What’s The Single Best Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Program?

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More specifically:  what’s the single best thing you can do to get better results in the gym?

At the expense of making the most redundant statement ever, there’s a lot of information out there.  We’re inundated with it. At no point in human history has information been more readily available and “in our face” than the here and now.

This is a blessing and a curse.

A blessing in that I can log onto Google right now and if I need to know the birthdate of Luke Skywalker, whether or not Alicia Keys is divorced yet, or say, the mating rituals of  South African rhinoceroses, I can do it.  And it’s awesome.

A curse in that, with so much information at our finger tips, people are often paralyzed into stagnancy.

This is never more apparent than in the health and fitness realm.

Take for example, food.  One week we’re told that eggs are the most nutritious food known to man, and ten minutes later, a new story comes out detailing how eating an egg will spurn the Mayan Apocalypse.

People literally have no freakin idea what to eat that it’s gotten to the point where I have clients asking me if eating an apple is okay.

YES, it is, for the love of god!!!!!

And, for the record, Luke Skywalker was born in 19 BBY.

Switching gears to the fitness side of the equation, the waters are just as uncharted.  Information is abundant, and if you were to type in bodybuilding, powerlifting, strength, or fat loss workouts into Google, you’d undoubtedly receive thousands of results for each.

There’s an endless cornucopia of websites, articles, and blog posts telling you the optimal set/rep scheme for this, the best weekly split for that, and  any number of other factors you can think of.

As a result, for many people, the cycle is as follows:

One week the goal is to get jacked.  The following you decide to start a fat loss phase.  Oh snap, you just read an article that promises to increase you bench press 50 lbs in 13 minutes!!!!!!

Actually never mind, MMA sounds kind of cool.

No wait, GODDAMIT, those dudes in 300 were pretty ripped up, I think I changed my mind and want to get shredded again.

Before you know it, it’s been six months and you’ve made little (if any) progress in the gym

Sound familiar?

If it does, you’re what I call a flip-flopper, and it needs to stop.

Pick a goal, ANY goal, and stick with it for more than two minutes.  Stealing a popular quote from Dan John, “your goal is to keep the goal, the goal.”

Expounding on things, and taking it even a step further, we could also make the case for exercise selection.

One popular (and valid) component of designing strength based programs – or any program for that matter – is the notion of “cycling” movements every 1-2 weeks.

So, for example, an elite powerlifter might choose to perform box squats one week for his main lower body exercise, and then switch to SUMO rack pulls the next.

The idea being that his CNS is so advanced and he’s developed such profound foundation of strength that in order to maintain a training effect (and make progress to boot) it’s advantageous to cycle though movements.

This issn’t always the case, of course, but it hopefully gets my point across.

Which is: most people aren’t elite nor are they advanced.  And the notion of cycling through exercises is more harmful than good.

Not that I feel people are going to physically hurt themselves (although that’s certainly not out of the question), but rather, I think when people have an insatiable case of training ADD – where they’re switching training goals every week and not allowing themselves enough time to actually learn how to perform an exercise correctly – they hurt their progress.

I’m sorry but if you’re just learning how to deadlift – arguably one of the more technical exercises to learn – you don’t need to be worrying about whether or not you should add chains or perform them from a deficit in order to get all swole.

Funnily enough, if you were to look at the majority of programs I write, many may be surprised to find that I don’t go out of my way to add in a lot variety.  It’s just not what most people need.

What they need is CONSISTENCY.

What they need is repetition and to learn how to squat properly by sitting back and pushing the knees out; to learn how to hip hinge properly when performing a deadlift; to not worry about making certain exercises more “McGyver(ish)” by adding bands, boards, weight releasers, a paper clip, and a rubber ducky.

Just stop.

Instead worry less about doing stuff that’s new and unique, and worry more about OWNING your training. Worry about perfecting technique and not switching your training emphasis every half hour, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be surprised as to how much progress you can make.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  • Danielle D

    this is exactly how i feel lately. strained a hamstring the other week doing sumo RDL after seemingly flopping around doing too many different things for weeks. i cant focus primarily on lifting heavier and heavier and then the next week i think i need to start worrying about losing some fat. BLAH!! this is on point, you got me! 😡

    • TonyGentilcore

      Glad I was able to set you straight Danielle!

  • Sam Thomas

    I always increase my bench 50 lbs. in 13 minutes. I just start really light.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, I guess I set myself up for that one…..;o) Good call.

  • R Smith


    Thank you, thank you, thank you…

    1. That Dan John quote changed my training life.
    2. I’m convinced that a large reason the general, commercial gym-going public has training ADD is the wealth of information, AND they’ve been led to belief they can have everything at once and instantly.
    3. I also blame many commercial gym trainers, who have folks doing every exercise under the sun but the ones they should be doing.
    4. Borrowing again from Dan John, I believe in the squat, hinge, push, pull and (loaded) carry philosophy. But it’s hard to convince many folks of the efficacy of this thinking when ALL they see are curls, leg presses and adductor stations.

    I love telling folks to try it my way for six weeks, and if they aren’t amazed at the results they can go back to jogging.


    • TonyGentilcore

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m always amazed at when I go to a commercial gym to train and watch the trainers. Rarely do I ever see them coaching their clients through a squat or a proper push-up. It’s always some looney exercise that includes a BOSU ball with three bands attached to the body at different angles.

  • Monika

    I love the irony of this post. But I agree- sometimes I feel like my brain is gonna explode with all the shit I read on the interwebz. And I want ALL THE KNOWLEDGE RIGHT NOW. sigh. Must. Filter. Information.

    • TonyGentilcore

      It’s what Bruce Lee was famously quoted as saying: “absorb what is useful, disregard what’s not.” More people need to do this themselves.

  • Monika

    I love the irony of this post. But I agree- sometimes I feel like my brain is gonna explode with all the shit I read on the interwebz. And I want ALL THE KNOWLEDGE RIGHT NOW. sighh. Must. Filter. Information.

  • whoooah disregard how my computer went ape-shit and posted 3 times. lol

  • Barath

    Excellent rant! My goal for the next few months is as follows:

    1. Start 531, and stick with it religiously for a few months.
    2. Train 6 days a week – most people are undertrained, not overtrained. Of course, 2 of those would be “light” days with dips and chin-ups, and stuff like that.
    3. Include things I haven’t done before: cleans and BTN push-presses.
    4. Show my left shoulder who is boss.
    5. Make out with Anne Hatheway in a busy intersection.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Right on Barath! If you make #5 happen, I’ll buy you a steak dinner.

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  • Excellent stuff. I don’t think this can be said enough. I was about to type “every beginner needs to read this” but I think EVERYONE needs to be reminded regardless of training age. Thanks for the reminder Tony!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, then, send it to EVERYONE!…….;o) Thanks for the kind words Brad.

  • The more and more I read your posts the more and more I find myself applying “Quality over Quantity” in my everyday life
    GENIUS post Tony 😀

    • TonyGentilcore

      You’re learning young Padwan…..;o)

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  • LouKristopher

    Love it and love the Bruce Lee quote. Here is another one of his quotes I use when explaining the benefits of favoring consistency with useful exercises vs variety of exercises:

    “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

    • TonyGentilcore

      Bruce kinda knew what he was talking about, huh???? ;o)

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  • Paul Rijnierse

    Just a great piece of writing… Damn true and real fun…Thanks!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Paul, appreciate it. It was a very off-the-cuff blog post. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to write about when I wrote and that conversation I had with one of my clients popped into my head. Glad I wad able to start some conversation on this topic, because it’s really interesting.

  • Paul Rijnierse

    A real good source of well balanced info is http://www.chivo.nl It’s Dutch but maybe it can be translated in English…

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