What is workout programming? Why should you be following it?


What’s happening, beautiful brothers and sisters of iron? We’ve got PK discussing all things programming in the latest video. We’re covering everything from what the heck programming is, why you need it, and a few ways you might be doing it wrong.

Before PK got into the CrossFit world, he had no idea what programming was. He was 25 years old, in high school had played soccer, and went on to play rugby at the University of Texas. While playing rugby there, his coaches had told him, “Pete, you need to get stronger, you need to get faster. Go hit the gym.” (As kindly as coaches would LOL). He took the feedback, went and grabbed a Men’s Health magazine, and hit the gym. He had access to a big, beautiful gym at UT, but had no idea what he was doing. That’s where Men’s Health came in.

Many times, he’d go into the gym without a plan and would check out what the mag said, and would go bench because that’s what he read, and would add some curls for a “complete” workout. There were several times when PK had done so many curls that he had to walk around with his arms crossed and hands on his pecs the next day because his biceps and the tendons in his elbows were absolutely screaming.

As you can imagine, PK didn’t really get a whole lot of strength from workouts like those. He got a little bit faster, but that just might’ve come from the ton of speed work that was going on during the rugby practices themselves.

After college, PK started long distance running, and that’s where he really started to learn how to get faster. This translated well when he later learned how to get stronger, too.

Back to 2005. 

PK is 25 years old, running a lot, is pretty fast, but is also really skinny and had no real strength. He had injuries cropping up even though he was young at 25, but then he found CrossFit. CrossFit is where his love affair with the barbell began, and through CrossFit was where he learned the word “programming” and the idea behind it.

“Programming” is literally just a workout program. It’s a plan (hopefully scientific for best results) to get from point “A” to point “B” or improve yourself in a certain way.

Lately, we’ve seen quite a few conversations in our Garage Gym Revolution group about certain goals some of the members have like getting stronger, losing weight, or becoming an absolute animal in the gym. A lot of the time, these expressions of goals come along with the gear that’ll be bought, some of the workouts to be done, and the expectation that exactly those things will lead from point “A” to point “B” without a true, exact plan.

Oh boy, spoiler alert: it doesn’t work that way. Unless you’re at the very, very beginning of your strength and fitness journey, you need to follow a specific program to reach your goals.

First, envision your goals. What are you trying to achieve? The goals of someone who wants to be a powerlifter and compete in 3 the main lifts are going to be different from the goals of someone who wants to be a CrossFit athlete, and will differ from someone who’s a busy mom and wants to be able to do her thing, pick up and play with her kids, and be less fatigued at the end of the day.

You should look at what your goals are, and then find programming that is congruent with your goals.

How do you find that, you ask?

The internet is a magical thing. In pre-internet days, you’d have to go to a library and read scientific books or read a specific magazine with generally sub-par programming for less-specific goals. Now, you can find anything online. You can read different forums, research different programs, or go to our private group and ask us and your community and we’d be happy to help find the programming you need.

Another big mistake people make around programming is jumping from program to program. Back in PK’s rugby days when he was trying to get stronger and faster in the gym, he’d be switching programs every month when the newest edition of Men’s Health came out. Switching programs this often was not conducive to gains in strength or speed. It’s crucial to stick with the program for a while to see any sort of results or improvement. 

How long is a while? If you’re a beginner, it might be anytime up to a couple of years. (Yes, years! That doesn't mean your program will always look exactly the same, but might have a similar structure during that time.) If you’re intermediate or advanced, it might be a couple of months. Whatever that looks like for you, pick a program and stick with it. Almost every program works if you adhere to it.

The third thing to look out for when following programming is cherry-picking. Do not cherry-pick your workouts. There are always going to be workouts and movements that you love, and others that you dislike (or even hate). It’s easy to want to sub-out movements or swap workouts for ones you like. This is a huge no-no. A great program is great for a reason! There’s progression involved and there’s always a method behind the madness, so steer clear of cherry-picking any movements or workouts. Stick to your programming and follow it for a sufficient amount of time.

What programs are you following? What program do you think is the best? Are there other programming errors that stick out to you? Let us know in the comments below!

As always, lift heavy, lift happy :)

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