Often I'll see a workout program, and they'll include before/after stories of people who started it and saw tremendous results.
Sometimes, I have to wonder.
Is it because the program is so good, or because it's the first time the lifter has taken a really systematic approach?
This isn't to imply that published programs are bad or that before/after results are false or inflated. That may be true in some cases, but often the programs are very good and the results accurate (even if they're cherry picked). But it's my guess that in many cases, the lifter went from a period of "winging it," using an inappropriate or poorly-designed program, or just a period of less-than-maximal effort. Changing to an appropriate program, carefully designed, and logically integrated, is probably all they needed. Maybe any of a half-dozen or more programs would have had similar benefits.
The reverse is true, too. If you go from a program of 3x a week squats with percentages of each lift carefully planned to "go to the gym and do what feels right today" you might just experience a little backsliding.
If you've ever been on a diet you may have experienced this. You log your food, you plan your meals, you avoid junk food and when you snack, it's on appropriate amounts of good food. Almost like magic, the scale begins to move in the direction you want it to go. This can occur with almost any diet after you've had a period of "just winging it" diet-wise. You're approaching things systematically.
All this musing is about one idea, really, one take-home lesson. Going about things in a logical, systematic way is more likely to improve your lifts, your strength, your fitness than a scattershot way.
Where Athletic Power Really Comes From
2 hours ago