17 things to consider when choosing a programme

Jacob Strøm

Jacob Strøm

Performance specialist. Cand.scient. Sports Science. 25+ certificates from EXOS, Barca Innovation Hub etc.

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A training programme is not just a training programme. There are lots of factors to consider before you create your programme. It's not just about putting together a series of random exercises in a random order, or making the programme as hard as possible... If you want optimal results and progress, it is important that all these factors are taken into account.
Karim Benzema - choice of programme

#1 - the primary goal

This is perhaps the error I see most often, and therefore I have chosen to put this at the top.

If your goal is fat loss, it doesn't matter how many kilos you can lift once in the deadlift, squat or bench press. When the goal is fat loss, it's about putting the body under metabolic stress, which doesn't happen with 1RM training. Instead, train with a higher number of repetitions and increase time under tension (more on that later).

The same if you train for muscle building or performance. It requires a specific approach and periodization, which are rarely the same.

Choose your primary goal and plan your diet and training accordingly!

#2 - How far ahead can we periodize your program?

This is a hugely important factor, which again many people overlook. Whether your programme is 3, 4 or 6 weeks long, it must be built on later programmes. It is therefore important that you tell your coach whether you intend to train to the same goals for 2, 3 or 6 months.

For example, if you want to be stronger in the deadlift, this should already be programmed in the first programme, even if it is only 6 programmes later that you will have to test your max strength again. It does not necessarily have to be the same deadlift variation that you want to be stronger in that is programmed into the first program.

#3 - injuries and injury history

A hugely important factor that affects virtually your entire programme. If you have a knee or shoulder injury, for example, it's important that the exercises are designed accordingly. It may also be that your injury will affect your primary goal.

#4 - what is your training experience?

There is a huge difference between 3 years and 3 months of strength training. Your ability to recover will be different, but so will your technique in different exercises. Even if you have trained for many years, it does not mean that your technique is better, but it should still be taken into consideration.

The periodization of your program will largely depend on your experience and needs in terms of. Intensity and volume. A beginner will never be able to tolerate as much volume as an experienced one.

Likewise, your level will most likely help determine what kind of periodization will work best. Should it be 'undulating periodization' or linear periodization?

#5 - other activities in everyday life?

If you run alongside your strength training, or do lower-level sports for fun, or where your strength training is not directly aimed at optimising your performance, it still needs to be considered.

All activity is activity, and it is therefore necessary to take this into account when designing your programme. If you play football 3-4 times a week, you will most likely not be able to strength train 4 times a week and recover optimally, which will affect your results.

#6 - What has your training been like leading up to the new programme?

If you are coming from a low or high volume programme, this should also be taken into account. If you have been running at high volume, it may be time to take a step back and run at lower volume, and conversely it may be time to turn up your volume.

It may also be that you have not been training and therefore need to start with minimal volume to ensure optimal recovery.

#7 - are there any particular exercises/muscle groups you want to get stronger in?

If you want to be stronger in the squat, you have to train the squat to some degree. You may not be able to do the squat in the first phase, but the exercises in the first phase should enable you to do the squat in later phases.

The same applies to all exercises, and plays a crucial role in optimal periodization.

You may also want a wider back or rounder buttocks. The choice of exercise composition in individual training sessions and entire programmes plays a big role here. It is crucial that you hit the muscle where it is in its shortest position, in its longest position and in the middle of the range of motion for optimal muscle growth.

Likewise, various techniques such as bands, chains and the like can be added to challenge these parts of the strength curve.

#8 - do you have limited access to equipment?

It may be that the best programme contains certain exercises that require certain equipment, but if you don't have that available, it doesn't matter.

You can't just randomly replace individual exercises because they don't fit in if you want optimal results. If you know the equipment in advance, you can program around it and ensure the best results.

#9 - in what order should the exercises come?

No exercise should be placed randomly in a given programme, but should be linked to goals and experience. It makes no sense to put the squat at the end of a training programme just because it is extremely hard, if the goal is sports performance for example. At this point you will be tired and the risk of injury will be higher. At the same time, one might wonder which exercises are placed first in the program?

Put the biggest and hardest exercises first in the programme for minimal risk of injury and optimal progress.

#10 - what is the right choice of reps?

The number of repetitions should largely reflect goals but also training experience and just as important, where in the periodization you are.

Er målet fedttab, giver det som tidligere nævnt ingen mening at træne få (<5) gentagelser. Ønsker man at blive stærkere, skal gentagelserne være i den lavere ende (3-8). Er målet sports performance, vil jeg sjælendt anbefale 1RM løft, da det øger skadesrisikoen.

If you are a beginner, you should also start at the high end of the number of repetitions, regardless of your goal. goal, and work your way down as you and your programme develop - here linear periodisation could be an excellent idea.

Similarly, there are some exercises that benefit you most from a given number of repetitions. For example, face pulls do best at the higher end, while deadlifts work best at the lower end.

#11 - How long should I follow a given program?

This is where many people go wrong. Some people change their programme every week because they want to 'shock' their body - the problem is that if you only do one exercise once a month, you'll never get good at it. Therefore, you will never get the optimal benefit from the exercise.

Beginners should generally follow a programme for a longer period of time (+4 weeks), whereas an extremely skilled person usually adapts quickly and needs a new programme every 3 weeks and maybe after 2 weeks.

The new programme should not be completely new, but include new tempo, new repetitions, more or fewer sets, longer or shorter breaks, or perhaps small adjustments in grip or angle.

#12 - what tempo should I use?

The tempo description should largely reflect which muscle is being trained, but also what the goal is. As a starting point, training the weak rather than the strong is one of the best things you can do - regardless of the goal!

If you spend a lot of time at a computer, your shoulders will probably be inwardly rotated, so it will be beneficial to spend more time where your shoulders are outwardly rotated (retracted). In chest exercises this would therefore mean a tempo of 3210 for example. I.e. 3 seconds down, 2 seconds where the chest is extended, 1 second up and 0 seconds at the top. The same will apply if the hip flexor is tight, or other muscles.

If you train stabilising muscles, it will also be optimal to spend more time in the shortened position of these muscles.

#13 - how much 'time under tension' is needed?

This one overlooks extremely many. Some believe that 8-12 repetitions is beneficial for muscle growth, when it may be more the time the muscle is under tension that is crucial. The optimum for muscle growth in many cases seems to be between 40 and 70 seconds. Doing 10 reps, at a 1010 pace (i.e. 1 second down and 1 second up), takes only 20 seconds. This is far from the optimal 40 seconds, and your benefit in terms of training time will be much greater. muscle growth is not optimal. A 4010 (4 seconds eccentric and 1 second concentric), would hit 50 seconds in 10 repetitions, and therefore be more beneficial.

If the goal is to be fast and explosive, training with tempo description will still be beneficial. In many cases it is about learning to control eccentric movements, so longer time here in the strength training, would be preferable.

#14 - how much rest should you have between exercises?

Like the many others, this one is also related to your goal. If the goal is fat loss, shorter breaks would be preferable. If the goal is strength development, longer breaks will be optimal.

However, this should also be very much related to your profile. Understood in the sense that, if you are stressed, longer breaks will be preferable. The same if you are inflamed and do not tolerate lactate optimally, or if you have problems with your digestion.

#15 - how many exercises do you need in a row?

Again, what is the goal? If the goal is to increase your work capacity, 3, 4 or 5 exercises would be optimal. Conversely, if the goal is strength development, 1 or 2 exercises would be appropriate. Of course, both with optimal rest in between depending on the goal.

If fat loss is the goal and you are able to recover from your workout, three exercises in a row for the same muscle group with a short break can be a great approach.

#16 - how long should your workout be?

Almost regardless, your workout should last no more than 45-60 minutes including warm-up. If you exercise longer than this, there are two possibilities: you talk more than you exercise or you exercise so much that the stress hormone cortisol reaches a level that is in no way beneficial.

#17 - how good is your recovery?

This is perhaps the most important. Your results come primarily from your ability to adapt (recover) from the stress (training) you put your body under.

Pre-workout shakes, super-sets, dropsets etc. have no meaning if you fail to recover from your workout.

Optimise your recovery by sleeping 7-9 hours every night, getting massages, taking slow walks (preferably in the morning), optimising your diet (and supplements), relaxing more, meditating and much more.

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