You don’t need to know this, yet you probably should if you’re a PT

How much thought do you give to your programming?

Like honestly, how much?

Being someone who’s no longer shiny new in this industry I’ve given quite some extensive time and thought to programming over the years.

In doing so I’ve seen some rather interesting patterns.

Today I’d like to touch on a few of them.

All of which I’d seen in literally one of the first books I read.

I know right, it took almost 2 decades before all the pieces began to click in to place and these random (not really random) numbers made sense.

Up until this point most of the programs I’d done were largely copies of what successful protocols cropped up.

While the numbers I’d give people made sense, if I was truly asked why I could probably give at least 60% of the full answer, however the rest was still a little ambiguous.

Anyway, hopefully this info will help you learn faster than I did.

That is if you’re will to learn.

Key Principles:

– Total Volume (weekly/monthly % of total lifts)
– Waviness of Loads
– Same yet Different (exercise transference)

We shall start with the last point as it’s the easiest to grasp.

You pick movements that are similar enough to allow progress yet different enough to avoid overuse injury.

I know, very simple and once you base your training programs on movement patterns (needs) you’ll never be stuck on exercise selection.

If you only program based on exercise then you’ll be stuck in the realm of frustration.

Example: Front Squat > Squat > SBBS > Hack Squat

^^ All the same yet different that allow you to progress, working these in 2-3 week blocks is good. You can do more if you choose however that will differ based on the goal/needs of the client.

Next up Waviness of Loads, also called loading variability or periodisation.

Put simply you use different % of your max to avoid overuse/stagnation. That said there is more to it.

You could keep the load the same and play with the effort of the set based on the RM (repetition max) or vary the relative intensity (% of RM compared to 1RM)

Example: Set effort with static RM.

Say your 10RM is 100kg, meaning that is 100% effort and you’d only be able to do one set at that weight with that amount of reps for the day.

You can take 3 rep ranges and translate these to Heavy-Light-Medium days, like this:

H: 7-9reps, w/10RM loading
L: 1-3reps, w/10RM loading
M: 4-6reps, w/10RM loading

The load stays static, you can plan days with higher effort/intensity levels which might have lower total sets/volume and others that have low reps and all the sets.

While the load is the same the result/stimulus you’d get would be different, yet similar (one you can focus on form and acceleration with low fatigue, the other TUT and mental toughness).

This is one methods of playing with the programs loading, or at least how it feels and how often you can repeat effort with heavier loads.

Second option –

Example: Using 85% of your 5RM (which is 85% 1RM)

Relative intensity ^^ that is what this is.

Most see 5x5x85% 1RM written and this is actually not quite right because if 85% of your 1RM is the weight you can do for 5 reps (5RM) once then you’ll have no chance of doing it for 5 sets.

Instead we take 85% of our 5RM and start there.

If your 5RM, 85% 1RM is 100kg, then you’d take 85% of that which would be 85kg which is about 70% of our fictional 1RM.

This will give you room to progress eat week by adding load, as one option of progress.

In your programs you can use the above to vary the loading in a logical fashion.

(If you like numbers then relative intensity is for you, if not then playing with the effort % of a set in the H-L-M format will be better).

Right, now for the tricky one – Total Volume & weekly/monthly % of total lifts.

This is the real tricky one to grasp.

There are 4 numbers to remember for breaking down your total monthly volume in to weekly needs: 15/22/28/35.

These numbers are % of total volume based on each week.

If we have say 200 total reps you wish to achieve in a specific lift for that month, say the squat, here is how it would look:

Month 1:
* On week 15% of 200 = 30
* On week 2 28% of 200 = 56
* On week 3 35% of 200 = 70
* On week 4 22% of 200 = 44

^^ So now you know how many reps to do each week.

Up next is how many sessions per week – 3 is good.

You breakdown your total weekly volume in to each session like this:

Week 1 % of weekly volume –
* Day #1 is say 33%
* Day #2 can be 25%
* Day #3 on the last day you put the remaining 42%

Week 1 reps per session –
* Day #1 – 10 reps
* Day #2 – 7 reps
* Day #3 – 13 reps
^^ add them up and you get your 30 total reps.

(This is without planning sets/reps/loads, which you can use the above info for your required lift)

After month one you may want to increase the total volume as that might be your focus of progress while keeping the lads the same (say 10RM example from above), if so add 10-20% total volume – it means you need to reestablish the monthly/weekly numbers and also sets/reps etc however that’s programming folks.

There you have it, programming in a rather tough nutshell.

I know, it’s quite a lot to consider and this doesn’t even take in to account accessory work, recovery needs, CV or a great many other things you need to be mindful of.

This is where you’ll find a good program takes time to write, especially if it’s truly a personalised one.

You might have seen I pop up generic programs/protocols for free rather often and while they all work they’ll only really be good for beginners, if you wanted one to consider the above you’d be paying a hefty fee, lol.

Anyway, there you have it, how programming actually works.

If you have a trainer you’d hope that they know the above.

If you are the trainer then I hope you know the above.

Fee free to pop any questions below.


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