Tag Archive | "Workouts"

WoW – Thursday’s workout 03/01/2013

The Samurai Tabata Circuit

Fearsome warriors, the Japanese Samurai would only re-sheath their swords once it had drawn blood and would commit ritual suicide if ordered to or if they felt their honour had been shamed. Thankfully, this workout as not going to result in any blood being spilt but it will certainly test your mettle.

Tabata training uses 20 second work periods alternated with a 10 second rests repeated for 10 sets and totalling 5 minutes. For this workout you will be performing five Tabata exercises, one after another with a one minute rest between exercises. Try to perform as many reps as you can for each exercise. Make a note of your rep totals per exercise and try to beat that score next time you perform this workout.

The five exercises are:

1) Burpees (10 sets of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery)

One minute rest

2) Crunches (10 sets of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery)

One minute rest

3) Skipping – knee lift sprint (10 sets of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery)

One minute rest

4) Thrusters (10 sets of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery)

One minute rest

5) Kettlebell/dumbbell swings (10 sets of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery)

Exercise Descriptions

You will be performing a high volume of burpees in this workout separated by only short rests. Don’t forget to focus on good exercise technique to get the most from your training session and avoid any unnecessary injuries, aches and pains.

  • Squat down and place your hands on the floor just in front of your feet
  • Jump your feet out behind you so you land in the press up position
  • Perform a single press up
  • Jump your feet back under you and up to your hands
  • Leap up into the air as high as you can
  • On landing, immediately drop into another rep
  • Try not to land like a baby elephant when doing this exercise – stay on your toes and although you are jumping as high as you can make sure you land as lightly as possible

Crunches, like sit ups, come in for a bit of stick from many trainers in the fitness industry. The truth is that they are an effective anterior core exercise that will strengthen and condition your rectus abdominus or abs for short. The secret to successful crunch performance is to do them slowly and really SQUEEZE your abs like you are trying to wring them dry! Remember, no pulling on your neck.

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Place your hands on your temples, across your chest or on your thighs
  • Exhale and raise your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor
  • SQUEEZE for two to five seconds!
  • Return to the starting position and repeat
  • You can also perform this exercise with your feet elevated and your knees and hips flexed to 90 degrees

Skipping – knee lift sprint
Try and spin the rope as fast as you possibly can!

  • Begin skipping normally and then transition to jogging on the spot
  • Keep your body upright and lift your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Pump your legs as fast as you can as you spin your rope
  • This exercise is more challenging – especially if you are new to skipping. Persevere, practice skipping whenever you get the chance and you’ll soon be skipping like a pro.

Thrusters combine a squat with a shoulder press to target your legs, arms and midsection. They are will also challenge your cardiovascular system. You can perform this exercise using dumbbells, a barbell, a medicine ball, kettlebell or sandbag – even a large rock!

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your chosen weight in your hands
  • Raise the weight to chest level so it is resting in your upturned palms and your elbows are down by your chest
  • Squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Drive up out of the squat and use the momentum from your legs to push the weight overhead to arms’ length
  • Lower the weight back to your chest and then descend into another squat

Kettlebell/dumbbell swings
The final exercise in this workout is the kettlebell swing. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a kettlebell though, you can perform this exercised with a dumbbell or a medicine ball in a strong bag as necessary. Kettlebell swings strengthen your hips, hamstrings and lower back and are one of the best butt exercises you can do.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight held in front of your thighs
  • Bend your knees slightly and then hinge forward from your hips
  • Lower the weight between your knees
  • Drive your hips forward and swing the weight at arms’ length up to between chest and head height. The hip drive in this exercise is not dissimilar to the take off for a standing long jump. Keep this in your mind to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise.
  • Do not allow your lower back to round at any point during this exercise

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Core Training Myths

GPP_2681A great deal of mystique and misinformation surrounds core training. In this article we look at what you should be avoiding…





1) Spot reduction
There is a mistaken belief held by many people that suggests that doing core specific training will magically melt fat away from your midsection. Sadly this isn’t true. Exercising the abdominal muscles, whilst very important, does not cause the layer of fat covering them to miraculously disappear. Reduction of body fat comes from lowering calorie intake or increasing calorie expenditure and that burning sensation you feel whilst doing your ab training isn’t fat melting away – it’s merely lactic acid which is your body’s response to running out of oxygen.

2) High reps for core training
The core muscles i.e. the rectus abdominus, the erector spinea, the obliques and the transverse abdominus, consist of primarily fast twitch or type IIb muscle fibres. Type IIb fibres are renowned for their ability to produce high degrees of force for short lengths of time and are in essence very powerful. The best way to train these powerful muscles is with powerful exercises. Your core musculature needs to be able to exert and resist large amounts of force so that’s how it should be trained. High reps (20-100 reps) won’t develop the kind of strength you need for sport. If you find you can perform more than 20 reps of a particular core exercise, you should really look for ways to make it more difficult or, alternatively, select another exercise.

3) Pulsing or shortened reps
It’s quite common, especially in exercise classes, to see people performing short pulsing reps of crunches at the end of a set. The feeling of burning that is experienced is associated (quite wrongly) with fat reduction. As discussed above, this burning is nothing more than a build up of lactic acid. Shortened reps = adaptive shortening which means that the abdominals will lose some of their flexibility and as a result require more stretching. Shortened abdominals can result in a rounded lower back which can lead to injury. Say no to pulsing!

4) Ab cradles
These frames that you often see people using in gyms to “safely” perform their ab work can cause more harm than good – especially for those involved in sports. Ab cradles force you to move in a very regulated way and put 100% focus on the rectus abdominus at the front of your midsection. Unfortunately, this has little to do with the demands placed on your core in the multi-directional world of sport. Any device that aims to make ab work easier is of little use to the majority of sportsmen and women.

5) Training too frequently or too hard
Your core muscles are no different to your biceps at the front of your arms or your hamstrings at the back of your legs but, for some reason, many people train their abs differently to the rest of their muscles. As discussed earlier in this article, the core muscles are consist primarily of fast twitch type 11b muscle fibres which respond best to hard and infrequent workouts. 2-3 times per week is ideal for core training – much the same as the rest of your body. Also, be weary of training your core too hard…the muscles of your midsection support and protect your spine from injury and over fatiguing them may expose you to an increased risk of suffering spinal trauma so always train hard but make sure you leave some “gas in the tank” so that your spinal health is never compromised.

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WoW – Monday’s workout 24/12/2012

Christmas Eve? Pah! No reason to skip your workout! 

Upstairs, downstairs

This workout is a two-parter. The first part targets your upper body while the second part targets your lower body. Perform five laps of each circuit and only move onto the second part once you have finished the first. Feel free to change the repetition levels to match your personal fitness levels.

Part 1 – upper body
5 laps of the following exercises with minimal rest between exercises and laps

  • 10 pull ups (substitute lat pull downs or body rows if necessary)
  • 20 press ups
  • 30 rubber band high pulls (squat combined with an upright row)

Rest 2-3 minutes

Part 2 – lower body
5 laps of the following exercises with minimal rest between exercises and laps

  • 10 burpees (no press up – focus on the jump)
  • 20 lunges (10 per leg)
  • 30 squats

The exercises

Pull ups – hang full stretch from a sturdy overhead bar. Using your arms only, pull yourself up so your chin touches the bar. Slowly extend your arms and repeat. You can use an underhand or overhand grip as preferred. If you cannot do pull ups, you can use a rubber band to provide assistance or perform inclined body rows instead.

Press ups – on your toes or knees, bend your arms and lower your chest to lightly touch the floor. Do not allow your lower back to arch.

Rubber band high pulls – with the ends of the band in your hands, stand on the middle with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your hands to mid-shin level. Stand up and pull your hands up to touch your chin. Lead with your elbows. Lower your hands and then repeat.

Burpees – perform in the normal way but omit the press up. Focus on fast feet and a powerfully high jump!

Lunges – take a large step forwards, bend your legs and lower your rear-most foot to within an inch of the ground. Push back up to the starting position and then repeat leading with your opposite leg.

Squats – with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and sit down so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Stand back up and repeat. 

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Intergrated Circuit Training Part 2


 The author after completing an ICT workout

In yesterdays article, we told you what ICT was all about. Today’s article provides you with 5 ready-made workouts to try for your self…









ICT workout 1

Perform 5 laps of the following exercises as fast as possible with little or no rest between exercises…

1)      5 chin ups (substitute lat pull downs or body rows if necessary)

2)      10 press ups

3)      15 squats

4)      20 squat thrusts

5)      Run 400 meters as fast as possible

ICT workout 2

Complete 5 rounds of the following circuit resting 1 minute between laps. Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds so each lap equals 3 minutes – no rest should be taken between exercises…

1)      Burpees

2)      Jump rope or jumping jacks

3)      Rubber band punches

4)      V sits

5)      Speed squats

6)      Rubber band pulls

Exercise descriptions:

1) Burpees
Stand with feet shoulder width apart and hands by your sides
Squat down so that your hands are on the floor outside of your feet
Jump feet back into the press up position and perform 1 press up
Jump feet back under your body
Dynamically leap into the air
Land on your forefeet, bend knees and place hands on floor
Repeat !

2) Jump rope or jumping jacks
(If you can’t skip proficiently perform jumping jacks instead)
Stand with feet close together and hands by your side
Jump your feet out to shoulder width whilst simultaneously raising your arms sideways to shoulder level
Immediately jump back into the starting position
Repeat at a brisk pace

 3)Rubber band punches
Using 2 strong exercise bands, attached to a sturdy anchor at approximately chest height
With the anchor point behind you, grasp a band in each hand and step forwards with your hands in close to the chest
Make sure the bands are running under your arms
Adopt a split stance (alternate stance on next round)
Punch out alternate arms whilst keeping the legs still
Aim to throw as many punches as possible in the allotted time

4) V Sits
Lie on your back, with your arms and legs extended
Dynamically bring your legs and arms together to by forming a V shape – at the peak of the movement, you should be sitting on your tail-bone
Control the movement of legs and arms on the way down
If unable to perform V sits, perform a W sit by bending you legs and pulling your knees into your chest

5) Speed squats
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
Bend your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the ground whilst simultaneously reaching forward with your arms
Push back up pulling your arms back into your body and pushing your hips forward as you near full leg extension
Keep your trunk upright and look straight ahead
Repeat at speed (aiming for 1 rep per second)

6) Rubber band pulls
Using 2 bands, attach rubber bands to a sturdy anchor at approximately chest height
Facing the anchor point, grasp a band in each hand and step backwards keeping the arms extended
Keep the spine upright and the torso still
When then tension in the bands is sufficient pull the arms into the body
The arms should extend past the torso and the hands should come into the hips
Slowly release the tension in the bands and return to the starting position

ICT workout 3

Perform the following 4 exercises for 60 seconds each…

  • Burpees
  • Pull ups
  • Press ups
  • Speed squats

On completion, immediately repeat the exercises for 45 seconds each. Then, 30 seconds per exercise before finally 15 seconds. This totals 10 minutes of high intensity work with no rests permitted -short, sharp and very effective!

ICT workout 4

Using a standard deck of cards (including the jokers) place the deck face down. Every time you turn up a red card perform a set of press ups and every time you turn up a black card perform a set of squats. Jokers = 200 skipping rope turns or 50 jumping jacks

Aces-10 = 1-10 reps
Picture cards = 12 reps

Aim to work through the pack as fast as possible!

ICT workout 5

Work through the list of exercises as fast as possible making sure you finish all the required reps before moving onto the next exercise

  • 5 chin ups
  • 10 dips
  • 15 burpees
  • 20 lunges
  • 25 press ups
  • 30 sit ups
  • 35 squats
  • 40 jumping jacks
  • 45 seconds of shadow boxing/kicking
  • 50 double unders (2 turns of a skipping rope per jump)
  • 45 seconds of shadow boxing/kicking
  • 40 jumping jacks
  • 35 squats
  • 30 sit ups
  • 25 press ups
  • 20 lunges
  • 15 burpees
  • 10 dips
  • 5 chins

So there you have 5 ICT workouts to get you started – feel free to make exercise substitutions or, better still, make up your own workouts but make sure that they are short, tough and challenging. By including ICT workouts in your weekly training schedule, you’ll be making great strides towards developing sports specific fitness which will really pay off on the playing field.


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All About Fat Loss – Part 2

lean_bodiesIn part 1 of this article, we told you all about creating a calorie deficit. Todays article is a training programme to get you fit and lean for the summer…

Putting it all together – your fat loss training plan


If you are serious about fat loss, it’s important that you have your diet dialled in and you are eating as cleanly as possible. Cut down on sugar, refined carbs, high calorie beverages and junk food. Base each meal around fibrous vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains and drink plenty of water. Once your diet is sorted, it’s time to get busy with some training…

Monday – high intensity interval training
Run, cycle, row – it’s up to you but after you have warmed up work as hard as you can for 60 seconds and then take it easy for 120 seconds. Repeat 6 times to total 18 minutes. Follow up with some core work and a good stretch.

Tuesday – circuit weight training
After you have warmed up repeat this circuit 3-5 times using weights that allow you to perform 12-20 repetitions per set

  • Lunges
  • Lat pull downs
  • Dead lifts
  • Bench press

Finish off with a 10 minute FCR run, cycle or row at 85-90% of your maximum heart rate – treat it as a race!

Wednesday – 20 minutes LSD followed by a stretch
Today is an active rest day so enjoy taking it easy

Thursday – high intensity interval training
Again, run, cycle, or row – it’s up to you but after you have warmed up work as hard as you can for 120 seconds and then take it easy for 120 seconds. Repeat 5 times to total 20 minutes. Follow up with some core work and a good stretch

Friday – circuit weight training
After you have warmed up repeat this circuit 3-5 times using weights that allow you to perform 12-20 repetitions per set.

  • Squats
  • Bent over rows
  • Stiff legged dead lifts
  • Shoulder press

Finish off with a 10 minute FCR run, cycle or row at 85-90% of your maximum heart rate – treat it as a race!

Saturday – 20 minutes LSD followed by a stretch
Today is an active rest day so enjoy taking it easy.

Sunday – no training. Rest and recover to start again on Monday.

Now you have all the information you need and a plan to get you started on your road to leanness. 1lb a week might not sound like fast fat loss but it will be fairly painless, won’t leave you hungry, is sustainable and won’t require you to buy any expensive pills, potions, books or DVDs. Stick with it and you’ll be unveiling your six-pack by the summer!

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WoW – Monday’s Workout 12/11/12

The running burpee pyramid workout

This workout is as basic as it gets and all you need is a about 20 meters of space and, if you want a more comfortable option, an exercise mat although a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm and dry will suffice. The RBPW will test local muscular endurance and also your cardiovascular fitness. Take it easy on the runs until you get a feel for the intensity of the workout.

Place two markers around 20 meters apart. Don’t worry too much about the exact distance. Measure out 25 strides and you’ll be close enough for our purposes.

Follow this sequence from top to bottom, only resting once you have completed the walking lunges…

Run out, perform 5 burpees and then run back
Run out, perform 5 burpees and 10 press ups and then run back
Run out, perform 5 burpees, 10 press ups, 15 squats and then run back
Run out, perform 5 burpees, 10 press ups, 15 squats, 20 hill climbers and then run back
Run out, perform 5 burpees, 10 press ups, 15 squats, 20 hill climbers and then walking lunges back
Rest and then repeat

Beginners – 2 to 3 laps, rest 2 minutes between laps
Intermediate – 4 to 6 laps, rest 90 seconds between laps
Advanced – 7 to 10 laps, rest 60 seconds between laps

You can also adjust the repetitions to suit your individual fitness level, for example, by performing 3, 6, 9 and 12 repetitions of the exercises respectively. Also, feel free to walk or jog between markers or shorten the distance.

Exercise Descriptions
Perfect form is essential for exercise effectiveness and safety so make sure you perform each exercise using the best technique you can muster. It’s better to perform 3 reps in perfect form than 10 reps badly.

As equipment-free conditioning exercises go; the humble burpee is hard to beat. If you find this exercises overly demanding, just eliminate the press up and/or jump phase from the sequence.

  • Squat down and place your hands outside your feet
  • Jump your feet back and into the press up position
  • Perform a single press up
  • Jump your feet back up to your hands
  • Leap into the air as high as you can
  • Land on slightly bent legs and repeat

Press Ups
A terrific chest, shoulder, triceps and ab exercise, press ups are a staple exercise for many people – beginners and Olympic exercises alike. If a full press up is too demanding, bend your legs and place your knees on the floor. Remember, reps don’t count unless your chest touches the deck!

  • With your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart, walk your feet back until your heels, hips and head form a perfectly straight line
  • With your abs held tight and without arching or humping your lower back, bend your arms and lower your chest to lightly touch the floor
  • Push up to full arm extension and repeat
  • Do not “lead with your chin” but, rather, try to keep your neck long

Squats are a primal movement pattern that we all perform many times a day. Getting in and out of your car, on and off the loo and sitting down and standing up? All examples of squats! In addition, squats are one of the best lower body exercises you can do.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward
  • Push your hips back and bend your knees
  • Descend until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Squat deeper if you feel comfortable
  • Drive down through your heels to stand back up
  • Try not to round your lower back as this is a bad habit that can lead to problems if you squat with a weight on your back

Hill Climbers
Sometimes called alternate leg squat thrusts, this exercise is great for your legs, abs and will also drive up your heart rate. Focus on “fast feet” and really pump those legs!

  • Place your hands on the floor and then adopt the press up position
  • Pull one leg in so your knee is under your chest and your toe is resting on the ground
  • Drive this leg back and simultaneously pull your other leg forwards
  • Continue alternating legs until your set is complete
  • Only count one leg so, in reality you are going to do 40 reps in total, 20 on each leg

Walking Lunges
Lunges are great for leg development and balance. Walking lunges are even better! Starting with your feet together and your hands by your sides, use lunges in place of running for your last return journey in the pyramid.

  • Take a large step forwards and bend your legs. Lower your rearmost knee to within an inch of the floor. Your front shin should be vertical at the point, as should your upper body
  • Step forwards and immediately into another lunge but with your opposite leg now leading
  • Continue alternating legs until you have completed your journey back to the start

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women curls

How can I spice up my weight training routine?

women curlsAssuming that you normally perform whole body workouts, one of the best ways to liven up your weight training is to adopt a split routine. Split routines are used by bodybuilders and other sports people and are a method for separating your body into different parts and training those parts on different days.

A split routine allows you to use a greater variety of exercises and also perform more volume than would normally possible if you were training your whole body in a single session. There are a huge variety of ways of splitting up your training week – all of which work well. When deciding which split routine to use it’s important to consider how often you can train and how much time you can dedicate to each session. If you can only hit the gym 3 times a week for example, a 4 way split workout is no good for you. To help get you started, here are a few common split routines for you to try…

Upper/Lower body split.
Simply divide your body in half and train your legs on Monday, your upper body on Wednesday and your legs again on Friday. The following week reverse your body parts so that over the 2 week period, every muscle group gets equal attention. This is a good method for those new to split routines.

3 Way Split.
On Monday, perform exercises for your chest and triceps, back and biceps get trained on Wednesdays and legs and shoulders are worked on Fridays. Rest over the weekend and start over on Monday by repeating the cycle.

4 Way Split.
This routine breaks down the body into even smaller groups which means workouts can be shorter or you can get a lot of work done in the same time. On Monday perform exercises for your chest, on Tuesday train your back, rest on Wednesday, train your legs on Thursday and on Friday focus on shoulder and arms.

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Copy of sit up throw 3

Effective Medicine Ball Exercises

Medicine balls (or med balls as they are sometimes known) are versatile training tools with which you can perform a variety of exercises. Working out with medicine balls is popular amongst sportspeople such as boxers and martial artists as well as regular exercise participants. These exercises are advanced and not suitable for beginners so only perform these hardcore exercises if you believe you are ready to do so safely.

Medicine Ball Slams

This whole-body exercise will strengthen your core and arms and give you a great high-intensity workout. Holding a medicine ball in your hands, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Raise the ball above your head. Initiating the movement by contracting your abs and immediately followed by using your arms, hurl the medicine ball down at the floor about 12” in front of your feet. Catch the ball as it rebounds and repeat. Make sure you are using a non-burst ball for this exercise.

Medicine Ball Thrusters

Using your arms and legs simultaneously, this exercise is an all-round exercise that works lots of your muscles at the same time. With your feet hip-width apart, hold a medicine ball in both hands at chest height. Your hands should be holding the bottom part of the ball and your elbows should be below your hands. Push your hips back, bend your knees and lower your body into a squat position. Immediately drive up out of the squat and push the medicine ball up above your head so that you are stood at full stretch. Lower the ball back to your chest and drop back into the squat and repeat. This exercise can be made harder by adding a jump as you drive out of the squat and push your arms overhead-a truly hardcore exercise!

Medicine Ball Push-ups

Push-ups will develop your chest, shoulders and triceps. Using a medicine ball will make this traditional upper-body exercise into a hardcore challenge. Adopt a regular push-up position but place both hands on the top of a medicine ball. You will need to actively push your hands together to maintain your position. Keeping your elbows tucked into your sides, bend your arms and lower your body until your chest touches the ball. Drive back up into the starting position by extending the elbows, making sure you keep your abs tight throughout.

Medicine Ball Sit-up and Throw
This ab power exercise requires the use of a partner. Lie on an exercise mat with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor holding a medicine ball in both hands. Your partner should stand about 10’ from your feet. Sit up and throw the medicine ball to your partner. Try to use your whole body to throw the ball as opposed to sitting up and then throwing the ball. Your partner should catch the ball and quickly return it to you by throwing it to a point in space 12” above your head. Reach up and catch the ball before lowering your body back to the ground and repeating. If you don’t have a training partner available, you can perform this exercise solo by throwing the ball against a sturdy wall.

Copy of sit up throw 3

Medicine Ball Burpees

An exercise for the whole body, medicine ball burpees are a very hardcore conditioning workout! Place the medicine ball on the floor between your feet. Bend down and place your hands on the ball. Jump your feet back into the push-up position and perform a single push up. Jump your feet back in so that your feet are either side of the ball. Grasp the ball and jump up into the air, lifting the ball above your head as you do so. Land on the balls of your feet and bend forwards to place the ball back on the floor and repeat the sequence.

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Pair of big heavy dumbbells over white background

The art of Programme Design part 2

Pair of big heavy dumbbells over white backgroundNot every one wants to be a bodybuilder!

Something I have noticed many trainers often do, regardless of their clients’ needs, wants or goals, is to prescribe split routines. Split routines are the reserve of the body builder or strength athlete and really have no place in the average gym users’ weekly schedule!

 The whole point of a split routine is to permit large amounts of volume to be performed for individualized muscle groups to encourage hypertrophy to occur which is influenced directly by training volume. Very few of our clients are seeking such a specialized response from their exercise routines and therefore are most of them aren’t candidates for this type of training.


The majority of our clients will benefit far more from performing different whole body routines 2-3 times weekly plus an appropriate amount of cardiovascular exercise on the days in between.

Full body training uses large amounts of energy, eliminates the need for lots of isolation exercises, is extremely time efficient, promotes muscular balance and trains the body as a single synergistic unit – which is how it normally functions. All it takes is a single missed workout from a weekly split routine and the whole programme becomes unbalanced whereas missing one day of whole body training will, other than a missed exercise opportunity, will still address all of the clients’ muscular needs. Also, human nature being what it is, it’s quite likely that if a client is going to miss a workout, it’s going to be one they enjoy less or find hardest and chances are, that’s the one they can’t afford to miss because it’s the one that addresses their weaknesses.  

Whole body training requires creativity on behalf of the trainer, intelligent planning, correct ordering of exercises and also belief from the trainer that whole body training is a viable and useful method of training and not for “beginners only”. Writing split routines is relatively easy as it allows for a “kitchen sink” approach to exercise selection – no need to select quality exercises based on merit or functionality when you can do them all in a single session!

When teaching programme design I use the following template to help my students learn how to correctly order their exercises. This template does the hard work for you by balancing movement patterns and avoiding overlapping muscle groups.

1 Compound leg exercise e.g. squats
2 Horizontal pushing exercise e.g. bench press
3 Horizontal pulling exercise e.g. bent over rows
4 2nd leg exercise (preferably also compound) e.g. lunges
5 Vertical pushing exercise e.g. shoulder press
6 Vertical pulling exercise e.g. lat pull downs
7 Triceps exercise e.g. tricep push down
8 Biceps exercise e.g. bicep curls
9 1st core exercise e.g. stability ball crunches
10 2nd core exercise e.g. 45 degree back extensions







By slotting exercises into the above template, the trainer can easily produce an effective and well balanced whole body routine. With regard to repetitions and sets, these values are goal and fitness level dependent but somewhere between 8-20 reps for 1-4 sets should meet the majority of exercisers needs. Begin with a conservative approach to intensity and volume with the view of making the workout more intense over time as the client becomes fitter and more able to perform the workout. Remember that you don’t have to use the same rep and set scheme for all the exercises. Distribute the volume of the workout as necessary. For example you may have the client perform 3 sets of the leg exercises but only 2 sets for the rest of the body and only 1 set for the arms at the end.

Making progress

Once the basic programme has been designed and has been followed for a period of time, it will become necessary to manipulate the training variables to promote further improvements in fitness…

The training variables include the following:

  • Altering the rep range
  • Decreasing the rest periods
  • Increasing the number of sets being performed
  • Changing the exercises e.g. from machine to free weight
  • Increasing number of exercises per muscle group
  • Increasing the load being used
  • Altering the order of the exercises
  • Progressing exercise complexity/skill requirement
  • Increasing the balance or stability demand of the exercise e.g. progressing to stability ball exercises
  • Using unilateral (single limbed) movements
  • Combining exercises into complexes, supersets or adopting other training systems e.g. drop sets, super slow, pre exhaust or post exhaust training to name a few.

Periodic manipulation of the training variables and rotation of exercises should result in an almost endless variety of workouts without having to resort to split routines which are best left to bodybuilder wannabes and aren’t really suited for the majority of our typical clientele. There is nothing wrong with split routines per se, just the fact that they are often prescribed to clients’ whose requirements would be better met by whole body programmes.

So go and write a new workout for your self?  Use the template provided in this article and you are certain to design a well balanced and effective exercise programme.

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The art of Programme Design part 1

barbellBeing able to design good programmes is the one of the fundamental skills a personal trainer needs to be able to demonstrate. Our clients’ success depends on our skilful manipulation of the training variables and our financial success depends on our clients’ achieving their goals while hopefully enjoying the process. This all means we need to write exercise programs that are physically stimulating, mentally interesting, challenging and varied.

The object of this article is to explore the fundamentals of programme design with a view to sharpening up our programme design skills and avoiding getting stuck in a programme design rut!

The most common problem I see is that the majority of trainers write programmes that they would perform themselves…i.e. trainers with a cardiovascular background write CV programmes, whilst trainers with a resistance background invariably produce watered down hypertrophy sessions. This is not personal training! A clients’ programme should reflect their needs and wants and not reflect the area of interest of the trainer.

I recently heard about a personal trainer who had every single one of his clients on a very similar programme regardless of their experience, gender, goals or medical constraints…

  • 10 minute bike warm up
  • 20 minute treadmill intervals (1 minute fast/1 minute slow – 10 sets)
  • 2-3 resistance exercises (mainly isolation, performed as part of a split routine)
  • “Sit ups” – flexion based core movements (no extension, rotation, lateral flexion etc.)
  • Stretch (as time permits)
    Example programme designed by a not – so personal trainer

Reps were always in the 8-12 range, 3 sets were performed each time and the last set was, almost without fail, performed as a drop set.

 This kind of programme design is far removed from the personalized approach we teach at Solar Fitness Qualifications. The trainer in question (not one of our graduates!) may well experience some positive results with his clients initially but, needless to say, it won’t be long before his clients hit the dreaded “performance plateau” and a client who ceases to see improvements in their fitness and increases in their fitness levels is very likely to take their hard earned money elsewhere, leaving our not-so personal trainer with a gap in his diary and a subsequent drop in earnings – not a good scenario.

There are a number of prerequisite stages that need to be covered before we even set foot in the gym. Follow these steps and your clients will soon be well on their way to reaching their training goals…


1) Gathering information

The first stage of programme design is to gather information. Initially, this should take the form of an in depth medical questionnaire, a discussion of the clients general lifestyle (nutrition, time available, exercise history, likes, dislikes etc) as well as goal setting.  

 2) Health screening
After establishing our clients’ goals etc, we need to screen our clients fully to ascertain their readiness to exercise. The normal battery of static tests should be applied – blood pressure, Resting Heart Rate, Lung Function and Body Composition. Remember these tests provide personal trainers with a legal safety net and should never be ignored. The results of these static tests may reveal underlying medical conditions and also provide an opportunity for medical referral.

 3) Fitness Testing
Once we have established that our client is healthy enough to commence exercising, it may be necessary to conduct some rudimentary fitness testing including appropriate tests for cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and proprioception/balance. This information can then be used to establish musculoskeletal fitness, energy system fitness, the setting of initial intensity levels and monitoring improvements in the coming months. 

 4) Review
On completion of this initial consultation, it might be necessary to adjust our clients’ goals if the gathered results suggest that they are unrealistic. Remember it is much better to under promise but then over deliver rather than over promise and under deliver! More often than not it is the trainer who will be blamed for the client not reaching their fitness goals, and not the client for non-compliance so ensure goals are challenging but realistic targets to improve your chances of success.

 5) Personalised programme design

When we have gathered all the pertinent information, it’s time to put pen to paper and start being creative with our programme design.

The first rule of programme design is “treat what you find”. Fitness training IS therapy and we have gained a lot of information about our clients physical well being. The results of our testing should be the lynch pin on which our programme is based…If the client is weak then they need to develop strength. Client is unfit then cardiovascular exercise needs to be prescribed. Poor flexibility? Developmental stretching is required. Poor posture? Postural correction exercises are needed. Weak core? Poor muscular endurance? Poor proprioception? You get the idea!

Treating what you find is the very essence of personal training – an individualized approach based on the clients physical needs.

In part 2 of this series well delve deeper into programme design for resistance training.

Posted in Resistance training, Understanding Fitness, WorkoutsComments (0)

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