Recently I caught up with a personal trainer friend, who has recently been getting some great results with clients who are powerlifters.

As my goal is to get a stronger bench / deadlift / squat, this piqued my interest and I asked if he could send through an example of a program he was using so that I could change my approach.

He agreed, sending me through a freebie.

This was exciting as throughout my lifting life, my programs have been written by myself using my own knowledge, experience and online advice.

But unfortunately before I even started I had to make changes – chopping the five day training down to fit into my tight schedule.

I had to make further changes, as it involved using equipment my gym didn’t have.

As I worked through I began to struggle, I was trying to do the five days of working out into four days, along with the additional exercises I had added.

So I identified things I viewed as filler, mostly the accessory movements which had been implemented to improve the powerlifters weak points and took these out.

By this point you could argue what I was doing, was a shell of the actual program.

I have to admit when my friend had taken the time to give me something, not following it through made me feel bad.

But I learnt an important lesson, to find something that fits you, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find the perfect workout program on the Internet.

Finding a program that fits you

Was the program my friend gave me bad?

Not at all, but it was bad for me, as it wasn’t suitable for my lifestyle.

Therefore, when considering a program my advice is find something that works for you, that means taking into consideration:

  • Fitness goal(s)
  • Any injuries / limitations
  • Free time to commit
  • Sex/Height/Age
  • Ability to recover
  • Diet
  • Job / social commitments

The Gym-Life Balance:

Although the program was perfect for my fitness goals, the issue was the schedule – as a father to two young children (both under three), my time in the gym has to be used smartly, therefore my sessions need to be short and intense.

If I had been working off the program 10 years ago, it would have worked find, but my child care commitments meant I couldn’t go to the gym that much.


Another important factor – will you enjoy the program?  This is essential, because it’s easier when you have satisfaction in what you do and can see the purpose in each exercise in the program.

There were elements I didn’t take pleasure in – some exercises I viewed as junk movements, with too many sets, reps and being required more than once a week.

And there were important exercises missing for me – I just can’t imagine going to the gym without bodyweight exercises like chin-ups and dips!

The problem with EVERY single program you read online:

This post highlights a fundamental issue with any workout you read online – it wasn’t written for you!

Something already printed doesn’t take your lifestyle into consideration, it doesn’t consider your motivation or how healthy you already are.

As a result, you end up feeling broken down, tired and unmotivated.

It’s a nice idea in theory, if you want to look like Ronnie Coleman, you follow a body building program similar to what he would do.

But that doesn’t work because he was a professional body builder, complete with time to train, rest, supplements, top notch coaches, genetics…

While you work a 9 to 5 and are raising a family.

Some definitions to help you understand the terms I refer to.

Things to consider

My personal trainer friend might be disappointed the program he gave didn’t work for, but on the positive for him and other personal trainers, I’m endorsing the importance of seeking out and investing in a personal trainer who can tailor a program to your needs.

If you really cannot afford this, then this is what I would consider:

For the time limited person:

Look at programs focused on the main compound movements, with accessory work to address weaknesses you need to overcome to achieve your goal.

For a person who takes longer to recover:

Take more rest between sessions, have longer rests between sets, look at doing less volume/sets/exercises in your workout.

For a person who struggles to get to the gym:

Look at home workouts – do bodyweight workouts, buy dumbbells, and do your research to make the most of this limitation.

And for a person with existing injuries:

I will not comment– full stop.

I cannot say this enough – if you have existing injuries, seek professional advice, as it’s really difficult for ANYONE to advise without knowing more about your specific medical history.


I wrote today’s article inspired by the complexities that come from following pre-written workouts on the Internet that have been designed for others.

If you are not confident in putting together something that suits you, I recommend seeking advice from an online/offline coach who is aligned to your end goals.

The most important thing with a program is:

  1. Getting started
  2. If you feel the program is putting you at risk of injury, stop, seek advice, try something else.

Good luck!

Wishing you all the best in your success:

James @

<<thinking of joining a gym?  check out this post: Advice for fat people considering gym membership“>>

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Finding the Perfect Workout Program

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