The Gold Standard Training Plan - What is it?
A loaded question full of controversy and inconsistency that a lot of people want to know the answer to so they can optimize their training, maximize their results, improve their health, or maybe get magic fixes out of minimal effort.... the reasons go on and on. So what is the gold standard training plan you should follow to reach your goals? Well the first thing you have to do is determine what your goals are!!
There are a lot of reasons to take the time to seriously think about what your goal is and to WRITE IT DOWN!! It's extremely hard to find a destination if you don't even know where you're trying to go. So, set the destination and think about two things to start:
1. Where is the final destination?
2. How far is that destination and where will I stop along the way to fill up on gas (or in 2022 you're maybe charging up the battery).
Remember, no matter how hard you knuckle down and try to drive straight through your car will only go so far before it has no choice but stop. You NEED to take breaks! They don't have to be long but they have to be just enough to refill and be back on the road to your goals. Ok, back to number 1, Where is the destination? Did you write it down? I'm not joking... the first step to manifesting the accomplishment of reaching your goal is to make it an actual tangible thing. Write it down and make it more than just a thought. Or if you're not a person to write it down then post it on social media! Make it public and let people know. And don't put it in a story so all your fitness hopes and dreams disappear in 24 hours. You need to make this permanent. Post it so you can always look back on it and the more people who see it the better because they'll keep you accountable. They'll especially be your support system if you post regular updates of your progress. Most of us have heard of SMART goals. Keep this in mind. You're more likely to focus on your goal and reach it if it's "S"pecific, "M"easurable, "A"ttainable, "R"ealistic, and has a specific "T"imeline or end date by when you want to reach your goal. Last but not least, it has to matter! Your goal has to be important to you. Make sure you're doing it for yourself and not for others.
Now finally moving onto number 2, Plan your stops along the way! Every big picture goal should have smaller micro goals along the way. If I want to bench press 315lbs by July, 2023 then I might plan to retest myself every 6 weeks leading up to that point and set goals along the way. Maybe 6 weeks before my goal I want to comfortable doing 2 reps at 300. 6 weeks before that I want to be doing 1 rep at 300, etc. Then remember the big goal but focus on the small goals. This technique will keep you more motivated with greater spikes of dopamine along the way as you crave and desire an outcome that's within reach in the next 6 weeks. Motivation is one of the biggest intrinsic driving forces for the release of the chemical dopamine in the body which many of us know as the "feel good drug." It's a powerful chemical in the body to tap into and leverage to reach your goals. Think about it, why does the thought of a cup of coffee get out of bed in the morning? It's not the sip of coffee that gets us up, it's craving that sip of coffee that does it. That's when the dopamine gets released. For me, I'm more than willing to wake up at 5:30am for a round of golf because the thought of that round of golf, thinking about the smell of the fresh dew on the grass and anticipating how much I'm going to enjoy the day produces more than enough dopamine to fire me up. I haven't even hit a ball yet.
The Plan - The Process
I know I spent a lot of time on the importance of goal setting but it's the single most important factor in developing a proper training plan! It is the driving force of everything you're about to do. Your plan is the route you're going to take to get to your destination. Do you drive across Canada with slower speed limits, average road conditions, the same sightseeing spots you've been to a few times before? Or do you head south, fly down the smoother roads of the interstate, check out some sights you've never been to and hit up some big exciting cities along the way? The thing is, both routes take you to the same destination and one isn't necessarily faster than the other. So, what do you do? How do you get to your goal? This is where the planning comes in because you need to do your homework or enlist in a professional, experienced, certified trainer who can understand your goals and your needs to guide you down the best route. I'm going to jump right to the point.... you need to take the route that works for YOU!!! One person might love the slower paced relaxing fishing and cottage life. They might want to drive through Canada, camp along the way, hit up parks and lakes for fishing. Driving to the next fishing lodge or the next national forest campground could be extremely motivating for them along the way. This person might like to grind it out a bit more in the gym, do some kettlebell training, yokes, farmer's carries, sleds, sledge hammers, tires, and ropes. Maybe that's their forte? Another person might enjoy the fast paced night life of Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit.... and they'll get that stimulation along the speedy interstate. Maybe they gravitate toward the hack squat, resistance training machines, cardio, etc? Both of these training techniques can be utilized to reach the same goals as long as they're programmed properly with training phases, intensities, set/rep ranges, recovery time etc. As a trainer I need to learn, determine, and choose the one that works for the client. It's the absolute best way to stay motivated, train hard, and reach their goal.
The Perfect Gold Standard Plan
I'm going to cut to the chase. It's the plan that works for that particular client! The perfect plan is the plan that will get "You" to your goal successfully and in a timely manner. This can look very different for different individuals because if I tell you to do light weight high intensity circuits using 5-10lb dumbbells and burpees but you HATE burpees and really love lifting heavy, doing traditional deadlifts, squats, and bench press then you're going to fall off the wagon. You're lucky if you make it to the first campground or city along the way, the first 6 week check-in. You'll lose interest, lose motivation, and take a side road to find some excitement. Or worse yet you'll turn the car around, drive back home and sit down on the couch to watch some TV. The plan has to work for you! It has to motivate you and be interesting to you. It has to be as appealing as that 6:30am tee time I'm waking up excited for.
The Science Matters
Now I'd be doing myself a complete disservice if I didn't stress the importance of the science behind training. It undoubtedly works! There are science backed ways to train and principles that can't be ignored but some of them are more broad than a lot of people realize. If you want to build muscle (hypertrophy) then you can certainly work in rep ranges of 5-25 reps. That's a huge range and very different than the 8-12 reps that used to be preached. The most important thing to consider whether you're doing 5-8 reps or 20-25 reps is that you're going to complete exhaustion on several sets for each muscle group or you're getting very close to complete exhaustion (you need to consider safety of course). Do that, fuel yourself with proper nutrition, and you will grow muscle. Another general way to enhance hypertrophy is to train muscles in a way that you feel the "pump" or the "swole." Usually this means utilizing techniques like compound sets, drop sets, or strip sets. It works.
The science is deep and there's a lot more to it than I'm willing to get into in one blog. But power training needs to be explosive and recovery time/quality of movement/output needs to be considered. Accelerations are critical to speed work and plyometric work. Strength and Max Strength follow different principles than hypertrophy and possess a pretty large neural component. The science will play a huge role in determining how efficiently and effectively you reach your goal and sometimes whether you reach your goal at all. It also raises the bar on how high you can aim for your goal. The science is the number 1 reason to put your training into the hands of a certified strength and conditioning coach. Reason number 2 is probably motivation and accountability.
In a Nut Shell
The gold standard training plan is the plan that works best for you. It's the plan you're going to be motivated to follow and excited to get out of bed for each day. Once that's been determined you can apply the science to it and then start crushing it consistently in the gym. It's a lot to do on your own and I can guarantee that working with the right trainer will make a difference. Just make sure your trainer is catering to your needs and not to their own comfort zone. Happy training now and into the new year. Let's go!!
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