HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN WORKOUT PROGRAM
6 movement patterns
You want to make sure that your program includes a pretty good balance of all of these movement patterns unless you are purposefully trying to emphasize or omit one or more. But even then, a good balance will always lead to the best overall results.
First up...define the goal and work backwards.
Performance goal - Increase deadlift by 40 lbs.
Performance goals will obviously change the focus of the program.
The function of the program is now to improve the deadlift while maintaining everything else.
Set a target date appropriate for the athletes experience level and training age and work backwards.
Let's say you decide 12 weeks is an appropriate time frame...work backwards. What's an ideal level of growth for each week? It works out to 3.3#s per week. As you'll see later in this article its not always a linear progression but just good to have that in mind.
Whatever the short term performance goal is should be the focus of the program. Meaning if your goal is deadlift related, then you’ll need to deadlift slightly more often and with more intent than if the goal was to improve your mile time.
Aesthetic goal - lose weight / build muscle etc.
Aesthetic goals will call for a slightly less targeted, more well rounded program design.
Emphasis on contractions over intensity - just because you’re sweaty does not mean you had a good workout. And just because your not sweaty doesn't mean you had a bad workout
Next decide on a an appropriate split
Splits are simply how you divide up your week. What muscle groups or movement patterns you will hit on each day - Based on your goal you can now define your weekly split.
Below are a few example splits...
Hinge + Push
Squat + Pull
Hinge + Push
Squat + Pull
Squat + Pull
Hinge + Vertical Push
Pull + Horizontal Push
Hinge + Squat
Shoulders + Arms
Full Body Conditioning or Cardio
Things to think about when designing a split...
Even displacement of the 6 movement patterns - take a look at your split and note if any of the patterns are underrepresented. if so, adjust.
Adequate rest between days - Don't hit the same movement pattern two days in a row. If in doubt choose more rest. Better to have 3 or 4 solid, HEAVY sessions and more rest than to have 5 or 6 sessions where you don't really push yourself.
Biopsychosocial status - how the athlete is doing in every other aspect of their life. Stress levels, work load, social wellbeing, sleep quality, motivation, nutrition level.
THEN...START TO FILL IN EACH DAY
Focus on Compound lifts
Isometric holds (planks/hollow body holds)
Rep ranges - All three goals are important.
Hypertrophy (increase muscle size) goal - 8-12 reps
Strength Goal - 3-6 reps
Endurance - 15-20 reps
Each workout should include Strength supersets
Align them with the movement pattern you’ve chosen for that day within your split
In general, compound lifts first and then move to more isolation movements as the workout goes on.
More rest for strength gains - 2-3 minutes
Less rest for hypertrophy gains - 45-75 seconds
Even less for endurance gains - 0-45 seconds
Single arm/ single leg movements are incredibly powerful (especially if you’re working with limited equipment).
They even out imbalances, improve movement quality, and force the core + Stabilizers to engage. Be sure to include these in every program.
Start simple and move to complex - Don't rush through progressions. The body needs to spend at least a few weeks doing something before progressing.
Example: Going from stable to less stable...
Half Kneeling Press
Tall Kneeling Press
Add weight (not always a linear process but heres a good example of what that might look like.)
Example: Deadlift Progression
Week 1 - 7 sets x 5 @ 65% of 5 Rep Max
Week 2 - 6 sets x 5 @ 75% of 5 Rep Max
Week 3 - 5 sets x 5 @ 85% of 5 Rep Max
Week 4 - 4 sets x 5 @ 95% of 5 Rep Max
Week 5 - 3 sets x 5 @ 100% of 5 Rep Max
Week 6 - 1 sets x 5 @ 105-110% of 5 Rep Max
*notice that you cant just add weight each week. A true beginner may be able to do that for a while but eventually you will have to get more nuanced with your progressions in order to hit new Personal Records.
Add sets / reps - same weight
Example: DB Press @ 40 lbs
Week 1 - 3 x 8-10
Week 2 - 3 x 10-12
Week 3 - 4 x 8-10
Week 4 - 4 x 10 -12
Week 5 - 5 x 8-10
Week 6 - 5 x 10-12
*6 weeks is a common and great length for a program cycle. After this 6 week progression you’ll be ready to move on to 45 lbs. You can repeat this process for a long time and see great results. There will be plateaus but this is a great principle to start with and come back to repeatedly for your entire fitness journey
Decrease rest time
(only do this if hypertrophy or performance is the goal. If you are trying to gain strength and lift heavy weights, you need that rest)