Why You Need a Structured Training Program

September 17, 2021 5 min read

Why You Need a Structured Training Program

We get a lot of questions around how to improve performance and/or recovery to perform better.  This includes things like: 

Am I taking the right supplements? 

Should I do active recovery workouts? 

Would a chiropractor or cupping help? 

Should I eat less on rest days? 

What stretch can help with XYZ pain? 

And although we love the focus on wanting to improve, a lot of times we are looking in the wrong areas.  In order to maximize our recovery and, in turn, our performance, we must first look to our training.  Just like you can’t out-train a bad diet, you cannot out-recover a poor training approach.  

There is no amount of supplements, foam rolling, or active recovery that will help us if we are doing too much volume, or ineffective approaches of HIIT daily with no progressions to it. 

If you are struggling to see progress with your training, if you are constantly sore, or if you aren’t seeing any change physically, then it may be time to take a step back and evaluate your training.

What to Look For In a Training Program

Your training program will obviously vary based on your goals of either strength, performance, aesthetics, or health, but in general, your program should include most of the following aspects: 

  • Most sessions your lifts are done between 60-80% of your 1RM (or a 6-8 out of 10 on a scale of difficulty). (SOURCE)
  • Each muscle group is trained 2-3x/week.
  • Rep schemes will range from 8-12 reps at lower percentages, to 2-3 reps at higher percentages of 1RM.  
  • Training programs should typically begin with 2-3 sets per exercise and progress to 4-6 sets per exercise (i.e. increase in volume over time). 
  • Effective training often is developed in ‘blocks’ where you will do similar exercises to see progression in them for 6-12 weeks before changing those movements.  
  • Maxing out is not necessary for progression and should not be done frequently, but can be helpful on occasion.  
  • Lifts should generally be performed at a moderate tempo, unless otherwise guided (i.e. 2 second eccentric, 1-2 second concentric) 

Again, these are general, basic guidelines to create hypertrophy (aka muscle development), which is often most individuals’ goal.  If you are not aware as to whether your program includes these, or if you know that it does not, and you are struggling to see progress - we recommend finding a coach or a strength-based program to help provide progressive overload.  

Progressive overload is the key to progress - but what exactly is it and why does it work? 

Progressive Overload 

In order for us to create physical change, our training programming must disrupt the body’s homeostasis. In basic terms, to build muscle or change body-composition we must create an overload that disrupts the body’s equilibrium or ‘comfort zone’.  

Your training must be hard, and believe it or not, when left to our own choices, most people do not challenge themselves enough in the gym to see change (SOURCE). Although if you apply the general guidelines of proper training and proper effort, you will see change.  

The hardest part is, training has to get harder and harder to continue to be effective.  Once an overload has been created, the body will adapt.  So if we continue to do the same thing that first caused it to adapt, it will not create the same response and we will no longer see change.  This is a conundrum, and where smart programming becomes necessary.   Many people would think, ‘I just need more volume, or more workouts’, but this often leads to burnout, injury, or lack of progress. 

So how do we implement progressive overload without injury?  There are a few key elements that we consider and create variance with - intensity, volume, and frequency.  

  • Intensity - For example, this can refer to what percentage of weight we use, or how fast we perform a conditioning (i.e. running a mile at a 7 minute pace vs. 9 minute pace).
  • Volume - How many reps, sets, and exercises we perform in a session or a week. 
  • Frequency - How many times we train a specific muscle group or exercise per week. 

At any point in time, we can only push two out of three of these pieces of the puzzle hard.  The beauty of effective programming is that you can continuously manipulate these three puzzle pieces over time and through different training phases to build different stimuluses and create change and progression.  

Self-Evaluation Time 

If we have a training program in place, it is then left to us to make sure that we are getting the most out of it.  If you can say that all of the boxes above are checked and you are implementing a lifting program that has progressive overloading, but still find yourself unhappy with the progress, then we can evaluate the following aspects to see if we are getting in our own way! 

Things that hinder our progress: 

  • FOMO - It can be hard to see other people doing fancy exercises or super hard, long workouts, but even though the exercises you see may have value in isolation, adding them all on top of each other makes them less and less effective.     
  • Not knowing your ‘heavy’ - If you always have the feeling that you could have ‘gone heavier’ with your workouts, then it is probably time to go heavier.  
  • Lack of recovery or rest days - Adding too much volume on top of a program is a sure-fire recipe for injury and lack of progress.  Active recovery days of ‘short runs’ or hikes, or doing an extra session can often backfire when it comes to progressing with strength or physique.  
  • Lack of sleep or inadequate calories - We’ve talked many times before about how critical getting 7-9 hours of sound sleep and eating adequately for your body is to progress, but remember, poor sleep and too little food are stresses on the body too!  

How to improve our progress: 

  • Listening to your body - If you are feeling extra run down, didn’t sleep well, or are dealing with a nagging injury, taking the extra day off, or modifying the workout that one day is often a much better choice than trying to ‘push through’.  Respect what your body may be trying to tell you!
  • Walking and stretching - Both help to increase blood flow, gain extra mobility with movements, and are beneficial psychologically too!  Hate rest days?  Implement a 20-30 minute leisurely walk and a stretching routine. 
  • Hydrate - Water aids all of our bodily functions including cell growth and reproduction, digestion, nutrient uptake, oxygen delivery, and joint lubrication.  Believe it or not, sometimes water alone doesn’t hydrate us well enough due to lack of nutrients from food to help with water uptake into cells, which is why we love our HYDRATE product! 
  • Eating and sleeping enough - We have to support muscle development, and the only way the body will be able to put energy towards muscle growth and building strength is if it’s basic needs are met (i.e. adequate nutrition, sleep, and stress levels).  
At the end of the day, we must put in the work in a smart way to see progress.  That includes following the right program for our goals, not deviating from that program, respecting our body’s recovery needs, and having patience. 

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