Posted by on Mar 11, 2013

Strength Training

It’s been said that “variety is the spice of life.” While that might be the case with respect to a host of different components of your life, to a beginning exerciser it can also be a sign of bad things to come.

As an example, when you first started to cook, did you just throw a bunch of stuff together to see how it would taste? Of course not! Instead, you followed a recipe rigidly to ensure that you didn’t deviate from the plan. And, I’m sure you made that same recipe several times to get the hang of it before tinkering with it or branching out to new recipes.

Exercise works the same way. If you want to be successful with fitness, you need to have a plan – but that plan can’t change every single day. And, you can’t tinker with it unless you have a frame of reference from which to do so.

At my strength and conditioning facility, Cressey Performance, we change programs every four weeks. This gives our clients an opportunity to learn a movement, practice it, and receive a training benefit from it. Then, we head off boredom before it can kick in by getting a new program in place for the subsequent month.

As another parallel, when “grooming” our interns, I talk about how you have prepare yourself as a coach in the following order:

  • Learn how to read a program.
  • Learn how to perform/teach/coach the exercises in that program.
  • Learn why you would perform those exercises.
  • Learn how to assess for the “why.”
  • Learn how to write a program.

Without #1, you can’t have #5. And, you don’t magically go from step #1 to #5 in the matter of a few days; it might be several years.

With this in mind, here’s what you need to do as a beginning exerciser:

  1. Learn how to read a program.
  2. Follow that program for at least 4-6 weeks.
  3. Reflect on what you liked or didn’t like in the program, as well as what
    yielded results for you.
  4. Try additional programs, integrating some of your favorite “lessons” from
    other programs along the way.
  5. Write your own program.

With that in mind, start off your training by picking a plan and sticking to it long enough to make valid reflections on how it worked for you. Don’t change things the second you see a new exercise in a muscle magazine or on a yoga website. Be patient so that you can evaluate what works for you.

This is one reason why I encourage beginning exercisers to seek out the help of a qualified professional, either in the form of an in-person trainer or following a program from a book or video. You want something that’s set in stone at first, as it’ll give you the opportunity to sufficiently evaluate a specific training methodology.

Eric Cressey is the President of Cressey Performance, located near Boston, MA. An author, presenter, consultant, and powerlifter, Eric has worked with clients from youth sports to the professional and Olympic ranks, but is best known for his extensive work with baseball players; more than 80 professional players travel to Massachusetts to train with him each off-season.

Visit Eric on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Fitocracy or Google.

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