5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Write Your Own Program

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Today’s guest post comes from fellow strength coach, Conor Nordengren.  Conor interned with us at Cressey Performance coming up on two years ago now, and since has gone on to establish himself as a reputable coach in the New England area.

His post today comes in a timely fashion since I, too, have recently been discussing the merits of “out sourcing” my own training regimen. Sometimes, we ALL suffer from analysis by paralysis and Conor helps shed some light on the topic.

Enjoy the post, and more importantly, enjoy the weekend!

“So…WTF should I do now?”

It was the week after my first-ever powerlifting meet this past December and this question was stewing in my brain. I had decided to take the week off from training to let my body and mind recover from months of heavy lifting in preparation for my meet.

My first meet had gone pretty well; I competed in all three lifts, only missing one PR attempt on the bench press, and walking away with PRs on the squat and deadlift. I was definitely happy and had a great experience, and it’d be fair to say that I caught the powerlifting “bug.”

I had my sights set on competing again this June and was determined to get stronger and improve upon my numbers. The primary goal of my training for my next meet would be very specific: I wanted to get my bench press to 300 lbs. or more. The bench press has never been a great lift for me and I knew I needed a smart, focused plan of attack to increase my max. While I had some ideas of my own on how to go about this, I felt it would be to my benefit to get some individualized programming from an experienced professional.

Yeah, this guy:

Up until this point in my training career, I’ve never had a program truly written and individualized for me.

I’ve followed some excellent programs, such as Eric Cressey’s Maximum Strength and Show & Go, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, and Dan John’s Mass Made Simple, and gotten wonderful results. Since I’d already done these programs and since I had a very specific goal in mind, I knew I needed a particularly targeted program.

The idea of sitting down and writing a program for myself didn’t last long; I immediately caught myself over thinking things and trying to write the perfect program, worrying about extremely minute details that probably didn’t matter too much at all. And I’d do this every four weeks? Yeah, I don’t think so.

Long story short, I enlisted Tony’s services and he has been programming for me for almost six months now in preparation for my meet in June. This has been a new experience for me and a great one at that.


As my meet draws near, I’ve been thinking about why it is beneficial for people to have someone else program for them. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Accountability – Having someone else write your programs instills a sense of accountability in you. Many times, you are paying a coach to program for you, and you are much more likely to stick to your program and get all your workouts in if it’s something you’ve invested your hard-earned money in.

The person doing your programming has also put a degree of time, effort, and thought into your program. With this in mind, you’ll be letting your coach down if you skip a workout or don’t give every training session your all.

As an example, on one of the days when I train, I have to open the gym where I work at 4:45 a.m. When I get out of work, it’s sometimes tempting to take a long nap or postpone my workout to the next day so I can just “chill,” but I know that if I do this, I’ll be letting Tony down. That’s the last thing I want to happen, and if he ever were to find out, he’d probably Chuck Norris me in the face.

Note from TG:  Actually, no, Conor, that’s NOT what I’d do. I’d probably just slash your tires.

2. Identification of Weaknesses – Tony has mentioned this on his blog numerous times before and it always rings true: we like to do what we’re good at.

By nature, we don’t always gravitate towards areas where we’re particularly sucky, and this goes for our training and for life in general. Sometimes it takes another coach’s objective eye to identify your areas of weakness and their programming to improve in these areas to ensure that you make progress. I’m certain that had I not asked Tony to program for me, I would not be fully addressing my areas for improvement, which would be limiting my progress towards my goal.

3.  Motivation – Every four weeks, I receive a new program from Tony and it always gets me fired up to train. It’s almost like Christmas morning; I wake up, run downstairs and log in to my email account, and there it is: my new program!

“Hammer curls! Sweeeeet!!! Thanks, Tony!!! It’s just what I wanted! And…and…Prowler pushes? Oh…four of them? Gee, uh…thanks.”

Kidding aside, I’m always excited to train when I get a new program and am determined to crush whatever is thrown my way. Having someone program for you will keep you fresh and on your toes.

Going back to #1, knowing that someone has spent time writing a program for you will keep you motivated to get to the gym and get after it. Consistency is key to progress and getting your programs written for you will help to keep you honest.

4.  Time-saver – This is a benefit of having a coach that I just recently realized. By “outsourcing” your programming, you will have more time to devote to other important things.

As a strength and conditioning coach myself, this means that I can focus my free time on continuing education, programming for clients, my training, and any number of other things, whether they have to do with my job or not. This is huge for me, because as I alluded to earlier, it would probably take me hours to write myself a program. That’d be about as cool as a shart when you’re wearing white pants and it is time that I could spend doing other things of importance.

5.  Learning Experience – My time having Tony program for me has been a great learning experience. This isn’t exclusive to me just because I’m a strength and conditioning coach, but it goes for all fitness enthusiasts or anyone simply interested in strength training, too.

Having a coach will expose you to new exercises and methods that will increase your knowledge and, if you are a coach yourself, give you ideas that you may be able to implement with some of your clients.

When I look through my program, I always try to identify the purpose of any given exercise. For example, right now I’m doing reverse crunches twice-a-week and I have two left-hip internal rotation drills in my dynamic warm-up. Why? After thinking about it, the twice-a-week reverse crunches are to help keep me out of anterior pelvic tilt. The two left-hip internal rotation drills are to improve upon my left-hip internal rotation, which isn’t great, and is typically lacking in most men compared to right-hip internal rotation for that matter. We can all learn something from someone and getting your programs written for you is a “sly” way to do so.

The End

I’ve really enjoyed having Tony program for me and have seen the benefits of having someone else write your programs for you. Are there any other benefits to having a coach that I left out? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Author Bio

Conor Nordengren is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He is a graduate of Stonehill College, where he majored in Health Sciences with a minor in Business Administration. At Stonehill, Conor was a two-year member of the men’s basketball team. He completed internships in physical therapy and also worked as a physical therapist aide. Upon graduation, Conor interned at Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts, under widely recognized strength coaches Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore. During his time at Cressey Performance, he had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients including athletes at the professional, college, high school, and junior high school levels. Conor is now a strength and conditioning coach at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning in Nashua, New Hampshire where he is dedicated to helping people of all ages and ability levels achieve their fitness goals. You can read his blog at www.conornordengren.com and contact him at cnordengren@gmail.com.



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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.

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