Many people search from program to program for the holy grail, the program that will make them or the athletes they coach unbelievable. They jump from linear periodization to Westside Barbell to the 5/3/1 program to CrossFit to dog crap and everywhere in between. They follow the adage “the best program there is, is the one you’re not on.”

Here’s the deal. All sound programs work and they work well. The best one is your preference. However, there’s a catch to everything and this has more than one. The best program depends on whether or not you believe in it and whether you and/or your athletes have bought into it. The environment also has to be one that is conducive to results.

Do you believe in the program? Do you believe that it will work, or are you worried when you start the program that there might be something better out there? Do you believe in the people who wrote the basis for the program? Whether you do or you don’t, you’re right. If you think there might be a better program out there, you’re right. You’ll never put your heart and soul into the program. You’ll never invest in the program because you’re spending all of your time and energy looking for the next big thing.

Is the Big Iron way of training or the 5/3/1 way of training the best? Or is it the individual’s belief in Rick Hussey and Jim Wendler, respectively, that make it the best training program? Both programs are sound, which is definitely a requirement. In fact, Jim Wendler once said that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re consistent and you go hard.

Have the coach and athletes bought into it? Buying in to the program is the next step after belief. Once you believe that the program is the best, you must make your athletes believe it, too. This step isn’t as hard as it sounds. If a coach believes that his program is the best, he can explain every part of his program—what it does, how it does it, why it does it, and why it’s the best. If athletes hear this presented to them confidently, they’ll start to buy in.

This is like medicine. If you have severe allergies and take one Zyrtec, does this mean that you’re going to be cured for the rest of your life? Absolutely not. It needs to be reinforced over and over again. If it’s worth saying, it’s worth repeating. A great strength coach named Fred Roll once said, “A well coached program will beat a well written program every time.” It could be leg extensions and bicep curls, and that’s all they do, but if it’s well coached, they’ll succeed.

The conducive environment is one of intensity and attitude. The coach must create an environment in which the athlete desires to work hard. Walk into any serious gym, regardless of whether it’s Big Iron Barbell, Westside Barbell, Society of Strength, Orlando Barbell, or anything else. I’m sure you will see one common theme—everyone in that gym wants everyone in there to succeed.

Louie Simmons once wrote and has said over and over again that he hates everyone he lifts with while he’s in the gym. Everyone is always trying to one up each other, and if someone is a competitor, he refuses to be beaten or one upped. Hate isn’t the right word for it. They hold each other accountable and push each other. When in Westside Barbell, a visitor will often hear, “Let’s go, you got this. Attack that *&$#@*^!” coming from a lifter’s partners. They don’t hate each other. They want each other to succeed as badly as they want to conquer themselves.

Environments can be created through several means. One is by music. Loud music that the individuals like and that excites them is what helps the most. Studies have shown that no single type of music increases strength. It’s what the individual likes. For some, it’s gangster rap. For others, it’s hard rock/metal, and for some, it may even be country or classical (God save the coach of these athletes). Whatever it is, that should be what is played.

Next is the coaching itself. Hard and intense coaching is a necessity in order for the environment to be created. A coach who sits by himself in the corner playing with a calculator doesn’t do an athlete any good. The coach must motivate the athlete with positive intensity. The athlete must believe that he can do anything rather than be told that he’s not good for anything. What the coach says to the athlete has a great deal to do with this. When the athletes are on board, they push each other to new heights. In essence, every athlete becomes a coach.

When you get down to it, all of this is passion. Passion can be defined as the combination of love and anger at the same time. You must be passionate about your program. A coach must believe that his program is the best despite what others say. Coaches who believe in their programs will defend them when others argue that other programs are better. Huge, nearly violent debates have occurred because of this.

This passion spills over into the buy in. If the athlete sees this kind of buy in from his coach, he has no choice but to buy in because the program must be the best program in the world that will give him the greatest results possible. This passion also spills over to the environment. If you love the program, you want everyone to succeed, and you praise their hard work and scorn laziness. The athletes succeed because they want to succeed.

The best program isn’t what you aren’t using right now. The best program is the one you’re passionate about. Never stop learning, but never doubt what you’re doing.

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