When people discuss programming for strength development, they tend to make one of two fundamental mistakes:
- They present it as something that’s damn near inscrutable. The “experts” have figured out how to make programs that work, they deliver the programs to you like Moses presenting the Ten Commandments to the tribes in the desert, and it’s your job to execute the program without asking questions.
- They present it in a massively oversimplified way. These folks will present programming as simply an interaction of specificity and effort. Practice the lifts you want to improve, put enough work into your training, and you’ll get stronger. If you’re not getting stronger, you just need to try harder.
The first approach is probably great for selling training programs, but it’s inaccurate. There is certainly an art to programming (something the “experts” learn through experience), but there’s also absolutely a science to it that’s somewhat technical, but not overly difficult to understand.
The second approach is a bit closer to the truth, but it’s overly myopic. Applying the 80/20 rule, it’s essentially correct. A lot of things go into building a good training program, but the most important variables, by far, are specificity, volume, and intensity. And generally, more volume and/or intensity leads to better results. You really can get a long way just by working your ass off practicing your core lifts and ignoring a lot of the details, but such a simplistic approach won’t maximize results.
In this series, I want to present a middle road – more nuance than the hyper-reductionistic 80/20 approach to help you get better results, more efficiently, but with enough depth and clarity to demystify the training process.
First, here’s a brief overview of what this series will cover:
- The basics of how your body responds to training.
- How to manipulate the three fundamental training variables: volume, intensity, and frequency.
- How to dial in the details of your training that, while slightly less important, can still have a meaningful impact on your results. These details include rest periods and proximity to failure.
- How to balance specificity and variation/novelty to keep training fresh while increasing the rate of motor learning.
- How your approach to training should change across a training career.
- How to troubleshoot your training to see what style of training you most enjoy and respond best to. Once you understand how to manipulate the fundamental training variables, you should be able to build programs that look and “feel” different, while still being very effective.
- A step-by-step approach to building effective training programs.
- Planning for long-term progression; this will include an in-depth but accessible discussion of periodization and various periodization models.
- How to make adjustments to a training program to increase its effectiveness over time.
I’m not entirely sure how many installments there will be in this series. I tried writing it as another big guide but kept getting bogged down in the details of how to organize it. I think simply writing them as articles will help me get the material out there, and the organization will take care of itself as I see the direction each piece is heading. Stay tuned!