How to Choose The Right Strength Training Program
By now, you know how beneficial strength training is for your overall fitness and health. And you’re ready to continue to progress with a strength training program.
But there are so many programs out there to choose from – it can be quite overwhelming when searching for the strength training program that best suits your needs and goals.
Don’t stress over finding the perfect strength training routine. The more experience you have with various programs and weight-lifting exercises, the more you’ll know what you prefer in a weight-training program.
The most important thing to remember is that the results you get from any strength training program depend on your level of commitment. So be sure to commit to your training 100%, no matter which program you choose.
Before you start your search…
Set your goals. Be specific and realistic. Having more specific and measurable goals will help you in the choosing process.
Know your “why.” Think about why your goals matter so much to you. What will change in your life if you achieve them? Knowing your “why” may not help you choose one strength training program over another, but it can heavily influence your level of commitment and the amount of time and money you invest.
Remember: if your main goal is weight loss, focusing on proper nutrition will help you get the results you’re looking for. Weight training feels great and can benefit your fitness, but changing your eating habits makes an even more significant impact on your health and goals.
What to look for in a strength-training program
Since there are so many strength-training programs out there to choose from, here are some things to consider when looking for the right program for you and your personal fitness goals.
It’s easy to be misled by social media photos that show images of fitness results that aren’t actually authentic.
Look for a professional fitness program or instructor that has evidence of helping clients get the same results that you want to achieve. And look for instructors or programs that have plenty of experience, up-to-date training, and ongoing education.
Find weight-training programs that demonstrate progression, adding more reps and weight over the course of the program so that you are making progress throughout the duration of the program.
Programs that demonstrate beginner and advanced versions of the weight-lifting exercises are great. They show you how to adapt and modify your weightlifting workout to match your fitness level and inspire you by showing you what to strive for as you make progress.
Viewing a list of the specific weight lifting exercises for each training day, the weekly schedule, and a video demonstration of the workout will help you know if it’s a strength training program that is right for you.
The right program will be easy to understand for your level and offer some guidance. Programs shouldn’t require a lot of prep to understand the basics of the workout.
It should be very clear what the program is focusing on and what the goals are.
The weight-training program should target all body parts and include weight-training exercises that are built on movement patterns – including pushing, pulling, squatting, and hinging.
These movements can be included in many exercises targeting both upper and lower body strength, including full core fitness.
If you have specific goals that favor one part of the body – like a “glutes program” – look for a strength training program that includes a well-balanced weight-lifting routine so that you’re still getting a full-body workout.
Example of a strength training program without a full-body approach: A “beach body” program that targets arms and chest, neglecting lower body strength. Or a “booty” program that centers on glutes isolation exercises but doesn’t do any progressive strength in full-body movements.
#8 Free weights
Look for a strength training program that focuses on using free weights – barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells – over machines. Machine-only programs can be suitable for beginners as they learn about the proper movements, but in general, it’s best to use free weights as they target more muscle groups with each movement.
Above-average strength training programs
If you find a strength training program that also offers these perks, consider it an above-average program:
Individual attention – programs that structure the plan around your fitness level and goals, providing room for progress and growth and making proper adjustments based on your feedback.
Unilateral work – strengthening exercises should help your body develop evenly and compensate for weaker muscles or areas. Multi-joint exercises – like lunges and one-arm press – are great ways to develop balance and adjust strength levels to help weaker sides grow stronger.
Encourages confidence – a good program will boost your confidence and feeling of autonomy and self-sufficiency in your training. With time, you will grow to understand your body more, mastering skills and weight training techniques and progressing from one level to the next, which is fantastic progress and should be celebrated!
What to avoid when choosing a strength training program
Polarizing language – The person selling or hosting the program says things like things are “bad” or “unhealthy” and places a lot of fear around wellness and fitness. If a coach is positioning themself as the hero and making you feel like you can’t achieve your goals without their help…it’s not a good program to choose.
Unrealistic reviews – Reading feedback from previous program users can help you decide if it’s the right fit, but be aware of transformation stories that appear fake or compromised.
Over-promising – whenever programs promise fast results or “losing x lbs in 10 days”, that’s not an authentic approach. Every body is different, so it’s impossible to promise specific results based on a universal program.
Before you make a final decision…
By now, you might have a few programs in mind and are debating which one to commit to. Keep these final thoughts in mind while you go through the decision-making process.
Know how much time you can realistically commit to a program. If some programs are set up for six days a week, but you are free to fit in three workouts a week, then opt for a program that matches your availability.
Know what type of equipment you will need for the program. Make sure you have the required equipment by the time the program starts or are able to modify the routine with what you have access to in a way that will still allow you to progress.
Don’t have all of the equipment?
If you only have two sets of dumbbells and the program is asking you to increase your weights over 2-3 months time, you will need to
- get additional weights
- opt for adjustable weights
- do your workouts at a gym where free weights are readily available
- add resistance bands to your weights to add more resistance
Know that your accomplishment does not depend on the weight training program. Your success lies in the continuity of your fitness journey and feeling good about prioritizing your health and wellness. Celebrate the small wins every week to keep a positive mindset around your path to fitness.
Remember: Fitness is a lifetime journey. It’s not a goal you accomplish in just six months and then resort back to unhealthy habits. Finding new skills to master and new techniques to try is what keeps you dedicated to fitness as a lifestyle.