Is There Such Thing as a Perfect Training Program? Applying the 25% Rule

In my previous post, I talked about the four most important components to building a training program.

To recap, those components are:

  1. Your Goals
  2. Volume-Intensity Relationship
  3. Training Frequency
  4. Exercise Selection

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I finished that post remarking that there is no such thing as a perfect program and that all training programs are flawed to a certain degree. While a program might yield results for a period of time, inherently our bodies adapt and our progress stalls. This is where the 25% rule comes into play.

Athletes and lifters have a tendency to entirely scrap a program when their progress stalls, rather than taking a sensible step back to examine the current state of their training and identifying what to manipulate. In other words, 75% of what you’re doing may be adequate, but you need to tweak 25% of it to induce gains.

The key as a lifter is to identify that 25%, make an adjustment, and keep everything else the same. This will keep you from program hopping, which is one of the worst mistakes you can make in your training.

Your Goals

If your goals are the thing you decide to tweak, it is important to know you don’t need to change your overall goals.

Maybe your goal is to add 50 pounds to your squat and you’ve been unsuccessful. You don’t need to change that goal, but you should add in some mini-goals that will help you achieve the big one. Maybe you have weak hamstrings and glutes that are hindering your squat, so your immediate goals should be to strengthen those while keeping your overall squat goal the same.

Volume-Intensity Relationship

This is fairly straightforward to manipulate. Maybe you need more or less volume, more or less intensity, or more or less of both. This variable is also very goal dependent.

Training Frequency

Again, easy to manipulate. You either train more or your train less. If you need to train more, maybe you consider multiple small workouts a day instead of one marathon session. There are lots of options to tweak this variable.

Exercise Selection

This can take some specialization and a good diagnosis of your lack of progress. This will also be largely goal dependent variable.

If you are trying to gain mass in certain parts of your body, or strengthen certain parts of your body to improve some of your big compound lifts, you may need to perform more isolation movements. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are trying to become more explosive, you may need to do more compound lifts and plyometrics.

Closing Thoughts…

Most of the time, sweeping changes to your training program are not necessary to make the gains you are seeking.

Keep the adjustments subtle and apply the 25% rule. Manipulate one of the four critical training components at a time and continually monitor your progress. You will make far more progress using this approach than making major changes each training cycle.

Keep on keepin’ on…

— Tank

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