Does Program Matter?

80 % is very exagarated - Klopp was e mediocre footballer, Gasperini as well, Allegri too, Nagelsman is not a professional footballer. Ferguson was a decent player, but his coaching career is what people know him for. Brendan Rogers is a similar example. Jose Mourinho’s career as a footballer is described as uneventful in Wikipedia. Sarri did not play professional football. Arsene Wenger, Sven Goran Ericson, Avram Grant, Andre Villas Boas, Ragnick, Houllier, Parreira, Hodgson, Even one of the greatest Sacchi did not play pro football.

Speaking of training programs, any recommendations for a good book that details a programing methodology that can be utilized for a long period of time?
Long-term goals are improving strength, increasing lean body mass, and improving running endurance. Short-term (6-12 month) goals are to decrease bodyfat, improve right shoulder health and hip mobility, and be more consistent in conditioning work.

In before “5/3/1” gangbang

1 Like

My back squat looks like good morning and my low back rounds before parallel, and I currently only use dumbbells and kettlebells for overhead press due to a previous shoulder issue. I suppose I can have a bench day, front squat day, and have the third training day be pull-ups/weighted pull-ups and db/kb overhead press. Dropping back squat and OHP wouldn’t really be “5/3/1”, but if I’ve learned anything browsing these forums, is that consistency and effort are more important than any specific program.

Edit: forgot about deadlift.

I cannot like this comment enough. This should be bookmarked on every forum. 99% of “critique my program” threads are like asking someone to critique your house when all you have is a truck full of raw materials.

1 Like

Give either of these a whirl…

‘Can you go?’ by Dan John


Does program matter?

I like the distinction upthread between routines and programs; a routine lists exercises, sets, and reps, whereas a program has an overarching goal and periodizes the routine to reach the goal. In light of that information, I think both programs and routines are important for beginners but increasingly lose their value as people experientially learn what their goals are and how their individual bodies respond to different training types.

As a newb lifter, an equally inexperienced friend introduced me to Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Although it took a couple years to try his “beginner” routine, I did jump headlong into believing each muscle group needed four sets of six to eight different exercises to be fully worked. Enter the three-hour-long workouts with a spinlock weight set, a friend or two, and attacking each muscle from every existing angle and plane of motion. I think we even made up some new ones while trying to implement Arnold’s advice.

My teenage and early 20-somethings were filled with upper/lower and bodypart splits. It wasn’t until I stumbled across T-Nation in 2007-ish that I gained credible info about alternative types of lifting. Yes, I have Rippetoe’s articles to thank.

Fast forward to 2013. A woman I was dating was entrenched in the notion that Stronglifts 5 x 5 was the only valid lifting program on God’s green Earth, nevermind the fact she’d literally never lifted weights. I was crunched for time, so full-body sessions three times a week appealed to me. In the four months we lifted together, I gained more strength at OHP and bench pressing than ever before. It opened my eyes to different routines and programming approaches.

In 2016, while reading a Dan John article about strength clusters, something pinged my radar. This was one of the hard-right turns I took away from body part splits. I lifted two or three times a week, ran twice a week, and gained more strength on several compound lifts (squats, push press, deadlift, weighted pullups, close grip bench, and sled pushing) than even on Stronglifts.

@TrainForPain postulated that most of us probably default to the lifting style we did when we first became committed to lifting. I tend to agree. Even though lower rep, less frequent lifting sessions consistently work best for me, my mental preset is to try to include all the exercises from all the angles, and I have to consciously force myself to do fewer lifts than I believe I “ought to.”

So does program matter? I think it’s important for beginners, because the simple act of moving objects and/or one’s body through space can be surprisingly nuanced. Work is nearly always more productive when paired with order, so beginners progress faster and further when learning program techniques. The more routines and methods, the better, in my opinion. As we gain experience, if we employ self-reflection and analysis to our lifting, we can learn how our bodies respond to different modalities. This knowledge, when translated into principles, can make using specific programs less important.

I’ll caveat that with TfP’s observation that we default to a particular method. I believe programs can be helpful in a few different situations. Sometimes, we get stuck in a rut or physically plateau. A different type of program and methodology can tow us out of a well-worn training ditch. As we age, our recovery and abilities change, and fresh programs can introduce us to new, more productive ways to train. On the whole though, I think programs aren’t as crucial as the myriad articles and research may lead us to believe.


Awesome post!

1 Like

To a point @TriednTrue and @FlatsFarmer made, and to argue with myself, I’m finding I’m both:

  1. Absolutely unable to recover from what I like to do
  2. Too stubborn to change

This is probably where actual coaching, vs a program, is such a huge benefit. I’m going to only pick the programs I want vs what I might need. If I was a competitive athlete, I’d no question need a coach.


Interesting! I discovered that as well, three-ish years ago. In fact, right around when I turned 40, I noticed a downturn in my recovery abilities. I’m finally conceding Thibs’ point that men 40+ should lift every-other day, not daily.

How do you most like to train? I assume Meadows-style body part splits. What about the training style do you think is impeding your recovery?

1 Like

Programming absolutely matters. You need progression on your lifts over time, you need enough volume, frequency, and intensity to grow, but not too much that can’t recover. And some programs are simply going to work better for some than they will for others. Progression and growth are the two most important things. 5/3/1 is a great program because the progression is planned out and adding weight to the bar is all planned, and there’s a method built in to break plateaus. You have your weights set and you just go in and do the work.

I used the same full body 3x a week Program from Scooby1961’s site for a decade and plateaued in muscle gain after about 2 years simply because I wasn’t focused on adding weight to the bar. So I spent about 7 years thinking I was at my “genetic limit” because I didn’t train hard enough and didn’t take it seriously enough. That’s why it drives me crazy when I see people, specifically on the Darden forum, blame genetics on why they aren’t gaining muscle. A problem with HIT in general is that when you get into it, you think it’s the one true valid theory of exercise and if you’re not growing with it, it’s you that’s the problem and your crappy genetics.

I knowI got a bit off track, but that’s truly an issue in the “HIT community” and the black-pilled mindset in general. Anyways, Programming past plateaus is huge for long term success in lifting. Some sort of volume or intensity manipulation is probably needed or even exercise variation. If you just go in and do random machines that hit whatever body part you’re working that day, like so many new lifters do, you’ll never make progress beyond your noob gains and you won’t know how to fix it.

If you just can’t change what you’re doing, do less for awhile.

Do a workload that you can recover from. Let the training/recovery process go on for awhile and it will Build your capacity to do more.

I heard Jim Wendler talk about wanting to do “Murph” but not being in condition for it. So he started with 2 separate “Quarter Murph” sessions to make it easier to get through. Then he built his fitness up to “30 Days of Murph.”


Yeah the dogma is strong in that forum. I recently advised someone to try switch up their training to Dorian Yates’ layout and was basically barked at that fullbody, with failure, all the time, is the ONLY way and that Dorian himself didnt know how to train effectively :thinking::rofl::rofl:


It can be hard to convince someone who does HIT to try anything else, and I was that way for about a year. It’s a very limiting mindset that is likely going to prevent someone from ever getting as big and strong as they otherwise could. HIT is interesting, because it is usually promoted as the ONLY way. People just tend to be really set in their ways over there, yet still ask a million questions, only to not really care or apply the answers.


It really seems to be very much a “collectors” mentality, trying to “collect” every nugget of information or thought ever produced by the one or two trainers that are trusted, rather than a genuine attempt to learn or get bigger and stronger. Which is fine, as long as you’re aware of, and honest about the distinction.


So many of these guys, I think, started lifting in the 70s and their first exposure to weight lifting was trying to do Arnold-style two-a-days six days a week like they read in the magazines of the era. They probably made moderate to little progress on it, found HIT, with Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer who spoke in absolutes and told them to add weight to the bar every workout and they made trackable progress. Mike definitely spoke like he had all the answers, and if these guys broke their initial plateau with his advice, they likely believed he truly did. Then when they plateau they’ve “reached their genetic potential”. Completely hypothetical but that’s how it seems to me, reading a lot of the posts and having been a devout advocate of HIT before. I feel almost like someone who broke away from Scientology lol

Edit: it seems like Starting Strength people are similar with Mark Rippetoe


And let’s not pretend that 531 or the like don’t also have their own followers.


Imagine how good he’d have been if only he’d have done it correctly!


tbh, sometimes I feel like 5/3/1 is worshipped on here.

with that said, there are 2 key differences:

  1. the “worship” has not kept the “followers” from being open minded
  2. there’s a VERY VERY good reason so many ppl speak so highly of 5/3/1

I love 5/3/1. It’s very “open concept” if you will, and I love the structure of its progression system. But I would just as quickly recommend DoggCrapp, Fortitude, and Deep Water (and I often do). My only bias is that it needs to help me get freaking huge!