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Workouts vs Programming

Workouts vs Programming

Fred Zoller


It often comes to my attention as it has today with regards to programming between private personal training all the way up to large groups and bootcamps.


I am a firm believer that your workouts should always be “programmed” not just written down. The two are completely different. This applies to ALL types of training.


One of my biggest pet peeves is watching a trainer scramble before a training session to come up with a workout for the day! Even worse, they claim that they “programmed” a workout ahead of time.


If you going to charge top $$$ for your services and expect to get them, becoming an expert programmer is one way to make sure this happens. I believe in having a system. If you don’t, then it will be difficult if not impossible to have measurable proven results in a completely safe and fun environment.


This applies to small groups (10 people), large groups and even bootcamps!


How? Check this out:


Here are some assets (I use this word on purpose) to expert programming:


Assessment– vital to providing real world results with movement. Even for large group programs, every member of your facility should go through a movement assessment. Just because it’s not private personal training doesn’t matter. Share the assessments with your team so that you can provide quality training to every individual no matter the size of the group!

Proper Warm-up based on assessment– the pinnacle to every training session. If you are doing large groups, make sure to cover all planes of movement and get the blood flowing. Tissue and movement quality are key.

Coaching– a thought out pre-determined message to motivate and inspire your clients daily. Do you coach?? One person or twenty, get your clients inspired and fired up!

4.Individual Workout templates covering all movements– pre made templates that ensure that you are programming correctly without mistakes. It is not ideal to just beat up on people without any method to your madness. You have to have a system to allow people to recover properly and avoid repetitive stress injuries.

5.Power Development a necessity to increasing the elasticity of muscles and the decline of power seen with age. Do you have a power development exercise in every workout?

6.Core The ability of each person to remain as stable as possible through movements especially functional movements in life.

Strength– the largest component of programming used to properly strengthen the body and alleviate any dysfunction. You can still get metabolic using strength-training techniques!

Cool down As you know, results do not happen in the gym, they happen when you recover! This should be a component to every program!


Once you get this far, a good understanding of progressing and regressing is paramount.


There is more to regressing than just taking some weight off the bar!


It is common to see trainers these days starting off with barbell exercises for brand new clients that haven’t even exercised in years. I have also seen many trainers push their clients to their limits only after a few days of training rather than allowing their bodies to adapt over time.


Scary huh?


Professional “coaches” should be aware of many forms of regressions for each movement pattern and be ready to execute on the spot!


The idea is to teach good technique while increasing the loads if possible.


Sounds simple but so many fail at this.


Here are some ways to regress movements or workouts in general:


  1. Decrease the weight (obvious).
  2. Decrease sets and reps.
  3. Move to a simpler movement to ensure proper form and allow for work capacity.
  4. Move to a more stable environment.
  5. Decrease the range of motion.
  6. Increase rest periods.
  7. Incorporate rest as needed into workouts.
  8. Decrease the number of rounds in the circuit.


Again, these measures need to be learned, understood and executed on the spot. This is the job of a coach!


Here are some common regressions for movements:


Hip Dominant- barbell deadlift => trap bar => KB deadlift =>Banded Pull through


Quad Dominant- Barball squat => Goblet squat => Prisoner squat => Bodyweight squat


Push- Overhead press => Bench press => DB press => Elevated/weighted push-up => Push up => Asst. Push-up =>Wall or bar push-up


Pull- Pull ups => BB row => Bench supported row => TRX row => 1/2 Kneel cable row => Band rows


Lunge- Overhead lunge => Walking lunge => Reverse lunge => Split squat => Asst. Split squat=> Low step ups


This is not an exhaustive list but it should help. Remember, the goal is to make someone better not worse. You don’t want to fake the progress of your clients but you do want them to perform better.


If I were you, I would have a “program tool” to ensure I can consistently deliver high quality programming whether it is with personal training or large group training.


Based on your client’s goals and your assessments, you will have all the information you need to provide a sound training program depending on the time you will have with them. It is important to always have the entire program in mind as you prepare for each individual or group.


I recommend to program workouts for 1 month at a time for group programs.


Next, it is very important to use some method of progression with your clients.


There are many out there but here are the main ones:


Linear Periodization: Involves a linear progression in lowering reps and increasing load (representing the inverted relationship between volume and intensity).


Non-Linear Alternating Periodization: Involves alternating between volume and intensity between phases.


Undulating Periodization: Involves alternating between volume and intensity on a workout-by-workout basis within the same training week (can be done on a weekly basis as well). This can keep the workouts fun and exciting as well as results based for small and large group programming.


Individualized Training in a Group Environment


Is this possible? A RESOUNDING YES


The best thing…Your clientele will skyrocket.

Why? Unfortunately, most people are used to getting thrown into a low cost large group program and forced or faked into doing what everyone else is!


Sad but true.


When your clients quickly realize that you will modify their individual workouts for them even in a group environment, you will become the talk of the town.


This is another reason to have a program with pre-determined templates that you can deliver quality consistent programming in your training and facility.


One of the most important jobs of a trainer and often overlooked is programming.


If you do it well, you will grow your business.


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