How To Choose Your Next Training Program (Plus Program Recommendations)
One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “What program should I move to after I finish my current programming cycle?”
There are several factors to consider when you’re making this kind of decision, and we’re offering this guide to help you save time and move forward with confidence. Follow this step-by-step guide, and your road to gains or weight loss will be a lot smoother in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Related: 5 Frequently Asked Questions When Choosing Your Next Workout Program
What Level Are You?
Where are you on your fitness journey right now? If you’ve been in the iron game for several years, then a beginner program isn’t going to do much for you. Conversely, if you’re still a rookie in the gym, then bumping up to an advanced program may be overwhelming.
Below is a rough outline of how to determine where you are on your fitness journey based on the time of experience you have, and that can help you narrow down the number of programs you can choose from. You don’t have to follow this to the letter. If you made great progress after nine months and want to try to level up, go ahead. If you feel you need more time to learn after a year, that is okay as well.
- Beginner – 0-12 months
- Intermediate – 1-3 years
- Advanced – 3 years and up
Where Are You Training?
This is another matter that is very important. If you train at home with limited equipment, then you don’t want to choose a program that would require access to a regular gym with a bunch of machines. It can be frustrating trying to find substitutions for all of those exercises.
Editor’s Note: Check out our Exercise Video Database for several substitution options to consider should you ever need alternatives in the future.
If you’re an advanced lifter that is going to the gym on a regular basis, then you may need those machines and cable movements to help you reach your goals. Thus, a home based program wouldn’t serve your needs, either.
What Are Your Goals?
This is the time where we need to have a serious conversation. When we get asked about what program to do next, we strive to do our best to help you find the best program possible for you. The most common answer we get when asked what someone’s goal is, is “I want to burn fat and get bigger and stronger too.”
Truth be told, that is what we all want, but we also need to face facts. If there was such a program that did everything at once, everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they? There are very, very few people on this planet that can burn fat, build muscle size, and get stronger all at the same time.
Related: Setting Goals: A Realistic Approach to Consistent Gains
So, for the rest of us that don’t have such superpowers, we need to prioritize those goals and place them in order of priority. This is when you take that long, hard, and objective look in the mirror or at photos and ask yourself what matters most to you. There is no common answer to this question because there is only one you. The good news is that your answer is right because it’s yours to decide.
There are four major categories that matter when it comes to developing your physique and athletic performance, and those four categories are as follows:
- Build Muscle
- Lose Fat
- Increase Strength
- Improve Endurance
Related: How to Set Up Your Diet Based on Your Goals
Take out your phone, a pen and paper, or whatever you want to use to rank those goals in order that matter most to you and rank them 1-4. For example, when I first started training, I was 125 pounds soaking wet, and 135 pounds pinned me to the bench. So, my goals would’ve looked like this.
- Build Muscle
- Get Stronger
- Improve Endurance
- Lose Fat
Your list may look completely different than mine would have, but that’s okay because it’s what you want that is important. However, I do have one suggestion if weight loss is a high priority.
If you feel that fat loss is something you need to address, then make that number one on your list. Building muscle isn’t going to benefit you much if you can’t see it because of the fat that is lying over top of it.
However, if you’re new to this game and you need to lose weight, then there’s a chance that you will build a small amount of muscle as well. Training to lose fat can also help you improve your endurance because of the cardio you do. So, ranking fat loss as number one will actually help you with two other goals to a small degree.
Related: Expert Fat Loss Guide: Learn To Lose Fat With Diet & Training
Once you know your level of experience, where you’re going to train, and what your goals are, think about what your weekly schedule looks like, and find the program that comes the closest to meeting that schedule. If you have four days a week to train, then find programs that call for that number of sessions.
Here are a few general recommendations based on how many days you can commit to working out:
Training Days and Changes
Another common question we receive is whether someone can swap out a rest day for another training day or if they can train so many days in a row because they’re off on weekends.
The incredible authors that write these workouts try to create them to help you have the best workouts possible and maximize your recovery so you ultimately achieve the best results. And while our writers try to create the most comprehensive programs, they can’t match everyone’s individual schedule.
That said, if you need to train three days in a row and take one day off instead of doing two on, one off, then you’re going to be okay. Just make the most out of the days you do take off to recover, and you should still see results that will enhance the way you look, perform, and feel.
Related: Rest Day Strategies: Active Recovery vs. Passive Recovery
Recommended Workouts Based on Goals and Experience:
We hope that this guide will help you choose the next M&S program you follow a little easier so you can get back on the road to gains. However, we’re always here to support you along that journey, so don’t be afraid to ask your questions in those comment sections of the workout you’re considering, or even in the bottom of this one.
At the end of the day, M&S is here to help you make the most out of the potential you have and want to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.