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3 Ways to Improve Your In-Home Programs: Part I

3 Ways to Improve Your In-Home Programs: Part I

By Sarah Rippel, Author of “Home Program Design Mastery”(coming soon)


Tempo Prescriptions


It makes total sense to view the learning experience at any point in a person’s training career with a “slow and smooth” lens. There is no need to rush anything…not the performance of each rep, not the acquisition of the new skill, not the experience itself. If the goal is to learn and perfect movement skills, with mastery being the ultimate outcome, what’s the rush?


Enter the concept of tempo – the tweaking of the speed of each rep and therefore the modification of time under tension to fit a specific training goal.


Progress movements by starting with slower tempos and moving towards faster speeds. This should be a concept that is used with most clients, especially with beginners or anyone learning a new exercise.


Speed is a way of increasing intensity. In a stressed-out world that is obsessed with “going fast,” it’s not surprising that many people tend to rush through their reps. When you dictate how fast they are to go, however, you dictate the intensity and overall training effect. You ultimately create better outcomes for your clients by forcing them to slow things down a bit, focus inward, and improve their engagement overall.


The standard manner of notating tempo breaks a movement down into four components: the eccentric (lowering) phase, the pause at the bottom of the movement, the concentric (lifting) phase, and the pause at the top of the movement.  


Let’s take a look at a sample tempo prescription.



Keep in mind that the first number is always the eccentric portion of the rep. Yes, even for deadlifts, which begin with a concentric phase. So, if you are deadlifting using this tempo, you would take three seconds to return to the floor from standing.


Continuing with this notation, the second number refers to any pause in the bottom position, so in this case you would pause for a second at the floor.


The third number reflects the concentric phase of the movement. In this example, the “X” means to be explosive upon bringing the weight up.


Finally, the fourth number refers to any pause at the top position of the movement, so in this example you would take one second in standing prior to returning the bar to the floor.


Check out this short video where I explain tempo lifting in “program 1” of “The Ultimate Group Training System!”


If the concept of tempo is new to you, I highly recommend putting this strategy to use immediately! Familiar exercises can be made “new” with this strategy alone, giving your clients a fresh way of performing their old favorites!


Loading Position Progressions


Those who realize that we can increase the “loading” on the body simply by changing where the load is placed understand that the addition of weight itself is a pretty basic means of progression. Yes, increasing overall load is necessary, but if you view loading as the sole means of creating progression for the average client, you’re leaving a lot of their potential on the table.


We cannot dismiss other more intelligent means of loading the body. One such example is that of creating progression through changes to loading position. We can create more “load” on the body without adding more weight, simply by progressing the loading position.


When we are able to recognize that there is a lot of potential strength to be gained in terms of the body’s ability to move in one plane while resisting forces in the other planes, we realize that there are a plethora of ways in which we can progress virtually any exercise! Our “toolbox” becomes bigger and a lot more impactful.


With regard to loading positions, we want to gradually progress from positions that assist the body to positions that do not offer the same effect. In short, with more advanced loading positions, the exerciser has to create stabilization and bracing on their own instead of the loading position doing more of it for them. If done wisely, the patterning from previous positions remains as they move on to more advanced positions, thus making progression seamless!


As an example of how the loading position progression can be applied to a squat, moving from a goblet-loaded position using a single dumbbell or kettlebell to a front-loaded position using a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells keeps the load in front of the body, but provides less assistance. Moving forward, an offset-loaded squat could be the next step. In this position, a non-matching pair of dumbbells or kettlebells is used in the front-loaded position. This creates a unilateral loading effect on the body, thus challenging the torso to stabilize against unwanted movement side to side. From here we could progress to a 1-arm front-loaded squat, which uses a unilateral load.


As you can see, moving from a more “balanced” loading position that provides the body with assistance in bracing the torso to one that uses a unilateral load is a simple yet powerful means of progression!


Stance/Set-Up Progressions


The stance/set-up of virtually any exercise can be modified to create variety & progress your clients seamlessly from “easier” to “harder.” As with the loading positions, we can create more “load” on the body without having to increase the weight. Once a person has mastered a progression, they may go back to the “easier” stances/set-ups & repeat with heavier loading.


Being able to move seamlessly from one variation to the next gives your clients the ability to “connect” the variations & prevents huge jumps in difficulty, thus reducing the learning curve! Win-win!


When introducing a new or more challenging position, keep in mind that although the exercise itself is the same, the stance/set-up isn’t! These may seem like small changes, but to some people they may be a big progression. When moving from a more stable position to one that creates a challenge in the frontal & transverse planes, a familiar exercise may feel completely different!


As with the loading positions, it just makes sense to have a logical flow from one stance/set-up position to the next. Having this tool in your toolbox gives you the power to apply specific stances based on your individual client or group’s needs.


To illustrate the impact that a stance/set-up progression can have on an exercise, let’s look at the kettlebell seesaw overhead press. We could have our client perform this movement seated on a bench, then progress to a seesaw press in bilateral stance. From here, they could move to what we refer to as “military stance” in the DVRT community. This is a fancy way of saying “feet together!” This stance progression challenges the body to stabilize in the frontal plane and therefore avoid side to side motion. The next step could be a seesaw press in sprinter stance (video shows a 1-arm press but you get the picture). Sprinter stance is a staggered position that creates a unilateral effect in that it shifts 60% of the stress to the forward leg. The frontal plane challenge is kicked up a notch here, and we can take things further by bringing the rear foot back further to more of a split stance.


As you can see, moving from a more stable seated position to a more challenging stance in the split position is a simple yet powerful means of progression!


Stay tuned for part 2 where I take a deep dive and illustrate how these three strategies can be put to use in a program!



By Sarah Rippel, Author of many done-for You programs/resources for Fit Pros:
The Ultimate Group Training System,Build ‘N Burn & Build N Burn 2.0
AND “Brand NEW : Home Program Design Mastery” with Done for You Programs…coming sooon!

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