‘You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, right?’ so why would it make any sense at all to try and build our physiques without a plan? Sounds daft now doesn’t it! I’ve been attending gyms for 20+ years now and different capacities too, a teenage gym novice with NO plan, as a gym instructor, as a personal trainer and as a strength and conditioning coach (the latter has proven to be the most beneficial)
Why did I first go to the gym??? Back when I was 17 years old I was very much a sportsman, a very good footballer (old fashioned number 9 with pace if you like) and national standard track & field athlete. I was 6’2 tall and weighed around 12 stone, I wanted to be bigger and have muscles. Forget strength and conditioning, that wasn’t a thing in the year 2000, certainly not in Plymouth anyways. I reckon I went gym three times a week for about 8/9 months and I’ll be honest, I noticed small changes but I wasn’t satisfied with the results…..I mean 9 months spending ‘all that money’ on gym memberships and not missing a single session, surely I should have some real gains to show?? And now I write this with some hindsight, what I wish I had known back then is fairly obvious right now, why would my body need to change/adapt if I didn’t give it reason too? ‘huh?’ I hear you say, wasn’t I going gym enough??? Yes! Yes I was! However, I was just doing the same shit! 3 sets of 10 reps of the same exercises lifting the same weights every fucking session……..(I write this with facepalm expression). No doubt some of you are reading this and recognising the routine and starting to understand your own slow progress, remember though if nobody has told you any different then how were you ever supposed to know right?? I will, promise…..just let me finish this first.
Let’s fast forward past university, drinking, clubbing and letting sports slide away in true lad fashion….I was always a gym instructor but even that qualification was more based on using equipment safely, never any real programming or directives for results-based training. 2009 I decided to do my level 3 Personal Trainer qualification, this is it, yeah? This is where we learn how to train everyone to become anything they want, yeah? Nope, not really! Just another go at how to use equipment safely and how the body works. Yeah, there was some fancy ‘Pyramid sets’ and ‘triple drop sets’ but even going back to that word I used earlier, HINDSIGHT, these fancy techniques aren’t hugely necessary. They are decent additions to a resistance-based circuit or group workout for variable resistance loads but in reality, they ain’t the game-changer in the weights room. Sooooooo what’s missing? What is the key to steady and reliable progression? What am I missing here? It was only when I started looking down the Strength and Conditioning route that I truly understood ‘progressive overload’ and how this was only really achievable with relevant periodised programming. WTF is periodised programming I hear you all whisper….
You’ve probably read my story now on the website if you haven’t please take a look shortly, but (spoiler alert) in a nutshell I lost my training motivation on a family holiday and rediscovered it trialling the BLUEPRINT to what would become the first-ever System21 programme just over 3 years ago. Periodised programming basically just means we have different phases of training for different outcomes and they all come with their own specific rep ranges, sets and goals/outcomes. Each completed phase I learned carries over its gains to the next phase. Let’s rewind back to the start, shall we? The “build a house blueprint” spiel…… Strength, this phase made me soooo much stronger and it built the ‘foundations’ upon which I wanted to add muscle. The next phase was volume, this was ‘the build’ I added serious muscle with the foundations I laid during my first strength phase. And the final phase was the shred phase ‘detail’ high-intensity work to reveal the definition of all the hard work of the previous phases. It doesn’t stop there, a periodised programme records the progress of the journey so we then revisit the phases but this time we challenge the number of the previous cycle, we aim to lift more, lift better and train even smarter. Results aren’t just on our frame, they are also in our programmes as stats & personal bests and also in our heads as positive thoughts and psychological wins.
So next time you think of training without a plan, remember you can’t freestyle a house build and you’re unlikely to freestyle a body build!
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