Google "Exercise programmes", or search Youtube for a workout.
There's about a billion. I'm not exaggerating; there's literally about a billion of them.
But if you've ever thought, "I'm going to get in shape, and I'm going to do it with a workout plan I'll find online.", it's likely you weren't successful.
Not because it wasn't a good plan, it probably was.
It probably included a good selection of compound exercises.
It likely had a weekly schedule which allowed for adequate recovery.
And the chances are it included some form of progressive overload, increasing the load, reps or sets, from week to week.
So why didn't it work?
Because the plan, regardless of how good it was, wasn't designed for you.
Not for your specific goals.
Not for your abilities and skills.
And, perhaps most importantly, not for your likes and dislikes.
There's a good chance you selected that programme because you saw a picture of a model who "definitely did that programme" and thought,
"They look good. I want to look like that."
But never once considered how long that person had been training.
How skilled they were and how well they could execute different movements.
Whether they loved lifting weights for hours each week, enjoyed feeling sore every morning and didn't mind stiff joints because they had no history of injuries.
Or whether they only really set out to look and feel better naked, had no history of heavy lifting, found gym sessions boring as hell, had a litany of injuries and niggles and hated the feeling of not being able to move for days on end without jolting pain shooting through their body.
Here's the thing; the key to success, with any goal, is consistency. If you stick to the plan for long enough, you'll usually achieve your goal. So if the key to success is consistency, what are the keys to consistency?
1. Success breeds success.
If the plan you're following is visibly moving you toward your goal, you're far more likely to stick to the plan. If your goal was for your clothes to fit better and after a few weeks on the plan, your clothes fit better, you'll stick with the plan.
But if your goal was to pack on 10kg of muscle and after a few weeks, all of your shirts are feeling looser around the arms, it doesn't matter that you've lost weight and body fat, because that wasn't the goal, so you're not likely to stick with the programme. No matter how good the plan is, you won't stick to it if it wasn't designed for your specific goal.
2. The plan has to meet you where you are, not the other way around.
How many times have you seen someone in the gym performing an advanced exercise, a clean and jerk, or a barbell snatch, for example? It's impressive; they look strong; the movement is powerful and fluid; it seems almost effortless.
Then, five minutes after that person has finished, someone else comes along. This person doesn't look quite as strong. You're pretty sure they're new to the gym, new to weight training, and has no history of Olympic lifting. But they know that the last person looked strong and muscular. They know that they want to be strong and muscular.
So A + B must = C, right?
Cue Youtube video "Biggest Gym Fails!".
If the plan was not designed to meet your level of experience, ability and skill, it's highly likely you'll end up injured, and you cannot follow a plan if you're injured.
3. If you don't enjoy it, you won't do it.
We're all different. What one person finds fun, another might find unbearable. Some people find going for a 10k run therapeutic; others would rather bathe in acid.
Some find the "burn" of resistance training to be a rewarding challenge, a sign of progress; others would rather be beaten about the head with their own limbs.
I love nothing more than receiving and delivering multiple blows to the head and body from my good friend and sparring partner over twelve rounds of boxing; others think we have lost our minds.
Those are three examples of wildly different training methods, but what each of them has in common is that when the people doing them enjoy it, love it even, they keep going.
They keep running.
They keep lifting.
They keep boxing.
They stick to the programme, and so the programme works.
But ask the runner to get in the ring, or the lifter to lace up his running shoes or the boxer to get sore from heavy lifting; they may do it once or twice, maybe a week or two, but it won't be long before they begin to hate the process and find reasons to drop out.
And this brings us back to the point in hand; there are endless amounts of well-designed exercise programmes out there, and given to the right person, they'll work just fine.
But it's guesswork, a roll of the dice.
The only way to ensure that an exercise plan will work for you is to make sure the plan was designed for you; based on your goals, abilities, and likes and dislikes.
Without taking into account those vital factors, you're headed for disappointment at best, and at worst, you'll end up just one more dude on a gym blooper video.