Every training program should start with a goal. Where do you want to be in 12-16 weeks? Do you want to be stronger? Faster? Leaner? More muscular? More endurance?
If you want to improve your deadlift, it is going to take you weeks of training the deadlift at least 1x a week to improve your deadlift. If you are deadlifting once every 2-4 weeks, you are missing multiple opportunities to send more signals to your body to improve your strength.
If you are training off how you feel that day, you are wasting so much potential. Training programs are often designed to have athletes overreach at the end of the cycle. This is a period of time where you push harder than normal by doing higher volume and/or intensity for strength and hypertrophy adaptations. During this time you are not going to want to train. You are going to be tired and sore, but by pushing yourself through this period and taking a deload to follow it, you will GET STRONG!
If you were to simply train off how you feel, there is a chance you will never push yourself to the volume and intensity you should be training with to make maximal gains.
OR.. The opposite is true, and can train too hard and by not giving your body time to rest and recover you are missing out on optimal gains.
If your goal is to workout for health and you don't care about maximizing your performance, then sure train based off how you feel. But if you want to get the most out of your training to improve your strength, power, speed, endurance, etc. follow a program.
Start out first by developing a timeline for your training program. I typically build 12-16 week training programs. We know that to build muscle it typically at least 6-8 weeks to see changes in muscle fiber hypertrophy. Therefore we need to build a program that is longer than that to make the most out of the movement patterns that we are training to build the most muscle and strength.
All the Effective Fitness Programs include 12 week cycles of the following movement patterns: Deadlift, Squat, Bench, Vertical Press, and Sprints
Training anywhere from 3-6 days per week is sufficient. What matters most is what is REALISTIC for you. REALISTIC does not EQUAL OPTIMAL. Train as many days you can do continuously. If you can only do 3 days a week without sacrificing sleep and stress, only train 3 days a week!! Don't push it to a 5 day a week plan.
What will happen if you do this, is that you will get discouraged and quit. We want you to be motivated and continue training week after week! Start out small and build up.
If you are interested in strength you want to train that movement pattern 2-4x per week with heavier loads that allow you to perform only 3-6 reps. Typically this is above 75% of your 1RM.
If you are training for hypertrophy you want to train the movement pattern about 2x a week with each set being 1-3 reps away from failure.
Once you have the number of weeks and the number of sessions per week, work on the individual sessions. What exercises should come first?
Typically, the faster movements need to come first. Snatches, clean and jerks, and plyometrics (jumps) should come first. Submaximal patterns done for SPEED should be done when you are freshest. If you are training sprints and agility work, this too should come first when you are freshest. The Effective Fitness program typically has the sprint and agility sessions on a completely separate day from weight training to make the most out of that training session.
Then compound movements follow this. Squats should come before deadlifts. You don’t want to squat after your spine has been loaded during deadlifts. Typically 3-6 sets should be done with a rep range of 3-8.
Then single joint accessory work should take place to improve weak movement patterns. Typically 2-5 sets should be done with a rep range of 8-15.
Core work and stability should follow this. We prefer doing loaded carries (farmer's carries, overhead carries, suitcase carries, etc.), planks, and other isometric work instead of doing crunches for core work.
Lastly, a short metcon or circuit work should conclude the session. This is a 5-15 minute bout of exercise that acts to increase the heart rate and get you moving continuously over the time period. We keep the movements here low impact. Sled work, Prowler Pushes, Slam Balls, Carries, and calisthenics are GREAT pieces to include here.
BUT!! If you are very weak or lagging in one movement pattern, you may benefit from hitting this first! If you have a weak core, you could train your core at the start of the session instead of at the end of the session. Do it when you are freshest. People often wait to do core last and they do it half-effort. This is not helpful! If you need to improve it, let’s hit it hard. If you have weak legs, let’s squat first.
We want to do 10-20 sets of each movement pattern each week. Start out with the lower number of sets and build AS NEEDED. The lower number of sets you need to improve the better. We want to be able to improve off doing LESS, not MORE!
Spread out these sets per week into the workouts. You will get more benefit from training squatting patterns 2-3x a week instead of just one. Spead it out to get maximal benefit from your training program.
If you are trying to get stronger, keep the reps below 6. If you are trying to get more muscular, you need to be within 3 reps of failure. If not, you aren't lifting enough weight or providing your body with a big enough stimulus to make a change.
Enough rest to complete the same amount of reps again.
When it comes to rest between sessions, it is suggested that you are feeling somewhat fresh before training that same movement pattern or muscle group again. A little bit of soreness that diminishes with a warm up is fine to work through, but if you are walking with a waddle from last squat session, it is more beneficial to train the upper body until you have recovered more.
Boom! There is a simple foundation to setting up your training program. The key to this is consistency. Develop a plan and stick with it for the full 12-16 weeks. It will take at least 6 weeks to start seeing results. Start today and trust the process!
If you are tired of trying to do the thinking, reach out to our team of coaches to get personalized coaching! Or download your 2 week trial of the Effective Fitness program and get started today!
- Dr. Matthew Shiver (@shive_on on IG)