My name is Harold, and I am a program hopper. There are far too many training programs that I’ve started, and haven’t finished. There are far too many programs that I read, recognize merit in, and then cannibalize. StrongLifts 5×5. Maximum Strength. 5/3/1. Westside Barbell methods. Shieko templates. German Volume Training. Bulgarian Systems. American Sedetarianism. High Frequency Training. TriPhasic Training. The TriWizard Cup. I’ve used aspects of all of them, but have completed very little of them. The only two times I can say I’ve actually followed a program was in preparing for the two powerlifting meets that I’ve done, and even those were hybrids of other programs.
My name is Harold, and I am a program hopper.
I don’t necessarily have an issue in making myself exercise. I have an issue making myself train. I read, analyze, criticize, modify, and adjust everything. This is a common problem for the recreationally active. Exercising isn’t the issue. Following a productive program is the issue.
Why do we do it?
Training ADD, impatience, self-depreciating behaviors, all of the above. I have some of the worst Training ADD in the world, second only to the CrossFit WOD schemes. Variety over the course of multiple programs ensures that we maintain a training stimulus while minimizing plateaus. Too much variety, or the fallacy of novelty, leads us to believe that we’re always learning something new. In this case, that’s likely not a good thing, and we’re simply spinning our wheels as our bodies fail to gain traction with any single program.
Is program hopping really an issue?
On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for every program drops to zero. Popularity ebbs and flows, specific strategies go out of style, and in the long run there is no such thing as a perfect program. Everything works if YOU work. It’s that simple. (Click to Tweet!)
Program hopping is not an issue when the major elements of a program are similar and we follow the Laws of Progressive Overload. Measurable progress on specific exercises, be it lifting more weight for more reps, more sets, or making it all feel easier, is progress. Measuring changes in measurements, perhaps hips or waist, is progress. Whether or not that measurable progress is meaningful, well that’s another story.
Program hopping IS an issue if your Frankenstein approach is training for a powerlifting meet, a triathlon, and your summer softball league. Training that specific is likely to be limiting, and is a great strategy to be mediocre at everything. That being said, I believe that we should have the general physical preparedness that we may indulge ourselves in most activities within a short period of time, perhaps 6 weeks.
That leads me to wonder: How often should you change your program?
Every 4 weeks? 6 Weeks? 2 Months? Should you focus on one thing for years at a time? Well, maybe. That’s a call for YOU to make, and I haven’t seen any definitive evidence that suggests that there’s a training sweet spot. Anyone who claims otherwise is likely selling a product. If a program is working, then stick with it. When it stops working, then switch to a new one. How do you know when this is? I don’t know; that’s where where we move from science towards art. It shouldn’t look like this:
So what the hell should I do? That’s up to you, but let’s start with a simple question: When was the last time you changed your program? If it was yesterday, follow that shit. Train hard.
If you can’t remember the last time you started something new, or haven’t been following one at all, think about your goals. Have you finished what you started? How are you feeling about your athletic or aesthetic achievements? If you’re meeting and exceeding those goals, give yourself a giant hug and a high five.
If you believe that you have more, let’s get stronger. Let’s figure out a stronger plan so that we can train more regularly, effectively, and efficiently. This isn’t about making the absolute best program in the world. This is about making the absolute best program for where YOU are right now. If you need help figuring that out, let me know.
P.S. As a recovering program hopper, I’m proud of the work that I’m doing now. I’m going to share that next time!