Get (and Stick) with the Program!

I can tell a lot about your fitness program by the first thing you do when you come into the gym.

If it doesn’t include a warm-up, you’re either following no program at all or you’ve chosen to neglect this extremely important part of a training program.

If the first exercise you do after not warming up is biceps curls, you’re either following no program at all or are following the most poorly designed program ever.  (“Yo, it’s arm day, bro!”)

If you have nothing in your hand that resembles a printed workout, a notebook with a workout written on its pages, or a smartphone with a workout in Notes, Evernote, or the like, you aren’t following a program.

Ultimately, if you’re not following a program, that’s fine . . . if you don’t want to accomplish any meaningful or measurable goals.

I could say you’re wasting all this valuable time working out, having nothing to show for it, but let’s be real.  If you’re the guy that does no structured warm-up, does biceps curls as your first exercise (“Again, bro, it’s arm day!”), and follows no program, you’re most likely inconsistent at best, and exercise outta convenience or boredom.  (“Well, I have no shows to binge watch, so I might as well go work out.”)  So really, how much time are you really wasting working out?

“But, Adam, isn’t something better than nothing?”

Uh-uh, no.  You’re not going to make me feel guilty for telling the uncommitted to not work out, because I’m not.  Well, not completely.  If you’ve been doing “something” and have “nothing” to show for it, is it really better?!  What I’m trying to say, though, to the uncommitted is—commit!  Otherwise, if they’re gonna quit, “then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population [in the gym].”  Humbug!

If to this point you didn’t know warming up was important, that beginning a workout with biceps curls was an exercise (in futility), or that it’s important to keep a workout journal, you do now.  Okay, see you later . . .

JK!  LOL!  Emoji smiley face.  Emoji tongue sticking out.

“So, what do I need to do to not be ‘that guy’?”

Before I answer your question that you didn’t actually ask, I wanna say this: if you do the aforementioned things (i.e., no warm-up, biceps curls, no workout in hand) and are getting the results you’re after, then please stop reading and write in the “Comments” how wrong I am.  (I’ll reply by telling you you’d see even greater results if you’d follow a program, but that’s just me being defensive . . . and right.)

Admittedly, the solution to your “problem” is pretty simple.  If you’ve not been following a program, follow one.  That’s it.

“But why?”

A program is a road map to your destination.  If you were planning a trip somewhere, especially if it’s somewhere you’ve never been before, I’m pretty sure you’d map out your route and/or plan your itinerary.

I’m guessing that many, if not most, people have set out for a fitness destination that they’ve never reached, whether it’s their first trip or twentieth.  For many, it’s because they had no road map, i.e., program, to get there.

Without a map they’re left to their own devices.  They might get a few miles out, but begin wondering if their going the right way.  This uncertainty often, if not always, causes them to stop and return to where they started.  But if they get a map, and actually follow it, they’ll ultimately get to their destination.

If properly selected, a program will be specific to your goal.  You’re body adapts specifically to the demand imposed upon it.  If you repeatedly lift heavy weights, you’ll better develop maximal strength.  If you lift lighter weights for many repetitions, you’ll develop muscular endurance.

What if you’re goal is something other than developing maximal strength or muscular endurance?  Maybe you’re interested in fat loss, or improving your performance, what then?  Training variables (e.g., sets, reps, rest, etc.) can all be manipulated to become specific to your goal.  That’s what a properly selected training program can do for you.

A program will tell you exactly what to do when you get to the gym.  Wandering aimlessly around the gym lifting as your heart feels lead until your heart no longer feels like doing it and then moving on to something else isn’t training.  Each training session should have a specific, achievable goal.  And you should know what that goal is.  Usually it involves doing a little bit more, a little bit better than the previous session—which is why keeping a workout journal will lead to more gains (or losses).

A program will keep you consistent.  I’m a stickler for form.  Proper form is both safer and more effective.  That being said, when it comes to someone making gains, I’ll put my money on the guy who uses poor form consistently (assuming he doesn’t injure himself) before the guy who uses good form once every so often.  Again, if you’re consistently missing workouts, it isn’t training.

If I’ve done an adequate enough job convincing you you need a program, your next step is to obtain one.  I recommend doing one of three things (with number three being my favorite):

  1. Ask someone you know who has achieved sustainable results what they do/have done for their program.  But don’t just ask anyone.  If you’re fat and wanna lose fat, don’t ask the skinny guy who’s always been skinny what he does.  Ask the former fat guy (who has maintained his fat loss for a year or more) what he did.  If you’re scrawny and wanna get brawny, don’t ask the genetic freak who need only look at a barbell to gain muscle what he does.  Instead ask the skinny dude who has put on a substantial amount of muscle.  (Disclaimer: this still doesn’t guarantee you’ll look like them, but I’m confident it’ll get you moving in the right direction.)
  2. Do an internet search for your particular goal.  If you wanna gain muscle mass, do a web search for “muscle gain”.  If you wanna lose fat, do a web search for “looking better naked”.  A couple of sources I recommend for nutrition and exercise advice are Precision Nutrition and T-Nation, respectively.  There are others, but this is a great place to start.
  3. Find a fitness and nutrition coach.  They may also go by the title of personal trainer.  Whatever they go by, make sure they are able to (whether you want them to or not) address both the exercise AND nutrition.  Any JackMonkey can take you through a tough workout.  I’m not opposed to a tough workout.  It just isn’t enough to reach most goals.  You need exercise, yes, but you also need supportive nutrition.  Find someone who can help with both*.

One final poorly placed, not-so-random thought—find and commit to a program that lasts at least 12 weeks.  If done consistently, a 12-week program will be long enough to see some measurable results.

If you’ve found it difficult to exercise consistently, the lack of a program may be the reason.  If you have been exercising consistently and just haven’t seen the results you expected, the lack of a program may be the reason (or your expectations unrealistic, but that’s for another time).  Find a program.  Commit to the program.  Reap the rewards of the program.

*28:Tenn Fitness has helped dozens of clients significantly change their bodies through extraordinary exercise and nutrition coaching both in-person and online.  To learn more, click here!