I don’t know how many different strength training programs there are or have ever been, but I can tell you, it is a big number. I can also tell you I did the vast majority of them at some point in my life. At one point back in the day, I even ordered a bench press program from an ad in the back of a bodybuilding magazine. Do you know what I discovered with all my money, effort, and time spent on all these programs I tried? That none of them actually work because they are inherently flawed in the same ways.

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I am not saying you won’t see some gains on the better training programs available to lifters. In fact, if you are the exact right person for that program, you may see great gains for a while. It is also true that if you are a beginner or even novice-level lifter, then lifting weights in any form will show some gains. Hell, if you have a job where you sit on your ass all day and then switch to a physical job where you load heavy objects (boxes at a shipping company, for example) for eight hours a day, you will see tons of gains in strength and how you look. Does that mean working at a delivery company is a good strength training program?

The point I am getting at here is that unless you just have some crazy genetics or are the exact match for these programs, then they are not a valid long-term plan. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, though. I can find some solid, strong points in almost every training program. The fact is every program out there at some point worked for someone to some extent, so there must be some good information in it. These programs are not the answer to big goals over the long haul.

Ask yourself this question: “Why have so many other lifters and I tried so many of these different programs?” If one of them ever worked completely and long-term, then there would have never been a reason to try anything else, right? Well, that is, unless our egos kept telling us we should be gaining faster, but this was not the case for me. I was on the search for the one program I could use forever and continue to make solid gains. I learned this thinking in itself is flawed.


There is no one program for everyone, and there is no one program that will work for us forever. If there were one program that worked for every lifter on a continuous basis, then there would be only one training program on the market. Why would anyone ever stop doing a program to try another one if they were making gains? Even if some people were looking for a program to gain faster, they would quickly realize it was not the case and go back to where they were making gains.

So if no training programs work, then what are we to do? The key here is the idea that we are all individuals and we all respond differently. How many blood pressure medications are on the market these days? Again, I do not know, and I am too lazy to look it up. The point is that they all work for someone out there. It is just a matter of a doctor figuring out which ones don’t work for the patient and which ones do.

Like I said, every program out there works or has worked for someone. Does this mean there is a program out there that will work for you? I don’t necessarily believe there is, at least not in the big picture. If you are a new lifter, just start lifting and do some kind of program because you will see gains. As you become an intermediate-level lifter, gains will become harder, and this is where the dilemma of finding the right program becomes more crucial. When you reach this level, you have two choices, the way I see it. You can hope there is a program out there that works for you and that you stumble onto it quickly, or you can actually use the gray muscle stuffed in your cranium. This means educating yourself on the science of strength and taking the time to create your own program that works for you.

LISTEN: Jim Wendler's 2-Minute Conjugate Breakdown

Why reinvent the wheel when you can just make it better? The wheel was a great invention, right? Hell, yeah, it was, but a solid wood wheel wasn’t gonna hold up at higher speeds. We made a solid idea even better, and in fact, we are still expanding on it to this day.

OK, so you’re not that guy with amazing genetics that responds to everything or that extremely lucky individual that finds the program that works perfectly for them. I was definitely not that person, either. Still, there is a lot of really good and solid information out there in those programs. If one doesn’t work for you in a certain format, maybe it would work in a slightly different format.

As I grew in the sport of powerlifting and had more access to better and better lifters, I realized the top lifters all did different programs. There were a lot of commonalities and similar principles, but they were different. These lifters learned to pick and choose parts of all of these different programs that worked for them. Not only that, but there were a lot of them that came up with completely new parts, too. Then they reformulated all of this information to make their own programs.


A lot of times, people say, “So-and-so trains this way, but that was a whole different version of it.” I always say I train conjugate or Westside style, but in reality, it is more than that. I have added other things to it and have taken some things away. I have created new stuff to put into it. In the end, it is my own program that most resembles a conjugate or Westside style. I can also say I am not done evolving it yet. As I continue to grow and learn, I continue to change things.

Now let’s say you did all this and have this amazing program that you’re making solid gains on. Just how long do you think that will last? I know I never found a program that continued to work for me forever. We are all individuals, so we need programs that meet our individual needs, right? Do you think you will be the very same individual five years from now? What about 10 years or 15 years from now?

We are all individuals, but we never stay the same. We are in a constant state of change throughout our lives. We grow both mentally and physically. What got us to 200 pounds of body weight and benching 315 will not necessarily get us to 250 benching 500 pounds. As we physically change, so does how our bodies function. As we age, our bodies change in so many ways. Our training programs have to change along with how we change.

The two biggest fundamental flaws that cause training programs to not work are because they do not take into account people are different and that people change. What works for one doesn’t work for all, and what works now may not work in the future.

Strength is born in the mind and shown by the body. We must be willing to gain knowledge of strength and knowledge of ourselves. It is OK to try different programs, theories, and exercises. This is one of the best ways to learn as long as we are analyzing our experiences with them. I do recommend giving the developer of a program some respect by sticking to it at first to see how it works for you. This also gives you a needed baseline of control.

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I should say learning the science of strength and gaining knowledge has nothing to do with emotions or what you like. It has to do with facts and truths. Just because you like someone is not a reason to train like them. Just because you do not like an exercise is not a good reason to avoid it. Just because a program sounds fun is not a solid reason to try it.

What you’re trying to do is build your own principles of strength. You’re finding the building blocks of strength you trust and believe because of the results you have seen with them. These will be the guidelines you follow in the future to keep yourself on track and when things are not going the way you want. These are the solid foundations of the programs you will develop for yourself. Learn about yourself, learn about your body, and use your mind, for it controls the body.