There are plenty of “rules” in program design that have stood the test of time. Mainly because they work (or seem to) but also they just make logical sense.

A simple example of a “rule” in program design would be not directly training the same muscle two days in the row; another would be not training more than 2-3 days in a row without taking a day off, or keeping workouts to around an hour or so.

More complex examples are setting up the week for lower back recovery, using a variety of exercises for more balanced recruitment and prevent injury, and stuff like deloads, cycling volume, sequencing, and intensity techniques (but not too many).

The Program Design Rules Aren’t “Rules”

But the fact is, most are NOT rules. At best they’re time-tested guidelines.

Which means that occasionally you CAN (and probably should) break them. And stuff will still work.

Now that doesn’t not mean going out of your way to be contrarian (screw lower back recovery, I’m going to deadlift heavy every day).

It means that when the rubber hits the road (i.e., life happens) to remember what’s really important: just getting the work done.

Training shoulders & arms the day after chest & back is pretty shoddy program design. But if it’s been the week from hell and that’s the only day you can fit it in, just do it.

See if you die.
Spoiler alert: you won’t.

You’re working out and realize you haven’t trained calves in weeks and today actually have time for it, but you’ve already been at it for 65 mins?

Spend 10-15 minutes training calves. See if you die.
Spoiler alert: you won’t.

Once you adopt the “just get the work done” attitude things become a lot less complicated, and far less stressful.

Always aspire for the ideal but be willing to occasionally just do what it takes to get the work done.

That’s the most important thing.

“Don’t be afraid. Just play the music.” – Charlie Parker