1.) Your workout program should have Progressive Overload
Are you following a good workout program? We’re looking for a workout program that prescribes weekly repeating movements or lifts that typically increase in difficulty over the course of the cycle.
The easiest way to take advantage of progressive overload is by increasing the weight you lift each week. You could also increase reps, add tempo, add pauses, etc. For example, if you squat 150 lbs in week 1, you would want to squat something like 155 lbs in week 2, then 160 lbs in week 3, and so on.
We like to say random training and workouts = random results. If you’re going to invest time in working out, don’t you want to maximize those efforts?
2.)A good workout program Aligns With Your Goals
This is really, really important. No one wants to spin their wheels in the sand, waste their time, and not achieve their goals. A good workout program should align with your goals. You want to choose workouts that will most efficiently get you from A to B.
Sure, you could do Orange Theory Fitness to train for a marathon… but you’d likely have a better and faster outcome by focusing most of your time logging miles and following a dedicated running program, right? Similarly, no one is going to CrossFit their way to the Mr. Olympia stage. If aesthetics or your appearance are important to you, perhaps focus the majority of your time on bodybuilding and lifting.
Consider focusing most of your time and energy on putting in the effort that best aligns with your end goals and values.
3.) Your Workout Program Should allow for Flexibility & Freedom
Consistency is king, so a good workout program is one that you can consistently follow and be as adherent as possible. Workouts should fit your current phase of life, your goals, and your current time schedule. The best workouts in the world won’t work if we can’t consistently get them done.
Be realistic about how much time and how many days you can allot to working out. Fun and enjoyment should also be a major consideration as well. You’re going to be a lot more likely to stick with something if you actually look forward to it and enjoy doing it.
Bottom Line: Your workout program should also afford you freedom and the opportunity to live a big life OUTSIDE the gym too.
4.) a good workout plan will have Programmed Rest Days & Deloads
More isn’t always better. Getting at least 1-2 rest days per week is crucial. Recovery = the secret sauce to positive adaptation, whether that’s gaining muscle, losing body fat, getting stronger, etc.
Rest Day = a day where we don’t work out and simply focus on getting 7,000-8,000 steps. We want to give our bodies the space and time to rest and recharge.
Deload Recovery Weeks = a week of intentionally doing less training, fewer reps, and less volume. Ideally, we’d see these every 4-6 weeks in training.
Think of rest days as putting gas in your car, whereas deload weeks are like getting an oil change. Both are very important and very necessary on a regular basis to keep things moving and grooving.
5.) You should be Making Progress
There are a lot of asterisks to this one (:
If you’re in a caloric deficit, it might be challenging to gain muscle and strength or see PRs in the gym because your body doesn’t have the excess calories and input to do the thing.
Reversely, if we’re dealing with health issues like hormones, thyroid, digestion, etc., it might be hard to make progress on the aesthetics or performance front.
If you’re healthy, doing the work, and following the program as intended on the nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle front and STILL not moving the needle, maybe it’s time to lean into something different (:
Remember that the longer you’ve been lifting and training, the more nutrition, exercise, and recovery likely need to be dialed in to see lift PRs, etc.
For more information on workout programs, check out this post, Signs Your Workout Routine Isn’t Working.