Training Plans: The What And The Why

Part 2 of the series

 

You may have heard the expression:

A goal without a plan is just a wish

Cliché? Maybe.

True?

Clichés often are. That’s how they become clichés.

Let’s dive right in and talk about training plans/programs and their importance:

Why Do You Need A Plan?

If you have a goal but don’t have a plan of how to get there, what you’re doing is at best, guesswork; at worst, counterproductive.

If you have a training goal, whether that be a 100kg bench press, lose 10kg, or run 10km in 45mins, your training plan should be taking you towards it.

If you have multiple goals, say you wanted to do each of the 3 above. Put them in order of priority and knock them out one by one, maintaining the previous one in the process, rather than trying to achieve them all at once. You will be more productive that way.

A plan is a map. It’s a guide to take you from where you are currently to where you want to be.

Think of it like this: any time you’re travelling, if you already know where you’re going; you’ve been there before – it’s easy to get there yourself. If you don’t know where you’re going but you’re familiar with traveling, you can look at the relevant sources and map your way. If you know where you want to go but have never been there before and have no clue how to even begin getting there, you pay someone to take you there.

Each way you need a plan. It’s up to you to decide whether you can make that plan yourself or need someone to do it for you.

Now, I admire people who go off the beaten track, but the people who have success doing that are people who have followed the given way for years and then realised there may be a better way and start exploring it.

They are not people who come to the track and say, “that way is too hard” or even worse, “too boring, everyone goes that way” and try to make their own way without any prior knowledge of the terrain, the risks, navigating their surroundings, or how to stay the course when things get tough.

If you want to achieve something, plan your way. If you don’t know how to do that then get someone who does to do it for you. Otherwise you will end up lost and frustrated and likely have to go back where you started. You will have wasted time.

You need a plan to ensure that what you are doing is worthwhile, and to maximize efficiency in getting there.

Setting Out A Plan

The first step to making a plan is knowing what the goal is. What do you want to achieve?

Once you have done that you need to start thinking about what needs to be done to get there. Your plan should be made up of components that will take you towards your target. Don’t try to go in five directions at once, you’ll end up not going very far in any direction.

Firstly, plan the bare minimum that you need to get you where you want to be. Only once you have got that should you add other things that may be beneficial, but not essential to achieving your goal.

Stuff that plays no part in getting you there, leave it out.

Factors To Consider

There are many factors to consider when it comes to making a training plan: timeframe, experience, intensity, frequency, recovery, other commitments (family, job, etc.). These are things that need to be taken into account when forming a plan.

Priority here should be given to fitting a plan into your schedule. There’s no point having a plan that requires you to workout 6 days a week, 2 hours a day, if you can’t actually find that time to train.

Regardless of how good that plan is it won’t work if you can’t complete it.

Following A Plan

Make a plan you can actually follow. When I first sit down with someone to discuss designing a program the first question I always ask is, “what is the minimum amount of days per week you can guarantee you’ll workout?”

If, for example the answer is, “I can guarantee 2 days a week, but most weeks it may be 3”, I will plan for 3 days, but have 2 priority days with the main bulk of the plan in there, and 1 additional/semi-optional day with the stuff that is beneficial but not essential.

That way if they can only train 2 days on a certain week they still get the important stuff done.

Don’t plan for more than you can commit to.

I asked if anyone had any questions about training plans on my Instagram story and received this:

“Do I follow the plan if I haven’t eaten or slept well or should I lighten the weight and increase sets and reps so the volume is the same?” (Paraphrase).

A great question, and one that any of us who have been training have wondered. There are always days when you aren’t feeling it. Life happens. You had a shitty night’s sleep. You had to skip lunch to finish a work project. This is the stuff that happens to those of us that aren’t professional athletes.

The answer depends very much on the individual and the goal.

For people who’s goal is to be healthy, get a little fitter, lose a little weight, adjusting the load and rep range may be a good option.

But since this question was asked by an individual with a performance target and a timeframe, I want to answer directly to that situation, though anyone should be able to take something from this:

For someone who trains towards a specific goal like competing in an objective strength sport, adjusting the plan may not be an option as it’s probably going to affect your performance on the day of the competition.

A better option may be to look at your recovery strategy. I’m big on recovery, because I like to train and work hard. Recovery is essential for optimal performance.

If you work hard and then train hard on top of that you need to be putting thought into how you recover from all that stress.

There will always be unexpected situations that throw us off course. But it’s up to us to minimise these instances as best as possible. Plan your sleep. Plan your meals ahead. Have a back up plan. Carry an emergency banana and some rescue rice cakes in case you need to fuel up. Find a closet at work where you can take a nap.

These days will still come along from time to time, but if you’re finding that you’re feeling this way more often than not then your recovery strategy is off.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

One of the most satisfying things as a coach is seeing someone execute and succeed on a plan. Whatever program you are on, commit. Commit.

A good plan is not a substitute for hard work, but hard work enhances the effects of a good plan.

I opened on a cliché and I’ll close on another;

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

 

Gotta love a good cliché,

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

Training Philosophy

First part of the series on “training” is discussing philosophy.

As my old mate Confucius would say:

Get yo’ philosophy in check fo’ I crack yer neck” – Confucius

Keepin’ it real since 551 BC.

 

What is a training philosophy?

A training philosophy is the set of values or principles by which you plan and structure your training.

Everyone’s training philosophy will be different, and that’s ok. Many will have similar or even identical components, that’s ok too, better than ok even. There are certain training principles which have been forged over decades of trial and error, experimentation and study. These should not be ignored for the sake of individuality.

And while there are elements of almost every type of training that are beneficial, many have also got their priorities wrong.

Spending your whole workout hour laying on a foam roller is not doing anybody any good, I don’t care how stiff or tight you feel. Doing the exact same thing week after week after week, the same amount of repetitions with the exact same load, will not get you very far either. You are stalling.

If training is about improvement in performance and adaptation to increasing stress then you have to force the issue. With all that said, here is what makes up my training philosophy:

 

What is the Life Performance Training philosophy?

First off, what is Life Performance? Well, that will look different for each of us, because we all live different lives, right? Nevertheless, humans are humans, our bodies are fundamentally the same even though we all have individual strengths, weaknesses, and issues. For each of us the hip is a ball and socket joint, for some it may be deeper or more laterally placed than others, but they are not that different.

Yes training has to be individual, but not so individual that you’re doing something ridiculous just to be a contrarian.

We all need a base level of strength, we all need a base level of conditioning, and we all need a base level of mobility. Without these you will not function, nevermind perform. These 3 things essentially make up “fitness”. So our first thought is to make sure these bases are covered.

These will be implemented in varying ratios depending on the individual, and they are not separate entities, there is overlap between the 3. Depending on starting point, goal, restrictions, and injuries, one or two will take precedence over the other[s]. But none should be completely ignored.

Jim Wendler says it like this:

Stretch. Lift. Sprint.” – Jim Wendler

Beautiful in its simplicity.

 

Without further ado, here are some of the main principles that make up the LPT philosophy:

Progressive Overload

This one’s a biggie. Simply put, if your training plan does not incorporate progressive overload it is not worth your while. Not for any significant time anyway.

Progressive overload simply means that each session/week/month/year you do a little bit more. Without it there is no progression.

Frequency

Train often. As often as you can. The body responds well to frequency. Let me put it this way: if you can only spare 2 hours a week to train, 4 half hour sessions spread throughout the week is better than a single 2 hour session.

Training more often allows you to accrue a higher skill level in performance, and you can get higher volume spread over more frequent sessions than in an individual session.

Intensity

Train hard. Push yourself. Force adaptation. Lift heavy – (intensity in strength terms is % of your max, not how breathless or sweaty you get). Run fast. But also…

Recover

Manage fatigue. If you train with intensity you need to put thought into your recovery. Prioritise sleep. Eat well, get plenty of protein and veggies in your belly. Stroll in nature. Get a massage. Take care of yourself.

Focus

When you’re doing something give it your full attention. Feel the movement. If you’re gonna do something don’t half-ass it.

Consistency

Nothing else matters if you aren’t consistent. Suboptimal work done consistently trumps optimal work done every once in a while.

Purpose

Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you can’t answer that then you need to rethink. You should be training for something. It doesn’t have to be competition, it can be for health, or dare I say it, to look good. Whatever it is for, your training should be aiming for that very thing.

The majority of coaches would agree with me on the above points. Following below are some of the beliefs that may or may not make our philosophy a little different (but not so different as to be a contrarian).


Strength Training Is For EVERYONE

You don’t have to want to lift double your bodyweight. You do have to push and pull against resistance and maybe pick something up and carry it around a bit though.

Strength training develops the body and the mind and I have seen people gain great confidence from getting stronger that I haven’t seen replicated by running a longer distance or being able to get lower in a stretch. Pretty much everyone with benefit from getting a little stronger.

Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things

Experiment. The only reason people know anything about anything is because they tried it. And yet…

The “Boring” Stuff Works Best

I believe in barbells. I believe in big compound movements. The reason I believe in them is because they work. The reason they are still around after all this time is because they work. I believe in push ups and chin ups and crawls. This doesn’t seem exciting because its not new and fresh but there is no need to reinvent the wheel. One of the best exercises in existence? The farmers walk – picking up a heavy weight in each hand and walking with it. That’s been around since the dawn of time. It still works.

I Don’t [Really] Give A Shit How You Look

Physique is not that important to me. Don’t get me wrong, everyone likes to look good, including me. I know you want to be leaner and more muscular. I’m not discrediting that completely. But it seems that for many that is what fitness and training has become. People come to me thinking they’re gonna be made to do bro splits and be told to eat plain chicken, rice, and broccoli. I can’t believe this is still most peoples perception of fitness!

I want to change that. There is so much more, so much more! You are capable of pretty incredible physical feats. Performance. This is what I prefer to focus on. Put effort into getting better, stronger, faster, and with just a little deliberate thought about what you eat and drink, your body composition will change favourably. Eating healthily is part of optimal performance.

Don’t Be A Pussy

Life is tough. If you want to succeed you’re gonna have to be tough as well. There will be disappointments and worse. You have to be prepared.

Life Performance Training prepares you for life!

I feel like I could go on and on about persistence, self-belief, phases, confidence, movement patterns… but I’ll leave it there for now. A training philosophy will evolve and grow and the useless stuff will be stripped away. The simpler, the more refined the better.

I hope this gives you an insight into what a training philosophy is, what my training philosophy is, and gets you thinking about your own philosophy in regards to training, because you should have your own.

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training