Over the past couple days I have taken a good amount of time in putting together a training program for myself and for my girlfriend Lindsey. I have decided to put up two posts about programming: first, my own personal process on how I put together a program for myself, or for any one of my friends or clients. And second, on how any one of you could put together an effective program yourself. So to start, I will go about looking at my own personal programming method.
My first step is to establish a list of goals. I break them down into four categories: General, Main, Secondary and Long Term.
General Goals: These are non-specific, rarely numbers, weights or times, and are meant to be things you are aware of and mix into sessions like Skill and Weakness Practices (SWP's)(more on those later) throughout the program. Mine are:
• Consistant unbroken butterfly pull ups at any given time (more than 30)
• Core strength
• Consistant unbroken, strict muscle ups (more than 5)
• Better joint stability
• Focus on shoulder strength (!)
• Eat cleanly
• Cook 85% of all meals
• Cook one new item a week (this week was beets!)
Main Goals: These are the ones that you focus the most on, the ones that you design your program around. Mine are:
• 5 handstand push ups
• 185# strict press
• 485# deadlift (perfect)
• 410# back squat
• 50+ unbroken push ups
Secondary Goals: These are goals that you have in the back of your head, but do not focus on. If you work hard enough at your Main Goals and keep good on programming in a good mixture of every exercise and movement, these will have a greater chance of being attained. Mine are:
• Sub 5:30 mile
• Sub 1:24 500 meter row
• Sub 18:00 5k
• Sub 3:00 "Fran" (again)
• 250# clean and jerk
• 185# snatch
• Sub 10% body fat
• Sub 205# body weight
Long Term Goals: These are goals that you may not be incorporating into your programming, but they are things you know you will be focusing on soon enough. They will always play a roll in how your program progresses. Mine are:
• Compete in at least 3 sprint triathlons by Summer 2011
• Compete in the 2011 CrossFit Games
• Compete in a Iron Man Triathlon in fall of 2011
• Get back into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
• Get back into Yoga
Goals can be tough to put together sometimes, so take your time when finding yours. The main thing is (and I struggle with this a lot) keeping your main goals under control. I tend to put too many in that category, and then I find I have too much to focus on and overwhelm my programming. So, keep the main ones simple, realistic yet still challenging.
Once I have my goals, my next step is to establish a time line. Will I be working for one month, two, three? So on. For this specific program, I have decided to focus on the rest of September, and all of October. I have done so because my long term goals are such that I do not want to have such a strength bias for too long a time. I plan on having a very conditioning-heavy November, then back to strength in December.
My next step is to figure out what my weekly schedule will look like. This is a tough one as well. I am picking a Mon/Wed/Fri strength focus, Tues/Thurs/Sat conditioning and metcon focus with Sunday completely off. My Thursday will always be an easy day, and my Saturday will generally be a long, heavier metcon. This is pretty vague, and that is the intention. I want to have a set schedule as to when I will be doing certain things, but I also want to keep things a little open so that I can modify if need be. I tend to throw in a second workout in a day every now and again, and with this specific schedule, I find that I am generally well rested enough to push myself a little harder here and there. I also find that this pattern works best for me along with my life/work schedule. I like to have my weekends a little open so that I can be a bit more adventurous (take trips and so on), and my typical schedule allows me to get whatever fitness work I may need during the week (the next post about how YOU can program will get into other schedules in much greater detail).
So what will my focus be? Well, As you can see from my main goals, I want to get stronger overall, but mostly in my shoulders. I have a major deficiency in my shoulders and need to focus on them like crazy. So, I have chosen to follow Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 program again (as I did for a bit this summer), and will be supplementing that program with tons of core and spine stability, added shoulder strengthening exercises, and short metcons. Here is what a week will look like:
• 5/3/1 program of deadlift and strict press
• Posterior chain and shoulder support exercises
• Short couplet or triplet metcon with supportive movements
• 15 minutes of Skill and Weakness Practice (SWP)
• Longer, conditioning-based metcon (over 12 minutes)
• Olympic lifting practice (lighter weight, form work)
• 3-6 rounds heavy Olympic lift/support work
• Short metcon (generally with some form of Oly lift involved)
• 15 min, SWP
• Easy conditioning (long run, swim, bike, row etc.)
• 5/3/1 program squat and bench press
• Hip and shoulder support exercises
• Short couplet or triplet metcon with supportive movements
• 15 min. SWP
• Long, heavy metcon
So here's where the fun come in! I have basically established how my program will work, what I want to focus on, and when I will be doing everything; but the main part still remains: what exactly will I be doing? Well, The 5/3/1 program is pretty straight forward (I go into a big description of it HERE), and I will be doing it in my own way: two lifts on Monday, and two on Friday (I know Jim Wendler, the creator would be pissed at me, or just tell me that I am actually NOT doing the 5/3/1 program…). So that leaves everything else around it a bit unanswered. As mentioned above, I want to focus on my shoulder weakness and additional core strength and stability. So, the majority of my support work will involve exercises that help build those two aspects of my body. These will include (but are no where near limited to):
Good mornings, bridges, GHD sit ups and back extensions, Glute/Ham raises, roll outs, dive bombers, pull ups, DB presses, Turkish get ups, high pulls, pike push ups, handstand push ups... you get the picture.
I need to make sure, however, that I am not overworking a muscle group or movement, so I need to pick my support work carefully. The first week I will pick predominately shoulder strengthening exercises: big movements that force my shoulder muscles, and all supporting muscles to work as hard as they can. The second week I will give them a bit of a break and focus on additional big hip and glute mobility exercises while keeping most shoulder movements pretty static. Below you can see the break down:
Monday - After 5, 5, 5+ deadlifts and strict press -
4 x 10 good mornings and rollouts
For time: 30-20-10 box jumps (24"), push press (105#), half moons (52# sandbag)
The good mornings and rollouts will keep the core and posterior chain working in support of the deadlifts, but they will be light and not too taxing. The metcon will force my shoulders to take on heavy stress under a large range of motion while lightening my lower half up with the box jumps.
The following Monday, I will be doing heavy bridges, bear crawls and weighted running, allowing my lower half to dominate the movements and take the most stress, while my upper body can relax with limited loads and ranges of motion.
And this is how I put together the rest of the workouts.
- Tuesdays will generally have rowing, double unders or running in them as the dominate conditioning aspect. I pick these because they allow the posterior chain to lengthen and work lightly and dynamically after the heavy strain of the deadlifts the day before.
- Wednesday will have light Olympic work. Not too taxing on the muscles, and that is perfect as it is all about mechanics.
- Thursday is a rest day, easy conditioning. Letting the body recover through a slightly tougher active rest.
- Friday is back at the strength (squats and bench press), with the same mentality of support work and metcon. Lunges, split squats and DB push and pull for support, thrusters, wall balls, swings, pull ups, push ups as examples of metcon exercises for this day.
- Saturday will be designated for heavy, longer metcons like "Filthy Fifty", "Fight Gone Bad" and so on. I will usually write my own to focus on weaknesses and to make sure they fit with the weeks program. I will use the same strategy as described above to design these: use big movements on muscle groups that have not been the focus, limit heavier weights and larger movements on muscle groups that have been focused on.
- Sunday is a rest day.
Finally, SWP's. This is basically a good 15-30 minutes of "goofing off" gym style, something we used to do all the time back at Balance Gym. Without any specific rep/set scheme in mind, it is all about working on skills and weaknesses that you may want a little extra focus on. For me, I have the following in my bag of SWP's (and I am sure more will find their way in there as I go along):
- Free standing handstands
- Handstand push ups
- Handstand walking
- Pistol squats
- Muscle ups
- Rope climbing
- Kettlebell juggling
- TRX core work
- Joint stability work
- Hand/eye coordination
- Vertimax (expect a post on this in the coming weeks...)
So there you have it, that is how I put together my program. I honestly could go on for days about this (perhaps a book...?), and I feel as though I am cheating everyone by not going into the detail that goes through my head. But I wanted to give an outline for how this stuff works so that more people could begin to feel a bit more comfortable with doing this themselves. The best way to learn: read this post, then go to any CrossFit affiliates site and look through their WOD archives. See if it makes sense. The best coaches and trainers programming will seem a little more logical with the knowledge of how things get put together. Then try it out yourself.
To help out a little more, in a day or two I will post an a easy and effective way to begin your own program designing! If you have any questions, comments, or wish to try out my programming, please email me or post to comments.
Never Stop, GET FIT.