Randomness. For miles and miles all I see is randomness. On Instagram, YouTube, in the gym, even in popular programs put together by “trainers”. It literally seems like most people in the fitness industry follow programs that were constructed by choosing a weekly split of some type, and then throwing darts at a dartboard with a list of exercises for that muscle group or groups, then darts at a dartboard with set and rep combinations, and finally at a board with a list of “advanced techniques”. Voilà, you’ve got your workout for the day.
It’s not CrossFit, if you think that’s why this is happening everywhere, you haven’t been in the fitness industry long enough. This predates CrossFit. It’s also not the Weider Muscle Confusion Principle. If you think it’s that, you’ve been in the fitness industry too long. It’s 2017, half the people under the age of 30 don’t even know who Joe Weider is. It’s the same issue it’s always been, people look at programs, exercises, set and rep combinations, and “advanced techniques” as “things”. They ask, “is this a good thing or a bad thing for my goal?” instead of understanding what these things do, how they do it, and how you would use them. Most folks watch their favorite instafamous fitness celebs, copy exercises from one, or in many cases a number of these personalities, repeat 10x and create a FrankenGram program or just copy what their favorite “influencer” does exactly. I mean it makes sense…CLEARLY the person with the awesome physique got that great body ONLY from the training they are doing…even though their 1 million followers do the same training program religiously but don’t look half as good…yup, definitely has to be the training program.
So, let me end the rant, and actually help you get on the right path. Believe it or not, this is actually a very easy thing to do. You only have to ask yourself the single following question to get on the path of sanity and gains:
- With the current way I’m training, can I objectively track my progress?
If you can do JUST that, you’ll be miles ahead of the vast majority of people in the gym. You could have a redundant list of exercises, you could have a suboptimal distribution of volume and effort across the week, you could have a suboptimal training frequency, you could have a suboptimal level of volume (too low or too high), but if you could just track your progress, you would still have a good chance of improving instead of spinning your wheels. And no, progress is not determined by how good you felt during or after a training session. Getting a great pump each session or feeling wrecked afterwards is not objective progress. Objective progress for anyone following this blog is related to either strength, or hypertrophy. For strength, you have to see if you are indeed getting stronger on a given lift. To do that, you’ll have to train it with at least some regularity and stay in a similar ballpark with your rep ranges, or at the very least repeat the same rep ranges with some regularity. For hypertrophy, unless you’re a complete newbie or you’ve not been eating for your entire newbie phase (that’s a blog for another day), seeing week to week gains on the scale or on a tape measure simply is not going to happen. However, as muscles grow, they get stronger, so again, tracking your strength gains would be a good indicator that perhaps you are indeed growing.
But, if you randomly decide to run the rack on lateral raises, or change your exercises every session, or randomly do 20 reps to failure, or randomly do a one rep max, or get a hair up your ass and do 5×5 for a week, or randomly do a week of dumbbell only training because unilateral, or randomly do a week of bodyweight only training because minimalism, etc etc etc, you simply will not be able to assess if you have improved, and it’s likely you haven’t. Sometimes, this is true even if you are training really hard. Training hard helps, don’t get me wrong, maybe through sheer effort you’ll have improved your cardiovascular health and work capacity and perhaps you might have managed to hypertrophy some muscle that week…but will you keep growing or even maintain that size in the coming weeks when you do a 180 in your training? Potentially not.
So, start there. Just ask yourself “can I track progress?” and work on making that answer “yes”. Once you accomplish that, then we can work on fixing the fact that you do Squats, Leg Press, and Hack Squats all in the same session or do plyometric training but only compete in physique competitions.