Finding an exercise program can be challenging, if we are unable to afford a coach, the next best thing we do is look online to see how we can meet our fitness goals. The trouble with searching for the “right” program, is that there is a lot of information and programs out there. There are programs catered specifically towards bodybuilding, fat loss, muscle gain, etc. We know that with this amount of information out there, it makes fitness overwhelming and challenging to do. In this article we will take you through our thought process on how we design our programs and how you can design your own as well!
Warming up is by far one of the most crucial things to do before beginning your training session. Warming up should take roughly about 5 to 10 minutes and should get you warmed up, not hot and sweaty. Your warm up shouldn’t be extremely taxing, nor should it be too easy, just enough to get blood flowing through the muscles and to loosen up the joints.
Here is how to construct your warm up:
SMR: Self Myofascial Release is a fancy word for foam rolling, begin with foam rolling the tissues, primarily whichever ones are sore or will have a heavier emphasis on your training day. Areas to foam roll would be the glutes, quadriceps, lats, hamstrings, calves, back, and adductors. There are other areas you may be can roll out as well, but these are some of the main areas we hit, we typically spend around 60-90 seconds on the areas of focus.
Ground: We begin with exercises that are on the ground and progressively work our way into more dynamic movements. Some ideas of exercises on the ground can be dead bugs, glute bridges, active straight leg raises, leg drops, side lying thoracic rotations, etc. Any type of exercise you want that places you on the ground either on your back or on your stomach.
Glute:Next we go into a glute/quadruped focus, this will either continue to have us on our back or in a quadruped position (hands and knees). Exercises for this category will be glute bridges, single leg glute bridges, bird dogs, rocking, fire hydrants, etc. Anything that will help fire and engage the glutes or anything that places you in a quadruped position.
Core: Next we will focus on getting the core to warm up. We will typically do a core specific exercise such as an elbow plank, push up position plank, side plank, hollow hold, anything really that is going to get the core to be engaged.
Hip: Next we will do a hip specific drill to loosen and open up the hips. Exercises in this category will range from frog stretches, open gates, hip flexion/extension, side bent sits, squats, etc. The focus here is to prepare the hips for movement.
Shoulder: Next we look at warming up the shoulders, but we are not going to be focusing primarily on the should itself, we will be looking at primarily the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is the large portion of your spine that can hinder shoulder mobility. Exercises for this category are YTW, thoracic rotations, open books, thoracic bridge, rib grabs, etc.
Dynamic:Lastly, we look at a dynamic movement that incorporates all of the body into a dynamic motion. Exercises in this category include inch worms, world’s greatest stretch, kettlebell swings, Turkish getups, deep lunge with elbow drop, lunge matrix,etc. This category should be the last, but most challenging exercise of your warm up.
Typical warm ups should range from one to two sets of repetitions ranging from 6 to 10. It is up to you on how much work you believe each area needs emphasis for your training session.
Now that we have covered a basic warm up for your training session, let us dive into the bread and butter of our programming. This may get a little confusing, but we are going to do our best to describe to you our thought process and how we view training.
The reason we view exercises in movements, opposed to muscles, is because we want to train the movements that we do in our daily activity. The other reason is because this allows us to train in shorter time periods without having to commit to a four or five-day program that takes a lot of time out of our day. We want to use our time wisely, with getting the best results in the quickest amount of time.
In block one we begin with a power exercise paired with a mobility exercise. This allows for us to use an exercise that requires a lot of demand on the body and nervous system. When we look at power-based exercises they require a lot of technique or effort to conduct. We want to make sure that our nervous system is fresh at this time to make sure we can place the appropriate amount of stress on the body.
We pair this exercise with a mobility exercise that will complement the power exercise; EX: Medicine ball slam paired with YTW, we are using an upper body power movement, with an upper body mobility exercise to assist for greater power. Power exercises are done at a lower volume of repetitions ranging from 3-6 reps per set.
Mobility exercises in this category will complement the chosen exercise above, meaning that if you were to do a box jump for your power exercise, you would want to do a lower body mobility exercise to either open up the hips or the ankles, to allow for a greater range of motion to aid in the power exercise. This would apply for an upper body exercise as well.
Upper Body– Medball slam, jam ball slam, medball chest pass, rotational slam, explosive push up, kettlebell push press, clean & press, etc.
Lower Body– Ladder drills, box jumps, squat jumps, kettlebell swings, bounding, lateral jumps, sprints, etc.
Upper Body– Open books, thoracic rotations, YTW, shoulder circles, halos, rib grab, snow angels, hand behind head t-spine rotation, thoracic bridge, etc.
Lower Body-Frog stretch, leg raise, leg drops, rocking, open gates, hip flexion/extension, rainbows, side bent sit, etc.
In block two we begin with a knee or hip dominate single leg exercise, this typically requires a bit of balance and can be more challenging than a bilateral (two legs) exercise. The reason we want to have an emphasis on single leg exercises is because it builds greater strength and can also improve our gait (your ability to walk). You want to think about knee dominate exercises such as a lunge as a lower body pushand a knee dominate exercise such as a single leg glute bridge as a lower body pull exercise.
We will pair this exercise with either an upper body exercise, again we want to categorize our exercise selection by movements not muscles. Upper body exercises should be categorized as upper body pushing and upper body pulling. We even want to get a specific as what direction they are moving in such as upper body vertical/horizontal pushing andupper body vertical/horizontal pulling.You want your upper body exercise to be the opposite of your lower body exercise; EX: Reverse Lunge (unilateral knee/lower body push) second exercise will be a TRX Row (upper body horizontal pull).
Lastly, we will pair these two exercises with either a trunk (core) or carry exercise. This way we can get some direct core work into our training session. We do not need to spend endless circuits to train your core, if you are following this template you will get a lot of other core work from the rest of these exercises. Your trunk work should be categorized as anti-extension/anti-rotation, fancy words for planking (anti-extension) and band holds (anti-rotation).
Unilateral Knee or Hip:
Knee– Split squat, reverse lunge, lateral lunge, front lunge, step up, RFE squat, etc.
Hip– Single leg glute bridge, single RDL, single leg deadlift, single leg curl, etc.
Upper Body Push or Pull:
Upper Horizontal Push– Push up, bench press, dumbbell bench press, TRX chest press, single arm bench press, incline bench, etc.
Upper Horizontal Pull– One arm row, bent row, TRX row, seated row, bat wing row, renegade row, face pulls, etc.
Trunk anti-extension– Elbow plank, push up position plank, TRX fallouts, ab roll out, stability ball roll out, hard style plank, crawling, shoulder tap planks, etc.
Trunk anti-rotation– Anti-rotation band hold, pallof press, half kneeling pallof press, split stance pallof press, plate plank slide, plank lateral drag, etc.
Carry- Farmers walk, suitcase carry, overhead carry, kettlebell rack carry, sandbag carry, etc.
In block three we begin to do the opposite motions of what we did in block two. We will begin with a bilateral (double leg) exercise that is opposite of what was done in block two; EX if block one had single leg RDL (lower body pulling) then your bilateral exercise would be a goblet squat (lower body pushing).
Next, we will work the opposite movement of what we did in block one; EX if we did a push up (upper bodyhorizontal push)we would want to pair that up with a chin up (upper body vertical pull). We are looking at movement patterns, not muscles.
Lastly, we are going to incorporate another mobility exercise. This time the mobility exercise will be opposite of what you did in block one. If you did an upper body mobility exercise we would be doing a lower body mobility exercise to make sure that we have balance with our mobility work.
Bilateral Knee or Hip:
Knee-Goblet squat, back squat, front squat, kettlebell front squat, bear hug squat, offset kettlebell squat, banded squat, etc.
Hip- Deadlift, trap bar deadlift, kettlebell swing, barbell glute bridge, body weight glute bridge, sandbag deadlift, dumbbell RDL, sandbag good morning, etc.
Bilateral Hip- Trap Bar Deadlift
Upper Body Push or Pull:
Upper Body Vertical Push– Kettlebell press, bottom up kettlebell press, half kneeling kettlebell/dumbbell press, sandbag shoulder press, dumbbell shoulder press, etc.
Upper Body Vertical Pull– Banded chin up, TRX chin up, barbell chin up, pull up, banded pull up, flex arm hang, etc.
Same as above.
As we enter in block four we will be getting close to the end of the session. We begin metabolic conditioning otherwise known as cardio. Here is the best part about this section, we no longer have to spend endless hours and minutes on a machine doing meaningless cardio work. This section by itself can be a whole article, but for times-sake we will share with you how we conduct conditioning.
We will do a format of Tabata style exercises, which is a high intense interval training style also known as HIIT. We will break this into about 5 minutes of working at ratios of 10/20, 15/15, 20/20, 30/30, etc. Our focus is to elevate the heart quickly with minimal rest.
Battle ropes, medball slams, wall balls, sled pushes, kettlebell swings, carries, crawling, rower, etc.
After we have completed our training session, we will always finish with a cool down. The cool down is a great way for us to dial back the amount stress we have caused on our nervous system and regulate us back into more of a relaxed state. This area we focus primarily on Original Strength Resets. If you have not heard of Original Strength, please go check them out! They provide a great amount of content and information about strengthening the vestibular system and nervous system.
Breathing, head rotations, head nods, quadruped rocking, single arm rocking, upper body rolling, lower body rolling, crawling, marching, skipping, etc.
This is just a scratch of the surface of how to write your own fitness program. This is our way of training that we have found best serves our clients and gets them the results they have achieved. If you have any questions or would like for us to elaborate more on any of the topics we discussed please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In our part two of how to write your own fitness program, we will go over the details of how to program your sets, reps, intensity, and recovery for your fitness goals.