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Putting together a training programme can be a daunting task but like most things, if you follow a set of flexible rules or foundations it becomes much easier to design a programme that not only you will enjoy but will be well balanced and well suited to your goal.
Understanding the reasoning and rationale as to why programmes are designed the way they are allows you to get maximum results in the quickest time. SO without further ado, here are our 7 Tips For Awesome Programme Design.
1) Compounds First
There are very few occasions where a programme warrants an isolation exercise being performed before a compound lift.
We’re not talking about activation here. A few glute bridges to activate the glutes before some heavy deadlifts is absolutely fine but heavy bicep curls to failure before pull ups probably not the best idea.
Multi joint compound movements work many muscles in unison to, in most cases, lift more weight than an isolation exercise. Fatiguing one of these muscle prior to performing a compound exercise is only going to hinder your strength potential.
Lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows should in most cases be put at the forefront of your programming as they offer the most bang for your buck for both strength and hypertrophy. You can then build the rest of your programme based off of weak links in these compound lifts or areas you’d like to improve.
2) Create A Movement Menu
“Think movements not muscles.”
Creating a movement menu allows you to chop and change exercise when it comes time to alter your programme without destroying the whole structure.
For example, the movement “Horizontal Push” could include:
- Flat Bench Press
- Low Incline Bench Press
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Paused Bench Press
- Flat Machine Press
The list could go on but all of these exercises are variations of a “Horizontal Push”. There may be some exercises you prefer or some exercises you don’t like but as long as it is a similar movement pattern it’s unlikely you’ll see a difference in the long run.
Ultimately the more you enjoy an exercise the harder you’re going to work and more likely you’re going to stick to a programme.
We’ll go into more detail in a future post but for now, here are some of the movement patterns you can start trying to create your own menu’s for.
Glute Bridge/Hip Thrust
Ideally you’d be doing at least one of each throughout the week to have a well balanced programme with more emphasis on weaker areas.
3) Hit Muscles Multiple Times Per Week
Without getting into too much detail, as we’ll be covering in a future post, recent research has suggested that working muscles multiple times per week is more beneficial for both strength and hypertrophy gains.
One of the theories behind the increased strength gains is the improvement in neural adaptation. Essentially the more practice and more frequently you practice an exercise or movement the more proficient you get at it. In other words, the more you squat, the better you get at squatting.
The science behind improvements in hypertrophy is due to more frequent elevations of muscle protein synthesis. After training, muscle protein synthesis is elevated for approximately 36 – 72 hours (1). Meaning tissue is being rebuilt for roughly this period of time. If you are only working muscles once per week, you are potentially leaving muscles “dormant” for 96 – 132 hours.
Train each muscle 2 or 3 times per week however and you’ll be elevating muscle protein synthesis more often, filling the dormant void usually found in most popular fitness mag programmes.
4) Increase Volume On Weaker Areas
If you have a particular area you want to work on or that is significantly imbalanced then try adding in extra volume (set and reps) or frequency (sessions per week).
For example, a quite common area that females want to improve more recently has been the glutes. In which case you may want to work the glutes up to 3 times a week. There is a degree of diminishing returns on this (which is unclear and completely individual) but generally speaking, working a weaker muscle up to 3 times per week with the correct intensity and volume can improve strength and growth.
5) Match Intensity To Avoid Imbalances
A common mistake made by beginners is to hammer their strengths and neglect their weaknesses which often causes muscular imbalances. We all know that one guys that walks around hunched over as all he does is bench.
Sometimes it’s not always because your exercise selection is wrong, but because your exercise intensity is lower on the weaker areas. Do you put as much effort into your pulling exercises as you do your pushing exercises? Do you go ham on the leg press but bottle your Romanian deadlifts?
You can’t expect your One Arm Row to match your Bench Press but you still need to be putting the same amount of effort into it if you want to avoid looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
6) Make It Manageable
The science may say “X” amount of days is optimal or “X” amount of sets/reps it optimal but if you simply can’t fit it into your days or weeks then don’t even try. The reduction in stress will probably far outweigh the extra session in the gym and give you better results anyway.
If you know you can get to the gym 3 days a week without fail then train 3 days a week.
If you think you “might” be able to get to the gym 4 days a week then train 3 days a week or at least build your programme around 3 days a week with an extra “fluff” day if you can make it a fourth time.
It’s important to be consistent and follow a programme, if you can’t follow the programme every week then it’s not right for you.
7) Make It Enjoyable
You could have the best, most optimal programme in the world but if you don’t enjoy it…..
It no longer becomes the best, most optimal programme in the world.
If you don’t want to follow it, you won’t stick to it and won’t put the effort in. This is exactly why you see a lot of people get decent results with very oddly designed programmes. They may not fit the parameters that science suggests but the fact is, they are being consistent, putting the effort in and enjoying the process.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you to design your own programme and make awesome progress but if not, we’re here to help! Want to work with the team? Contact Us
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