The Good and The Bad with Changing Weight Training Programs

Big Powerlifter Deadlifting

I've recently changed training programs from Jim Wendler's 531 for Powerlifting (351) back to the Conjugate Method aka Westside Barbell. There's nothing wrong with 351, I was making regular strength gains on it over 15+ months. I just enjoy training more when I have the freedom to choose my main movements. One reason I lift weights is because it's fun. It defeats the purpose if I'm bored with my program.

4 months after the switch, I've come across some things that I would've done differently to transition better with minimal to no strength loss.

My bench press strength started going down.

I figured out after 6-8 weeks that it was most likely due to the change in shoulder work. In 531 for Powerlifting, it's a priority, with its own day (overhead press), but in Westside, it's just accessory work. I've added in a separate shoulder day four days after bench to help out.

Changes in training volume decreased muscle mass.

I do a lot less volume on the Conjugate Method. I started seeing a noticeable loss in mass. Changes were made immediately with added accessory work.

And on the plus side, my squat started feeling a lot stronger after the switch to handling heavier weights for lower reps (1-5) combined with less volume.

I don't recommend always changing training programs or doing a complete overhaul, I find it's more productive to make small tweaks to your current program as needs arise. An example would be adding more volume on squat day or doing more tricep work if you tend to fail just short of locking out on the bench press. It also takes a good few weeks to really get into a program and a few months to years to see some gains. Changing programs or program hopping could leave you in a perpetual state of getting used to programs instead of making dem gains.

Words by Dan Profane

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1 comment:

Henry said...

Hi Dan, some interesting points in this post. I find changing programs every 4 months keeps me interested and helps me break through plateaus. Mixing it up too much can be counter productive - I've seen too many lifters flit around all the time without sticking to a solid plan, and they wonder why they don't make any progress!