Small Group Programming – The “How” & the “Why”
By Sarah Rippel -Author of Build N Burn
I am currently running a 16-week program which I designed for my ladies small group training program. The programming for this time frame is strength-biased coupled with conditioning. It can be broken down into four four-week blocks and I utilized an undulating periodization scheme for the main lifts. In addition, I have tempo work programmed into each training session.
My groups meet three days a week. The main lifts we are focusing on are the back squat, overhead press, deadlift, and bench press. I keep ongoing records of everyone’s loads & we work off of 90-95% of estimated one-rep max. I do not test 1RMs in this setting, but instead utilize every third workout for each of the lifts as a “test day.” In other words, every third workout for a specific lift is an opportunity for the individual to push past the prescribed reps on their final set (if they feel like it). I make adjustments to their estimated maxes based on this performance, and we continue to make progress!
I work with all levels in my groups, therefore not everyone uses the same lift on a given day. For example, on deadlift day I may have someone doing sumo deadlifts while another is pulling conventional from 4” blocks, and yet another is using the trap bar. The overall focus is the same, but there are many ways in which things can be adjusted to meet the needs of the individual.
The conditioning pieces are designed to last 10-15 minutes to fit into the overall format of an hour-long strength-biased training session. These pieces are designed to be aerobic in nature and include a handful of exercises that reflect the main lift(s) for the day. For example, if we squatted, then the conditioning piece may include something squat-related such as a bodyweight squat or wall ball shots. I usually opt for three exercises because I like the number three and feel it’s not an overwhelming amount of “stuff” for people to have to think about. These training segments are designed to fit an “AMRAP,” “EMOM,” or “for time” format, with an emphasis on safe execution of all exercises. No sloppy reps! I have scheduled these components in a manner that allows us to hit a specific training piece initially, and then four weeks later. This is yet another way that my clients can quantify progress, as they are able to redo a familiar conditioning workout. They know what to expect and this gives them confidence going into that workout. Almost always this is a guaranteed success!
There are several ways in which the framework can be tweaked to place more emphasis on skill work or conditioning rather than strength.
In addition, there are a myriad of substitutions that can be made for any of the exercises used in the conditioning workouts.
Bottom line: I hope by sharing my template, I have given you some ideas! Furthermore, I hope I have enabled you to think about structuring your small group training programming in a more logical manner – one that is conducive to measuring the progress of every individual in your groups.
I will get into much more detail regarding this in my upcoming book!
Download the Small Group Training Template
Breakdown of a Week’s Programming:
A squat and overhead pressing-focused circuit.
Squats – 3-5 work sets of 10 reps @ 60% of training max, with the final set being 10+ if desired (stopping before reps get sloppy). Superset with couch stretch as needed.
Overhead Press – 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps using a 2-3 second eccentric plus a 1-2 second pause at the bottom of the squat. Superset with Band ½-Kneeling Rows.
This is a “for time” circuit. It is basically three rounds of three movements, with descending reps on both the jump rope (or plate run) and push jerk. The push jerk in the conditioning piece is an extension of both the squat and overhead press performed as the strength lifts for the day. A push press is an alternative for the push jerk. This movement can be loaded based on the individual. My groups work with an empty bar for this specific workout. The plate run is an option for those who do not wish to perform jump rope, and it basically a fast step-up/step-down onto a bumper plate (25#/45#). For the run, 100m is a realistic distance based on my gym’s parking lot, but a 200m run would also be an option.
A circuit that opens up the thoracic spine and shoulders.
Bench Press – 3-5 work sets of 10 reps @ 60% of training max, with the final set being 10+ if desired (stopping before reps get sloppy).
RDL – 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps using a 2-3 second eccentric plus a 1-2 second pause at the bottom of the squat. Superset with Seated Hip Circle/Miniband Abduction
This is another “for time” circuit with descending reps per round on two of the movements (swings and push-ups). The push-ups and kettlebell swings in the conditioning piece are patterned after the bench press and RDL, respectively.
An overhead-press & hip/glute-activation circuit.
Overhead Press – 3-5 work sets of 10 reps @ 60% of training max, with the final set being 10+ if desired (stopping before reps get sloppy).
Squat – 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps using a 2-3 second eccentric plus a 1-2 second pause at the bottom of the squat. Superset with Kettlebell Clean & Press.
This is a “rounds for time” circuit that has a built-in rest interval. This interval allows for a complete recovery prior to beginning the next round. The thruster in the conditioning piece reflects both the overhead press and squat used in the strength work, and the burpee also shares similar movement patterning.
Check Out Sarah Ripple’s Build N’ Burn – Done For YOU 16-week Metabolic Small Group Training System for Fit Pros
Other articles by Sarah Rippel:
The Evolution of the 14 Station Mega–Circuit http://thefitnessbootcampclub.com/the-evolution-of-the-14-station-mega-circuit/
2 MetCon Group Training Workouts That Get Results! http://thefitnessbootcampclub.com/2-metcon-group-training-workouts-that-get-results/
Maximizing the Efficiency & Effectiveness of Your Small Group Training Programming Part I & Part II