Fitness is Not Religion or Politics, and there are Many Ways to Construct a Good Training Program

Most lifters start working out to look and feel better. Along the way, they get sucked into one of the numerous fitness cults out there and turn into annoying fitness snobs.

No matter what anyone tells you, many roads lead to Rome. There are many ways to see great results in the gym.

Chances are the person whose physique you envy so badly doesn’t train harder than you. He or she simply eats better than you and is more consistent.

As long as you’re consistently getting stronger in the primary movement patterns, revving up the metabolism, and taxing the major muscles, then you’re achieving a great workout.

Don’t let a guru dictate the way you train, grasp a hold of the reigns and figure it out for yourself.

If you like training your arms directly, then train your arms directly.

If you don’t like squatting, don’t squat – do a single leg squatting movement instead.

If you don’t like deadlifting, don’t deadlift – do a single leg deadlifting movement and/or heavy kettlebell swings instead.

If you don’t like bench pressing, don’t bench press – do weighted push-ups and/or dumbbell horizontal pressing.

If you prefer performing shoulder pressing from the seated position rather than standing, do it seated.

If you love Hammer strength rowing movements, do them.

If you like performing American kettlebell swings rather than Russian kettlebell swings, do them American style.

If hip thrusting makes you feel terribly uncomfortable in the gym, don’t do them – just do single leg hip thrusts and/or cable pull-throughs and/or kettlebell swings.

If you love squatting and it doesn’t hurt you, then squat.

If you love deadlifting and it doesn’t hurt you, then deadlift.

If you love to leg press, go ahead and leg press.

If you like isolation movements, then by all means, do isolation movements.

If you hate conditioning work, don’t do it.

If you prefer the inverted row over the bent over row, choose the inverted row.

If you enjoy kettlebells, use them. If you don’t, then don’t use them.

If you enjoy machines, use them. If you don’t, then don’t use them.

If you like resistance bands, use them. If you don’t, then don’t use them.

If you prefer the hex bar deadlift to the conventional deadlift, then go ahead and use the hex bar.

If you prefer front squatting over back squatting, then go ahead and front squat most of the time.

If overhead work such as pull-ups and military press cause you problems, don’t do them. If they don’t cause you problems and you enjoy them, do them.

If you don’t like directly training your core, don’t train your core.

There are many effective ways to squat, I’m sure you can find one that suits you well (bilateral, unilateral, full range, partial range, etc.).

There are many effective ways to deadlift, I’m sure you can find one that suits you well (bilateral, unilateral, full range, partial range, etc.).

If any exercise consistently causes you pain or injury (assuming you’re using proper form), then drop it permanently.

If close grip benching of floor pressing feels much better on the joints than regular benching, then close grip or floor press more often.

If high box squatting feels much better on the joints than deeper back squatting, then high box squat more often.

If Romanian deadlifting feels much better on the joints than regular deadlifting, then RDL more often.

If you hate good mornings, don’t do them. If you love them, do them.

If deadlifting kicks the crap out of you every week and impairs your subsequent workouts, then consider solely using the dynamic effort method for pulls.

If squatting kicks the crap out of you every week and impairs your subsequent workouts, then consider solely using the dynamic effort method for squats.

If you prefer high reps, then focus on getting stronger in higher rep ranges.

If you prefer lower reps, then focus on getting stronger in lower rep ranges.

If you prefer medium reps, then focus on getting stronger in medium rep ranges.

If you enjoy all rep ranges, then get stronger in all rep ranges.

If you prefer bodyweight training, then get really good at bodyweight training and learn advanced bodyweight exercises.

If barbells are your bread and butter, there’s nothing wrong with solely performing barbell lifts.

Fitness is not religion or politics – you are free to decide how you should train. And there are many ways to construct a good training program.

Do it for the glutes!

 

29 Comments

  • Jake Johnson says:

    Great post Bret.

    You see the same thing happening in the world of nutrition as well. Everyone is hell bent on pushing their one-size-fits-all approach, but in reality, personal preference wins every time. If someone likes to do curls, they’re going to do curls. If someone likes to eat bread, they’re going to eat bread.

    It’s tailoring the approach to fit the individual’s personal needs and preferences that seems to be the most effective ‘method’.

    Keep up the great work.

    Jake

  • While I can appreciate the purpose of your post and who it is directed towards, I may have to disagree on the notion that “you are free” to choose whatever method you want to specifically facilitate a desired training outcome.

    I’ve had the discussion with several professionals on the idea of “methods are many, principles are few” and it seems to be the main tenet in the argument for prescribing a wide variety of methodologies to gain strength, speed , power, etc.

    Certain desireable training protocols and specific methods will make attaining X, Y, Z training quality that much easier. If a specific client wanted to attain a lean physique, if left to their own devices, they may never achieve them due to outside responsibilities or various competing demands (time wise, knowledge gaps, or actionable steps).

    If an athlete’s main goal is to stay injury free, they may not have the specific timeline to “figure it out” and attain a proper “workout” – they will specifically need a training program along with the intricacies of sport specific injury mechanisms to properly develop a healthy system of biomechanics and (hopefully) homeostatic responses to, again, a wide variety of training methodologies.

    To avoid this from sounding like a rant, I’d be interested in your thoughts on what constructs a “good training program.” (I admittedly do not read your blog every day, but am familiar with a few of your articles and philosophies.)

    • Bret says:

      Miguel, great points. I didn’t intend for it to mean that you can choose whatever in the heck you want…such as superslow training for strength and power, or plyometrics for bodybuilding, etc. What I meant was that there are plenty of options to tailor a program to suit you preferences, and that black & white statements are annoying. For example, if someone did upper body pressing movements with just barbells or just dumbbells, the effects on hypertrophy and transfer to sport would be similar. Same goes for whether one chooses to stick with a front squat, a back squat, or a Bulgarian split squat. Here’s the take home point of the article:

      “As long as you’re consistently getting stronger in the primary movement patterns, revving up the metabolism, and taxing the major muscles, then you’re achieving a great workout.”

  • Keats says:

    Couldn’t agree more Bret..many roads lead to Rome and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Better to focus on principles rather than get too caught up in the myriad of methods available!

  • Bob says:

    Are you suggesting there is only one way to do religion and politics?

    Ok I get what you say and agree. And yet, of the many roads to Rome, not all are of the same length, elevation, or have the same potholes. Reading the travel guides before making my decision is not a bad thing. However, it’s my decision, not the travel agent’s.

    • Bret says:

      Bob, what I mean is that religion and politics tend to dictate what people believe and how they should feel about a particular topic.

      In S&C, you don’t need to blindly follow a guru who tells you that isolation movements can’t possibly do anything that compound movements can’t do, that a type of squat or deadlift is dangerous and should NEVER be done, etc.

      Experts should give guidelines, not bold statements that fly in the face of sports science.

      What you said is exactly on point though – read the travel guides and expose yourself to a plethora of knowledge and experience and make your own decision.

      • Bob says:

        Bret, the religion/politics remark was a joke! Fact is, I think one should decide for oneself in religion and politics, too — just like fitness!

        I’m quite comfortable making up my own mind. And over the past couple years, I think I’ve learned the major principles from various high quality books and sites like yours (thanks!). So I can absolutely reject blatant BS. (Like the doc who told me not to squat. However, same doc saved me from surgery by testing for lyme disease instead of reading the mri or treating gout.)

        And yet. I keep getting injured and don’t quite know why. I get that I need a professional assessment and some technique coaching. At this level, I really don’t know enough to pick the right coach. (I don’t live in Phoenix.) I’ve read a bit about assessments, but I just don’t have the experience to assess myself. I think I can adapt programming in a reasonable way, even if it isn’t the absolute best. I think my self-coaching has been fair, but I don’t know what I don’t know. How to know what I’m missing?

        That would be a nice topic, if you can be more practical than general — how to pick a coach.

  • Chuck says:

    Damn Bret, you just nailed fitness snobs and good! Bless you.
    Only thing as bad are the food Nazi’s. Thou shall not eat (insert food here) because I don’t eat that.
    I adhere to Brad Shoenfeld’s thinking. ” If it hurts, don’t do it.” And ” Variety is the spice of muscle building.”

  • Marianne says:

    There may be many roads that lead to Rome, but it’s not the roads that are the problem, it’s the people who travel on them and think theirs was the best/only way.

    That being said, I do think some roads contain less pot-holes, corners, diversions … but that’s why we have research, right? To figure out which are better and which are not.

    Good post, BC 🙂

    • You know, you really need to listen to Marianne a little more often, Bret. She’s a smart one, she is 🙂

      (I liked the post, tho. Nice work)

    • Bret says:

      Great point Marianne! Many roads lead to Rome, but some get you there quicker than others. Learn the science, apply it to your body and goals, and reap the rewards.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Hold on, I’m confused…Are you saying to get jacked shoulders that I don’t have to perform supra-maximal holds while shotgunning a $400 protein powder that is no longer on the market?!!

    Son of a bitch…This changes EVERYTHING!

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      Btw, Bret, you should update that stern looking picture of you pointing at the camera with your mohawk/beard look.

      It would go from bemused teacher, “Guys, I’m not going to put up with any more nonsense today…”

      to,

      Biker thug, “GIVE ME THE METH!”

      • Bret says:

        Haha! This was taken a few years ago and I look younger and better looking. Now that I’m 37 and over the hill, all I can do is look mean with a mohawk/beard. Agree, the pic needs to be redone 😉

  • Brian says:

    Anyone who speaks in absolutes is typically wrong, one way or the other.

  • Angelina says:

    I think the pic is great! You look tough! 😛

    I use an online trainer and have for the past year. In the beginning he agreed to switch up my w/o plans every few weeks cause I get bored pretty quick. I was new to lifting so I appreciated learning about different routines like super sets, giant sets, drop sets, and hi and low Rep workouts. I kept a notebook of how my body responded to each. But I don’t know why it did and I’m at the point where I want to know the why…so I really enjoy reading your work! Then there are days like today when I decided to do back … breaking protocol :-O…. and I picked 4 exercises I’ve never done before and I did it all on cables. Awesome w/o!!

    Thanks Bret!

  • Edith says:

    I think Brent looks hot in all the pics and videos! Lol 🙂

  • BJ says:

    Bret: I am brand new to your posts, but I saw that you had done a glute program for women. Do you have one for men? I can’t seem to find anything specific….

  • Daniel says:

    Great Post Bret.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Vee says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I’m sort of new to your posts, but already I’m learning so much.

    I needed to read this. I have to deal with mild lower back scoliosis and my right knee has some issues from my running days and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the things I can no longer do because they exacerbate the pain. This is perfect and should be said more often.

    I want to be the best me, for me, not based on what others look like/how they train and I do sometimes forget that.

    Again, thank you.

  • Irene says:

    Hi Bret,

    I’ve been power lifting for about 3yrs after discovering Robert dos Remedios’ book and I was just wondering what would be some good ways to focus more on the glutes without really moving away from the power lifting style I’m used to. My butt is pretty big already but I’d like more of a lifted sort of bubble butt look.

    Thanks!

  • Dan O'Beirne says:

    Thanks for this post Brett.

    No doubt we have enough dogmatic egomaniacs in the world in most fields :->

    I love to mix up my clients training RX based on their body type so they avoid boredom & injuries while getting measurable results

    best from Spain!

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