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Adherence: the building block of consistency

By Ricky Siebeler

This Brosciencie post will serve as a foundation for upcoming subjects. Adherence is a measure for devotion and the ability to stick to something. As obvious as it may seem, most gym Bro’s who read this post neglect the adherence part of their programming. While reading this article you may find yourself thinking “why am I reading this; I already know this. This is probably the product of hindsight bias. Besides serving its purpose within a training/nutrition program, adherence is one of the most important factors for being successful at anything.

A lot of people set themselves up for failure from the beginning on by choosing a program they cannot stick to. If one were to find a good 6-days a week training program, but were only able to train 3-days a week, it would be wise to simply forgo the 6-days a week training program. Think about what can be done, before you even bother about what should be done, in order to achieve your goals. Succeeding at something suboptimal will give better results than failing at something optimal. Another reason for choosing something suboptimal is the amount of fun you can have with the program. Whenever you enjoy something you will perform better at it and stick to it, just think about some of the courses you follow or any sport you have played before. Consider the fact that becoming proficient in strength training is a marathon and not a sprint. Knowing this, you should always choose a program you can enjoy, rather than the optimal program.

Multiple studies have been done on attention focus when trying to achieve a certain goal. These studies mainly found that if a person enjoys the process of working towards the goal, the person is more likely to succeed[1]. Practical example: don’t study for an exam focussing on achieving a higher grade, focus on learning more about the subjects. An example aimed more towards training: whenever purely focusing on your 1RM it is more likely to lose enjoyment of training, which in turn has a negative effect on motivation to train and the ability to progress. It is better to go to the gym while focussing on the workout itself, rather than thinking about long term goals.

Life as a student can be stressful. This is primarily an uncontrollable factor. However, this can be dealt with. Over the course of your training journey you will find yourself in situations not able to adhere to a program. Research has been done on flexibility in training as to cope with stressors in life. During this research there were two groups: one group performing a strict training program and one group being able to plan their training according to stress levels (they moved around their training days). The second group made greater gains compared to the first group (the total training volume was equated for both groups)[2]. Besides being able to make greater gains, coping with stress can also reduce injury rate. In a study done on student athletes, they found that when under greater academic stress, the injury rate was up to three times higher[3]. For the bro’s who don't think they can get injured, consider the fact that stress has a huge influence on recovery and therefore overtraining (beyond the scope of this article). As mentioned before, circumstances like academic stress may hinder progress at sports. This also works the other way around: stress caused by sports might hinder your academic performances. A training journey may involve many setbacks, such as not being able to lose any more weight.This stressor may influence academic results, so get your priorities straight!

I would like to end this article using advice from the 6x world champion natural bodybuilding: Brian Whitacre. Brian is a phd in economics and a family man first, bodybuilder second. Whilst being realistic, flexible and having his priorities straight, he achieved being the best natural bodybuilder in the world. He often translates economics terms into advice for bodybuilders. The most important one being “Diminishing marginal returns”, meaning that as the investment gets bigger the returns get smaller (see figure 1. The Law of diminishing returns) Some examples: the difference between training 5 or 6 days a week, is smaller than training 2 or 3 times a week. Consuming 3 grams of creatine a day has beneficial effects, but for every gram you add the benefits of that gram gets smaller, up to a point where it is not worth consuming more creatine. This basically means it's better investing in multiple factors that affect progress.

The law of diminishing marginal returns. The horizontal axis being total input, vertical axis being total output
The law of diminishing marginal returns. The horizontal axis being total input, vertical axis being total output

This concludes the article about Adherence. I hope there have been some eye-openers for some people, like there were for me when I first learned about the factors making up Adherence. Let's end with a famous quote, and nice recap:

'Long term consistency trumps short term intensity' - Bruce Lee

Fig. 1: The law of diminishing marginal returns. The horizontal axis being total input, vertical axis being total output


  1. Fishbach, a. and J. choi, When thinking about goals undermines goal pursuit. organizational Behavior and human decision processes, 2012. 118(2): p. 99-107

  2. mcnamara, J.m. and d.J. stearne, Flexible Nonlinear Periodization in a Beginner College Weight Training Class. Journal of strength & conditioning research, 2010. 24(1): p. 17-22

  3. Mann, J. B., Bryant, K. R., Johnstone, B., Ivey, P. A., & Sayers, S. P. (2016). Effect of Physical and Academic Stress on Illness and Injury in Division 1 College Football Players. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 1, 20–25.

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