How do I choose the right routine for my goals?

The choice of a workout routine is one of the most heavily debated topics, bar none, especially among those who are just getting started. It can often feel overwhelming or like you have no idea what’s right for your goals and situation, what’s the most effective or efficient, or who to trust. We often see posters saying they feel that there is a lot of conflicting information on how best to achieve your goals, and that they’re afraid of choosing the wrong program and wasting their time.

The truth is that there only seems to be a lot of conflicting information because, as the old adage goes, there are many roads that lead to Rome. In addition, “My way is the best way” is a great way to get clicks and traffic. But the truth is, this choice doesn’t matter as much as you may think it does.

Effort and consistency over time in training and eating in accordance with your goals are, by miles, more important than what specific routine you choose. People on the internet tend to get very dogmatic about the methods that worked for them, but most of the training methods you can find work – if you give them time and genuine effort – and you can see this demonstrated for yourself by reviewing the many years of progress posts on r/Fitness, program reviews from r/weightroom, and testimonies everywhere all across the internet. For just about every training method there is, you can find someone who used it and got the results they wanted – including some of the most cockamamie home grown routines imaginable.

The other important reality to keep in mind is that different individuals can respond better to different methods of training, and there is no way to know in advance what you will respond best to. You have to be willing to try things, genuinely work at them, and see what results that they give you. This includes not getting lost in the weeds trying to firehose yourself with all the scientific studies out there about training to make a decision – because as Greg Nuckols points out, group data doesn’t tell you much about individuals (ie, you).  Dr. Mike Israetel also has an excellent piece that is relevant here, in which he discusses the importance of giving changes to your training enough time to bear fruit.

So, in that light, the most important factors to consider are these:

  • If you have access to all of the equipment that the routine requires, or can make reasonable substitutions.
  • If you can handle the time investment the routine requires – in session time, number of days per week, and schedule layout (ie: Mon/Wed/Fri, Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri, etc)

Remember that the most important factor in your results is consistency in effort over time. Therefore, the most important things to consider when choosing a routine are the ones that can most negatively impact your ability to be consistent in your effort. Don’t get married to a six day routine if you know that a three day routine will fit better into your life and schedule just because you fear missing out on gains. A routine that you can stick with for a long period of time because it is built around fewer days each week will get you much better results than one that has you regularly missing days or cutting your workouts short.

The routines that have been compiled in this Wiki come by recommendation across multiple communities – they have all been vetted and used by many people, successfully, to achieve the fitness results they wanted. Most have been created by accomplished, reputable coaches with proven track records who are respected in the industry. It really is as simple as picking literally anything you find here and bust your ass at it for six months or more. It is impossible for you to waste your time on any of these routines unless you sandbag or eat like a dummy.

There is a point where you simply have to try things and find out how they work for you. If you don’t want to listen to us, listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Anything I’ve ever attempted, I was always willing to fail. […] You can’t always win, but don’t afraid of making decisions. […] You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself.

For further reading from Reddit users themselves, you can find some great advice in our Community Campfire threads archive.