Photo: Anna Berdnik (Shutterstock)
If you’re looking to lift weights, going to the gym (or home to your dumbbells) is a good place to start. But if you want to get stronger over time, you have to worry a little more. And that’s why you need a weight lifting program.
A program is a recipe for exactly what to do and when to do it, and most lifting programs last weeks to months. (I would say a four week program is the shortest I’ve ever seen, and 12 weeks is the longer.) During that time, you train a certain number of days each week, you do specific exercises that the program requires, and You will follow the program’s directions to gain weight as you get stronger. This is all a good thing, especially if you are a beginner.
While some advanced and intermediate strength athletes can code themselves, many still use proven programs or ask a trainer to write a program for them. Where can you find a program? Well, to get started, there are tons of free programs you can use download online. If you do, read reviews – focus on those from people who have done them and can comment on whether they are effective. There are also programs you can download, programs you can find in a book, and trainers and clubs that offer programs for a monthly fee, be it online or through a personal gym.
If you are new to training, writing your own program probably isn’t your best option. This is where you can learn more about what a good program can do for you and why you should use one that was developed by someone with more experience than you.
You can’t work on everything at the same time. “
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Do one thing at a time
We often have more than one goal for our lifts, but you can’t work on all of them at the same time. Maybe you want to get stronger and build more muscle, but you also want to lose some fat, and you want to Prevent Injury While Playing Pickup Soccer, and you might be thinking Powerlifting competition as soon as you feel strong enough.
It is perfectly reasonable to have all of these goals, but you cannot fully tackle all of them at the same time. You need to highlight something that you want to highlight first. In this case, you will likely want a program of high enough volume to start building muscle, which (if rounded enough) will also help in injury prevention and will make you get stronger.
Later, when you change your diet to shed some fat, you may want a program that is easier when you run on fewer calories (or that you can adjust based on how you feel that day). And when your first powerlifting meeting comes up, you should complete a training block that prepares you to be at your best on competition day.
If you just stroll to the gym every day and do what you feel like doing, you won’t necessarily be focusing on the right things at the right time. Choosing a specific program for each phase of your workout will keep you on track.
Go to the gym … ready to do a PR. “
Do the right amount of work
If you started exercising on your own, you probably know one of two Recovery strategies. Either you train a different part of the body every day (chest on Monday, legs on Tuesday, etc., the classic “bru split”) or you plan a rest day after each day that you work hard.
These are fine, however you don’t have to plan your rest like that when you have another way of managing all of your workload. For example, a 5-day lifting program can mix light, medium, and hard days so you only need a full day of rest twice a week.
In addition, a program often changes the amount of work you do each week. That can mean giving to you discharges or simple weeks every now and then and prepare to hit the gym on certain days ready to hire a PR.
Do the right exercises
Different goals require different exercise choices, and your program will accommodate this. As you prepare for this powerlifting meeting, your program will include many competitive standard squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. But in your base building stages, you may not be that focused on these three specific elevators.
Beginners often look at exercise selections to target all muscle groups they can think of, but this is not always a good strategy. You may be forgetting something that you really should be working on (see: all of these memes above Brothers skipping leg day); Or, perhaps you are simply not choosing the right exercises for your goals. A program will help you make sure you are doing what you have to do.
… to achieve a progressive overload, which is essential for improving your strength. “
A good program doesn’t just tell you which exercises to do; it will also tell you how hard they are to do. Some programs dictate that the weight you lift should be a certain percentage of your maximum weight when doing this exercise; use others RPE, a performance-based scale where you choose the weight that corresponds to the load you want the lift to feel.
There are also approaches that mix up or slightly tweak these ideas, such as programs that give you a percentage of a “training maximum” that is adjusted separately from your actual maximum, or programs that dictate a specific weight range for the day while They allow you to choose the exact number within this range depending on how you are feeling.
All of these encourage progress as they encourage you to notice how much weight you are lifting over time. In an RPE-based program, the weight that was “an 8” last year will be heavier than the weight that was “an 8” this year. With a percentage program, you are expected to achieve a new PR every now and then that increases all of your work weights for the next block of workouts.
And then there are programs that give you directions on how to add a certain amount of weight in a given time frame: 5 pounds per workout for a beginner program maybe, or 10 pounds to your training maximum every three weeks, or other cases they will test you how many reps you can do at a given weight to see if you gain weight over the following week. All of this gives you a way to accomplish progressive overloadwhich is essential for improving your strength.
Our brains respond really well to crappy rewards, and our bodies respond really well to persistence over time. “
If you give it wings, there is no particular reason to hit the gym on a Friday. Maybe you will, maybe not. But if you’re following a program and Friday is Deadlift Day, and you really have your heart set on improving your deadlift (or getting a bigger butt, or whatever your goals may be), you won’t be skipping Friday because you are know how important this is to you.
Having a program means you have a checklist of things to do. It means you have a process goal (do all of my workouts) in addition to your long-term goal (a bigger deadlift / butt). Our brain responds very well to crappy rewards like check marks on a schedule, and our bodies respond really well to Consistency over time.
So, if you want to actually get stronger and have some goals – whatever they are – find a program that works and start making more meaningful use of your time in the gym.