Ultimately, creating a resistance program is a very individualized process. The needs and goals of the individual are paramount to how you go about your training. There is also somewhat of a trial and error period in terms of figuring out what works best for each individual. There are also outside factors that play a part in reaching your goals as well – training experience, health status, time available to train and special needs a person may need (i.e. injury, mobility, etc).
However, I have discovered there are concepts that you can apply to reach your desired results and make things more simple. Being mindful and conscious of what specifically you want to address is huge in making sure your training matches your goals. Structuring your sessions accordingly to get there is also important. Throughout my personal trial and error period, I have found there seems a lot of commonality on how to go about your training and to your surprise it may be more simple than you think:
1 . Specificity
Your training must be relevant to what you are trying to achieve. It’s really that simple don’t over complicate it. For training to be effective you must be specific and target the regions you wish to improve, consistently. Demand placed on a specific region once every few weeks will only frustrate you and make it difficult to reach your goal. Specific demand placed on a specific body part dictates the adaption that will occur, period.
2. Less is more
If your new to resistance training start small by slowly building strength, in a simple yet effective manner. It starts by getting comfortable with moving a barbell &/or dumbbells through the fundamentals and basics movements – squat, dead lift, lunge, press, etc. By using these fundamentals and simultaneously focusing on strength progression, this prevails over doing 101 exercises with no purpose. There has been countless backed evidence and studies solely focused on fundamentals and strength. Progressing with these methods allows you to get stronger, leaner and improve athleticism. I will add, however, different methods work for different people. It is imperative to adapt methods to fit individuals needs.
Randomized programming, sensationalized exercises, “fun” movements will only make it difficult to reach your goals. This will leave you stagnant, and is not sustainable for many reasons; stamina, recovery, growth and even metabolism. Your metabolism needs time to recover and it will not have the chance to properly fuel your muscles if it is constantly taxed. Incorporating variations is important for specific reasons but again, simplify, train with intent and purpose.
4. Consistency trumps intensity
Intensity only increases the chances of physical stagnation, increased risk of injury, burnout and the dreaded plateau. The purpose of training is to force the body to adapt to added resistance and then optimize itself to that resistance. If your constantly forcing intensity, pushing past fatigue you body begins to feel stressed and begins to release cortisol for more energy. Focusing on gradually improving strength and finding individualized methods that work for you will not only lead to physical changes but ultimately make you keep coming back.
5. Prioritize outside habits
It’s not only the training that gets you to where you want to be, it’s evaluating your lifestyle needs outside of gym. The main goal is to get your desired results, but in a way that feels good and means long term lifestyle changes. By establishing smaller habits outside of the gym, you will feel more confident that you can succeed long term. This also allows for you to reflect on how exercise and nutrition changes are affecting your life aside from weight loss. Evaluate and assess your outside habits first and foremost. Prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated, decreasing stress and focusing on a well-balanced nutritional intake. These should be more important than weight loss, because once you shift that focus weight loss WILL happen when you continue to make positive changes to your lifestyle.
As you can see there is a lot of similarities between these concepts. I’ve discovered that it isn’t always about the time spent training or the quantity of exercises performed. It’s through purpose driven training tailored to specific goals. In other words, working smarter and not harder by structuring your sessions accordingly and being specific towards what you are trying to achieve. Although challenging yourself and working out consistently are important to your overall fitness, simplifying your approach is a key component. This is not to be confused with lack of focus or intensity. Dedication to your training is a valuable asset that requires your time and your energy. Train at a high level of intensity with minimum amount of stimulation to yield an adaptive response, then complement that with adequate rest and recovery.