Andy Chasse' talks training programs, and tells you if you're using a routine that's either too tough or too smart.

Is Your Workout Too Tough or Smart?In the gym, we try our best to beat our bodies, to overcome resistance and force progression. We know our bodies can beat us and that’s one of the reasons a workout program must be laid out clearly and concisely. To accomplish this, we spend countless hours online and talking to friends, researching the top training programs out there. For many, this is the first step towards halting progression. Similar to your body, your training can and will beat you if you attack it incorrectly.

A poorly selected training program falls into one of two categories - it’s either too tough, or too smart. With today’s knowledge of exercise and performance, the efficiency in which training programs are created is increasing exponentially. Experts are beginning to understand how the body responds to different rep and set schemes and progression systems. This knowledge allows us to structure our programs to elicit an optimal response from the body. Unfortunately, not everyone can comprehend the science behind today’s workout programs - this is where the problems arise.

Too Tough

Programs that are too tough may be so in several aspects. The intensity might be too high, the exercise combination might be too difficult, or one of the exercises might be a poor fit for your body structure or skill level. Starting a program that your body just can’t handle is one of the most limiting and dangerous decisions you can make when it comes to exercise. Both high intensity and exercise difficulty largely influence the possibility of injury. High intensity, particularly, is one of the biggest problems among beginning lifters.

Overestimating the human body is easy, especially with some of the feats that have been accomplished by established elite athletes. Those creating a program for themselves should be especially aware of the intensity levels chosen. When it comes to modifying a tough program, you may luck out and come out better off. Many high intensity programs, however, are built with a high intensity for a reason. Decreasing the intensities may benefit you slightly, but you’re better off switching to an easier program.

Too Smart

Your program could just as easily be too smart for you. If you have a poor understanding of periodization schemes or possess a small technical exercise repertoire, you will likely select a program that’s too smart. Starting a program you don’t understand may not have as much potential to harm the body as starting one that is too tough, but it can certainly result in the same stalling condition. Many lifters who have trouble following a confusing progression feel as if it’s ineffective or too complicated - and then they change it.

Modifying a complex program specifically designed by a fitness expert or an elite athlete is asking for disaster. You might not think the intensity is high enough, but if you scroll through the program long enough you might catch that weeks one through three are preparing you with a moderate intensity for the extremely difficult week four. On that same note, you may not agree with the use of only two assistance exercises within each workout, but if you sit down and think about it, you might see that only a low amount of assistance is required to properly supplement the staple exercises. The bottom line - avoid modifying a program unless you really understand what you’re doing.

Wrapping It Up

With it all laid out in front of you, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand that your training can indeed beat you. When selecting or creating an exercise program, do so with a little caution. Using the wrong program isn’t exactly life-threatening, but it can and will slow down your progress and keep you from reaching your lifting goals and aspirations.