Whether you make your own protocols, have a trainer, or train alongside a friend, having the knowledge of what makes a great training program is invaluable. Understanding what makes a program great will help unlock a lifetime of progression. There are 7 variables we will discuss, and each of these variables play a vital role in helping you make the most of your time in the gym.
What is your training need? Are you an athlete, looking for increased speed, strength, and power? Are you a bodybuilder that needs a dominate shape on stage? Are you simply just looking to lose weight? These are some things you should ask yourself before you begin any program to make sure you are doing something that will aid you most in your journey. Once you know what your exercise program needs are, you can begin to see what specific type of training you need to be doing. Someone that has a goal of losing weight probably would not be best suited for powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting training, and someone that wants to be a powerlifter would be wasting their time doing CrossFit.
What exercises are going to give me my best bang for the buck? Some exercises are great for certain populations, but terrible for others. Distance running is a great exercise for weight loss, but, for a powerlifter, they would be better served spending their time doing something else. Barbell bench pressing is a great strength movement, but if you have got cranky shoulders, you would generally be better off staying away from that specific movement and swapping it with something else.
Everyone has different schedules, between work, school, sports, kids, there just is not enough time. If you are an athlete who has practice 3 nights a week, and games twice per week, training everyday could be detrimental to your performance. How many training sessions are going to be most beneficial for YOU? Some people only need 2-3 sessions per week, others can go everyday of the week. One of the most important reasons to establish your training frequency is to determine your training split. If you train 6 days per week, total body everyday will put your body in constant pain if you are pushing yourself. If you train 3 days per week, total body is great. 4 days per week? Try an upper/lower split. There are all sorts of ways to split up your training, but you first must know your training frequency.
What exercise are you doing first? If you are training legs, and you start your working with Bulgarian split squats, then do Romanian deadlifts, then back squats, you are missing out on major strength gains. Start your workout with your most technical or demanding compound lifts. If you are doing cleans or snatches, these came first. These are extremely technical power movements and should be done when your body is most fresh. If you are doing back squats, lets do those first because that is a huge compound lift, then you can finish with your isolation movements.
Training load and repetitions
How heavy are we going and for how many reps? If I am in a strength training cycle, my bread and butter is in the low reps with a heavy weight, most of my training is focused on creating brute force. Training specifically for power will require low reps with a moderate weight, I want to train with a weight that I can move with maximal velocity. Populations seeking muscle endurance will want to look to training with light loads and high reps, this all leads back to your training goals. Understanding what your goals are and sticking to a specific plan to achieve those goals never fails.
How much volume am I training with? Volume is most often described as sets x reps x weight. Meaning that if I do 10 sets of 10 reps with 100 pounds, my total volume is 10,000 pounds. Increasing training volume over time is a great way to make size and strength progress. On the other side of that spectrum, high training volumes for an athlete in season can have catastrophic effects on their performance. Some people handle volume better than others but keeping an eye on training volume and knowing when you want volume, and when you do not is key.
How much time do I take to recover between sets? Often overlooked, this can have huge implications on training performance and results. Strength and power athletes need longer rest while endurance athletes or those simply looking to lose weight do not require nearly the amount of rest time. Strength and power athletes rely heavily on what is called Creatine Phosphate for explosive energy, which can require 5-8 minutes to fully replenish. Training for endurance burns fat for fuel, and only needs under a minute to recover. If you are looking to just lose weight, getting as much quality movement in a short amount of time is of importance. If you are looking to build muscle, not only do you need to produce high force, but you also need to make the muscles burn, resulting in a shorter rest time than a power lifter would use. Rest according to your goals.
BS Exercise Science