T Nation

Whoa... Slow Down!


Let's think about this a minute before anyone else becomes enamored with this new trend I see surfacing.

Lately I've heard a lot of people talk about how they don't need to plan their workouts, they don't need to write a program, count macros, calories, eat at certain times, or a certain amount of meals etc...

SLOW DOWN. What is this? I can tell you that this is not for everyone. And even those who are doing this, how do you know you wouldn't have more success by NOT flying by the seat of your pants every day.

It sounds like people are really feeling all high and mighty about themselves... Boasting about how they've earned some kind of priveledged and enhanced Jedi state of mind that enables them to not keep track of anything and toss all plans and programs out the window because they think they are mature lifters. The believe they are so advanced in their ways that they are beyond the lesser experienced guy that still needs to write things down.

I can just hear the newbies now. You're feeding them excuses to fail.

Here are some rules of thumb I came up with. There are probably more.

The overweight fat guy should not seek a better body through instinct. His instinct got him to where he is currently.

The new lifter should not "do whatever he feels like"!

The serious bodybuilder who is cutting should not be 500 calories off of his diet estimations!

I can think of many times in my training history where I wished I would've planned ahead a little more.

VERY FEW people have the mental discipline and experience to be "insticintive" about there training and diet. Most serious lifters I know that have years of experience are still adhering to a general plan or template of some kind. Sure they tweak if here and there, but they pretty much know whate they're going to do the next day. In fact they think about it hours ahead of time and visualize the workout. This is how your become successful.

For 99% of you, the answer is not "instinct" or "cybernetic periodization" or whatever new hardcore term emerges from some anti-science old schooler. I'm not implying that Tate is anti-science, just think he went a little far with his examples and ignored the prevalent problem that most lifters have. His repackaged instinctive training idea is not the missing link for most of us.

There are very few of you out there who could afford to leave their fitness and training in the hands of the weak, fickle, human mind. The mind is easily fooled and persuaded off course. You stand a better chance for success if you have a goal, plan, workout, diet, written down. Something tangible that hits you in the face everyday. Something that sort of holds you accountable to what you know is best.

So before we all adopt the Napolean Dynamite "Whatever I feel like, gosh" Plan, let's just keep in mind the limitations of that plan and ourselves.


Man, the point was to know when your plan for the day isn't going to get the results your are after for that day. If an exercise you had planned on doing that day doesn't feel right at the time of execution, switch to something that fits better at the time. That's all. It was not intended to tell the fat people to follow their instinct, or the skinny guy to follow their instinct. He specifically mentioned having something at least partly mapped out and know your goals.


I also see the backlash already from this but I think people took it too far. Tate has been powerlifting since his teens and obviously has "broken through" to be able to train himself without a specific game plan for each session. I used to follow his log frequnetly over at his site and although his workouts varied from day to day he almost always had some sort of goal in mind, whether it be rehab, lockout problems, or whatever. I think it takes many years of being under the bar to be able to do this for yourself. So yes I agree with you that a much younger lifter will read that and think they can train themselves right off the bat, but thats just not the case.


I definitely see your point, but I also see Dave's.

I am doing Cressey's "Frequent Pulling" program which was posted on EliteFTS a couple weeks ago. The program calls for snatch grip deadlifts on ME day for the first 3 weeks. I am doing these conventionally (I pull sumo) for a few reasons:

  1. My upper back is already stronger than my lower back.

  2. My problem with the deadlift has been not going heavy, and I can lift much more with a conventional pull compared to a snatch pull.

  3. I am doing dumbbell snatches on my DE bench days and am already getting quite a bit of yoke work from those.

I believe this is the kind of thing he was talking about. You have to know what you want to do (have your goals) and adapt training methods, or programs, to fit those goals. It is not an excuse to be lazy.


My plan for today is to train biceps. Did I write that down somewhere? No. I was going to do them yesterday but I had a long day at work. I had a headache (something I rarely get unless extremely tired) and when I was getting ready to leave my apartment for the gym, I changed my mind because it just didn't feel right.

I felt too out of it to train the way I normally do. No one had to tell me to do so and I didn't need to have that plan of action written down. I listened to what my body was screaming to me. This morning, I felt great. I did an hour of moderate cardio and will be back in the gym tonight.

Yes, you should learn to listen to your body and train more instictively. That should be everyone's goal in the gym eventually. Following a piece of paper is needed by beginners who have no clue what their limits are.

I know what my limits are because I have been there and back again too many times to count. To imply that this should not be the goal will lead to you always being unable to form your own routine or actually make the best progress for YOUR OWN body.


prof x example i think would be good for all, but the example tate uses could get taken the wrong way

ill stick to a program, most beginners and intermediate should

you have to be experienced to have success with the weider stuff;)


If beginners threw away their routines because of one article, that speaks loudly about what I brought up in another thread. Way too many here spend too much time following every single word of authors on this site instead of any time spent thinking for themselves.

Some of this is just fucking common sense. I suspect that the majority who would do something like that with this or any article are just followers anyway.

This web site is a resource. That is all it is. It is not a religion. It is not the only one true way to reaching physique goals. If this is your only source for information, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

Learn to teach YOURSELF. Find a damn textbook on anatomy and physiology. Find one on biology. Read some books that are NOT only from the latest greatest newest author or personal trainer.

There are DECADES of information out there and none of this shit is so new and fantastic that it completely overshadows what has worked for thousands of bodybuilders in the past.

I truly think the biggest mistake was making bodybuilders out to be idiots/non-functional on this site. It would immediately cause newbies to avoid looking to the greats of the past for any information.

None of this shit is new. Most of it is just old info repackaged for a new crowd. Many of you would know that if you branched out from your current knowledge base.


well, it's been said a million times. There is no set exercise/weight/rep scheme
that works for everyone, everywhere, all the time. my training is constantly changing and evolving and areas that didn't need work this month will be sure to need it two months from now.

Some people are "enlightened" enough to recognize weak points very quickly by having learned their bodies and these seem to be the ones who excel. This takes alot of common sense, patience and last but not least, experience. Until you can make progress without some type of training structure, it's obvious that you aren't ready.


You speak a lot of truth X. Right on. I see where you're coming from for sure.


Remember guys it works for Dave Tate. I know a lot of elite powerlifters who thrive on programs. They also thrive on trusting their instinct at any given moment to tweak them.

Do they follow the program to a letter no matter what... no. Do they know what they are doing tomorrow... YES. Do they know about their next exercise... barring any tragedy, YES.

You can be a smart and advanced lifter while still using a program. Despite the way Dave's article sounded, programs aren't only for newbies.


You guys are forgetting that I'm talking about much more than just a lifting program. I'm also talking about diet, ES training, etc... This is something I've noticed over several members post the last few weeks - not just Tate's article.




I don't write anything down, but I must admit that I keep things in my memory possibly better than some. I don't have to and wouldn't know what it is like to not be able to remember what I did in the gym last time.

The only benefit I truly see of keeping a log like that would possibly be having the ability to look back 5 years and see what my largest lifts were. Other than that, I don't see the point.


I don't think everyone should just blindly stop all loging and go primal but too many people follow predefined cookie-cutter routines to the letter. I'd like to underline a point from X's post that may get lost. You're much better off logging what you did, not what you're going to do.

When I think of program principles I'm about to embark on I just write them down in my wo log and I also log in a workout after it is complete. But I just can't see anyone with experience looking at a piece of paper to find out what they should do today. If I feel like starting chest instead of back then that's what I'll do.

Working out is a lifetime commitment and I'll be damned if I don't know my own body after all this time.


Honestly, I never started making any major gains until I started doing the exact same thing every workout and by writing logs.

When I work out, I have my previous workout log right in front of me, and a blank page for the current one. I try to do better every workout. More reps for this weight, less rest here, more speed here, slower negative here. If you do the same thing, like most bench jockies that simply bench 135/185/225/*insert big plate weight* for 10 reps every time they go to the gym, you won't make any progress.

That's another thing that is silly, people that only use big plates. When someone tells me they bench 225 for 10 reps, I say, "Why not 220 or 230? Do you only use big plates or is it just a coincidence that you're using that exact weight at this point in time?"

Usually they've been doing 225 for 10 reps for the past 5 years.


I usually only use "big plates". I do that because I work on a weight until I am strong enough to get it up for several reps. If the first time I lift 4-45lbs plates a side, I only get it 2 reps. I will work with that weight until I can get it in the air about 6-8 times. then I go up.

For me, that has fallen right in line with simply adding another 45lbs plate. Perhaps you could learn something from the people you are laughing at.

I agree there are many people in the gym who look the same, or worse, for years. I saw two guys last night that go to the same gym (I just started training there again because of their cardio equipment).

They have been training regularly for the last 2 years and they have made NO progress. they spend much of their time in the gym barely lifting hard enough to sweat, talking, and then doing cardio. I never want to be like that. If I have been training for years, I expect to look like it.

Bottom line, it isn't "silly" and, if someone is twice your size, it is faulty to think you can't learn from them in the gym.


This excuse making is why you only weigh 105 pounds.

You need to be much more regimented and disciplined in your weight lifting and meal preparation.

Send me $ 1000 and I will give you all my secrets!


X, keep up the work and maybe you'll progress past those 35 lb dumbbells one day and develop some functional strength.


I know when I go into the gym that I'm going to probably do

-a ME or DE lift...If I feel beat up I'll do some RE work

-Unilateral Work/Assistant Movement

-Yoke/lats or Hamstrings

-Maybe Another Yoke/Lats/Hamstring Movement if I feel good

-Core Work or Grip Work

I may or may not have an exact plan actually going into the gym. Hell I might not even work in that exact order.

I DO like to write detailed ass plan for a good 4-6 weeks but I never ever follow it to the letter.

I always feel like doing a BIG exercise, (Squat, Bench, DL, Oly lift).
I might do some shrugs and go damn I'm done... My Heads not here.

Sometimes thats a result of being a bitch and I know that right away and bust my ass anyway.

Sometimes I would have probably been better off eating and going to sleep early rather than hitting the gym.

Alwyn Cosgrove said it best, when He said that we need to stop looking at the differences and start looking at the similarities.

Stop obsessing!


I think less regimented plans are fine when maintatining size and just working on strength or training for fitness. When either gaining muscle or losing fat, more planning will yield better results for almost everyone in my opinion.