Thursday, September 16, 2010

Programming #2 - Write Your Own

This post is dedicated to supplying a simple, yet highly effective method anyone can use to begin writing a personal fitness program.  This is again something I could write a book on, so I am going to keep it as basic as possible, and if you plan to use it, know that you will need to do a few things to assure you are getting a plan that will be the most effective for YOU.

First:  Be honest.  if you know you have lower back issues, do not include heavy deadlifting right of the bat.  And, do not include crazy metcons that could put your injury or weakness in a compromised position.  Take a good, hard look at yourself and your abilities, and as you write things down, ere on the side of safety.  Remember, you can always modify as you go along.  Of course, this is why people hire a coach or trainer.  So your risk of injury will inevitably be a bit greater when designing your own program, but the information supplied here should help reduce that risk by helping you understand how things should work a little better.

Second:  Be smart.  Just because you like chipper style metcons does not mean you should be doing them every other day.  Just because you are tight with time does not mean your should forgo a proper warm up.  Just because you do not have a trainer/coach next to you helping you out with form, timing, and motivation, does not mean you can sloppily run through an intense couplet and brag about your time to yourself or others.  The idea of a fitness program is to get better all around, and to try keep the results you achieve for the rest of your life.  You WILL NOT do this if you blindly attack everything you do.  Start slow, chart EVERYTHING, and if you are being honest with yourself, great things will happen.

Third:  Be simple.  No need to get all fancy with 1-leg RDL's and Turkish Get Ups to Overhead Step Ups.  There will be plenty of room to get innovative if you want (and I always recommend trying out new things), but when it comes to your root program, keep it simple and straight forward.

In keeping with my "generality" feel here, I am going to give you a Strength Bias set of advice.  If your goals are to run a marathon, or bike across the country (...) or to attain something that would not necessarily be super strength oriented, then there may be a few things missing in what I say.  But, as a side bar, and from personal experience, using a strength bias program for any athletic and fitness goals will work wonders for you.  So if you are green to this, try it out, see what happens.

Step 1:  Get yourself a workout journal.  You can use a simple note pad, order one online, or find one in a store (or contact me and get one of mine!).  Having something that you carry along with you everywhere to post up how you feel, what you are doing and lifting, and what you are eating is probably the quickest way to actually understand how all this stuff works.  I can not stress enough how important writing things down is.  Once you start, and get used to it, it just becomes part of your life.

Step 2:  Establish your list of goals.  If you do not know what I am talking about, simply scroll down and read the first post on programing!

Step 3:  Take the first week and work on the mechanics of the main lifts you want to use.  If you plan to work mostly power lifts (deadlifts, squat, strict press, bench), then go and learn/re-learn them so that you feel comfortable with their details.  If you want to work Olympic lifting, well, just make sure you know what you are doing.  There is nothing worse than watching someone open their workout journal, see they are doing deadlifts today, load up the bar and yank the thing off the ground with no concern for their spines' well being.  Dear God.  So, get comfortable with the main moves.

Step 4:  Establish your calendar.  When do you like working out the most?  When do you have the time to work out?  Are your weekends the most free?  Are you a 9-5er?  Figure out what days you wish to work out, pick a general time that would work best, and try to stick to that.  Now, if you have the freedom to mess around with this a little, great, but if you do not, make sure you have a schedule.  If you do not, you will probably not last too much more than a few days with your program.  I suggest one of two plans:  the typical CrossFit "3-on/1-off plan"; or, the "Mon/Wed/Fri plan".  The "3-on/1-off plan" is pretty straight forward and is great for someone who knows they have a set time every day to train.  Here is what it would look like:

Day 1:  Strength lift.  Short, couplet metcon
Day 2:  Skills work.  Short triplet metcon
Day 3:  Optional strength work/lift.  Long or heavy metcon
Day 4:  Off (be active!)

The "Mon/Wed/Fri plan" is better suited for someone who is extremely busy and/or does not have a set time each day.  It looks a little something like this:

Monday:  Strength lift.  Short couplet or triplet metcon.
Tuesday:  Skills work and/or light to heavy conditioning
Wednesday: Optional Strength work/lift.  Short couplet or triplet metcon
Thursday:  Skills work and/or light to heavy conditioning
Friday:  Strength lift.  Short couplet or triplet metcon.
Saturday: Off or long/heavy metcon
Sunday:  Off (be active!)

Of course there are many, many other options here, but for the sake of keeping this simple (I have to keep reminding myself this), I will leave you with those two.  By all means though, improvise off these to find one that works best for you!

Step 5:  Write your workout!  Yup, that's it!  No, no, here's how to go about the actual programing part of programing.  Pick your strength move first.  Generally, it would be smart to start with a lower body lift like deadlifts or squats.  Next is to pick your rep scheme.  Here is a good way to do it:

3 weeks heavy strength training and metcon.  1 week de-loading.  Next month, increase your weights and repeat the same pattern.  Do this for three months total.

Do all your lifts at five rounds of 5 reps.  If you have an established 1 rep max weight, use 60, 65, 70, 75, and 80% of that weight.  If you do not have that established already, pick a weight that feels pretty easy the first set, then increase your weight each set so that on your final set of 5, you are struggling a decent amount.  You should finish all five reps, but it should be hard.  Use the above pattern for all of your strength moves for the first month, then increase your percentages by 5 for the second, and another 5 for the third.  

For the metcons, all you need to do is follow these simple rules (I will be doing a "MetCon Post" in a few days, so watch for that as well):
  • Couplets are two exercises
  • Triplets are three exercises
  • Long and hard means any number of exercises and use heavier weigh
  • For couplets, use complimentary movements (IE: push and pull)
  • For triplets use the same idea, then add a third exercises or a run, jump rope or row
  • Always think about the strength move, then use movements that are similar, but not the same (if you did heavy squat, don't use heavy squats in your metcon, use air squats, overhead squats, KB swings, cleans etc.)
Example Workout:

Day 1:
5x5 back squats
21-15-9 of:
Overhead squats 75/55
Pull ups

Day 2:
L-sit and pistol squat practice
4 rounds for time of:
200 meter run
30 GHD sit ups
30 GHD back extensions

Day 3:
5x5 strict press
For time do:
20 deadlifts @ body weight
20 power cleans @ 3/4 body weight
20 burpees
10 deadlifts @ body weight

10 power cleans @ 3/4 body weight
10 burpees

For your de-loading week, just take a week to work on skills and weaknesses, try out new sports, work on mechanical issues with the major lifts, and just tone down the intensity a bit.  Perhaps take a couple days completely off from anything hard, just a nice walk or something.

And there you have it.  As stated before, this probably could be a 15 post topic for me.  I hope my long windedness did not make this more confusing for anyone, I am merely attempting to share the process that I have in my head with you all.  As you get into this stuff, it all becomes a little bit second nature.  You start to see how exercises fit together, and how others do not.  you start to see why doing a certain combination of exercises may be way too taxing on a muscle group, or how you tend to focus on one area while neglecting another.  Again, keep it simple.  Don't try too much right off the starting blocks, and allow yourself plenty of room for error.  Stay light with your weights to start, and as things begin to click a little, that is when you can start to toy around with unconventional movements and equipment.  

Please, please, if you have any questions or comments on all this, email, call or post to comments.  I plan to supply as much information on this site as I can, and while I may struggle here and there with how I articulate things, I am always open and willing to give my opinions and advice (and take other peoples as well!).  And in the end, if you still feel uncomfortable with writing your own program, keep me and other coaches in business and hire us to do our jobs!!  

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage

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