Training

What’s Wrong with Your Program?


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By Chad Wesley Smith

With the multitude of programs available to anyone with a computer, it is no wonder there is so much debate and confusion about programming today. Whether it is the Juggernaut Method, 5/3/1, Westside, Sheiko or one of the other hundreds of programs to be found on the internet, every program has its strongpoints, weakpoints, success stories and shortcomings. There are some things that every successful program will have in common, no matter how different they look on paper. Every successful program will have an element of…

Progression

Whether it is as simple as adding 5 pounds to bar from the previous session, or a more complex relationship of increasing volume/intensity or total tonnage, a program without progression is not a program worth doing. Even when utilizing submaximal training loads, if you aren’t using more weight for a given number of reps or doing more reps with a given weight, than you were a month, quarter or year ago, you aren’t getting stronger and something needs to change.

Specificity

What are you training for? That is a very simple question that so many people seem to overlook. If you are training for maximal strength, why are you killing yourself with lactic inducing circuits 3 times per week, if you are trying to improve your performance in triathlons, why are you using all you energy trying to improve your max bench. There are too many athletes and lifters trying to serve multiple masters and it doesn’t work! If you want to be the BEST at something, then you need to train for that one thing with complete focus.

With that being said, I don’t mean that if your goal is to succeed in powerlifting, that you shouldn’t perform any bodybuilding-esque hypertrophy work or perform GPP work to enhance your work capacity; I mean that you need to examine what you are doing and decide whether it is enhancing or detracting from your abilities to reach your ultimate goal. I received a question on the EliteFTS.com Q&A a few weeks ago from someone looking to compete in strongman and powerlifting and they were wondering if training BJJ and MMA would be a good way for them to improve their conditioning and GPP.  Obviously Jiu Jitsu and MMA athletes have tremendous aerobic capacity and very high general work capacities, in addition to that they also have tons of elbow, shoulder, neck and low back injuries, so I advised this person to seek out other GPP means that wouldn’t compete for his energy towards his ultimate powerlifting and strongman goals. As you progress in your sport, training will have to become more specific and well organized.

Variety

For anyone who has read my Keep It Simple Stupid series, you know that I’m not a proponent of frequently rotating max effort exercises but that doesn’t mean that variety isn’t important in training. Variety can be accomplished by changing exercises or changing loading strategies, I prefer the latter option for most athletes. While rotating new exercises into your program is a good way to avoid accommodation, it also invites more DOMS which will prevent athletes from maximizing their abilities in sports practices and will also delay motor learning abilities for the competition lifts in competitive lifters. If you feel you MUST rotate max effort movements pick the two that have the highest transfer for you and rotate between those two.

Recovery

Any program is only as good as the athlete’s ability to recover from the stresses imposed upon their system. Different athlete’s have different abilities to recover from various workloads and each program will affect people differently. Recovery abilities will improve as you enhance your special work capacity, but this is a lengthy process so don’t think that you can go from your current training model to a Bulgarian system that has you maxing out on a squat variation 6x/week in a matter of days or weeks. Passive recovery methods such as massage, ice baths and contrast showers are all great ways to improve your recovery and I suggest utilizing them whenever possible. You will always be better off undertraining than overtraining.

Look at your program, whatever it is, and see if it satisfies these requirements. If it fails in any one of them, you need to change what you are doing.

Now that we have looked at what makes a program successful, there is one thing above all else that I feel keeps people from ultimately achieving success. A lack of ownership of one’s program is what holds back people from taking the step from good to great. It is simple to go onto EliteFTS and buy the ebook for The Juggernaut Method or 5/3/1 and do the program exactly as the author has outlined it and experience success. But if you were to buy the Juggernaut Method and perform it exactly as I did for years at a time, your progress would undoubtedly stall. Look at the training logs of EliteFTS sponsored lifters and you will notice they are all different from each other, even among the athletes who train together. Compare their logs today from 2 years ago, from 10 years ago, and they have changed. Your training must evolve through a process of self examination, trial and error and critical thinking about what YOU need. You must understand what you are doing and why you are doing it to reach the highest levels of success. The great Olympic lifting champion Vasili Alexeyev often talked about how people would inquire about his training philosophy and he would respond by telling them that they can not do his program, because then it would be their program. Find out what works for you and make your training your own. Own your athletic destiny.

Post Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/epublicist

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