Don't overthink it
In the last 15 years or so, I've experimented with just about every type of training imaginable. I've done high-volume bodybuilding training, dabbled in powerlifting (not my forte, to say the least), cross-training — you name it, I've probably tried it. At times I've spent hours and hours pouring over the latest research articles and training blogs, hoping to find that extra spark that ignites my training into the next level.
What I've found is that the old truism holds: the best exercise is the kind that you do. Yeah, maybe you want to be on a bodybuilding stage, or maybe you want to compete in the Granite Games. But the reality is that very few athletes will be successful in such endeavors and odds are you will not be one of them. That's not pessimistic — it's just a healthy dose of reality. I'm certainly not saying that, should you harbor such ambitions, you should not pursue them. Go for it! But it's wise to accept the odds and, over the long term, focus on the type of training that you most enjoy doing rather than bludgeoning yourself with training that you will never realistically sustain.
The proliferation of training advice from all manner of modern strength and conditioning gurus can lead us to the mistaken conclusion that astonishing progress is just a new program — or even a few tweaks to our current program — away. Whether it's Escalated Density Training, German Volume Training, Hypertrophy-Specific Training, The Westside Method or whatever else, we're too easily lulled into thinking that it's our program that needs a stark new direction. But while there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above methods, the best kind of training — again, over the long term — is the kind of training that consistently motivates you to come to the gym and push yourself. Broader fitness goals — both short- and long-term — have their place, but fitness is ultimately a long game, and that means consistency above all else.
What I mean is that while it can be motivating over the short term to experiment with different training methods or even train for some kind of competition, fitness isn't measured in weeks or even months. It's about consistently applying yourself over years of diligent training. Even if you attain exceptional conditioning for a competition through specialized training, it's exceedingly unlikely that you'll retain it. That's why instead of worrying about the next competition or your next 12-week goal, it can be more beneficial just to focus on today. Get your butt to the gym and work hard. You don't need to fret over the exact set and rep scheme; what's important is that you train in a manner that inspires you to push yourself and keep coming back.
No one is going to confuse me with a competitive bodybuilder, but I enjoy high-volume bodybuilding training more than any other style. I have a rough split routine to which I adhere, but if something's extra-sore or I'm too exhausted to train hard, I won't hesitate to mix it up or just take a day off. Heavy compound movements comprise the core of my training, but I frequently change reps, sets, exercises, and rest intervals. Some days I train until I can barely stand up; others, I just work up a good pump and call it a day. Whether it's the optimal routine for me to improve conditioning, gain muscle, and stay lean isn't something I'm preoccupied with. Instead, I strive to train in a way that inspires me to continually push myself as consistently as possible. After spending so much mental energy over the years hoping to stumble across the perfect training program, I've realize that nothing produces better results than just showing up.