When it comes to Training Programs a few quick key strokes on the key pad can deliver you an abundance of arsenal in a heartbeat.
The internet has without doubt been one of the best aids to training this century. There are articles, videos and discussion forums to help educate and give credibility to each training programs principals and methods.
Unfortunately there is also a crock of shit on there as well.
The dilemma I’m finding most people are facing is once they have separated the “good shit” from the “bad shit’, there is so much well credentialed “good shit” it becomes a little confusing and still leaves the average gym rat asking that age old question (I wish I had a dollar for every time it was asked of me)…. “What’s the best training program for strength?”
My general response to most newbie’s is “Get under the bar and train your arse off” as I’ve found over the years if you are young or relatively inexperienced you will make progress on just about any program, as long as your work ethic is good and your hours spent outside the gym aren’t used “pumping up the jam” to all hours of the morning and keeping the fast food industry cashed up. I.E It’s just as important to sleep and eat well.
In that case is a strength program important? F—kin oath! For those that have chalked up a bit of mileage in the gym and are looking to take their strength development more seriously and bust a few sticking points a good training program will help big time and give you the best return on time spent at the gym.
That said, whatever program you are looking at, a good quality template extends beyond sets, reps & percentages and more importantly needs to tie in with your lifestyle and available equipment your training facility has. After all, none of these programs work unless you can do the work and see it through to the end.
So here are a few things to keep in mind that will influence the selection of your training program that has little to do with the actual program.
How much time can you give to training?
If you can only commit to an hours training three days a week, you can kiss the Sheiko program good bye. There is just too much volume involved with this program. The Conjugate method could be a better alternative.
What equipment do you have at your disposal?
If your training facility has limited equipment I.E just a bench, squat racks and deadlift platform the 3 x3 system or Sheiko programs will work out better as they both primarily stick to the basic competitive lifts.
The Conjugate method on the other hand changes up the exercises frequently and combines an array of specialty bars & equipment to differentiate the movements.
Do you have spotters?
If you have no spotters then you should look more at programs that are percentage based like 5/3/1 or Sheiko as hitting 1 reps max’s without spotters may affect your longevity on earth if things go wrong.
What is your experience level?
A program like the Conjugate method that involves a lot of variations of the core exercises may be a bit of a stretch if you are relatively inexperienced and are still getting your head around correct technique on the big three lifts.
What makes a good program?
Once you have reflected on the above here are a few necessities that I think make for a successful program and would suggest if what you are considering doesn’t have these elements involved you are leaning your ladder against the wrong wall.
Know your starting points!
Every program must be measurable. Before starting any new program you should know your starting points I.E Max Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Box jump, Skin Folds etc…
This will allow you to measure your gains accurately or make changes to your program if needed.
A good program should be percentage based and include light and heavy days within the same cycle. There should be a progressive increase in workload or volume from start to finish.
Length of Program
Most programs I’ve done have been ranged between 8 to 12 week cycle. I have found that I respond better over an 8 week period after 12 I start to go backwards – especially mentally. However there are some that will go much longer.
Specific for your purpose
Are the selection of exercises, tempo and structure of the program tailored to translate to your performance objective? For example if a rugby player wants to get bigger and stronger he will need compound movements like squat & tyre flips however he will also need a program that phases in speed, plyometric and agility work.
To me variety is important as it keeps training interesting. More importantly it is a proven fact the nervous system adapts over a three week period to any regular exercise and load, which halts progress.
Change can be effected by alternating various exercises for the same muscle group, attaching chains & bands to the bar to alter the strength curve of the movement, adding an increased percentage of weight to the bar weekly.
Training in a fatigued state only stalls progress and will lead to injury. You need to have time set aside as part of your training program to help the body recover. Recovery does not mean stop, you may elect to do some light stretching, foam roller work or a little bit of sled dragging. A bit of joint & tendon conditioning never goes astray, neither does a good massage.
This will assist to keep you fresh both mentally and physically as well as keep the intensity of your next workout at a premium.
Conjugate, Sheiko, 5/3/1 and 3×3 are some of the more popular templates however as mentioned earlier there are a lot of programs out there that will help you develop strength. A key thing to remember is once you have settled on a program see it to the end and realise all a program does is structure your time at the gym. You still need to show up, get under the bar and train your arse off.
The success of your outcome will always be determined by work ethic and intensity.