoulder, address that low back pain, improve my lungs and my skating for pickup hockey population for example. Ensure that your programming has the versatility to cover your own individual needs.
I should also mention numbers as I have not given them much recognition given quantity is an absolutely essential part of your programming. I want to discuss numbers a little differently however as I believe that the numbers tied to load, sets, reps, tempos, and rest intervals do require a certain element of discovery in any program. There are numerical guidelines that are proven to work for a certain response but take the time to experiment within your recommended numbers and find what works. Your program will be your guideline but it is your body's feedback that makes the final decision on what works.