Getting yourself on the right weight training program in the gym can be a huge factor when it comes to the progress you are making. Obviously there are a whole number of other factors, many of which are beyond our immediate control. However, the program you decide to take part in is your own decision so you should do everything you can to make the right decision. This post will outline a few tips to help you pick a program that will give you results in the weight room.
Outline Your Goals
You can’t choose the right program if you don’t know why you want to lift weights in the first place. Setting yourself some clear and precise goals with give you the basis to begin your search for a program to meet those goals. Goal setting also gives you a marker by which you can judge the effectiveness of a program. If you are reaching or are on track to reach your goals, you will know the routine is working.
Determine Your Current Level
This is extremely important. However, it is a point that so many gym goers ignore or do not think even think about. Everybody is at a different stage in their training journey, the program you embark on should be appropriate for the stage you are currently at.
Somebody with 15 years of training experience will probably need a very different training regime to a complete beginner. Perhaps the most common instance of this problem in many gyms is with complete beginners following the routines of the top professional bodybuilders. These pros have very different goals to the average gym goer and are also at a much more advanced stage in their training. The program that those pros are doing now will most likely not be the one they started with as a beginner. Therefore, it is probably not the type of program a complete gym newbie should be doing.
Determining your current level can be a bit confusing. Some people choose to go by the length of time they have been training, others go by the max weights they can lift in certain exercises.
Another method used by many is to judge the level of the lifter by how much progress in the gym is being made and how fast. Below is a simplified example of this, it is by no means concrete but is a good guide.
Beginner – you are classified as a beginner as long as you are able to keep making progress from workout to workout. For example on Monday you squat 60kg for 5 reps. You then squat again on Wednesday but this time your manage 62.5kg fr 5 reps. On Friday you get up to 65kg and so on. This is called linear progression.
Intermediate – this stage begins once progress from workout to workout stops and you find that progress is made a weekly basis instead. This may require a slightly more complex style of program that may use some different rep schemes during the week to allow a little more recovery after a heavy workout. This helps adaptations take place and your are able to increase the weight the following week.
Advanced – as you may have guessed this stage comes once weekly progress cannot be made any longer. Even after following intermediate programs for a long period of time. At this stage progress is extremely slow and does require much more complex methods of periodization. However, very few people actually reach this stage.
Find Tried and Tested Methods
Thousands of people will have been in your situation in the past. Thanks to the internet these people can now share their experiences with the world. After you have determined your goals and current level of training, a bit of internet searching will provide you with a whole range of programs that will suit your needs. Look out for common routines that keep appearing in your search results, read up on these routines. Eventually you will get a good idea of what programs people have tried in the past and what results they have got from them.
Trying to design you own routine is generally a bad idea unless you have been trained as a professional in the area of program design. If you cannot hire a professional to design you a program then the next best thing (better in many cases) is to use a program written by an expert.
Internet forums are a great source for anecdotal evidence on training regimes that people have used. Scientific studies on various routines can also be found to help you decide. After a little searching around, it won’t take long before you start to get a picture of popular routines and trusted sources.
Find a Program You Enjoy
If you don’t enjoy the program you are on, you will come to dread going to they gym. This will only lead to missed workouts and most likely abandoning the program all together. It is far better to do train with a good program that you are completely committed to than to have the world’s greatest regime but only put in half of the effort because you hate it.
All that being said, you should give each program enough time to work before you decide you dislike a certain method. I recommend sticking with your chosen routine for at least 8 weeks. This will give it a chance to produce some results and will also give you the chance to make a proper decision on whether or not it is right for you.
Get Your Diet in Check
Not really anything to do with picking an exercise program but I thought it was worth mentioning since your diet will have a dramatic effect on your results. Some people may even argue that diet can play an even bigger role than your training routine, I don’t think this is exactly true in all cases but nutrition is still a huge piece of the puzzle. I’m not going to go into any detail here, just know that your nutrition matters. It matters big time.
Hopefully the few little tips above will help you on your way to finding a training program that get you to your results as quickly as possible. To help even further, I have listed below a few different training programs that are popular and currently being used by many individuals. You can use this list as a starting point in your quest for the right type of training.
This list is not a definitive list, they are not necessarily the greatest training routines and they may not apply to your situation. However, they are programs I feel can be very effective for the right people and programs that many people have had great results with.
Bill Starr’s 5×5
Starting strength routine by Mark Rippetoe
Jim Wendler’s 531
Ice cream fitness novice 5×5
Layne Norton’s P.H.A.T
Brandon Lilly’s cube method
Extremely brief in comparison to the available options but I do feel the above list provides some very strong programs for different goals and experience levels. Have a look around, weigh up your options and get training. Don’t spend an eternity deciding, use the tips above and get started. Remember, you can always change your mind.