Week Zero-How to start a new training program

Week Zero

Sometimes, starting a new exercise program can be the most difficult thing to do.  Whether you’ve been working out for awhile and are thinking about changing  your program, or you’ve never even set foot inside a gym the first few weeks can make or break your success.  I’m going to to provide you with some helpful tips on how to break the ice and how to make sure that your program works for you the way it should!

If you ask any trainer, coach, nutritionist, or piano teacher (doesn’t matter really),  I’m sure they will all agree with me that program adherence is the most challenging aspect of designing any type of program.  It’s also the most important.  Now we can sit here and debate the benefits and drawbacks to this program or that program or doing 65% instead of 70%, or drop sets, or circuit training, and on and on but that’s not really what’s going to work.  Now don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of science that goes into a good training program and some ARE truly better than others, but the BEST program for YOU is the one that you will DO.  That was profound, and it rhymed so I’m going to repeat it.

The BEST program for YOU is the one that you will DO!

Even a half assed program done full…ass(?) is better than a fantastic program that you make a million excuses not to do.  Let’s take a real life example and see if I can illustrate my point.  In the Panda Block training program we have 12 weeks outlined exactly.  I would bet my name, reputation, and what little money I have on the line that if you did this program and didn’t miss ANYTHING for the entire 12 weeks, you’d improve.  I’ll explain in a moment why I think this is a sure bet.  Most people will start by blowing off Day 2 and Day 4 of the program because these are conditioning days (with a little strength work in there as well).  However, they are crucial to the success of the program and without them, you won’t get the results you’re after.  Here are my top 5 tips on program evaluation:

  1.  Do you understand the program and does it make sense to you?

This one is important and I put it at the top because I think its one of the reasons people have exercise ADD.  If you cherry pick a program offline and you don’t understand the methods, or flow, or reasoning behind what you’re doing then you are less likely to buy into it.  If you understand WHY you’re doing the work, then you’ll be more apt to actually show up for it.  I’m not saying that you have to understand the physiology of whats happening, I’m just saying that it needs to make sense.  If on day 1 you are challenged with dumbbell overhead presses while standing on a swiss ball while a spotter throws medicine balls at you…you may want to dig a little deeper and find out if that is something you really need.  Many times I’ll see people with strength programs or hypertrophy programs and what they really want is a cutting template.  Make sure your program lines up with your goals and you feel confident that you’re moving in the right direction.

2.  On a scale of 1-10 how likely are you to complete the program in its entirety?

This is a biggie.  Before you begin ANY program or diet, do this little test.  Be honest with yourself and make sure you can rate the program somewhere between an 8 and a 10.  After all, you’re about to spend a lot of time doing this program and it needs to rank high.  The excitement of starting a new program might fade and you may end up at a 5 or 6 if you start at an 8! You want to look at such things as formats, language used, convenience so on.

3. Do you have what it takes to complete the program?

Literally do you have what it takes?  Not just the determination and all that stuff but the equipment, the skills, the instructions, and the time?  These are things that get overlooked.  It will be fun to learn new exercises, but how are you going to learn them?  Do you have someone that can teach you?  Are there instructional materials included?  All great questions!  If your program calls for you to use specialized equipment, what are the scaled options?

4.  How many ways can evaluate the success of the program?

This one is fun and the reason I bet it all on the Panda Block program earlier.  You have to make sure that your program gives you as many wins as possible!  Not all days will be magical, but having a program that sets benchmarks on things like weight lifted, time to completion, amount of work completed etc. gives you more opportunity for a win.  The more wins, the more fun.  The more fun, the more likely you are to complete the program!

5.  How much wiggle room do you have with the program?

Let’s face it, life can get hard and things get in the way.  If your program calls for a single body part on Monday and you have to miss it, when do you make that up?  Do you make it up or let it go?  All valid points.  Make sure there’s some wiggle room built in so that you can make sure that one bad day doesn’t ruin 12 weeks of solid programming for you.  There’s a quote I heard from Mark Bell once that goes “you’re only one meal away from ruining or starting a diet.”  It’s very true.  You aren’t what happened yesterday, you’re are made up of what you do today!

I’m working on a few more programs for the site.  It’s hard work really.  Not because I don’t enjoy it, but because creating a program that is easy to follow, convenient to use, and contains all the stuff you need to be working on creates a lot of variables.  When I designed the Panda Block program, the excel sheets made using the program super easy.  I just put my 1 rep max in the box and ALL the working percentages where laid out for 12 weeks!  I just snapped a picture of my screen with my phone (because I always have that with me) and off I went.  But I’ve been in this game a long time, and I almost forgot what it’s like to start brand new or after a long hiatus.  So I pulled out what I like to call “Week Zero” from another program I wrote.  This will get you STARTED on the Panda Block or ANY program where percentages are used.  By the way, percentages are VERY good at creating long term, safe strength gains.  I put a copy of this in the Courses and Programs page for free.  You will get an email with the sheet in it.

Thanks for everything!  Let us know if we can help you!  If you have one of our programs, or if you have ANY program that you have questions about, email me.  I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have!  We want everyone to Get Better!

Thanks for training with us!


Coach C

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