Selecting The Correct Program

With a myriad of strength protocols out there, how do you go about making the right choice?

You’ve heard it before – the best program or plan is the one you’re going to follow. Yes, this is accurate to an extent. but it doesn’t really hold true for the disciplined strength athlete who has no issue with consistent gym attendance. So the question remains, which program is best for me?

Line Up Your Goals

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the number one factor to consider is, what do you hope to achieve? This acts as your filter. Once you decide upon this, your options reduce drastically. You are now in a much better position to sift through the remaining potential candidates.

Let me hit you with an example…

Albert is a keen Powerlifter. He aims to increase his total, i.e. the cumulative sum of his squat, bench and deadlift. As a result, his program should be centred on improving the competency of these lifts in a low repetition range. On the other hand, Harold’s goal is to get stronger globally, but with no specific targets. This gives him more leeway with his protocol selection. Though compound lifts and low reps should still be a mainstay of his program, but with more variation permitted.

Training Age

Experience level is another vital variable. A novice will benefit greatly from nearly any program (with varying effectiveness) as his/her body is responding for the first time to an unfamiliar stimulus. As a consequence, a simple program honing in on the basics works best. This allows the beginner to become accustom to the gym and the different lifts.

Though, as an athlete grows in training age, a more complex protocol is required to initiate strength adaptions. Intermediate and advanced trainers must therefore put more focus into program selection.


Weigh Up Your Options

Once you have defined your goals and experience levels, the next step is to research. Utilise the various websites and forums which offer others experiences and opinions, to make an informed decision.

Be wary though, the internet is a never-ending pit of information – don’t be sucked in too far. We have all been guilty of ‘paralysis by analysis’, where, due to the huge number of options, doubt and uncertainty prevents a decision from being made!

Program Hopping

Over-analysis often leads to jumping from one program to the next. Strength training must be viewed as progressing in the medium to long-term rather than from session to session.

Here are some questions to consider before changing from your current program…

  • Have I given the program at least a 12 week trial?
  • Have I followed the basic nuts and bolts of the program without making any drastic changes?
  • Have I been recording and gauging overall progress?

If you answer yes to all of the above with little improvement in strength, then it’s time to look to a new program. Otherwise, keep going! Give your body a chance to improve at the lifts and rep schemes rather than continually mixing and matching.

Same S@#$ Different Program

I have come to the conclusion that, once you have filtered for experience and goals, variation between programs is fairly small (in most cases). That is to say, if you’re unsure about whether to go with Protocol A or B, in reality there is little separating the two, go with either

In this case, it comes down to personal preference, and clever marketing by the creator of the program!

Take Your Pick

By systematically working through the above variables, making a good decision regarding programming should be a cinch! Notice I said good decision, as there is no perfect program, focus on execution.

By Andrew Cammarano


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