Follow the Recipe
Watch a great chef and you’ll see a lot of creativity. They’ll take seemingly unconnected flavors and blend them together. As they cook, you’ll see them make adjustments- more salt, longer cooking time, etc… They’ve trained and tasted enough foods to know what will go well with other ingredients. They know what something should taste like and how to adjust the recipe to get it there.
This is like strength training, only you’re probably not a chef.
You’re probably like me when I cook. I follow the recipe. I rarely deviate, and only in very small ways.
The reason is simple: I’m not confident in my ability to make it up along the way. I find recipes that I like, that sounds good, and then I execute it as written. Afterward, I think about how it could be better, but first I simply do it as written.
Coaches and chefs write programs and recipes for a reason. They have something in mind, whether it be the movements they want you to do or the flavors they want you to use. If you’re relatively new to training, find a program that seems reasonable, something that you think you’ll like, and do it as written. Make small adjustments if you need to for any injuries or equipment issues, but by and large, keep the program the way it is. After it’s over, reflect back on the process. Think about what you liked or didn’t like. Think about what you wish was in there or ways it could be improved.
When you start following enough recipes you’ll see a pattern emerge. Maybe you like to train 4 days of the week versus 3, and you prefer to do an upper body day and a lower body day. Maybe you prefer a certain squat variation over another or sometimes wish you could do some cardio. This takes some time, and experimenting is a good thing. You learn from your mistakes and have a better compass moving forward.
If you want to use someone else’s recipe, use it. Learn from the experience when it’s over. Move on and try something else. Over time you’ll understand your preferences, and become a better cook in the process.