Your Plan Sucks

I’ve had a fair amount of communication with people in the past couple weeks regarding programming, and most of it boils down to planning. “Planning” is really the word on which “programming” is built, except “planning” sounds dumb, boring, and responsible while “programming” carries an air of mystery, elitism, and supreme knowledge.


But even though it sounds lame, when you talk about programming, you’re really talking about planning – the act of doing now what needs to be done so that an athlete can get to where they want to go in the future.

Sometimes that plan breaks down, and regardless of sport or expertise, or whether you’re programming (ahem, planning) your own workouts or a coach is programming them for you, the reasons the plan breaks down are similar.

There Is No Plan

When you boil your plan down to its essence and application, a coherent plan doesn’t exist. Especially in the world of competitive fitness where there are countless skills in countless combinations that have to be addressed, over time it can be easy for a good plan to degrade into “come into the gym and do a lot of stuff”. If you’re trying to run a gym as a business owner AND write the programming, you might run into this as the time and energy required of both responsibilities start to compete and it becomes easier and easier to copy/paste a hodgepodge of work from the internet and rationalize it as “constantly varied”.

Or maybe you program hop so often that you’re following good plans, but no long enough for them to actually produce results and your “lots of plans” turn into “no plan”. Different directions can get you to the same destination, but to get there in the end you have to commit to one.

The Plan is Not Good

It just…isn’t. This might come from an under-qualified but over zealous coach who hears about a bunch of things on the internet and tries to combine them into one SUPER PROGRAM. No lie, I read on the website of a gym owner that he was mixing Westside Conjugate with CrossFit with bodybuilding with MMA with Olympic Lifting to make something “totally new and superior to anything you’ve ever done”.

This wasn’t new or superior – people mix and match good things to make crappier things all the time.

Being a coach and acting like a professional can keep you from becoming that guy. Read, learn, test…and repeat. For as long as you’re a coach. If you’re an athlete, you can guard yourself against bad coaching by doing the same. You don’t get to blame someone else because you’re ignorant.

The Plan is Good but the Application Isn’t

This is for everyone following the “exact training schedule” of a CrossFit Games athlete.

Or the 50 year old following a good program, but the volume and intensity is too high for a Master’s athlete to see results.

Or the athlete who needs strength but is following a great program heavy on conditioning.

Or the athlete who needs conditioning work but is following a great program that is heavy on the barbell.

Or the new athlete who walks into a gym and the coach say “3…2….1…GOOOOO!”

All these situations have good plans but the application of those plans is wrong. Could you get lucky and work hard enough to improve despite crappy application? Sure. But improving fitness shouldn’t be about luck and chance, it should be about hard work and good planning.

The Plan is Good But People Don’t Know What It is

Here’s looking at you, coaches. Your programming is great, but no understands what it is or why they’re doing what they’re doing. There’s a danger here in over-instruction (if you’re talking more than people are doing, there’s an issue)

The Plan is Good but Boring as Crap

This is for The Science Guy Programmers among us. I’m sure there’s a good reason for your 4145 one-legged pronated twisting dumbbell curl. BUT IT’S BORING AS CRAP AND NO ONE WILL DO IT. I’ve seen programs where this is all there is – weird, complicated movements and combination programmed in the name of physiology but the truth is if it’s not fun people won’t do it for a meaningful length of time or produce meaningful effort. Are boring things necessary? HECK YES. Do people have to have fun all the time? HECK NO. But if your workouts belong in a laboratory instead of gym you’re doing it wrong.

The Solution

How do you combat these things? Easy  – do the opposite.

Step 1: Have a plan. (Who are you trying to help and what do you want to accomplish?)
Step 2: Have a good plan. (Learn/apply/learn/apply/learn/apply….)
Step 3: Apply the good plan to the right people. (Use the answer for step 1)
Step 4: Teach people. (Do people know why they’re doing what they’re doing?)
Step 5: Have fun. (Don’t be a dildo.)

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