Program Design 101: How to Build Your Own Workout Program

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Sayler

// It happens every year…

Athletes that have been in my program for 4 to 5 years graduate. They have been told what to do for their entire athletic career and suddenly they are thrown out into the world on their own and have no idea about what to do concerning their fitness. They are lost, confused, terrified of getting fat, and looking for guidance. I politely think to myself, “you have got to be freaking kidding me! You have spent the past half-decade immersed in a solid (if I do say so myself) strength and conditioning program and you still don’t know what to do?” I think to myself, “Maybe it is my fault. Maybe I did not give them the necessary tools required to venture out on their own into the terrifying world of personal fitness.”

Well, I plan to rectify my mistake today and give all of you athletes out there struggling to find their way, the necessary tools required to survive and stay healthy, happy and fit for the rest of your lives. I am going to break down very simply how I design a strength and conditioning program.

// Program Design 101: Step 1 – Determine your Goals

Is your plan to just stay in shape as a retired athlete or are you in the offseason looking to come back stronger than ever and crush the competition? You will need to build you program around that. However, keep in mind all athletes need basically the same things. All athletes from swimmers to football players, from soccer moms to pro golfers will benefit from becoming more explosive, increasing their strength, improving their mobility etc….. Where they differ may be the intensities and volumes at which they train. So, match your training to your sport or goals as closely as possible. If your sport requires you to maximally exert yourself 1 time and rest 5 min before you go again, match your training to that. If your goal is to just stay fit then you will probably want to spend most of your time somewhere in the middle of the volume and intensity spectrum. For general fitness I love incorporating circuit style training or metabolic conditioning. The goal of these types of workout is to get as much work done as possible in the shortest amount of time. So if you are pressed for time and want to kill an endless amount of birds with 1 stone you should check out a program like the Team Heroic program coach Ben Crookston leads. It hits every element of your fitness and gets you in and out of the gym in less than an hour.

// Program Design 101: Step 2 – Select Your Movements and Training Volume

  1. Full body lifting sessions 2-4 times per week are best. You can combine your conditioning work with the lifting or do it on separate days. That I will leave up to you and how much energy you have.
  2. Always warmup properly. Do anything you want to raise your core temperature, and prepare you for the work to come. The more specific you can make it to what you will be doing during the training session the better. This will improve your performance during the workout and prevent you from getting injured.
  3. For the most part, a fast lift or movement such as a power clean should be at the beginning of your training because they require the most focus and coordination. They also are going to tend to recruit the most number of motor units and tax your system heavily. If you are pressed for time and are looking to get the most bang for your buck it is hard to beat the Olympic lifts. They can cover every single aspect of fitness you can think of. All you would need to do is change the volume or intensity to match your goals.
  4. Full range of motion squats are a necessary part of any training regimen. These can be Back squats, front squats, split squats or any variation of the 3. Strong legs are the foundation of any athlete
  5. A lot of athletes depending on their sport can become quad dominant. This imbalance can lead to knee, hip and ankle injuries. So for your owns sake, include hamstring dominant exercises such as RDL’s or Glute-hams.
  6. Push and Pull together. Any pushing exercise such as bench press should be done with a pulling exercise such as a bent row. They do not necessarily have to be done on the same day, but just make sure you don’t overdo the bench press and create an imbalance that could lead to postural issues or injuries.
  7. A strong core is very important if you want the power from your legs to translate into hitting a ball harder or jumping further. It does not matter how strong my legs are if the muscles used to stabilize my spine are too week to transfer that energy to the upper body. I like static holds like planks. Glute ham situps and knees to elbows or any other variation of these exercises are great.
  8. You should run based on your needs. If the sport you play requires quite a bit of endurance, the more conditioning you should add to your program. If you are playing your sport a lot, then the need for extra conditioning work will decrease. In general 2-4 days of conditioning per week should get it done.

Apart from our site, there are some really great resources out there for programming assistance such as mikesgym.org or westside-barbell.com. With all of this said, if you still don’t know what to do because your strength coach in college did not prepare you correctly, or you just don’t feel like doing it all on your own, go to app.trainheroic.com and I will continue to lend a helping hand.

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