7 Keys of a Successful Training Program

by Jordan Syatt March 4, 2014

Today’s guest article comes from a young up-and-comer in the industry, Nick Smoot, from SmootFitness. At only 19 years old, Nick is quickly establishing himself as a dedicated, motivated, and intelligent coach with lot’s of knowledge well beyond his years.

He put together a great piece for you today and hit home on some very important points.



7 Keys of a Successful Training Program

With nothing more than a swift click of a button we have access to an unlimited amount of training information. 

Pretty cool, huh?

Well…sort of. 

It’s cool because there’s no limit to how much we can learn.  What’s more, we don’t have to pick up and move every time we want to learn from an expert that doesn’t live nearby. 

What’s not so cool is that there’s too much information available, the majority of which is completely contradictory. This leads to confusion, frustration, and many of us developing paralysis by analysis.

Free weights vs. machines, linear periodization vs. daily undulating periodization (DUP), full body training vs. isolation routines – the possibilities are endless!

But which option is best? 

Which program will yield the best results? 

To be honest, there’s no clear cut answer to these questions because what’s “best” for you is entirely dependent upon your unique needs and goals.  That being said, there are numerous key components upon which every training plan needs to be built. 

To help you achieve your goals, I’ve listed the top 7 keys of a successful training program below.


 1. Fun

Screw angry training…your workouts should be fun!

If you get little-to-no enjoyment from your training sessions, your chances of making long-term progress are slim. 

Think about it: when we don’t enjoy doing something – be it homework, eating 5 fruits & veggies per day, or steady state cardio – one of two things happens:

Option 1: We make up as many excuses as possible as to why (insert activity) is stupid.


Option 2: We half-ass it and don’t get much accomplished anyway.

Both scenarios stem from the fact that you aren’t having fun or enjoying the activity in question.

Training isn’t any different!

If you dread your workouts you’re eventually going to lose motivation.  If you lose motivation, you aren’t going to be consistent.  And if you’re inconsistent, you aren’t going to make progress. 


2. Simplicity

Effective training doesn’t need to be complex.

In fact, effective training is usually rather simple.

Not so simple that it doesn’t provide a sufficient stimulus to facilitate progress, but not so complex that it’s difficult to comprehend or causes unnecessary levels of stress.

You don’t need ridiculous tempos, inordinate amounts of bands and chains, or some super complex periodization model to make progress. 

Stick with the basics. 

If you prioritize compound lifts and fundamental movements, lift heavy things, switch exercises every few weeks, implement a form of progression that facilitates progress, and stay consistent, I guarantee that you’ll see good results.

No, you’ll see great results.


3. Flexibility

If you expect long-lasting results, your approach to training must be flexible.

Let me guess: you’re an extremely busy individual and between school/work/family life/travel/etc. you’ve got countless priorities. As such, strength training – regardless of how much you love it – doesn’t always take precedence.

Now, if you’re like me, this is going to piss you off.

You love training, hate missing sessions, and skipping workouts is worse than getting bitch slapped by your little sister.

…not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

The reality is that sometimes life is going to get in the way of your training. You can either adopt the “all or nothing” mindset and just give up now…OR you can accept this fact of life and continue with your training.

If you truly want to keep getting stronger, I suggest you choose the latter.


4. Progression

Progression is the foundation of every good training plan.

Compared to the overall progression scheme, the exercises, sets, reps, and tempos are more or less arbitrary.

Simply put, if you don’t have an appropriate progression scheme in place you aren’t going to create a suitable environment for change, growth, or results.

How Can You Progress?

Simple. Just strive to accomplish one of the following things every time you step in the gym:

  • Add weight to the bar
  • Add more reps with the same weight
  • Add more sets
  • Decrease rest time between sets
  • Increase time under tension

There are many ways to make progress and it all comes down to proper planning (figure out what you want to achieve BEFORE you get to the gym), and the determination to always be better than you were the day before.


5. Individualization

If you want the best results, your training program must be individualized to your unique needs and goals. 

Everyone has different goals, fitness levels, training histories, mobility limitations, etc., and no two people are going to get the same benefits from the exact same training plan. 

Does this mean you can’t use some of the more universal programs like 5/3/1? 

Of course not.

But if you want the best results you need to experiment and use trial and error until you figure out what works best for YOU.

Learn exactly how to individualize your program and drastically increase your strength with the Elite Performance Squat Seminar
Learn exactly how to individualize your program and drastically increase your strength with the Elite Performance Squat Seminar

6. Specificity

Specificity means that what you do in training needs to be specific to the goal(s) you’re trying to achieve. 

If you want to compete in powerlifting, running four miles every day isn’t conducive to your goal. 

If you’re a football player, you shouldn’t be spending practice shooting free throws or hitting balls in a batting cage.    

Whatever your goal is – whether it’s to get insanely strong, dominate in your sport, run a marathon, or build as much muscle as humanly possible – your training & nutrition needs to be set up to achieve that goal. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train for other fitness-related qualities (you’re only as strong as your weakest link).  It just means that the main focus of your program should be on achieving the goal that’s your top priority.


7. Measurable

Your training must be measurable.

If you don’t know how much progress you have (or haven’t) made, how you can make adjustments along the way?

Simple: you can’t.

But how do you “measure” your training?

Get a small notebook and carry it in your gym bag.  When you’re resting in between sets of squats, trying not to puke, jot down the weight used, sets, & reps.

It may be a pain in the ass, but it’s unquestionably one of the best things you can do to ensure continued growth and success.

Tracking your progress not only allows you to analyze what has and hasn’t worked, it also provides a breakdown of  how your training has evolved over the years (for better or for worse), and will ultimately help you figure out what you need to do to continue moving forward.


Always Focus on the Big Picture

I know I didn’t talk about how to actually design a program (a good topic for a future article), but if these seven components aren’t in place, the smaller intricacies of the training plan don’t even matter. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with so much information available, and although you should constantly strive to increase your knowledge base, never lose sight of the big picture. 

Fun, simplicity, flexibility, progression, individualization, specificity, and measurability – these are your pillars – your anchors – the foundation that everything else is built upon.  As long as these seven principles remain at the center of your program, everything else will fall in to place. 

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