Why I never follow a program to a T


I’ve been training for a long time now, a little over 10 years in the gym and I’ve never followed a program exactly as it says. I make programs for my clients as well and find that when I ask them how it’s going their often ashamed to say they changed it or tweaked it a little bit, to their surprise I’m delighted to find that they have! Let me explain why…

We’re all different but you’ve heard that before, what does it mean and why does it matter for your gym program? Well, the truth is no Personal Trainer or coach can come up with a single formula that is perfect for every client. The program can be excellent, and the client may benefit a great deal from following it, but it will never be perfect and that’s because there’s so many things that are unpredictable for the PT (personal trainer). Let’ say your PT programs some strength exercises, all foundational movements and all extremely effective. Neither you nor your PT know that you’ve got a weak lower back muscle in one side. You’ll need to address that strength imbalance first before you can progress on to the strength exercises in your program.

Here’s an example, you want to get really strong, so you start following a strength program designed to maximise your big lifts but 3 weeks in and you’re getting bored. You watch other lifters doing different exercises and get jealous of the fun they’re having with it. So, you carry on with your program, but you swap out a few exercises for some more explosive ones to spice it up. Well fantastic because you’re more likely to continue and grow stronger than if you had stuck to the plan and gave it up after a few weeks. Another person might follow the same strength program and be super motivated by numbers, they could be happy for a year doing the same lifts as long as the weight is going up. Different tastes, different programs.

The biggest factor that effects my clients and my own ability to follow a program is what’s happening in your home life. This is such a hard job for PTs to work around, maybe they want you to test your best effort on Thursday, but you’ve been to a stag do on Wednesday and you’re running on 3 hours sleep but decided you’d show up to your session anyway and sweat it out. Well of course you’re not going to hit your best effort personal bests that day and you’ll likely have to freestyle a session with your PT. That’s a bit of an extreme, more commonly clients will have to pick their kid up or have an urgent meeting to attend and only have 30 minutes so we condense a session and skip exercises that may have added a lot of benefit down the line. Still 30 minutes is better than nothing, so we adapt and carry on.

Key takeaway:

The body is not only influenced by the gym. Its sculpted and adapted to the job it serves, the fuel consumed and the environment. Educate yourself as much as possible on your own body, how it feels doing certain exercises, what you enjoy in the gym and alternatives to your programmed exercises. This will give you more freedom when you walk into the gym and you’re able to mix it up. Consistency is king. Showing up is the most important exercise.