Edit: The official release date is Friday 10th May - put it in your calendar…
Program hopping is a major issue, mainly because it inhibits your ability to consistently overload, and therefore consistently get bigger and stronger.
Training fatigue is cumulative; meaning the stress builds up gradually over time, session after session. Adaptation to this fatigue also occurs gradually over time. However, when you completely shift your training stimulus, this fatigue/adaptation process is thrown out of balance, screwing up your gains, essentially.
So many people seem to fall into this trap, but why?
How To Stop Doing This
Pick a goal, and stick with it. Do you want to gain muscle, or lose fat? Don’t try to do both.
Once you know which one is more important to you, you can tailor your program to hit this goal successfully. If your primary goal is to lose fat, you really don’t need much volume, as muscle maintenance is the goal. If your primary goal is to gain muscle, you can be a bit more aggressive with the volume.
People tend to program hop when they aren’t sure which direction they are going in. Most people want more muscle and less fat simultaneously, but the reality is that you’re always better off prioritising one.
Another cause of program hopping is boredom. Boredom is huge actually. In my experience, the biggest causes of boredom with training are:
- Too much total volume
- Too high a frequency of training
- No deload weeks incorporated
- Lack of exercise variety
- Lack of rep scheme variety
The worst combination (and I’ve fallen foul to this at least twice), is when you get your typical “hardcore” routine from BodyBuilding.com or Muscle and Strength, feeling pumped and motivated to start, ready and raring to go….
and three weeks later you’re sick of it.
These hardcore routines just simply have too much volume and frequency, with a lack of deload weeks implemented. They often have plenty of exercise variation, but no level of variation will make up for being in the gym for two hours, five or six times per week. It’s too much for anyone with a life.
Also, for any given exercise, if a program is asking you to perform 5+ sets on it, several times per week, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be sick of it sooner or later. Even if you’re not bored, the problem with these “hardcore” routines, is that you have no room for further volume increases when progress stalls, which it will.
Some exercise variation can help massively with boredom. So bear in mind, that when I say that most of your time should be spent on the “Big 6” movements, you will need some isolation stuff, just to have a bit of fun with.
Varying the rep schemes on a weekly basis is also helpful in preventing boredom. If you stick with the same 5*5 system for ages, you will likely get bored of that after a couple of months. Not always, but it is quite boring.
Make sure you know which direction you are headed towards, as this will dictate total volume.
After this, make sure you are minimising your total time in the gym (whilst still hitting enough volume to progress). If you focus most of your efforts on the big 6 (or close variations of the Big 6), then performing 2-4 hard sets on these per session, this will likely be more than enough volume to progress, assuming each muscle group gets hit twice per week.
Once you’ve ensured total time spent in the gym isn’t excessive, implement some variety to prevent boredom. Weekly exercise variety and rep scheme variety will alleviate boredom nicely.