Think of a strength training program as a roadmap: it’s the path that’s going to safely and effectively navigate you to your final destination. As with every road map, issues can arise. We may experience a change of course, road blocks, or even discover a better way to reach our destination. Luckily, there are ways to identify and see these possible roadblocks or signs in a strength training program. These signs can be physiological, which is our body giving us cues – while others can be psychological. No matter the scenario, we compiled a list of signs that signal it’s time to change up your strength training program.
1. Numbers Flatline
The issue: This can be tricky depending on the program you’re following, especially if you’re working towards a peak. Although, if you find yourself constantly stuck on the same numbers even after the completion of a workout cycle, then it may be time to change up your program. For example, if your squat has been the same for 3-months even after trying to change the volume and intensity, then it’s probably time to take this as a sign.
The fix: Focus on areas you may be lacking. Maybe your squat isn’t increasing due to an imbalance somewhere, such as lack of hamstring strength. Try different modes of training, for example, switching from a back squat to a front squat – this will change up movement patterns, which can work like a refresh. Another idea is to try added resistance, or chains and bands to change how to develop force through the movement.
2. Overly Sore
The issue: Some soreness is to expected when following routine workouts, but there are ways to identify if you may be reaching a point of overreaching/overtraining. If you just started a new workout, soreness is to expected. If you’ve been following a program for a while and the volume hasn’t been an issue and all of a sudden you’re getting very sore – that can be a sign. This can be a sign that your nervous system is becoming rundown, which can lead to immune and sleep issues.
The fix: Try to deload and drop the volume of your workouts; I usually prescribe 55-65% of normal volume, pending on intensity. This can help provide the body with a break and let the nervous system recuperate. Plus, if you come back feeling fresh after the deload, there’s a good chance you can still follow your program and receive gains.
3. Lack of Enthusiasm
The issue: Workouts become a drag instead of a fun challenge. It’s essential you’re completely honest with yourself about this point. Yes, there are going to be really tough days, days where you want to skip workouts completely, but there’s a difference between complete lack of drive and an off day. When you notice a complete drop off in interest and drive, that may be a sign you need to change your program.
The fix: Learn to differentiate between a bad day and complete drop off of passion. Take a week or two off to realign your goals and priorities. Most lifters don’t take too much time off, so a complete week or two off mentally can re-start your innate drive. If that doesn’t work, change the program and develop a realigned focus with fresh goals.
The issue: Injuries happen – they’re often a reality in strength sport that lifters never wish upon each other. If you find yourself injured, more than likely there will be parts of your program that simply won’t be possible to continue with. For example, a shoulder injury can eliminate a majority of upper body training.
The fix: Take a step back and use this as a sign to focus on other areas you may be lacking in. For example, if your shoulder is banged up, make legs and back an increased focus. Injuries suck, but they don’t have to completely derail progress – get creative and go forth.
5. Constant Distraction
The issue: There are a ton of great coaches out there and there are a lot of great strength training programs. It’s difficult to commit to just one, especially when there’s limited time and you want to try them all. This can be a blessing and a curse, specifically for those who are newer to training and prone to program jumping. There’s a difference between finding a better means of doing something, and just being impatient.
The fix: Enthusiasm and curiosity shows passion, but before changing your program…honestly ask yourself this question, “Have I given my current program enough time to bring full results?” This is where you have to be open and know the difference between being overly eager and truly finding a better means to train. Think of it like, “If you have a lawnmower, then you’re sure as hell not going to cut the grass with your scissors.”
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.