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5 Reasons Why Your Training Programme Sucks

By Phil Graham

Renowned competitive body builder and Sports Nutritionist Phil Graham (BSc, CSSN) has established himself as one of UK’s leading fitness educators and coaches…
Read more.

If there’s one thing you need to anticipate when it comes to following a personal training programme, the answer is change.

Accept that every training programme you follow has a life span and in order to get the most out of it you need to effectively plan, track and reassess your approach in an attempt to pursue continuous progress.

Here, I’ve outlined five key variables you need to keep on top of, when it comes to judging the effectiveness of your training programme including when it needs to be stepped up or down a gear

Man Working Out


Tracking your performance from session to session is an extremely useful way to highlight dips and progressions in your performance. Whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain, strength gains are an extremely positive sign that your progress is on point.

However, most of you will know that performance doesn’t simply improve in a linear fashion from week to week. There will be periods when it plateaus and dips it’s during these periods you need to ask yourself why and what do I need to do better?

There are a host of reasons as to why your performance could be off, ranging from:

man in pain
  • Missed meals
  • Severe emotional stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Illness
  • Injury from an event outside the gym

It’s your duty to acknowledge what the issue is and address it immediately.

So if you need to miss a training session, drop the volume or change an exercise to accommodate better physical and mental recovery, so be it.  It’s worth it – one step back, two forward as the saying goes.

Body Composition

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Are you seeing a change in the mirror?

If not, something needs addressed. 

I am a firm believer in the saying the more you train the more anabolic you become.  Provided your nutritional and rest needs are met you should be meeting your goal of either dropping body-fat or packing on lean quality muscle mass.

If this isn’t the case, take a look at your training.  Are you prescribing yourself with the correct exercises, volume, rest period, time under tension and metabolic work?

For example if your goal was fat loss, following a strength focused power lifting protocol wouldn’t be the most efficient nor productive way to achieve your goals…

Your programme needs to directly reflect your workout ambition. 


Prolonged soreness and pain every time you train is not a good sign.  We’ve all heard and been under the influence of the old saying ‘no pain no gain’.  But, is this approach wise when it comes to getting the most out of your training and staying injury free? 

The truth is, if you’re sore, something’s wrong and needs looked at. 

No Pain No Gain

Prolonged muscle soreness and tightness for days on end is a clear indicator your recovery hasn’t been a success.  There are a host of reasons for this; most likely you’ve out trained the nutritional and rest aspects that your typical recovery plan provided. 

As a result you may need to pull back on your training volume and/or re-evaluate your nutrition and lifestyle practices to get you back on track.

The No Pain No Gain approach is foolish.  If you're in pain – STOP!

Poor Mobility

Another key factor is lack of mobility work and dysfunctional movement patterns.  Mobility is of paramount importance when it comes to making progress with your training. 

Healthy mobility allows for greater range of motion and thus more effective stimulation of the target muscle fibres, meaning better gains. 

Poor programme design, practising rubbish form and being subject to bad postural positions daily ranging from hunching forward at computer screens, sitting in the car, bending over and wearing rubbish footwear all serve to compromise our mobility. 

How many times have you got out of the car after a long journey and suffered from tight calves, glutes and a sore lower back?

The problem arises when we bring these issues into the gym and start adding load or building strength on top.  As a result the intended stress gets diverted into areas of musculature, joints and tendons it shouldn’t be. 

Woman Stretching

This subsequently leads to repetitive strain, unwanted tightness and weakening of specific muscle groups.  How can you get the most out of your training when your suffering like this?

Take the time to incorporate some mobility work into your training programme.  This could be self-myofascial release work, deep tissue or stretching.  Think of it like conditioning, preparing your tissue for the work to come and also helping speed up the recovery process. 

You may also need some corrective exercises to address areas of weakness that are the root of your problem. 

For example a weak core or glutes can prove extremely detrimental to the hips, knees and ankles – making training very tedious.  A great book on the subject and all things you can do to fix poor mobility is Becoming A Supple Leopard, by Glen Cordoza and Kelly Starrett.


Motivation is a huge factor that determines your ability to get the most out of your training.  Realise you can’t go balls to the wall all the time.  Soreness, dips in performance, injury, boredom of following the same programme and personal problems are all inevitable.

Man worn out after exericising

Learn to see them coming and back off/change things up when you feel under threat. You can’t get the most out of your training when your heads not right!

Bottom Line

Too many of us worship the piece of paper our programmes are written on, expecting everything to improve perfectly from week to week. However, you must realise life throws at us all kinds of obstacles that interfere with our ability to recover.

As a result you must be willing to adapt yourself and your training to accommodate – no wonder we were all born with instinct.

Phil Graham

About Phil

Renowned competitive body builder and Sports Nutritionist Phil Graham (BSc, CSSN) has established himself as one of UK’s leading fitness educators and coaches. He has helped coach and inspire a diverse range of clientele ranging from personal trainers, everyday members of the public right through to professional athletes across a wide variety of sports.

Phil educates 1000's of personal trainers each year through his seminars, workshops and attendance at some of the world’s largest health and fitness exhibitions. He actively writes for almost every major fitness publication, hosts the ever popular Podcast Elite Muscle Radio Podcast (available on iTunes) and works as Genetic Supplements resident nutrition expert for product development. He is also in the process of writing his first book, The Diabetic Muscle and Fitness Guide.

Phil’s coaching and personal training is based in Belfast Northern Ireland, he also offers online consultancy for those that cannot reach him locally.

You can visit Phil’s website, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram

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