September 17, 2021

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Why You Want a Lifting Program

Picture: Anna Berdnik (Shutterstock)

If you wish to carry weights, strolling into the gymnasium (or moseying over to your dumbbells at house) is an effective begin. However if you wish to get stronger over time, you have to give it a bit extra thought than that. And that’s why you want a weightlifting program.

A program is a prescription for precisely what to do and when to do it, and most lifting packages final weeks to months. (I’d say a four-week program is concerning the shortest I’ve seen, and 12 weeks is on the longer facet.) Throughout that point, you’ll carry a sure variety of days every week, you’ll do particular workout routines that this system requires, and also you’ll comply with this system’s instructions so as to add weight as you get stronger. That is all great things, particularly in case you are a newbie.

Whereas some intermediate and superior lifters can program for themselves, many nonetheless use tried-and-true packages, or they ask a coach to write a program for them. The place can you discover a program? Effectively, for starters there are tons of free packages you possibly can obtain on-line. If you happen to do, learn critiques—concentrating on ones from individuals who have run them and might touch upon whether or not they’re efficient. Likewise, there are packages you can pay to obtain, packages that yow will discover in a e book, and coaches and golf equipment that present programming for a month-to-month payment, whether or not on-line or by an in-person gymnasium.

If you happen to’re new to train, writing your personal program isn’t prone to be the best choice. Right here’s extra on what a great program will do for you, and why it is best to think about using one which’s been designed by someone extra skilled than you.

You may’t work on the whole lot without delay.”

Do one thing at a time

We often have more than one goal for our lifting, but you can’t work on everything at once. Maybe you want to get stronger and build more muscle, but also lose some fat, and you want to prevent injuries when you play pickup soccer, and you’re thinking about maybe competing in powerlifting once you feel strong enough.

It’s totally reasonable to have all those goals, but you can’t work full-bore on all of them at the same time. You have to pick something to emphasize first. In this case, you’d probably want a program that’s high enough in volume to start building some muscle, which (if it’s well-rounded enough) will also help with the injury prevention and get you started toward being stronger.

Later, when you change your diet to try to lose some fat, you might want a program that is easier to complete when you’re running on fewer calories (or that lets you adjust based on how you’re feeling that day). And when your first powerlifting meet is coming up, you’ll want to do a block of training that prepares you to be at your best on competition day.

If you just wander into the gym each day and do what you feel like, you won’t necessarily be focusing on the right things at the right time. Choosing a specific program for each phase of your training will keep you on track.

Walk into the gym … ready to set a PR.”

Do the right amount of work

If you’ve started lifting on your own, you probably know one of two recovery strategies. Either you work out a different body part each day (chest on monday, legs on tuesday, and so on, the classic “bro split”) or you schedule a rest day after every day that you do hard work.

These are fine, but you don’t need to schedule your rest that way if you have another way of managing your total workload. For example, a 5-day lifting program might mix easy, medium, and hard days so that you only need a full rest day twice a week.

In addition, a program will often change the amount of work you do each week. This can mean giving you deloads or easy weeks every now and then, and setting you up to walk into the gym on certain days ready to set a PR.

Do the right exercises

Different goals call for different exercise selections, and your program will account for this. When you’re getting ready for that powerlifting meet, your program will have a lot of squat, bench, and deadlift done to competition standard. But in your base-building phases, you may not be so laser-focused on those three specific lifts.

Beginners often look at exercise selection in terms of hitting all the muscle groups they can think of, but that’s not always a good strategy. You may forget about something that you really should be working (see: all those memes about bros who skip leg day); you may also just not be choosing the right exercises for your goals. A program helps you make sure you’re doing what you need to do.

…achieve progressive overload, which is essential to improving your strength.”

Make progress

A good program won’t just tell you which exercises to do; it will also tell you how heavy to do them. Some programs prescribe that the weight you lift should be a certain percentage of your max in that lift; others use RPE, an effort-based scale where you choose the weight that matches how hard the lift is supposed to feel.

There are also approaches that blend these ideas or tweak them slightly, like programs that give you a percentage of a “training max” that is adjusted separately from your real max, or programs that prescribe a certain range of weights for the day while allowing you to choose the exact number within that range based on how you feel.

All of these foster progress, because they call on you to notice how much weight you are lifting over time. For an RPE-based program, the weight that was “an 8” last year will be heavier than the weight that is “an 8” this year. For a percentage-based program, you’re expected to hit a new PR every now and then, which will bump up all your working weights for the next training block.

And then there are programs that give you instructions to add a certain amount of weight in a certain timeframe: 5 pounds each workout for a beginner program, perhaps, or 10 pounds to your training max every three weeks, or in other cases you’ll test how many reps you can do at a certain weight to determine whether you go up in weight the following week. All of these give you a way to achieve progressive overload, which is essential to improving your strength.

Our brains respond really well to crappy rewards, and our bodies respond really well to consistency over time.”

Cultivate consistency

When you’re winging it, there’s no specific reason to go to the gym on a Friday. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. 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 might be), you won’t skip Friday, because you know how important that is to you.

Having a program means you have a checklist of things to do. It means you have a process goal (do all my workouts) in addition to your long-term goal (get a bigger deadlift/butt). Our brains respond really well to crappy rewards like checkmarks on a schedule, and our bodies respond really well to consistency over time.

So if you intend to actually get stronger, and chase some goals—whatever they may be—find a program that fits, and start using your time in the gym more wisely.


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