Programming can be a complex topic as there are many different ways to design a program and many different methods to follow. Sometimes having so many options can make it hard to make decisions on how to best structure one for yourself or for your client – What exercises should be included? How many exercises should be included? How often should progressions be programmed?
This blog will go through four areas of programming and give you some tips on how to simplify the process:
With so many variations of exercises available this can be the first sticking point in creating a program. The exercises you pick will need to be based on the client’s goals, training age, as well as how long they have to train. With most general programs we know that we want to hit every major muscle group, which gives a good outline when designing a program. An example of a possible structure is below.
- Lower body compound
- Upper body push
- Upper body pull
- Lower body isolation (posterior chain)
- Lower body isolation (anterior)
- Bicep exercise
- Triceps exercise
If we have this basic structure for exercises we would like included, we can simply plug and play. Pick an exercise for each, and you’re well on your way to having a well-rounded program.
Number of Exercises
The number of exercises can again vary from program to program. The ideal amount of exercises will depend on the client’s goals, how many sessions they can do per week, the duration of each session, their training age, as well as how well they can recover.
A tip for the number of exercises is to keep it simple – you don’t need 4 exercises for a muscle each session. Give each muscle 1-2 exercises, which could be made up of one compound exercise and one isolation exercise for the smaller muscle. An example would be completing a bench press, then including a triceps pushdown. You don’t need to do flat bench press, incline bench press and dumbbell fly’s in one session. Think quality over quantity. You’re better off doing 4-5 good sets of bench press, then doing 8-12 sets over 3-4 exercises creating excessive fatigue that you can’t recover from optimally.
Progressions (How Often)
Some people can get stuck jumping from program to program and not stick to one long enough to let the body adapt, while others don’t progress or change their program enough and don’t see as much benefit or improvements as they would if they added some more variety.
My tip for program progressions it to plan your program in 4-6 week blocks and stick to this. Don’t switch things up or jump between hypertrophy and strength, or resistance to HIIT training every 2 weeks. Stick to a plan or program for 4-6 weeks.
After 4-6 weeks, re-assess your goals, and then look to change the program or just look to add some variety. Keep the same structure, just switch the exercise, for example; flat bench press to incline bench, or you might move from focussing on 12 reps to 8 reps.
Recovery can be one of the aspects of a program that is missed when looking to design the most appropriate program.
My tip for recovery is to consider it!
If a client works a physical job or long hours (not much sleep), this will impact their ability to recover from session to session. This will dictate how often they can train as well as how much training volume they should do (sets and reps). This may be something you need to adjust as the client progresses, but if they are turning up sore for the next session or they don’t seem to be progressing they may not be recovering optimally from sessions. Consider adjusting the volume or structure to allow them more recovery.
I hope this gives you some things to think about when putting together your programs in future!
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