The question of how hard to train, and how often, still has me beat on the best of days. It’s also likely the single biggest driver of program changes for me, and probably many others. Why? Because the question of splits, rep-ranges and protocols can not easily be untangled from the questions of load, volume, frequency and intensity.
There’s a reason you’re not making the progress you want in the gym. In fact, there’s likely many reasons. For example, you could be following the wrong program, perhaps working too low in the rep-range. Or maybe it’s that all body, routine you switched to recently. Perhaps you’re doing a little too much cardio; not enough cardio. Ah, you don’t have macros? That’ll be it. Oh, you do have macros, but you’re not tracking? Yeah, track your foods and hit the macros, that will help. Your rest intervals could be too long, or too short, of course, and what’s your tempo like? Exclusively machines? Dope, switch to free weights… but not barbells, just dumbbells. Did you say you are or aren’t benching? Well whichever it is, do the other…
My current program has me working the entire body twice in the week, Monday through Saturday, with Sunday being a well-earned day of rest.
Here’s the split:
- Monday: Legs
- Tuesday: Chest and shoulders
- Wednesday: Back
- Thursday: Legs II
- Friday: Back and arms
- Saturday: Chest and shoulders
I’ve been working informally with a couple of people of late, helping them build a program to reach their training goals. And it’s been fun.
However, regardless of what route we take, the “split”, the programming, periodization, intensity, loading, volume etc., I always end-up distilling the advice down to the following. So much so, that it’s worth stating here:
At the end of the day, it’s good to remember that just about anything and everything can work in the gym. It’s largely about showing up, working hard, consistently, for months, and eating large amounts of good healthy food.
Sure, there’s a lot of detail I could have added. I could have talked about rest intervals, recovery patterns, dietary intake, macros, supplementation, sleep; the list is pretty much endless. But in the end, 90% of the progress you’ll make in the gym comes down to forming good habits, showing-up regularly and simply doing the work.
I stumbled across this rather excellent quote from Thomas Henry Huxley this morning, and it summed quite nicely the foundation on which I firmly believe progress is made.
“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”
I often hear people talk about the psychology of training or dieting, as if this notion were an adjunct to the physical challenges of exercise or hunger.
We all go into the gym with the best of intentions, focused and ready to give the workout everything we’ve got. But if your workouts are anything like mine, the intensity and ball-busting effort soon takes its toll and, if you are not careful, you can find yourself searching for those little “outs”.
One way in which I KNOW you have let yourself off the hook before is by dropping the odd rep or set. I know I’ve done it, and oftentimes, not intentionally. One pattern where this can happen for me quite regularly is during what my coach likes to call, the finisher; an intense metabolic circuit intended to drive-up the metabolism and improve overall conditioning.
There’s an old adage that says you are what you eat, and in spite of the great many diet fads that come along each year, this simple advice has largely withstood the test of time. Of course, you are free to interpret this simple statement however you like, but for me it boils down to this: all things being equal, your quality of dietary health is largely the sum of what you let pass your lips.
Increasingly of late, I’ve discovered the same is true in other areas of our lives too, such as the friends we surround ourselves with or the people from whom we are taking our advice.
I’ve been training back at a commercial gym in the UK for the last few days and it’s been an eye-opening experience in many ways. And unfortunately, aside from the odd exception, not many of these experiences have been positive, including bro-science run amok, poor to horrible training form and gym etiquette nowhere to be seen.