Far too many times I see people come to the gym just to hop on a cardio machine, do some bench presses, then jump from machine to machine without a clear purpose. Yes - it’s great that they actually got out of the house and made it to the gym (this part is usually the hardest) but without a clear plan, it is that much easier to give up from lack of results. Imagine you have to bake a cake, but know nothing about baking. How good of a cake do you think you could bake? Sure - you might end up with something somewhat edible and presentable, but probably not on the first try. Only after many attempts, you would figure a few things out and start making a little progress .
This is probably the most important question: “How do I know this program will even work?” Trust me - it will work. Doing exactly what thousands of people did before you to get success is supremely reassuring that you too will succeed - if you just follow the plan. This allows you to just put in work, and not waste your time and energy in the gym.
All the information you ever need to know about anything is out there, but we pay good money to go to school or take courses. That’s because we know educators are trained to effectively build courses and lessons that successfully help us absorb and obtain the information. Lifting weights, getting big, and getting strong is a solved problem. It’s been solved a gazillion times over by smart, educated people that got themselves and others big and strong. Any workout program worth your time has been proven to deliver results.
A well written program will adequately balance muscle stimulus and fatigue such that you are set up to progress very well toward whatever your goal is. Compare this to trying to do it on your own, and it’s far less frustrating. It is too easy to make the mistake of either working out the same body part too much (waste of time and energy) or not doing enough to stimulate growth (again - waste of time and energy).
How many sets and reps? What weight should I lift? What progression path is most viable? What do I do when I can no longer follow the progression plan? How do I know if I’m targeting all important muscle groups? How often should I lift? A well-written program is like an instruction manual. It usually comes with detailed instructions on how to keep making gains, what to do when things go wrong, and sometimes an entire book explaining the program in ridiculous detail and teaching you valuable lessons you’ll keep with you for the rest of your lifting journey. Also, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment and eventually see results from reaching your daily, weekly, and monthly goals that are set by the program. Many a little makes a mickle.
Your body is made up of muscles that work together. It is the same for exercise selection. Each exercise doesn’t exist in a vacuum of its own. A well-designed program has specific functions in mind for each lift. For example, a popular method for bodybuilding is as follows: First, a movement that has excellent mind-muscle connection as your warmup. Then, a movement that puts the muscle through a large amount of mechanical tension. Then, something to give you a massive pump. Finally, some resisted stretch work to tear the muscle up. Hitting the muscle with these different forms of growth stimulus is extremely effective. If you combine this with how each workout fits together in a week, and how they progress week-to-week, you’d be leaving a massive amount of progress on the table by not following a well-structured program.
Popular Workout Programs
TL;DR You should follow a workout program. Doing your own thing is better than doing nothing, but unless you’re experienced and knowledgeable, a program will help you reach goals and see results most effectively.