- You Don’t Have to Change Your Program every 4-8 weeks
I was always taught that you have to change up your programs every 4-8 weeks because your body gets comfortable and needs a change to continue growing. Since I started working with my coach in 2020, I think we have changed my program only once or twice and it was due to either injury workarounds or life events (like juggling work, school, and other responsibilities). Instead of changing the program every 4-8 weeks, we focus on getting good at exercises, perfecting form, and tempo, and increasing the amount of weight and/or volume. This approach has been hugely beneficial to me. Reflecting on the last couple of years working with my coach, I can say I never imagined I’d be where I am now. I have hit some incredible PRs and can tell that the time spent focusing on perfecting the lifts has allowed me to progress in ways I haven’t in my years of training prior.
- More Reps and Sets isn’t Always the Answer
In the months just before I started working with my coach I was doing over 30 sets per workout. While it worked fine for maintenance, I wasn’t growing or getting stronger, and performing this many sets prevented me from being able to increase weight/volume. My coach cut down my sets significantly, and we focused on really getting the most out of every set, instead of working at a lower RPE, which was what I was doing to perform 30 plus working sets daily. RPE is now usually between 7-9 depending on the set, and I have been able to consistently increase the weight/volume over the years and got a lot better at performing the exercise with good intent. (RPE for anyone not familiar is the Rate of Perceived Exertion, you may also know it as Reps in Reserve, or Proximity to Failure. Before working with my coach, I had never really considered RPE in my workout programs.)
- There is More Than One Way to Deload
Deloads are a period where we reduce the volume or intensity of a workout program to allow our bodies time to recover and prevent us from burning out. My coach taught me that reducing the volume can be approached in different ways (such as by reducing the number of sets instead of lightening the load). For my current program, on deload cycles we reduce the number of sets. This approach has helped me significantly. Not only does it allow me to feel like I keep my strength (because I am still moving the same load), but it also allows me to recover properly because we reduce the total volume and intensity by cutting down the number of sets. It’s kind of like having the best of both worlds.
- Life Interruptions Doesn’t Mean Training has to Stop
Something I have struggled with over the years was prioritizing my fitness goals when other things popped up in life. I can recall periods when I was so focused on health and fitness and then tragedy struck and created a whirlwind of stress and interruptions and I always put my fitness on the back burner. Over the years, I know that this inability to balance things out has prevented me from making continuous progress. Take a month or two off, and it’s like you are starting all over again; You lose some strength, maybe some muscle mass, and you get discouraged. 2023 was certainly a year for the books… I was wrapping up my MBA and had a couple of my hardest semesters. I was determined to graduate with a 4.0 GPA even if that meant doing papers sometimes 2 or 3 times over to get review feedback before submitting the assignment for grading. In that same year, my dog got very sick and we were navigating his health issues. It took us about 4 full months to finally figure out what was going on with him, get him the treatment he needed, and get his health into a better state. We also had a major hurricane that caused us to have some issues with appliances (the AC, Dryer, and Fridge decided to all crap out at the same time). All the while, I suffered two injuries that caused some minor setbacks in my fitness program and changed jobs after graduating from my MBA program. The goal was to compete this Spring (2024) and honestly, with every setback or interruption, I just felt more and more defeated; like I was being pushed further away from my goal and time was slipping away from me. While ultimately I decided to push prep out a bit, my coach helped me customize my program to fit my rollercoaster ride of a year. When six days of training became too much we reduced it. When I had injuries we figured ways to work around them, or through them (if it was appropriate and not going to make the injury worse). I can say that this is the FIRST time I have been able to successfully stay on my program consistently regardless of all these crazy life events. My coach taught me how to make my workouts fit my lifestyle rather than make my lifestyle fit my workouts.
- Progress Isn’t Linear
Something I always struggled with was the mindset that every workout has to be better than the one before. Week to week I would compare the workouts and think I have to constantly be progressing every workout by increasing reps or volume. Getting comfortable with the idea that sometimes that isn’t going to happen and it’s more beneficial to focus on RPE is something I had to train my brain on. It took a bit but I am so grateful for the ability to shift my mindset to understand the importance and benefits of this. There are some weeks I hit PRs, some weeks I can increase reps or load, and other weeks where I just am stagnant or sometimes even fall short a rep or two. But knowing that the RPE is what it is supposed to be, allows me to understand that maybe this is what that RPE is going to look like this week. It might look a little different week to week, but it’s important to look at the overall progress. And this puts me in tune with my body, I feel like my mind muscle connection has improved.
Summer 2020 vs. Summer 2023
Overall, the long and short of this is, that I learned more working with 3DMJ Coach Brad over the last 3 plus years than I did in any of my bodybuilding years prior (I’ve done natural bodybuilding recreationally since 2015). I’ve learned many other things from my coach as well, but figured I’d highlight a few for this blog post. Hiring a great coach has really helped me take my training to the next level.
For those curious or unaware: I started working with Coach Brad in late 2020. I knew as a natural bodybuilder in my early 30s that I wanted to hire a coach who worked with natural athletes and understood and respected my desire to remain natural. I wanted a coach who had a good amount of experience in the fitness industry as well as experience in bodybuilding (not all coaches are created equal, do your homework). I found 3D Muscle Journey (3DMJ) through Eric Helmes, who had been referenced in Layne Norton’s books. When I researched 3DMJ, I was impressed with the structure of their team and the amount of detail that went into their coaching programs. They have an elite group with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I started listening to the podcast and just knew I wanted to work with 3DMJ. And that’s how this journey started… The goal currently is to continue to progress and eventually get on stage again. Although I am a little disappointed I decided to push off the prep, I have been making some significant progress the last couple of months, and believe things happen for a reason. Maybe this delay is exactly what I needed to take my next prep to the next level.
If you want to read about my competition season with Coach Brad, here is the link: http://www.rptrainer.com/blog/bodybuilding-competition-2021/
Thanks for reading 🙂
About the same body weight Jan 2021 – Oct 2023