Over the past years I have tried a good deal of strength training programs and have come to realize that they all have the potential to be very effective. What’s most important is finding out what your body responds to best.
The truth is we could all do the same exact program, but obviously not yield the same results. So, finding the right amount of exposure to an effective combination of compound movements and supplemental exercises can create an optimal training plan that will play a huge role in your overall success.
“It’s no good to be strong in the wrong exercises!”
This all can depend greatly on your overall experience and proficiency with weight training, but most importantly the ability to recover between workouts. If your body and mind don’t get a chance to recover from the stress, you can find yourself stuck with lack of progress and frustrated.
I have personally felt this before; very frustrated with the thought of why I’m not making the progress I should and thinking how can I not be getting stronger when I’m doing all this volume. The answer is complicated, but once you realize the optimal amount of training stimulus combined with effective recovery methods you will start to see weekly progress and feel better mentally.
Nutrition & Recovery
To reach optimal results in any strength program it is important to have an understanding of how to put together a nutrition plan. This will help you to recover faster from training and provide the energy to put forth the effort needed to accomplish training goals.
Along with a sufficient nutrition plan, there are several other important factors for optimal recovery from a training program. Quality sleep, hydration, and reduced stress will also aid in the rate in which you can recover and focus on your physical goals. For more information on recovery methods click here.
Patience is the key to making progress! If you’re following a legit training plan and managing your nutrition and recovery methods, progress will come if you don’t give up first.
Progress comes in many forms:
- Improved Technique
- Endurance/ Work Capacity
It’s easy to get numbers stuck in your head and get frustrated because you’re not hitting them yet… or when you see someone else hitting bigger numbers than you. I think everyone seeking to get stronger through lifting weights has. But remember to be patient and put in the necessary work, avoid injury, and you will progress eventually.
Does the Training Program Make a Difference?
Of course the training program can make a difference. Like I said, if we all do the same exact training program we will not all get the same results. A training program should be somewhat specific to your goals and lifestyle factors(work, family, etc.).
I’m not saying you can’t make progress with a cookie cutter program, but at some point you’re going to have to make changes to it based on your strengths and weaknesses to continue to improve. For example, you can’t keep doing the same exact exercise with the same exact weight and expect optimal results. The body will respond best to a progressive overload in some way to force growth for muscle mass and strength gains.
There are many effective training programs available. What’s important is that you choose one that you believe in and can stick to for a specified time-frame. Depending on your experiences and level of training most training programs will work to a certain point, but to get the most out of your efforts a training program should include The Seven “Granddaddy” Laws:
- Principle of Individual Differences
- Overcompensation Principle
- Overload Principle
- SAID Principle – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands
- Use/Disuse Principle
- Specificity Principle
- GAS Principle – General Adaptation Syndrome
– Reference: ISSA Fitness The Complete Guide by Fredrick C. Hatfield, PhD; Pg. 416-419
Along with these principles is The Principle of Central Nervous Control explained by Dr. Mel Siff and Yuri Verkoshansky in the book Supertraining. All of these principles combine to ensure that the training program is optimal and justify the selection of movements and exercises.
My Experiment – S.T.E.P. Method
After trying many training programs and methods, I have been experimenting with my own program creation called the S.T.E.P. Method; short for Strength Training Effective Programming. This is a weekly progressive approach to gaining strength with compound movements and supplemental exercises.
My program has been adopted from the structure of Mike Tuchscherer’s, The Reactive Training Manual. After reading this manual it helped me to understand and simplify my own training to a certain degree. Training programs don’t need to be overly complicated to be effective and specifically for myself with limited training experience based on my strength numbers.
Prior to this I was doing a conjugate method program and it was a lot of fun using bands, chains, and experimenting with some new lifts I would typically not do. The conjugate program focuses a lot more on the supplemental exercises than the main lifts. Finding the right lifts combined with assistance and supplemental exercises can become complex over the course of an extended training program. With the conjugate method you don’t want to allow for adaptation to any specific lift, so finding other lifts and assistance exercises to test your strength become key to gauging progress in a competition or particular lift.
Not that this style of program isn’t effective; obviously it is because some of the strongest people in the world use this style of programming, but I wanted to learn more and experiment with other training methods I have experienced before and combine what has worked and get rid of what hasn’t. Using what I experienced with 5/3/1, Sheiko, Conjugate Method, Starting Strength, and The Reactive Training Manual have helped to breed my own strength training program that personally makes sense and adheres to The Seven “Granddaddy” Laws.
My program runs in 3, 4, and 6-week cycles; combining strength building and testing with sub-maximal and maximal weights being used depending on the point in the cycle. I have done both full-body Sheiko style and upper/lower body split, and even equipped with successful progress. Currently I’m doing the lower/upper split; where I squat twice, bench twice, and deadlift twice a week. My training volume is roughly based off of Prilepin’s Chart with the option to incorporate AMRAP’s on primary lifts to help gauge progress on a sub-maximal level.
I choose the main movements and supplemental exercises that I want and run them for a specified cycle length depending on the focus and progressively overload the movements and exercises weekly. I have found that for myself it is beneficial to stick with the same lifts for a long enough period to gain some momentum with, make progress with technical issues, and just overall get practice with that specific lift.
This training program is not better than any other training program, just more customized to what I find to work for me at this point.
I am always learning and enjoy it very much. The fastest way to get to where you want to be is by using a map with directions, so this is how I look at gaining knowledge… it’s directions to a destination.
Furthermore, when it comes to gaining physical strength there are a few solid concepts that should always be in play.
- Build muscle
- Improve technique
- Progressively overload
- Train optimally
- Be patient
It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and want to train maximally all the time thinking that this will get you to your goal faster, but if you’re not careful you can burn out or get injured… I have experienced both! It takes a certain level of planning to achieve any goal and putting together a plan requires knowledge from sources that have achieved what you are after. The key is to gather this knowledge and use what you can to better yourself based on the similarities and differences, also what you believe in counts. Obviously, you will be more likely to put forth concentrated effort in something you believe.
Common sense and simplicity can and should be deciding factors in the decision of choosing a strength training program. Some programs are amazing, but so complex that you focus more on the creating of it than the actual training, plus you need to know how to make changes along the way because what looks good on paper doesn’t always translate to the actual training session.
I have come to realize that less is more and simple is key!
My philosophy? Simplicity plus variety. -Hank Stram