I still remember the first time I joined a gym. I had tried various other sports before, but never stepped my foot in a gym before. The first couple of times I spent mostly looking at all the different machines and equipment in bewilderment. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do with them (or what they were supposed to do for me!), let alone if I was expected to sit facing the machine or my back against it..
After following the example of the more advanced gym-goers, I managed to more or less figure out how each machine worked. Nevertheless, I was still pretty clueless. I had no idea whatsoever how many repetitions or sets was the optimum and whether I was supposed to do a full body workout at one go or do upper body one day and lower body the other.
Without a proper plan I started to do whatever felt good. A few repetitions of bicep curls, a couple of sets in the leg press, a few crunches in an ab machine, etc.
Looking back now, it really was no surprise that I didn’t see any results, as I was lacking one of the most important ingredients in my workout routine: workout programming.
Whichever type of training you are doing, you absolutely need proper programming to make progress.
What is programming and why is it so important?
In Overcoming Gravity, programming is defined as scheduling, i.e. having “exercises planned with repetitions at certain intensities over certain numbers of sets for a total volume of work”.
In other words, if you want to tone up, lose some weight, get big and bulky or represent your country in the Olympics, you need a plan how, when and how often to work out in order to get the desired results.
If you have been training or working out frequently for a while, but without seeing any change, you could be lacking proper programming in your regime. Even though you would know all the moves, it doesn’t mean that you make progress, for it is programming that leads to constant progress.
Despite my example in the beginning, it’s not just gym training that needs programming, it applies to every other type of training, too. For instance, all the bodyweight HIIT workouts in our Challenge fitness programs are carefully programmed to give optimal results. They are not just a random set of workouts, instead the intensity, volume, and repetitions in the workouts are adjusted both daily and weekly, so that you won’t hit a plateau, but progress constantly.
What are the benefits?
In addition to the most obvious one – actually making progress – following a specifically designed and programmed workout routine has other benefits, too.
Instead of just doing whatever comes in your mind, following a workout program can help you push forward and exit your comfort zone. Our bodies search for homeostasis in everything we do, which means that if what you are doing is not comfortable, you are likely to turn down the volume or intensity a bit to make it more pleasant for you. This, unfortunately, doesn’t lead to the desired results.
If you keep repeating the same routine over and over again, your body will soon adapt to what you’re doing preventing you from seeing any results. Therefore, a good program with alternating sets, repetitions, and frequency will keep you “on your toes”, so to speak, keeping you motivated AND making progress!
Moreover, if you’re excited and eager to make progress, without proper programming you might end up working out too much. More is not always better, at least for the beginners.
In short, good programming helps you to
- make progress
- get results
- search your limits
- stay motivated
- break a plateau
- avoid overtraining and undertraining
Cornerstones of good workout programming
There are as many ways to do programming as there are people doing them. However, each good program should be based on the same cornerstones.
A good programming should take into account the following attributes:
- Programming is goal-oriented and leads to desired results.
- Training combines different types of exercises, such as concentrics (pushing), eccentrics (pulling) and isometrics (static) for optimal, well-rounded muscle development.
- Sets and repetitions change constantly for varying the stimulus given to the muscles.
- The intensity of the workouts increases gradually, giving the body time to adjust.
- The program takes advantage of supercompensation, i.e. giving the body and muscles a chance to rest and recover, then come back better and stronger.
- Varying full body training vs. split training (i.e. working on one muscle group at a time). Full body training is more beneficial in the long term, as it results in each muscle group getting overall more training/workout times than when dedicating the workouts for just one body part at a time.
- Choosing between compound and isolated exercises (eg. push-ups vs. bicep curls). Compound moves tend to work better than isolated ones, as they work on multiple muscles at the same time.
Does your workout routine follow these cornerstones?
If you’re not seeing the results that you want or if your workout routine doesn’t involve the listed features, you need programming! The best and easiest way is to get an expert to do the job for you!