What are the most important elements of a successful training program?
Colin: The most important elements of a successful training program is a program that you’ll actually enjoy and stick with. There needs to be consistency. It doesn’t matter how great a program is results wise if you won’t stick with it. This is why it’s so important to find something that you truly love to do. That said, however, sometimes that thing you do love you won’t know about at first. Not until you start achieving results, which will make you crave more. That’s why you have to give a program time. You have to see not only if it works for you but how you’ll like it, which isn’t something you’ll know right away.
When it comes down to actual results, I think a good weight training regimen along with the proper diet is most effective. Regardless if your goal is to build muscle or lose fat. Not that cardio shouldn’t be included, as it should, but I don’t think it should be the staple. When it comes to a proper diet, it really is true what they say about out working a bad diet, it can’t be done. Sorry to say there is no cookie cutter diet either. So many people want you to be able to give them a specific diet to follow but the truth is no two people are alike. One person can lose fat eating 400 grams of carbs per day while another struggles with 150. You have to find what works for you, which brings everything right back to consistency. If you don’t continue to work at it, you’ll never succeed. You must keep trying until you find something that works for you, and there is something for everyone.
JC: At first glance this is a simple question with a simple answer, and Colin has it right. Consistency is the cornerstone to putting together a training program, and in my opinion ‘training program’ includes the development and execution of a structured diet. I’m glad this topic has come up, since it touches on a few of my earlier writings. You may recall I started off with articles about this lifestyle in general and how to incorporate it into daily life. This may all be second nature to me (us) now, but it is not as easy as it seems.
Assuming the dedication, commitment and support are there, here are a few pointers to keep your program structured and successful:
1. Formulate a plan based on your OWN information, and not the information of others. This means do not just do what somebody else has told you to do, but also put together a plan that reflects your goals for your body. Research will be required, but it will be much better than haphazardly entering a gym and doing whatever exercise looks fun or easy. Blasting a muscle without rhyme or reason will get you nowhere. Your gains will be slow and you will most likely end up disproportionate…I’ve seen it.
2. Take notes – weight, reps, sets, pauses, tempo….it can get a little overwhelming. Write your plan out and have a paper copy with you while you lift. A training journal is extremely beneficial not only for tracking progress, but also for writing notes to yourself for next time. Trying to commit everything to memory only leaves too much room for error, especially when it comes to remembering previous weight used, etc.
3. Organize your workouts so that the exercises complement each other. Taking the time to learn how each exercise works a muscle (and others you may not have thought were involved) will pay of tremendously. For example, you won’t want to thrash your triceps the day before or day after your chest day. The triceps play a huge role in chest exercises. Exhausting them before chest will hinder your chest exercises. Working them after chest will probably have you seeing lower numbers. Instead, separate the workouts by a couple of days, or, plan a routine that specifically focusses on chest and triceps in a single workout session.
4. Incorporate a rest day. You may not be lifting but your body is working pretty hard nonetheless. Let it do its thing.
5. Incorporate de-load or light weeks. Once every 4 to 6 weeks should serve you well. It’s better than an off day because you still get to lift – but you just take it easy. Kind of like using your phone when it is plugged in.
6. Change the workouts about every 4 weeks. Believe it or not, your muscles learn to “go through the motions.” Changing it up will stimulate the muscle differently, increasing the chances of continued gains and progress.
Dara: This is actually an easy one, if you put it really simply. The most important elements of a successful training program are consistency, tracking, review and progression. No matter what you are doing, if you are consistent and keep track of exactly what you are doing, review regularly and adjust when necessary you will see results!
Matt: I’m on board with all of the above. I think the two most important things are:
1) Adhere to the schedule. If you are supposed to train on Tuesday, but you’re really sore and tired, then train on Tuesday. Your schedule has to be non negotiable. Once you open the door to allowing yourself unscheduled days off then the entire plan begins to fall apart. When you become a seasoned trainee, then you will know what your body needs, but until then stay on the plan.
2) Stay on your diet. This is exactly like the above. When you allow yourself to indulge and it is unplanned, then you are going to go off the rails quickly. Before you know it you are feeling so bad/guilty that you are skipping the training as well and in a short time you are right back to square one.
Essentially I’m repeating the same two points. A plan will only work if you stay on it. If you do then the results will come in time so remain patient and you will get there.