TIP#2.13 - 5 Steps To Discovering Your Perfect Training Program

There is no one program that is perfect for everyone. Training is not and never will be a one size fits all endeavor. There are just too many variables - body type, height, genetics, metabolism, recovery rate, mind set, individual biomechanics, joint + ligament health, injuries, and many more. The best program for you is the one that adheres to you individually, taking into account your goals, starting point, body type, personal preferences and so on. So if you are tall with tight hip flexors, it might not be suitable for you to have say Back-Squats in your program, as you'll be better suited to a Leg Press or Squat variation like the Hack-Squat or 'Straight Back' Machine-Squat. What you can be sure of is that there is a perfect program out there for you, but it's gonna look different from most other people's, and it will be designed to change constantly in order for you to keep progressing. What you need to do is to identify training methods that suit you right now:

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1. Assess Your Current Status

This is hard, being honest to yourself is tricky - 'am I still a beginner?', 'am I advanced?' , 'I'm not that fat am I?', 'I am seriously advanced... right?'. Well, here's the thing - the more honest you are about your current status the more realistic and productive your program is going to be. It has nothing to do with how long you have been training or how lean you are, and everything to do with how far you've progressed. When I first started, I trained for 3 years and got good improvements in muscle size and shape, then another 3 years with little to no further improvement, so after 6 years of training I was still an intermediate - some other people can train for longer and still be a beginner. It doesn't matter where you are, as long as the acknowledgement is there you can start moving forward immediately. 'Do I go straight into complicated movements? Or do I master the basics before I try doing something more advanced?' The Truth shall set you free.

2. What Exercises Are Appropriate For My Progression?

Now you have your current status, what now? Beginners (again, you could be new to training, or a veteran to it and still hold the status of beginner - most are beginners), you must focus on large muscle groups first, i.e. Legs, Back, Chest, before prioritising smaller muscle groups like Shoulders and Arms. This will mean finding exercises that specifically target these muscles in a compound exercise (movement of two or more joints) ; For Legs - Squat, Legs Presses, Hack Squat, Squat Machine, Sumo Squat and Lunge variations. For Back - Pull Up variations, Lat Pull Down, Seated Row, Cable Row. For Chest - Chest press variations. For Intermediates you can add more isolated/complicated movements such as Leg Extensions, Leg Curls and Calf Raises - Deadlifts, Barbell Rowing, Pull Overs, Rear Deltoid Fly - Pectoral Fly variations and Dips for Chest. Directly training Shoulders and Arms will not create nearly as much change compared to the basic large muscle group exercises, especially if you are a beginner. Intermediate/Advanced athletes will benefit most from direct Shoulder and Arm training - but should be used sparingly for risk of over-training due to the already high stimulation of other sessions.

3. What Training Methods Are Appropriate For My Progresson?

Beginners must take into account their limited recovery ability, Intensity level and joint health when training starts. It will be easy to over train, do too much and eventually risk injury. Start with light weights, low volume (6-9 sets total per large body part per week, 2-3 exercises) and high repititions (15-20), this will prepare your tendons/ligaments for heavier loads in the future and also accustomize your muscles to the movements. Beginners can train close to failure, but going beyond it is unnecessary at this stage. Intermediates should use lower reps (8-12) can and should go to positive failure where comfortable, Forced Reps can be performed as well, but only on one or two exercises per session. The reason for this is that your Central Nervous System can be fatigued even without going to failure, and too much fatigue can lead to over-training and stunted progression. Advanced Athletes should be increasing the volume (15-20 total sets per large body part, 4-5 exercises) in order to surpass the hyper adaptive nature of muscle fibres and create new stimulus for growth. Forced Reps can be added sparingly on most exercises once Advanced.

4. What Training Approaches Are Appropriate For My Progression?

Training Approach in this case refers to Set Structure/Type, Rep Tempo (speed of reps) and Rest Periods. Beginners cardio vascular abilities will vary, but often it will be the lungs straining too much before the muscles reach real failure/fatigue. For this reason the set structure will be very basic : set, rest, set, rest - as any further complexity will be pointless. Once the set is completed the Beginner will Rest for 45-90 seconds then perform the next set. Intermediates may incorporate different Set Structures like drop sets, super sets, rest pause, staggered sets (lower body) etc but always returning to the progression of the basic elements of the exercise as a priority. Rest Periods for the Intermediate can be between 30-45 seconds where comfortable. Advanced athletes can utilise different Set Structures, Shorter Rest Periods and Slower Rep Tempos to increase Intensity for further muscular adaptations on a semi-regular basis, but again always using the basic movements and set structures as a platform. The main focus will be providing Advanced muscles with enough Intensity for further adaptations.

5. Re-assessing Status For Continued Progression

When Training properly A beginner will be classed as a beginner for anywhere from 6 months to a year. Intermediates for at least another 1-2 years after that (of course, this is highly dependant on the individual) reaching Advanced Status only when ALL body parts are very highly developed and progression has slowed considerably. Either way it is recommended to re-asses your current status occasionally, at least once a year to make sure you are constantly moving forward. The best program for you is the one that has you progressing constantly on all exercises, methods and approaches suited to your body and abilities. E.g. Taller Trainees better suited to Leg Machines rather than the Back Squat/Deadlift. See the rough guide below to help with your self-assessment. Beginners should not be using advanced set structures or complex movements like Pec Flys or Pull Overs etc.

Beginner: Little or no muscular development, limited fitness and/or experience with weights.

Intermediate: Some muscular development on most body parts, moderate fitness and experience.

Advanced: V. High muscular development on entire body, extremely experienced with weights.

Let me know if this article has been helpful! Comment below! Thanks so much for reading.

Matt The Trainer

Personal Trainer London.

NOTE: For realistic and best results the approaches decribed in this article should be used in conjunction with a proper Nutritional program. Click here for more Info on Nutrition.


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