Training is Simple, But There Are a Lot of Variables

The road to strength and fitness is littered with questions of how to get to one’s destination.  How do I get rid of this, add that, improve my speed, tone up, get better at X?  Quite often the answer to those questions is, it depends.  Not exactly the answer people are looking for or expect when they seek out the advice of an expert but let me elaborate.  There are sooooo many variables that go into reaching your goals.  It all depends on addressing those variables.

First define the goal.  What is it that you are seeking and why?  It could be to look better in your favorite pants, lose a specific amount of weight, or something sports/performance related.  Let’s first figure out what that is.

How much time do you have to devote to this endeavor?  It could be a certain number of days per week or a specific amount of time, like 30 minutes a day.  It also could be calendar related.  Maybe that class reunion is in 6 months.  These are all factors that have an effect on determining your game plan.

Next, determine what tools you have available.  Will you be working out with a coach, at the local health spa, with a friend or in your garage with a weight set from ’75?  Maybe the health spa has limited free weight equipment but did however just a buy a new TRX system for all members to use (at least they did something worthwhile).  In an ideal world you’d have access many tools but that’s not always the case.  That doesn’t mean you can’t train effectively.

After that it is important to consider how much training experience you actually have.  Some have been lifting weights for years whereas others haven’t dared to bump biceps with the meatheads in the free weight area at the gym.  Let’s say your goal was to have a “better butt”.  Some may argue that the barbell hip thrust is a great exercise choice in that scenario.  However consider progression here.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone to do a loaded hip thrust prior to learning/owning other movements such as a bridge, 1-leg bridge, kettlebell deadlift and bodyweight hip thrust.  Experience and skill level considerations are a must prior to determining “the best way”.

Based on past experience what is your injury history?  Have you had surgeries?  Are there chronic aches and pains?  If a 50 year old man has a history of back pain and is looking to improve lower body strength and mobility, it is unlikely that I would suggest barbell back squats as compared to loaded split squats and goblet squats.  Back squats for a healthy individual, maybe.  I think pressing weight overhead is awesome.  Perhaps based on your medical history doing push ups is a better option for the time being.  That’s ok.

And finally, I could possibly put on paper the finest training regimen known to man, but if you aren’t going to follow it, or it’s simply not sustainable, it has no value.  The same goes for diet.  I could tell you to eat this organic and that all natural and this and those, but if you’re used to eating bagels and fast food, that amazing weight loss, super pure diet is useless.  Small improvements should be the starting point.  What’s the best training program?  Well it depends.  It might just be the one that you’ll stick to.

There are many methods to reach your goals.  However, the principles are few no matter what your answers are to the above questions.  As I’ve discussed, not everyone should be doing the same thing but there should be many similarities.  If someone is doing some sort of power work followed by a variation of squatting, hinging, pushing and pulling, then they are right on track.  What’s the best way to design a program for you based on this simple outline?  It depends.

– Mike Baltren