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Do you really need a lifting program?

Over the past decade or so, lifting has descended from a means of personal expression

via the medium of strength and athleticism, usually by misfits, oddballs and rebels to a poxy

shambles, devoid of its former pizazz.

Lifting should be an outlet for your aggression and a means to help deal with all the shit

you've got going on, not a fucking arduous chore mapped out on a spreadsheet.

Long gone is the ridiculousness, inventiveness and raw creativity that made lifting art. Instead we're left with a handful of goofs on TikTok wanking over "optimisation", telling you big, hard-hitting rad as fuck lifts aren't "necessary" and pumping out garbage, lifeless, uninspired programs these douchebags literally copy and paste from one another.

Now, it might be crazy to hear but people got fucking jacked and strong as fuck prior to having set programs. That being said, I'm absolutely not anti-program. I have followed programs before with decent success and I write and rotate around 10 different ones for my clients. So, for me to sit here and start typing about how nobody needs a program would be hypocritical, not to mention just wrong.

I'm all for people having programs as way to structure their training and keep them in check. Because, the majority of folk, young dudes in particular will rock up and bang out a bazillion exercises with no rhyme or reason. They have this mindset of "it's chest day so I'm going to use every chest machine available". These are the ones who need the guidance of a program or better, a solid coach.

So, we can use programs to measure and gauge our progress. This is a typical fundamental of any program, regardless of what you're training for; the aim/idea is to get "better" in some form. Again, we can use programs to give ourselves focus and form habits. I typically program my guys to train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (though this isn't set in stone) which gets them in a set routine that becomes habitual over time. It also forces them to take rest days because, as we should know, it's your rest days when you recover and grow. Having forced rest days stops people getting too giddy and burning out too soon, I've found. Finally, an intelligently written program can and should take your personal weaknesses into account and work on developing them while advancing your strengths.

The program I see with programs these days is either they are the most lifeless, boring, mundane pieces of drivel I've read or they're unnecessarily overcomplicated for no other reason than to stroke the coaches ego.

Right, I get in the pursuit of power and strength things aren't always going to be super exciting all the time. Yes, I'm aware that we've gotta put in the work regardless, but man, if I ran any of these programs I've seen I'd make no gains due to insufferable boredom. And, to the second point, things don't need to be "optimal". It's a useless word when it comes to lifting. Nothing we do is optimal and if it is we won't know for certain anyway. You don't have to obsess over elaborate minutiae or essentially major in the minors. Don't concern yourself whether one exercise works a muscle slightly more than another. It's irrelevant.

Another issue I see nowadays is programs are literally just derivatives of Powerlifting manuals. Like, it seems people have forgotten that there's more, and I mean a fuck tonne more to lifting than the sport of Powerlifting. And stemming from that, there are more lifts than simply the Squat, Bench and Deadlift. On top of that, we've these newbie coaches creaming themselves over the risk reward or stimulus to fatigue ratio. I'm not saying these things don't matter but they have been massively overhyped.

The bottom line for me is that progress in the gym is determined by two things; effort and recovery. If you nail these two components then you're laughing.

If you want to get bigger and stronger then aim to be 1% better each time you go to the gym. Whenever I repeat a workout of an exercise I typically try to be at least 1% better than last time. And, if you're sat there frowning thinking 1% doesn't sound like a lot then you couldn't be more wrong. 1% across say 50 workouts in a year will absolutely mount up!

Alternately you could do what I did a few years ago and simply train instinctively. I gotta say,

that was the most fun I ever had training and I got strong as fuck too in the process. Despite doing basically everything these dogmatic coaches preach not to do. I maxed out almost every day, did "risky" and "suboptimal" exercises and did a shit load of volume too. Ok, I'm not saying you should do this and bear in mind I'm a coach who'd been lifting a good few years at that point, but it just hammers in my point that you do not absolutely need a program. Your program is just one layer of this big ass fitness cake, and

its not even like a necessary layer.

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