If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated that your efforts haven’t delivered the results you wanted, and you are spinning your wheels, then the answer is a simple, yes. You should audit your training.
What do I mean by audit your training? Well, it’s simple really. You need to make sure what you’re doing will actually get you where you want to go. This sounds obvious, and you’re probably thinking that of course if you train hard you’ll get there, and I get it, I really do—but if that’s the case why aren’t you there now? You’d be surprised by how many people I see that tell me the same thing, and when I review what they’ve been doing it paints a pretty similar scenario. They haven’t achieved the results they want because they haven’t really trained for it.
It’s All About the Goal
Let’s take a step back from your weekly training, even monthly training, and look at the big picture. The most important part of any program isn’t the exercises we use, it isn’t the sets and the reps or the time even. The single most important part is the goal itself. Without a goal how do we know how to set up all of the former? We don’t really, do we?
Step one of auditing your program is to outline your goal—and be very specific with this part. “I want to be jacked” doesn’t count. “It would be nice to be a little stronger” doesn’t count, either. It needs to be something you can actually plan to achieve. Something specific like, “I want to add 10kg to my squat.” Or “I want to lose 5kg and maintain my muscle mass.” Even “I want to get as strong as I can” will work. Your goal also needs to have some form of time constraint on it. For example, “I want to add 10kg to my squat in the next 2 months.” Great—we now have a goal. So, you need to figure out your specific goal, and then write it down.
From here, work backwards. Once you know what the goal is and what the time constraints are you can start to map out your program. This is where we start to think about planning the way in which we will progress throughout the program. Are you going to make weekly increases in sets/reps/weight? Are you going to increase the time we spend running? Are you going to make more/less frequent increases? Obviously this is an outline. I’m not suggesting you need to have every single incremental increase planned (although you could), but you need to have an idea of the planned increases, at the very least.
Map Out Your Plan
After this, we can then map out all the fun stuff like which exercises you’ll use and how you’ll structure your training week. When you do this, it’s important to prioritize your plan according to your goal. So, if the goal was to increase your squat but you only squat once a week, and you spend three workouts hitting chest and back, it’s probably not a surprise you don’t achieve a great increase in your squat, right? (You’d be surprised how often this is the case.) When you structure the week, go by order of importance and filter down.
If you have multiple goals that’s 100% fine (within reason). Just follow the same principles. As a general rule, the main portion of your workout should be focused on training the main goal, next should be things that may assist you (known as assistance work), and after that train anything else you feel like might be a good idea. I like to think like this: Do what you have to do, then do what you should do, and only after that do what you like to do. That’s a pretty sure-fire way to stay honest about your training.
Once you’ve mapped out your program, you need to revisit your goal, then re-read your program. Make sure it matches. Do this several times and make sure that your program reflects your goals. That’s how you make progress.