The greatest piece of programming advice I have ever heard came from the great man Dan John (unfortunately I didn’t hear it in person, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I still got to hear it…).
It went something like this: “Everything works. Nothing works forever”.
While it does seem to be an extremely simplistic view on programming, it holds a huge amount of truth, and does encompasses the principal of progressive overload quite well. Ultimately suggesting that programming doesn’t have to be perfect, and as long as someone is training they will see results.
They will eventually adapt to this training stimulus, and it will stop working.
Now obviously, by making slight adjustments to exercise selection, or increasing the weight we are using or the reps we are performing, we can continue to improve, irrespective of the programming quality. While a ‘better’ program may yield slightly higher results, it can be easily accepted that we would likely see increases in strength, size, of performance.
Unless we aren’t putting in the effort required to make change.
While I think that Dan Johns saying is very accurate, it does make one very large assumption.
That we are working hard.
Which, as I spend more and more time in gym settings, I am starting to think is not as common as we would like to think.
Too often I see people performing the exact same exercises, with the same weights, without even breaking a sweat. They are merely going through the motions, performing their favorite exercises and then going home. And while they might feel as if they have done something, they are not seeing any substantial change.
So really, I think it might be better to suggest that: “Everything works, if YOU work hard enough”.
And ultimately, I think this holds a huge amount of truth.
If you went into the gym and did nothing but deadlift 10 sets of 6 reps (at your 6 rep max) 3 times a week, you would undoubtedly get stronger, probably get bigger, and ultimately improve.
Now from a programming standpoint, this would be absurd. It would be brutal, there is absolutely no periodisation (and subsequently no programmed recovery), and you would potentially burn out after only a few weeks.
Furthermore, there is no consideration for muscle imbalances, single leg strength, or core stability (among a number of other things we love to consider).
But you would still improve.
Because you would be working hard.
In comparison, if you had the perfect program (whatever that may be...) but just went through the motions (following it down to the most minute detail, but without putting in any substantial effort), you probably wouldn’t improve at all.
Train with Intent
Ultimately, all I am trying to say is while the perfect program may not exist, we can guarantee improvement by putting in the work.
This means training hard, lifting heavy, and building up a sweat.
Train with the intent to improve, and you will.