When to Change Programs

Q: Hello, I’m a frequent reader of your blogs and write ups. I messaged you once before and you gave great insight, and I appreciate it. One thing I have not seen you write about is your recommendation on how long to stick with a specific routine. Your advice and what you recommended works for me as other things have not in the past. I’m asking this question because I have done your 10-8-6-15 routine for about two months now minus the close grip bench at the end.

The second part of my question is where to go from here, would doing the same routine but doing it periodization style be a good transition or sticking with same 10-8-6-15 and just do different exercises? Just looking for your thoughts. Always appreciate your time in answering questions.


My Answer: I’m a big believer in changing routines often. How long you stay on a program and how often you change it up will depend on a couple of things:

Is the program a block program?  In other words, is it the same workout every time you hit the gym, or does the program require you to rotate through a series of different workouts?  If it is a block program, then your training will get stale very quickly.  You can’t stay on a block program longer than 3-4 weeks before you start to plateau.

If the program is a series of different workouts, then you can stay longer on the program: up to 8 weeks. Exercises, sets, reps and rest periods should vary from workout to workout.

So if you wanted to extend the life of a block program like 10-8-6-15, then you can change the exercises, but still maintain the same reps and sets.  But since you’ve been on it for 2 months, I strongly suggest you move to a different program with different exercises, sets and reps.

Everybody adapts differently to different programs at different rates.  Some people can stay on a program for months and not hit a plateau or get bored.  For myself, I can’t stay on a program longer than 2 weeks, and even then, the program itself consists of 4 different workouts.  My body gets bored very easily.

Some people have bodies that adapt very slowly to a stimulus.  This may sound like they have a physical disability or that they’re slow learners, but for muscle building, it’s sort of a blessing.  You see, once your body adapts to a training stimulus, it doesn’t grow.  Adapting to a training stimulus (i.e. weightlifting) means your nervous system and muscle have made all the necessary changes to handle the weight.  In other words, your muscles grow bigger to handle the weight, but they won’t grow any more unless they’re exposed to a new stimulus (i.e. heavier weight, different exercise, more sets, more reps, less rest).

Those who are new to weight training tend to adapt very slowly to the stimulus.  Hence people tend to make the most gains in size and strength in the early years of training.

Those who are advanced trainees have done and seen it all in the gym, so they tend to adapt very quickly to a program.  Advanced trainees tend to have exercise A.D.D., so their training will vary from workout workout.

Bottom line: When in doubt, change your program.  Especially if you’ve been on a program longer than a few weeks.  Changing programs every 3 weeks is the general recommendation, but like I said, it can depend on the program itself and your adaptive capabilities.

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“Sticking to your principles to the letter has helped me improve immensely. When I started lifting over two years ago I was 125 pounds and now I’m over 170.

“What I’m trying to say is that reading your books helped me understand what I needed to do to gain [muscle]. My dedication plus your expertise really worked out well for me.”

– Mike Crothers


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