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.


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,



Life Performance Training

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