How to Say No to Changing Training Programs
Its all too common to see switches in training programs based less on actual need, merit of the program or its fit into your training stage, and based more on social media, friends, and popular powerlifting and fitness icons. This is a short post, but I feel it’s an important one. If what you are doing is working for you, and by “working”, I mean that you are making progress on your total or increasing desired trainable outcomes, please don’t change it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been running it for two weeks or two years...if you are still progressing, there’s no need to change.
Factors that may make you want to stray:
- Social Pressures - friends or acquaintances may want you to run the same approach they are using, or you are hearing more and more about X training program.
- Successes of Others - People in a larger social circle may be experiencing great progress on a specific training program. Good for them! So are you! Still not a reason to change. Recognize these influences on you, and embrace your own rationality.
- Actual Research - Sometimes actual exercise science research points toward a specific idea in principle producing more or faster progress. Nevertheless, you are progressing quite well, friend, and have no reason to stray.
- Fitness Icons - Specific fitness icons may be the author or proponent of a training program, and may swear by its effectiveness. Many people can benefit but if you’re already in the green, stay the course until there is a real reason to reach for a different approach.
What to do before considering a different approach:
- Have you given the training approach long enough that you could be experiencing progress? As an example, if I had an athlete running a high volume training block, we would expect performance to slightly decrease in some cases as the athlete accumulates volume before a supercompensation effect. Sometimes athletes in this case switch training programs to something lower volume only to make massive progress. Guess what? It was probably the old approach that did all the work!
- Try variation. Sometimes small changes in exercise variation, week-to-week loading or intensity can make a big difference.
- Increase training volume. Sometimes plateaus occur because you are no longer taking in the requisite volume to cause adaptation. Increase volume over time and you may see progress again.
- Decrease training volume. Sometimes a good old fashioned deload is needed to realize the progress you’ve been building. A moderate reduction in training volume can do wonders.
- Have you checked factors outside training? What are your overall life stress levels like? Have they increased? Are you in a caloric deficit, or are you consuming adequate protein? Are you getting enough sleep? The training program itself might not be the culprit of your lack of progress…it might be everything else going on.
If you find that you are actually needing a change for reasons outside the above listed (perhaps the system under which you were operating when you first chose the program, or your underlying goals and motivations have changed), try learning about the principles behind the creation of these training programs you see everywhere before you change courses. How is the weekly frequency, volume, exercise selection, set/rep combinations, and weekly variation selected? What principles guide that selection? Below are listed some further reading toward that end.
Resist the urge and you’ll likely be rewarded with continued progress and an appreciation for dedication and discipline. Training and progress is the marathon, when everyone wants the sprint.