Would you advise changing your lifting program every few months, or should you just up the weight and reps? Should compound exercises always stay in the program?
Yes, I’d advise changing your lifting program every couple of months, unless you’re a beginner. Beginners could probably be on the same program for 10 weeks or more and still make progress, but it’s probably a good idea to change your program every 4-6 weeks. For example, I am on a four week cycle. I take a one-week deload and then I repeat another four weeks but I change the movements up.
Don’t stick with the same program for long periods of time.
You should always try to up the weight, no matter what program you are on. That’s called ‘progressive overload,’ and it’s an important training principle you should be putting into action when you are looking to keep making progress. That means that week by week, you want to be doing a little extra work. Every week, session to session, you want to try and make a little bit of progress.
The biggest mistake people make when they try and do this on their own and not have any guidance… people stay on the same program for long periods of time, lifting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps with no progression. Not using ‘progressive overload’ is a killer of actual progress.
As to compound lifts… I would recommend they always be a part of your program. They don’t HAVE to be in every program, but if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck and continue making the best progress, you should continue to use compound movements. These are the movements that use a lot of muscle groups at the same time. So an underhanded pull-up would train the biceps, and other muscles as well… like the lats. But a bicep curl will only train the bicep itself.
Using compound movements then, can help you train more than one part of your body at a time. As a coach, I would always try to insure the backbone of a program I create DOES have compound movements. After that, I may add some isolation movement, but the compound movements would be the foundation of the program.