What should you be doing in the gym?

Programme design is obviously a big part of my job.  It is crucial for the programming I write to grant you the adaptations that you desire, whether that be an aesthetic goal or a performance goal - or both.  But what exactly goes into programming exercise plans?

As many of you know, the first thing that I must establish is what exactly you want to achieve.  This is done during a consultation and is crucial for me so I know what sort of programming you will need to undergo.  Different training methods (periodisation models) bring about different adaptations just like different exercises bring about different adaptations. 

Needs Analysis - the needs analysis is basically the method of understanding what exactly you need to be able to do to achieve your goal.  For example, if you want to compete at a certain sport or event then that sport of event will have a "check list" of physical attributes that would make you successful at that sport.  Running for example requires adequate hip and knee flexion and extension strength, technical running ability and thoracolumbar fascia stiffness (to name a few).  Once I understand what the needs of your sport or activity is, then I can plan relevant tests that will determine where you are now compared to where you need to be.

For those of you who do not have a certain performance goal in mind, then I strongly recommend that you find one.  Training becomes far more enjoyable and motivating if you see your performance (whether it'd be your cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility etc) improving. Even if your goal is a body transformation, the needs analysis is still crucial.  Understanding how much fat you'd like to lose or where you'd like to build more muscle is an important process.

Biometric testing is valid way to establish what sort of exercises are required to improve the physique futher.

Testing - Testing is a crucial part of any fitness journey, if you are not testing you are guessing.  Obtaining quantifiable results from valid tests will allow me to plan your training going foward as I will know what you need to improve on to continue your development.  These tests can range from strength & power tests to biometric tests & endurance tests.   Initial assessments after the gap analysis (when you first start your journey) will tell me what things you need to work on overal to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you need to get to.

Intervention time - So I have completed your consultation so I know what you want to achieve, I have completed a needs analysis to determine what attributes you need to obtain to be successful and I have completed a series of tests to establish where you are so I know what you need to work on - now it's time to work.  Everyones training programme needs to be subjective to them as everyones needs will differ, therefore having a personalised plan is optimal.

The first point of business to to write the Macro Periodisation Plan (MPP).  The MPP is a long term plan that gives an overview of your entire programme.  The MPP is designed to show the steps towards the overal goal, whether the goal is a sports event or a date that you had in mind to complete your goal.

A Macro-Periodisation plan

Above is an example of a Macro Periodisation Plan.  Each coloured block represents a different training phase.  The phases could be General Physical Preparation, Hypertrophy, Strength, Strength Speed, Speed Strength, Speed or a combination of a few.  A MPP is not a detailed plan, but an overal plan.  I also plan when an athlete is focusing more or technique, metabolic conditioning and I plan what sort of caloric intake they will be on during various phases of training.

From the MPP I can see what type of training they will be doing at any given time during the year.  I can then write the more specific training in their Meso Plans. 

For those of you who receive (or have received) programming from me you will know that typically I send out 4 weeks programming at a time, this is called a meso cycle.  Within the meso cycle is the micro cycles - which is your weekly and daily programmes (what you mainly look).  The Micro Plan contains all the exercies, rep & set schemes, rest periods and tempos that you need to do.  Below is an example of one week of programming. An example of a typical weeks programming (micro cycle) is shown above.

So what exactly will your programming be? What exercises will I be doing?

The sort of exercises and the type of programming you do will be entirely down to A) what you need to do to be successful at you sport and B) what you enjoy doing!  Enjoyment is a huge factor in your fitness journey, however if you have chosen a sport to become good there are some exercises that need to be done.  For example, if you are an Olympic Weightlifter than it might be a good idea to like Squats - as they're are extremely useful in improving leg strength (which is a requirement for Weightlifting).

If you are following a Strength & Conditioning programme designed to improve your performance then of course you need to do exercises that have been proven to improve the attributes you need to improve on. The exercise selection will be determined by:

1) The phases of training you are in

2) Dynamic Correspondence

The phase of training will to a point determine what sort of exercises you need to do. For example, during a Hypertrophy phase you may well chose exercises such as flyes, lateral raises and bicep curls which (if done correctly) will help with the accumulation of muscle tissue.  However, during a Speed Strength phase you probably wouldn't chose those exercises as they do not stimulate the body in the way you want. 

Dynamic Correspondence, in short, is a checklist of how an exercise can relate back to the skill/movement that you want to improve on in your sport.

The amplitude/direction of the movement - Does the exercise move in the same direction as the skill/movement in the sport?

The accentuated region of force production - Does the exercise reflect where the most force will be produced and how much force?

The dynamics of effort - What kind of contraction is taking place? Ballistic, Plyometric?

The rate and time of maximum force production - Does the exercise you chose help with the speed of which force needs to be produced to be succesful at your sport?The

regime of muscular work - Does the exercise reflect the sort of contractions the skill/movement has?  Is it purely concentric? Concentric then eccentric?  One contraction or continuous?

Individual exercises you chose will not be able to tick all the boxes required to improve a sports performance. However, an effectively periodised programme should be able to cover all the points of Dynamic Correspondence.

But what if I don't want to improve on any sports? I just want to lose a bit of fat, improve my general health and fitness and feel better about myself?

If you are someone who asks the question above, then my best advise to give is to find an exercise programme that you enjoy.  As long as your exercise selection is appropiate and you execute the exercises safely then do not worry - the main thing is to get out there and give things a go.  Yes, some exercises are more effective than others at various things and yes, you can have an optimal programme which will help you achieve your goals faster but if you do not stick to it because you do not enjoy it then the optimal programme very quickly becomes pointless.

Feel free to contact me with any questions that you have regarding anything I have brought up in this email!

Stay Strong,


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