The Secret Of Training Psychology

The Secret Of Training Psychology

Over the past last ten years, I’ve been looking for the magical training program that would work for everyone, all the time.

As I experimented on myself and with clients, I began to realise that the program itself was not the answer I was looking for.

Instead, I discovered that the most fundamental aspect of any training program was your ‘emotional buy in’.

What do I mean by this?

Essentially, no matter how great the program is, it has to match your psychology. If the program doesn’t create excitement or resonate with you, you won’t apply the effort or consistency required to achieve maximal results.

You have to love your training and look forward to every session. If you haven’t got these ingredients, chances are you need to train more according to your psychology.

Charles Poliquin first brought this paradigm to light over ten years ago, in his ‘Five Elements’ article, where he discussed how program design should be dependent on a client’s neurotransmitter profile.

At first I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of it. But as I’ve observed the training habits and more importantly, the results of a vast array of people, I’ve realised its importance.

Ultimately a great program requires two things:

  • Adherence
  • Progression

If you’re new to this concept, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you prefer pumping up with high reps, or do you hate the idea of going above 6-8 reps?
  • Do you like using intensity methods like drop sets and forced reps?
  • Do you enjoy tracking your workouts with logbooks?
  • Do you get bored when doing lots of sets?
  • Do you like training one body part and smashing it up, or do you prefer grouping body parts together and training them more frequently?

What I’ve found is most people end up gravitating towards their preferred training style, sets/reps scheme etc. if left to their own devices.

Last year during a seminar Adam and I delivered in Hong Kong, we spoke at length about this, and how the specific training method you use isn’t that important.

Example A

Let’s take myself as an example.

I’m a goal-oriented person who likes structure, routine and planning in advance. When I’ve trained with no plan in the past, I always make zero progress and actually regress. I like to keep a logbook, know what I’m doing on what day, and know how I’ll improve over the coming weeks. This works for me. For others, this would kill their motivation.

With my training, I like including a mix of rep ranges throughout the week. Only doing high reps, or just doing low reps bores me. I need to see the progression in exercises to buy into the program, which is why training modalities like drop sets and giant sets don’t appeal to me. I can’t quantify progress on them that well, so ‘believe’ that they don’t work.

I like training on upper / lower type splits, or at least grouping muscles together. Hitting muscles ‘from all angles’ and focusing on just one body part a day would kill my motivation to train.

Here’s an example of how I’d program an upper body workout for myself:

Order Exercise Sets Reps
1 Bench Press 3 4-6
2 Neutral Grip Chin Up 3 4-6
3 Low Incline DB Press 3 6-8
4 Barbell Rows 3 6-8
5 Standing Military Press 3 6-8
6 Underhand Grip Pulldown 3 6-8

This would be the ‘heavier’ workout of the week, with the other workout being in the 8-12 rep range using a similar set up. With the moderate volume and intensity set up, I should be able to string this out for a long time without any change, which is exactly what I like and enjoy.

Example B

Let’s take another example, this time using Adam, who’s programming I typically handle throughout the year.

I know he’s a lazy bastard in the gym, so asking him to do anything above 2 sets or 8 reps of an exercise would bore him to tears. He’s super fast twitch and responds well to low rep strength work, high frequency, a logbook focus, and one to two all out sets per exercise.

Here’s an example of an upper body workout for Adam:

Order Exercise Sets Reps
1 Incline Bench Press 1,1 4-6, 6-8
2 Barbell Rows 2 6-8
3 Low Incline DB Press 2 6-8
4 Neutral Grip Chin Ups 1,1 4-6, 6-8
5 Standing Hammer Curls 2 8
6 Dips 2 Max reps
7 DB Shrugs 2 8

For Adam, the next upper body workout will be similar in sets and reps, but with different exercises. The volume is low, and the rep ranges are kept below 8 reps (besides dips).

While on paper it doesn’t look like much, because he can bring focus, intensity and consistency to this plan, he gets great results.

Example C

A good friend of ours, Ben Mark, is the complete opposite. He likes to train one body part a day with super high volume and intensity techniques, and no pre-planned program or logbook. But because he puts in 100% effort, he gets great results.

Ben wouldn’t be able to enjoy upper body workouts. Instead, he enjoys training chest and shoulders alone, like so:

Order Exercise Sets Reps
1 Low Incline DB Press – Last set double drop set 4 8
2 Flat Bench Press – Last set rest-paused 3 10
3A Squeeze DB Press – Superset 4 10-15
3B Cable Flies – Superset 4 10-15
4 Dips 3 Max BW reps
5 Seated Lateral Raises – Last set triple drop into partials 3 10-15
6 Bent Over Rear Delt Raises 3 12
7 Front Plate Raises 1 100
8 Machine Shoulder Press 3 20

For Ben, the next chest and shoulders workout may come 5 to 7 days later. He would keep the basic structure of this, but would change exercises and intensity techniques depending on how he feels.

More recently, Christian Thibaudeau has discussed on several podcasts how your training style is often dictated by whether we’re an introvert or extrovert, and that no matter how we train, we are all ultimately ‘designed’ to look a certain way.

He talked about how introverts like less volume, more frequency and use their logbooks to guide their training.

On the other hand, Christian argued that extroverts require more exercise variety, higher intensities and volumes.

If you were to compare Adam and Ben in my examples, this is bang on the money. Especially if you ever put these two together in a room!

The key is giving your maximum effort and staying consistent with it. Passion trumps everything and is the magic, secret ingredient that will accelerate your training success.


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Akash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.