When it comes to achieving your goals, whether they are performance, health, or aesthetic in nature, make no mistake, your workout program will make or break your results. Following a workout program that is appropriately designed and implemented on a consistent basis is paramount to your success. So many people are putting forth their best effort, yet are being held back as their workout program is flawed in one or many areas.
Here are 8 pitfalls commonly observed in workout programs that are preventing countless people from achieving their unique goals. Ask yourself, is your current workout program leading you to success, or can you relate to some or many of these red flags in program design?
1) Your workout program does not cater to you
In order to produce optimal results, workout programs need to be tailored so they meet individual goals, unique needs, current fitness level, technical ability, and even current level of body awareness. Many workout programs take little to none of the above into consideration and do not offer an individualized approach. Cookie cutter programs have become the norm.
One extremely common mistake in many workout programs is that they are designed so they force-fit people to certain exercises versus fitting exercises to each individual. Due to differences in technical ability, controlled mobility, stability, strength, body structure, body awareness, equipment, and other factors, it is an absolute must that all exercises are fitted to each unique individual.
Also, many workout programs do not take individual schedules into account. A lot of people do not have an abundance of time to spend working out, nor do they want to. Your workout program should fit pretty seamlessly into your overall schedule and lifestyle and should help reduce your overall level of stress, not increase it.
2) Your workout program does not address the main fundamental movement patterns
Many workout programs do not address all of the key fundamental movement patterns. These movement patterns include squatting, lunging, hinging, vertical and horizontal pressing, vertical and horizontal pulling, and carrying, and should be performed both bilaterally and unilaterally. These movements are often required to be performed during basic daily activities, not to mention in sports, and in the gym. No matter whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced gym-goer, make sure that your workout program contains the six staple movements that I listed above.
A solidly designed workout program might also include exercises that address anti-rotation, anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion, rotation, and flexion (if it’s appropriate for the individual), glute-specific exercises, exercises that develop the controlled mobility or stability of the shoulders and shoulder blades, and exercises that address foot strength and stability. All of these supplemental exercises should be incorporated into your workout program based on your individual needs, but the foundation of your training program should be the six fundamental movements.
3) Your workout program does not instruct you how to perform each exercise with proper form
In order to achieve any goal and help safeguard or improve the overall health of your body, performing all of your exercises with proper form is absolutely vital. Many workout programs fall short as they simply include the name of each exercise, but do not provide sufficient visual, verbal, or written instructions as how to perform each exercise safely and effectively. As a result, individuals are left to fend for themselves. Other programs provide exercise video demos but do not include verbal or written instructions. At the very least, having both visual and verbal explanations of each exercise is extremely important, and will give trainees a much better chance of performing all exercises with proper form. Form absolutely matters and should not be overlooked.
4) Your workout program does not have suitable variations for you
The beauty of good coaching and programming is that no matter where you are in your current fitness journey, for all of the fundamental movements, there are exercises that will meet most fitness levels, individual differences, and technical abilities. A properly designed workout program will take this into account, and will include exercises that are best suited to you. So even if you are new to training or are coming back after a lay-off, make sure that your workout program contains the six staple movements that I listed above, and has exercises you can perform safely, effectively, and confidently. Once you have mastered the more basic movements, you can progress to performing more advanced variations of the same movements, or you can perform the same movements but while using more weight. Master the basics and the sky is truly the limit.
5) Your workout program/programmer assumes that 100% of people should have the same form
Does your workout program (or coach) insist that all people should be performing exercises with identical form? If so, be wary. While there are key points in form that absolutely should be used during each exercise, optimal form will vary from person to person. Using squats as an example, foot stance and positioning, torso angle, shin positioning, proximity of the knees and toes, and depth, will vary on an individual basis. Again, square pegs should not be crammed into round holes, so there is no universal standard of optimal form. Your exercises should be tailored so they work and feel best for you.
6) Your workout program is overcomplicated
Many workout programs lead people to less than stellar results as the program is way more complicated than necessary. In most cases, basic works best. In order to achieve performance, aesthetic, or even health-oriented goals, mastering the basic movements, and then excelling at them, produces significantly superior results to programs that focus on the “flashier” and more complicated exercises. Again, focus on mastering the six fundamental movements, and complement these staple movements with some of the supplemental exercise categories I detailed above.
If you are someone who craves variety, and that is perfectly ok, performing different variations of the fundamental movements and supplemental exercises will keep things interesting, but will not compromise the integrity of your workout program, and your path to achieving your goals.
7) Your workout program brings on too much too soon
No matter what your goals are, consistency trumps intensity. In order to achieve any goal, training on a consistent basis is extremely important. This goes for people of all fitness levels, ages, and backgrounds. To clarify, I do not mean training every day of the week, but 3-4 workouts per week is a good benchmark for many people.
A lot of workout programs go wrong as they make trainees do way too much, way too soon. This might mean using an overall volume that is too high (sets, reps, number of exercises), performing exercises that are too advanced, using too much resistance, and not having enough active recovery days. Fundamentally sound and properly designed workout programs typically err on the side of caution and build people up progressively, versus overtaxing the body and mind and having them do too much too soon. As all people are different, the level of progressive overload should vary on an individual basis.
8) Your workout program fixates on fatigue, sweat, and muscle soreness over using proper form and improving overall health and performance
Ask yourself, is the goal of your training program to make you as exhausted, sore, and sweaty as possible, or to make you better? When I say “better,” I am talking about getting stronger, improving how your body functions, feels and performs, and even addressing aesthetics if this is a goal of yours. Programs that are highly focused on leaving you feeling exhausted, beaten up, and sweaty will be hard-pressed to lead you to these goals, as executing each rep with your best form, and being mentally present are both paramount to your success. Staying mindful and using proper form will likely be daunting tasks when you are being run ragged.
As I discussed above, make sure that if you are performing any strength-oriented exercise, your focus is on performing 100% of your reps with your best form. Good form breeds top results. If you are performing any type of conditioning, select less technically demanding exercises so you can really push yourself, but without putting yourself at a higher risk of injury.