The Number ONE Thing Holding Back Your Training

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Why Periodization and Programming Progression Perpetuates Progress.

Yesterday, I was talking to one of my online clients, and our discussion turned into a very in-depth conversation that I thought was really profound, and could be useful to a lot of you.

Chris happens to be getting really incredible results—down 12 pounds of fat and up 4 pounds of muscle in 7 weeks total—and not only are these the best results he’s ever gotten, but this 7-week period is pretty much the ONLY time he’s ever seen consistent progress.

Even though he’s been training for years, if you were to graph out Chris’ results over the course of that time, it would mostly be a flat line, interspersed with a series of “blips” that were few and far between.

However, during the time he and I have been working together, he’s made progress, week after week.

Why the change? Is it because I have some magic up my sleeve?

No—contrary to popular believe, I did not attend Hogwarts, I do not ride a broom, and I cannot do magic of any kind.

However, I do get results that are well beyond the ordinary, and that does require a certain level of near-magical knowledge, because it involves a simple “trick.”

That trick, simply, is to avoid the mistakes that most people make.

And one of the biggest mistakes, by far is a phenomenon known as program hopping—which is when clients move from program to program to program, often without even finishing them.

Even when they DO finish a program, these hoppers don’t really think about the overall structure of their training as a whole, and move to whichever program seems cool at the moment.

As you can probably guess from the tone of my assessment, I don’t think highly of this; in fact I consider it to be the number one mistake that is holding people back in their training.

Now, let me just say that I completely understand the desire here: You want muscle, so you do a muscle building program; then you want fat loss, so you do a fat loss program. From a logical perspective, that does make a great deal of sense and things SHOULD go well.

Regrettably, logic and physiology don’t always play nicely together. 

Here’s the problem: when you jump from program to program, these training methods often vary from each to a very significant degree.

Of course, on occasion, that works out well, and the “change” in stimulus can lead to increased metabolic disturbance and force an adaptation—which means can lose fat, gain muscle, or both.

Unfortunately for us all, most of the time, though, that’s not the case.

You see, your body is a tricky organism, and while variety definitely has its place, it’s only truly effective if you structure that variety in a way that allows these programs to build off of each other.  The truth is that in most cases, it’s the opposite that occurs.

For example, if you perform a muscle-building program that utilizes very low reps, you’ll increase strength in that rep range (and, assuming volume is high enough, you’ll gain mass).  However, your strength endurance will drop—meaning, your ability to train effectively with high reps decreases.

After that program, you jump onto a fat loss program, and most of those programs require you to train with high reps; however, your body is now deconditioned with regard to such training.  In order to do the program, you have to lighten your weights considerably.  So, yes, you’ll burn some fat, but you’ll also get weaker.

After that, maybe you want more muscle… but now the problem is that you’re weak(er), so you have to focus on strength as well as muscle.  Not the worst thing in the world, sure, but it slows your progress down substantially.

You can see where I’m going with this.  People seem to put a lot of thought (hopefully) into the program they choose—but all that consideration won’t mean much if you don’t put as much thought into the ORDER in which you perform those programs.

And that brings us to the important part of this article.

Understanding Periodization

In the strength-training world, we refer to a concept known as “periodization.”

This is a term that refers to setting up your training into specific blocks of time (or periods), with each period focusing on a specific fitness quality.

The goal is to periodize in a way which allows the qualities you develop to build upon one another, creating a system where each period is more effective because of the ones that came before.

This is known as  “progressive programming.”

If you set up your programming in the right way, you’re consistently making progress, because each week you’ll be utilizing qualities developed the week prior to that.  This, by the way, is why my client Chris is getting such great results.

Contrast this with the example I gave above, where you’re consistently trying to play “catch-up” just to regain what you lost during a previous program or period.

Instead of a series of two-steps-forward-one-step-back cycles, you’re making consistent, forward and direct strides towards your goal.

Periodization and progression are worked into everything I design, and that’s especially true with my new program, the SUPER HERO Workout.


You see, SHW is a 12-week program that’s broken into 4 phases—each phase focuses on a different quality, as we discussed above.  Phase 1 focuses on strength, phase 2 on strength endurance and fat loss, phase 3 on muscle gain, and phase 4 on density and overall fitness.

To give you some insight into why that’s so effective within the context of the SUPER HERO Workout, I want to walk you through how your body will react when you perform that program.

During Phase One, you’ll get considerably stronger; however, because of the structure of the workouts, you’re also very like gain some muscle and lose some fat.

During Phase Two, your focus is building muscle endurance and burning fat. And, because of Phase One, you’re now a lot stronger and more explosive; this allows you to use heavier weights during your fat-burning workouts, which in turn means you’ll be burning more fat and increasing strength endurance—even at higher weights.

From there, you move on to Phase Three. This phase is dedicated to building muscle, which requires you to train with higher reps; however, you won’t need to lighten the load. Because of the strength increases in Phase One, and the endurance you built in Phase Two, you’ll now be able to lift heavier weight for MORE reps, which in turn allows you to build even more muscle.

Phase Four requires you to call on each one of these qualities one day per week each—so during that phase, you’ll continue to increase strength, burn even more fat, and build more muscle, SPECIFICALLY because your body has become more efficient (and proficient) at each one.

THAT’S the power of periodization and progressive programming—it creates a system wherein the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; the result is that each part of your training will benefit from everything else you’ve done prior.

And, as I alluded to earlier, this concept can be applied either to a single program, like the SUPER HERO Workout, OR it can be applied to strategically moving from one program to the next.

Understanding this concept is the KEY to brining your training and your results to the next level.

Remember, it won’t matter how good a program is if your body isn’t primed to get the most out of it—you simply won’t get the results you deserve.

If you can avoid the mistake of running from program to program, and learn how to choose programs and schedule them in a way that builds off of each other, you will consistently make progress.

One way, of course, is by picking up the SUPER HERO Workout.

Okay, sound off–who’s been guilty of PROGRAM HOPPING?  You know who you are!  If not you, then someone you know =)  Let’s get just 75 COMMENTS, and I’ll be back tomorrow with another post (and possibly a workout!)

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

Comments for This Entry

  • JR

    Hi there; I'm guilty of getting bored of a program or adding too much to a program. I've been doing another program TT for fat loss and so far so good. The problem is I have 10 weeks to go before I hit the beach and I'm trying to shred fat as much as possible. So now in a panic I'm starting to look around at other programs!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!

    February 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

  • Neil

    Too true. Why do so many people think that doing the same thing endlessly will lead to better results?

    January 17, 2012 at 9:53 am

  • Chad P

    I bought the SHW and the Hyper kit, but it did not have the combat guide included, for some odd reason.

    August 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm

  • Scott Jones

    I am a sucker for new programs. But to my credit, I stick to my routine. Compound exercises in supersets and tri-sets. But I enjoy seeing new programs to get new ideas. For example, I use FPFL for ideas to vary my exercises.

    August 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

  • Isaac

    Posted a comment before this and it didn't show up?

    July 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm

  • Andrew

    It's hard, because most people want it *now* and "plan" accordingly. Whereas the people who make the most significant progress are in it for the long-haul... Understanding that was when I started to make more improvements, and it also made my training more enjoyable.

    July 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

  • RJ

    I used to be a program hopper when I was first starting out, but now I tend to stick to one program (perhaps for too long) once I find it working well. Although I haven't seen any great increases in strength, size, or fat loss from my programs for some time now. I'm starting to think that I often try to cram in too much into my training programs and I'm looking forward to letting you take over the reigns for a while with SHW! Thanks Roman.

    July 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

  • Michelle

    Guilty as charged!! However, the first time that I have EVER been convinced to purchase any programs off the net, was your Final Phase Fat Loss program. I did that for 6 weeks, and then you were promoting Flavia del Montes Flavilicious Full Body Licious, and so I purchased this also, and am now currently following this program. I have seen you promoting other programs, (Shapeshifter, Vince del Monte and Dr K's) but am happy with the two that I have purchased. So, you are saying that it is not okay that I alternate between the two programs (Yours and Flavias), say every 6 weeks, or perhaps every 12 weeks? I do like both programs, as they have great workouts, and exercises that I have not done before, and Flavia has a lot of great core exercises, which I have now mastered and come to love. PS. - the only other program I purchased was your FPFL Body Weight program, as I thought I could work on this, when I travel, and not able to always get to a gym.

    July 23, 2011 at 1:27 am

  • Debs

    Roman: 'program aerobics' would be much reduced if trainers/coaches who cross-collaborate (e.g. you & Flavia) and who have more than one program would take the extra little step of suggesting how the separate programs might work together. E.g. can I transition from Flavia's FBL straight into SHW ? How can I integrate Dr K's 10-minute ASG workouts ? How does SHW relate to FPFL ? or to XFLD ? or Shapeshifter ?(all of which are cross-promoted & all of which I have succumbed to !!) I'd feel more like I'm being active & clever and less like I've developed some sort of purchasing pathology if some more of the dots were joined. Big 'bout, ya, notwithstanding !! ;)

    July 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm

  • Marie

    I can't say I'm a program hopper because I've only done one program so far and that's the XFLD. I decided to have a go at it since it seemed reasonable to expect to finish it in 25 days. I got amazing results and because I enjoyed your workouts so much I decided to buy the Super Hero workout. A gift to myself on my 40th birthday haha. I feel sexier than ever and I look forward to LOOKING sexier after the SHW. Thanks John.

    July 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm

  • Tonia

    Yes, program hopper extraordinaire! but I have started to just buy your recommendations Roman.I do usually complete each program, but don't see much in the results area, maybe 'cos I have to adapt them to my back. With a lower back problem, the future for me will probably be a PT with back strengthening specific training. Maybe Roman??

    July 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm

  • John Romaniello

    You make a good point - the industry at large is partially at fault for the syndrome!

    July 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Glad to have helped, Darren! It's really about taking a broader view, you know?

    July 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Hey Isaac, everyone who purchased will be getting the Combat Guide. I'll be sending it out next week =) Thanks for picking up the program!

    July 22, 2011 at 6:44 pm

  • Isaac

    JOHN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got your offer for the SHW with the Combat guide and tried to use the link to buy..... It wouldn't let me and it was within 24 hours of your email!!!! I want the SHW and the Combat Guide is what sold me on spending the money... Can you hlp me out or what?

    July 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm

  • Peter

    I everything hop. Not just workout programs. Right now, because of work and travel, I'm pretty much down to about a dozen body weight exercises as my whole routine. Works alright but I love pushing weights around too. At least I can always go back to that when I fall off of whatever the program is.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm

  • Glenn

    P.S. sorry should have been page 41 PDF for video link :-D

    July 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm

  • Glenn

    For all fellow Super Hero wana be's on this thread, if you look in the main program SHW Training Manual (page 47 PDF) just above the Phase Four workout One Title, you will see a large blue link to Romans super hero work out library, with some really good HD video descriptions of the more complex exercise (& a little humor thrown in). I emailed roman about the combat workout and informs me it will be released next week. So something extra to look forward too! Hope that helps. Hey look! I’m already doing Good Deeds for mankind and I’ve only read phase one, it must be working! Glenn

    July 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

  • JOE

    Hi Roman, Not a Program Hopper...but I guess I'm guilty of changing things up every month because I get bored easily(and so does my body). From my observation, I find that usually around January of each year for the past 20 years there is always some gimmick or some new program being advertised as the NEW THING in fitness. I think that's the catalyst of the Program Hopper Syndrome. Again...just my observation.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

  • TJ

    I was pumped to get the SHW and the combat guide but the url is wrong. I would like to purchase and receive the combat guide. Should I just purchase the SHW and then could you possibly send the combat portion later? Tj

    July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm

  • Paul

    I agree and understand what you're saying, but without us program hoppers, guys like you would be out of business!!! Keeping things fresh keeps us working out. Got the SHW, and really excited to get started!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

  • Jay

    It is hard to not hop from program to program and question so many different ideas coming at you from different angles. Since I started doing your coaching program, I have had to stop myself from starting, jumping to or even questioning your program and I am glad I didn't. So far I feel amazing and look great. I have people stop me at the gym asking me "WTF am I doing that I look so great?" and I give them your name. I know you don't have a broom or went Hogwarts but in my eyes you might as well have. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    July 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

  • BostonBarrister

    I have the same issue as Glyn w/r/t the combat guide and the exercise descriptions. SHW looks like a great program though - I'm excited to give it a whirl.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:55 am

  • Matt

    Roman, What if your goals aren't to build more muscle and you just want fat loss or strength endurance? Would you just skip phase 3 or just do workouts suited for your specific goals? Thanks!

    July 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

  • Charles Mclaughlin

    Hi Roman, Some programs like yours are built in mini programs itself which is kinda of jumping but you pre-planned it. The variety of training helps stimulating the brain and the body to start producing results again. I actually love program hopping. I used to use the same boring program for years called MuscleNow. I used to think it was the best program in the World till I tried another program called Optimum Anabolics. The program was different and I hated it at first because it was such a demanding program. This program enlightened me that maybe there was more to bodybuilding than just doing common exercises. I ran into a bodybuilding mad scientist called Nick Nilsson. His exercises are so unique that it made my head spin literally! I eventually met a couple of other fellas such as yourself that has expanded my knowledge of training. The information that I had learned is probably ten times greater than what I knew five years ago. I understand where you are coming from based on the previous information regarding moving from program to program with disregard to your goals and how to program previously ended. I love taking a break from training for a week if I have been training consistently for 6-8 weeks. Overall, I love program hopping. Once I complete one program I check to see if I can try another program that is different from what I was doing before.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

  • Glyn

    ps - the combat guide, I never got a link to download that? and exercise descriptions, you said you filmed videos, I never got a link to that either? peace

    July 22, 2011 at 11:35 am

  • Glyn

    hey Roman Firstly, program hopping? yep, guilty as charged.. although not excessively frequently, I just "progress" quicker than the phase states, so I'll do 2 weeks instead of 4 weeks and pick my progressions from there or spend 8 weeks on another phase when it states 4 (if I particularly like that phase). Anyhow, I was into FPFL and then got really ill (side-lined for 3 weeks) and now am back and rearing to go, and SHW (as well as the bonuses from CB) were just too difficult to pass up so I picked it up today and am amped to start... tomorrow!! awesome stuff, I dig your style all the best from sunny South Africa

    July 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

  • michele

    Guilty as charged!! How can I not get fired up with all of the talent NYC and oh Canada have to offer ;) Looking forward to the next 12 weeks. Thanks Roman!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

  • hrgirl

    I'd like to understand how periodization differs from moving from a strength to fatloss program since it sounds like thats what the SHW does, what makes the phase 1 strength to phase 2 fatloss / endurance different than switching from a strength focus to an endurance focus?

    July 22, 2011 at 10:25 am

  • John

    Hey John, How does nutrition fit into this program? With different phases of fat loss and muscle gain, do you outline how to eat during each one?

    July 22, 2011 at 10:23 am

  • Cass

    Hello.....serial "hopper", at your service!!!! YUP! That's me!!!! Course, as of today, the next program I will be hopping to is the SHW :) I will be purchasing today and am looking forward to starting it. As a female, is there any reason I would need to specifically for the female program, or can the regular program bring results? Here's to looking like a SuperHero in 12 weeks...with actual VISIBLE muscle!!!!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

  • Darren

    I confess to program hopping-i do complete the entire program, but my choice selection usually geared towards fat loss since I had a huge problem in the past dropping body fat. I didnt think about the merging from one program to the next: i did notice change in strength or even physique but attributed it to gaining muscle or losing fat based on the program I was doing. This helped a lot!

    July 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm

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