The Single Biggest Mistake Most People Make With Their Training Programs

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Full Disclosure: Today is a repurposed post written last year and coincides with Eric Cressey placing his resource, High Performance Handbook, on sale this week for $30 off the regular price.

Sale notwithstanding, it’s still a good post. You should read it.

The Single Biggest Mistake People Make With Their Training Programs

I want to tell you about a friend of mine. Lets call him Matt Damon.

For the record, no, Matt Damon isn’t his real name. In fact this friend I’m referring to doesn’t even exist (or star in any Jason Bourne movies).

Rather, he serves as a metaphor for many of you reading this post.

You see Matt is like many of you who, unknowingly or not, repeats the same mistake time and time again when it comes to his (or her!) training.

To his credit, “Matt” makes it a point to ensure the bulk of his training revolves around the compound lifts.

Instead of an “arms and shoulders day, “ he performs a chin-up day; instead of a “hamstring and anterior tibialis day,” he performs a deadlift day; and well, you get the idea.

Likewise, while he generally prefers to lift weights 3-4 times per week, he’s not immune to stepping outside that bubble, understands that variety is the spice of life, and enjoys doing other things. Every now and then he’ll attend the Bikram yoga class or spin class or hell, he’s even been known to spend an afternoon hiking or playing Ultimate Frisbee.

At the end of the day, though, his heart and passion lies in the gym and tossing around some iron.

But here’s the thing: he loves to lift weights. That’s what he eats, drinks and breaths. He spends a lot of his free time reading fitness websites like, Men’s Health, or various blogs (even this one!)1, and he’s been doing it for a few years now.

Yet, he’s never been really happy with his results.

Matt hasn’t sniffed a PR in months (if not longer), he always seems to have some kind of nagging injury – a tweaked shoulder here, a dinged up knee there – and he can’t remember the last time he looked in the mirror and thought to himself, “are those my pecs or a steel plate I have on my chest?

He’s more or less spinning his wheels.

Does this sound vaguely familiar? Can you relate?  What the hell is he/you doing wrong?

It’s certainly not lack of effort or desire.

I’ll Tell You What’s Wrong

You know that popular saying, “The best program is the one you’re not doing?”

Well, I think a more cogent saying should be,

The best program is the one you’re not doing, and the one you’ll actually follow for more than a week at a time.”

In other words: Far too many people tend to fall in the trap of program hopping.

One week Matt wants to focus on fat loss, only to do a complete 180 after reading an article the following week talking about a kick-ass Smolov squat cycle.

Then, inevitably, he’ll join his local CrossFit box and do that for a few weeks. That is, of course, until he’s done so many kipping pull-ups and burpees that he hates life or can’t feel the right side of his face.

Which ever comes first.

And then he’ll come across yet another program that promises to add four inches to his biceps, 50 lbs to his bench press, and help him speak fluent Mandarin in a month.

Oh, but wait – two weeks into that program he forgets he promised his girlfriend he’d train for a 5K with her scheduled later next month.

Shit. Goodbye gainz.

You get the point. And I have a fair assumption that, while the above example(s) are a bit exaggerated, many of you reading are sitting their with your tail between your legs.

Many begin an exercise program (whichever it may be), only to follow it for a week, or worse, days, and don’t get immediate results…then blame everything on the program.

Guilty as charged, right?

Program hopping can have a number of detrimental effects:

1.  You never give the body the chance to truly adapt to anything. While it’s a good thing to NOT perform the same things over and over again for months on end (which a lot of trainees make a mistake of doing); the same can be said for switching things up too often.

More to the point: There’s a distinct lack of skill development. You never get “good” or develop proficient at doing anything.

It’s a pendulum that’s swung either too far to the left (not changing anything) or too for to the right (program hopping), and what most people need is to swing it back to the middle.

2.  Moreover, with program hopping, it makes it much more of a challenge to gauge actual progress.

As noted above, if one week you’re performing a deadlift specialization program only to switch gears three weeks later to follow a bench press specialization program, how the heck do you expect to measure progress?

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as program hopping Adderall, but I will say that for most people, most of the time, what will help them most is a program that will give them structure.

Something that will lock them in and keep their focus for more than a week at a time.

A program that will give them purpose, a goal. Results!

Boom, Goes the Dynamite

A few years ago my good friend, business partner, and long-time training partner, Eric Cressey, released his flagship resource Show and Go.

To say it was a popular program and a huge success would be an understatement. It helped countless people nail personal records they never thought possible, take their physiques to another stratosphere, not to mention helped thousands to learn to move better and feel like a million bucks.

As much as the programming was top-notch, I think the biggest benefit was that it held people accountable and kept them on track for an extended period of time.

It gave them focus!

And like magic, people finally attained results.

A few years later Eric released his second digital training program, The High Performance Handbook.

It’s everything Show and Go was/is, but 10x better.

For movie buffs out there reading, it’s like this: The Godfather was the shiz. But the Godfather II? Well, that mofo slapped you in the face and called you it’s daddy.

High Performance Handbook is The Godfather Part II (<– Eric, you have my permission to use that as a blurb).

It’s been a very popular program, one of the best selling programs on the internet since its initial release, and it’s currently on SALE at $30 off the regular price.

NOTE: I recognize everyone who’s anyone in the industry is highlighting the sale today (and all this week for that matter2.) on their respective blogs and websites.

And rightfully so…it’s an awesome program.

But unlike everyone else, I’ve actually seen the program performed in the flesh and KNOW how well it works.

1. First off, The High Performance Handbook allows anyone who purchases it to customize the program to fit their body-type. There’s a self-assessment component that no other training program has implemented before.

Rather than provide a cookie-cutter program – which, lets be honest, is how things have to be done over the internet when you have limited (if any) actual face time with people – Eric made it a priority that people would be able to modify the program based off their body type, exercise frequency, as well as equipment availability. So, in many ways, this is as NON-cookie cutter of an internet program as you can get.

2. This is about as close as anyone is going to get to training at Cressey Sports Performance without actually stepping foot in Cressey Sports Performance.  The templates used and the exercises provided have been tested (and proven to work) time and time again, and are the EXACT same protocols we use to turn people into tanks on a daily basis.

3. Speaking of exercises:  Eric filmed over 200+ videos for this product, including all the coaching cues and bullet points we use with our athletes and clients at the facility.  That’s over three hours of content on its own.

4. Lastly, there are some pretty sweet bonuses involved from fellow Cressey Sports Performance coaches Miguel Aragoncillo and Andrew Zomberg

In all,  you’ll have the option of purchasing the Gold Package (which includes the Nutrition Guide) for $30 off the regular price, or the Silver Package (no Nutrition Guide) for $30 off the regular price as well.

I tried convincing Eric into tossing in a 5×7 picture of me flexing to help sweeten the pot, but he didn’t bite. Pfffft, whatever.

Both options are a steal considering you’re getting 16 weeks of programming with Eric coaching you every step of the way.

The sale’s almost over. Act now. You won’t be sorry.

—-> The High Performance Handbook<—-

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.

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  1. OMG…if the real Matt Damon ever read this site I’d die. Just die

  2. Which, for some reason, pisses some people off

Comments for This Entry

  • ronellsmith

    Tony, This is officially the most useless blog you have ever written. I don't need you to convince me of the efficacy of Eric's programming. I've lived it for nearly four years now. So today is Christmas for me :) I knew from some "well-placed" sources that this was coming down the pike. Learning of its release made my day. For anyone on the fence about the program, I have this to say: Eric's programming will have you looking better, moving better and feeling better than you ever imagined. You will appreciate the benefits of strength, over simply size, and the ways in which you are able to express that new-found strength--through increased athleticism and mobility--will have you shaking your head. What's more, everyone around you will notice the changes. But I'm not a fan :) RS

    October 22, 2013 at 10:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Baresark

    Outside the advertising for an affiliates latest book, this is a good article. I see it all the time. People get pulled in every direction depending on what they want right then and there. I have been on a quality bulk routine for months now. I have put on 11 pounds solid in the last 6 or so months or so, and it's only because I stick to my routine (within reason that is). I swap out between and explosive exercise routine that lasts for 6 weeks and a strength routine that lasts for 8 weeks with a 1 week deload in between. My friends ask how I have put on so much muscle and I tell them I stick to my workouts and I don't just jump around. There are days I feel fat and want to stop what I'm doing, but the next day I look in the mirror and am impressed with what I have done. No one should give into what they are feeling at the moment, it's the reason why people can't not eat cake when it's right there. All of this in light of the fact that my buddy is going back to crossfit for the umpteenth time to reach his fitness goals.

    October 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kieran

    I bought the HPH today as I thought the prize draw was a great idea - put a good word in for me if you would...... Anyway, will be reading it and starting the program in a few weeks. Can't start straight away as I have a bum shoulder and hip at the moment! I think it was down to doing the same thing for too long as you mentioned. Even though I'll be starting the program soon, I was interested to know if you had any 'general' rules on program length and how to know when it's time to change up. I have been guilty of wasting probably 2 years program-hopping. Kieran

    October 22, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Hmm, that's a good question Kiernan. As far as PROGRAMS, I like to write mine in 4-week intervals. but within the context of a cycle. So, I may spend 3-4 months in a "strength cycle," and then write a new program every four weeks. Then, I may switch gears and do a full-body cycle, or do something like I'm doing now where I follow more of a hypertrophy cycle for a few months. I think a lot of people fall into the trap of following the same PROGRAM for weeks (sometimes months) on end, and that's when things get dicey and progress tends to stagnate.

      October 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Kieran

        Thanks for your reply. I've been following Wendler's 531 for about 6 months and am possibly now paying for it. I've been quite careful to change up the assistance exercises but I think the main lifts have hurt me. I just get a bit confused when he says you can do BSquat, BP, DL and press in the same order for a year onwards. Do you disagree or is it getting the assistance lifts right that matters? Surely the main lifts have a bigger impact with stuff like this? Also, as I'm a beginner, can I see noticeable progress doing 4 week blocks? Like I said, I'm having to take a short break and then will start Eric's program so it almost doesn't matter but the practicalities interest me Cheers.

        October 24, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jeff

    Great article. You know I got a bunch of emails from people on this, but I clicked from your blog for one reason. I was at CP last year for a few weeks, and one time I was doing an exercise wrong. You flew from across the gym and gave me a ton of useful tips. I also couldn't make my last session due to family circumstances, and you painstakingly answered all of my questions over email for mods as I switched to my home gym setup. Thanks man.

    October 22, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Adam Trainor

    I'll check it out Tony. Your intro made me think of the Ido Portal interview that went viral last year... I think it was on London Real. He said a lot of really awesome things, but the one I keep repeating is about his advice to someone starting in fitness. Of course I'm paraphrasing, but his advice was simple: get a fitness dogma.

    April 1, 2015 at 9:24 am | Reply to this comment

  • Agustin Juanpataoro

    Soy de Argentina! Me encanta leer tus notas tony! Siempre tan certeras! Soy entrenador y hay alumnos que hacen eso rotan y rotan y rotan por diferentes tipos de programas y actividades! Quieren hacer todo y de todo y no siempre más es mejor! Más es más y mejor es mejor! Excelente me pongo de pie a aplaudirlo una vez más ??????????

    February 11, 2016 at 11:15 am | Reply to this comment

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