Does Everyone Follow a Program?

is it truly needed?

For me, yes. For most people I have met and trained with, yes. Those that don’t I find generally don’t progress that well. There are certainly exceptions of course.

I’ve never done much “bodybuilding” training exclusively, so I cannot speak for that, but for strength and powerlifting style training-- I would say it is pretty much a necessity. Especially in the infancy of someone’s training, like the first 5 years. I believe later after you have learned your body, different training methods you can veer somewhat away from it-- but I don’t believe anyone truly ever leaves a training program. Such as, you are always going to be working by a “method” in some form if that makes sense.

For me personally, it gives me sort of a path to follow for my goals. I make my own tweaks and changes for my personal goals, body, and lifestyle. However, I still follow certain fundamental principles and that will never change.

I do, but it isn’t specific templates or programs with names.

My program calls for sticking to these exercises.

pull ups
OH press
various planks

Pullups and dips, I perform multiple variations, so it never gets boring or stagnates. My training reps range from 1 to 10. My max pullups is 30. Dips 60.

Rows - it’s usually single arm rows from 25lbs - 120lbs the number reps ranging from 1 to 25 reps.

OH press - mostly with lighter weight for shoulder mobility. Majority of the time it’s behind the neck presses… or rather, jerks.

Squats - many many bodyweight squats. Training weight rarely exceeds 185lbs. 1RM is 365lbs.

Planks - on the floor, on rings/TRX.

*I mentioned my max lifts to show you don’t always have to go gung ho to gain strength.

Program? No. Principles? Yes.


[quote]phatphit wrote:
Does Everyone Follow a Program?[/quote]
I do, in the sense that I have a general framework telling me what the next 4-12 weeks are going to look like. The days (either “Mon, Wed, Thurs” or “workout 1, 2, 3”), the exercises (or “preferred” exercises), sets, and rep range. Last-minute details very often change a bit - one part autoregulation, one part adapting to unexpected circumstances (gym distractions, equipment availability, etc.) But there’s definitely a plan in place.

I also spent all of last year following programs from the site here. Adhering to one program, usually 4-8 weeks at a time, sticking to it word for word and pretty much exactly as-recommended, and then moving on to a different routine. I felt I needed it as a mental and physical refresher, and it worked. I’m back to programming my own routines.

This is a different question, and the answer is no. A pre-designed/pre-written program is not always needed. But the more freestyling you do, the more you absolutely must be in tune with your body and how it reacts to different training stimuli (volume, intensities, frequency, etc.) or else you’re just giving yourself an excuse to spin your wheels.

This article talked, in part, about some pros and cons of instinctive training:

I think a lot of this depends on your personality as much as your physical requirements. If you studied hard and got a good job like a good little boy and you like rules and guidelines, following a program is probably your surest path to success- and good for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you spent your formative years trying to stop your friends from killing each other over twenty pound drug deals, then it might not be for you.

I can’t speak for everyone, but following a program helps keep me focused. I’ve gotten strong without one just going by feel, but I was never able to stick to working out long term because of a lack of accountability.

It’s hard to really have goals and direction when every day of your training week could be described as “maybe work out something, maybe not.” A program helps you map a path to your goals and stay on track.

Whether or not it’s needed is a separate issue entirely. If you can be disciplined about working out regularly, memorize the weights and sets and reps you’re capable of, know your body real well, and keep your goals in mind with everything you do, then you can be very successful without a program.

How can you be focused on your goals if you aren’t following a program?

I don’t always use a program, but I always have a plan. The plan consists of which lifts I’m going to use, the order of lifts, how I’m going to lift them (sets, reps, intensity), and a rotation of training days. Basically… a program.

By being clear about what it is you wish to achieve, taking positive steps towards this, listening to the advice of older, stronger, men and also knowing when not to listen. By research, by intelligent planning and above all by simple, honest-to-buggery physical effort.

You need to have a plan.

You can’t go to the gym and do something different every workout.

The key is adding weight to the big lifts.

100% Freestyle here.

My workouts are also a time to express creativity, so I prefer to let it flow.

I could not see this working for most people, but it has made the difference
between lifting as a means to an end vs. training for the pure joy of the experience.

You have to plan for success. And that’s what a program does.

If you have no program, no plan really… how do you know if you are making progress? How do you know if it’s a valuable use of your time? Some people are fine with sitting in their boat going nowhere. I’m not. I don’t live my life without a goal and program to make it happen. Why would fitness goals be treated different?

The important part about strength TRAINING is that it is long term. You can’t see it with the naked eye after 1 “workout” or a couple of weeks. Since you can’t directly see benefits TODAY, you need some reliable way to be moving forward on a long term towards a goal. Some way to measure your advancement. And that means a planned and programmed approach. I’m not lifting XXX weight today for XXX reps just because the fancy hits me this way. Tomorrow it might hit me different. That’s no way to approach my fitness goals.

Using programs from men who have built success out of it is useful. Firstly, they’ve found what works and what doesn’t, so I personally don’t have to waste MY time on the discovery. Secondly, it gets you doing things that WORK as you are gaining valuable experience. Experience that you can use later to adjust your training to your likes and desires for a personally tailored program. But still a program.