Quite a bit of my content has been programming related. I’ve tried to break down the mystery of effective strength programming by taking apart popular programs and seeing how they work and then comparing them to others to see what they have in common. I emphasize this in my contents so much because it’s important shirt but also because I struggled with his so much in the early days of my training. So as far as topic goes it has kind of a special place in my brain.
Programs aren’t the end-all-be-all, however, and this is something that I haven’t made much mention of in the last few years. The biggest asset that programming can give you is the ability to prepare for performance on a specific deadline. So for any athlete any lifter or even people who are just concerned with strength in general knowing how and when to structure your heart efforts is going to make sure that you can train sustainably to continuously increase performance.
For hypertrophy however or to build a high level of general fitness you don’t need to walk a tightrope. In fact, just the opposite, you might actually be better off allowing variety day to day and just controlling for a few key variables to connect each workout to the next.
There are a ton of triggers for growing muscle mass and they all bleed pretty well into each other. so in that way a bodybuilder or physique oriented athlete can change their exercise order day to day, swap different exercises in and out and even vary rep ranges a without backsliding or detraining. That can surely save you from being bored and in the monotonous grind of daily training, I can’t understate how important it is to keep your training from getting stale.
So who should consider scrapping their program and taking on a more instinctive training style? If you stacked macrocycle on top of macrocycle year after year to grind your way into becoming a competitive powerlifter you probably aren’t over-eager to ditch your program and wing it. And if you are a highly specialized lifter who has that good of a handle on your periodized approach to training you might be right in sticking to a wash rinse repeat approach with that method.
But most of us don’t fall into that category. I strongly recommend most lifters go through periods of instinctive training if for no other reason than to flush out your brain from the gunk that builds up during long, one-note training blocks. In addition to making training fun again and relighting your fire for being in the gym, it also allows you to experiment without having to worry about walking a progressive tightrope. You can swap in different exercises and play around with different ranges and this is especially beneficial for solving the mystery behind persistent weak areas.
The rules are simple for making instinctive training work. find a body part split and stick to it. Even if you prioritize the compound movements it’s super easy to break that into its constituent muscle groups. If you’re focused on movement patterns your ability to make changes session to session based on how you feel are going to cause more interference. But if generally increasing work done by and fatigue experienced by a muscle is your primary mode of growth, then you have a lot more options.
Once you set your split, commit to a set number of exercises per body part and a fixed number of sets per exercise. my general rule of thumb is three to five exercises for three to five sets and that will change workout to workout based on the exercises I’m doing and how I feel. On heavier exercises, I might get excited and do a few extra sets and I might do the same with smaller high-rep exercises at the end of the workout when I’m trying to leave it all on the floor. Other exercises will tend to get redundant after you accrue a certain amount of fatigue so I don’t hang around too long with those.
Effort has to be high since that’s the primary growth stimulus here in the thing that will connect each work out together. It’s also going to be your method of progressive overload as keeping the effort constant will ensure that the weight goes up every time you experience strength gains. For all of your working sets, don’t count anything under in RPE 8 as anything but a warm up and try to hit failure on at least one set if not even a few extra on the way back down. In the absence of a program, where you stay on top of how much work you’re doing in the rate at which it progresses, you need to fall back on just good hard consistent work. No tricks here just get in and make yourself sweat.
That effort should be applied to a wide variety of rep ranges and since we are programming you aren’t going to be engaging in training blocks. General hypertrophy and development work benefits from 3s and 5s just like it benefits from 15s and 20s. You can keep most of your work in the traditional 8 to 12 rep range that is still the most generally productive range for muscle growth. But I recommend having a couple of sets of your heavier exercises get into the lower range so you can maintain or even increase strength in this phase and I also recommend not shying away from very high rep sets at the end of each exercise and especially towards the end of the workout. Make half your work traditional rep ranges, a quarter very heavy and a quarter very light. To those of you who have been neglecting any part of that spectrum, a compact 4 to 8 week period of instinctive training hitting all of these numbers is going to do absolute wonders to your physical development.