Designing Your Workout Program

This past Sunday, I went to a great Bodyweight workshop led by Max Shank (Which was amazing! Check out his stuff!)

I went with one of our interns at the gym.

I’d forgotten what it was like to attend your first workshop.

There is an overload of new information and you feel like almost everything you’ve been doing just isn’t right.

You feel like you have to switch up everything you’ve been doing and now follow this new program.

I saw it in his eyes when we were there.

I saw the “Oh crap. I need to do things this exact way to get results and rewrite my entire program.”

I remember that feeling the first couple of workshops. You would learn a new way of doing something and you would instantly jump into the new program, putting aside anything you’d been doing up to that point.

However, after a couple of great workshops, you realize that everyone has their own way of doing something.

workout routines

There are a billion workout routines out there (many of them even are good) that people have found work for them…

And that to integrate the new information, you don’t have to completely change the way you’ve been doing things – you just have to find the ways the new information you learned can improve upon what you are currently doing.

You aren’t completely rewriting your program each and every workshop – you are simply editing.

You are cutting out the less effective methods in favor of new better methods. Yet you aren’t forgetting about things that have proven to work for you.

What I think you also start to realize is that no matter exactly how you structure it, exactly what your goal is, every GOOD program follows the same basic rules of program design.

So don’t let learning new things bog you down and confuse you. Don’t let learning new things make you feel like you have to completely overall your workout routine every time.

Here are the Basic Guidelines that EVERY Good Workout Program Follows:

  • Create Your Program With Your Goal In Mind – A good workout and a good program are FOCUSED. They aren’t just cardio. Or lower or upper body. They are focused on driving you toward your goal. Want to do more push ups? Your workout should in some way progress you there instead of simply being some gnarly upper body exercises. Even if your goal is to lose weight or simply get healthier, your workouts need to be focused. Making them HARD isn’t just going to get you there. You can’t string together random exercises with random rep ranges and weights and expect great results.
  • Put The Most Important Thing First – When do you have the most energy in your workout? When do you have the most focus? AT THE BEGINNING! So put the important stuff first so you get the most out of it. Put the skill you are focused on, the power exercise or even the strength move you are focused on FIRST. Even when it comes down to strength or aerobics first, put the IMPORTANT one first. If you want to get stronger, cardio probably shouldn’t go first. If you are training for a race, running is your number one priority – lifting is just supplemental. Put the important thing first so you get the most out of it!
  • Not Every Workout Has To Make You Redline – Hard doesn’t equal better. I have to repeat this all the time, but sometimes LESS IS MORE. Sometimes having energy left in the tank after your workout is a good thing! Redlining every time can lead to overtraining. Plus redlining doesn’t mean you are staying focused on your goal. Like if you are working on power development, redlining or going hard with no rest WON’T help you develop more power. Developing power requires a 100% effort followed by enough rest that you can give another 100% effort. If you are just going hard with no rest, you probably aren’t giving a maximal power output each and every round. Vary your intensities for maximal results. And remember, the hard work you put in at the gym is only realized with enough recovery!
  • Consider ALL The Variables – Don’t just put the hardest exercises you can find into a workout and think it will help you reach your goals. Don’t just put glute exercises together and think they will help you deadlift more. Don’t just do 10 reps because it feels good. Consider the variables and manipulate them to work toward your goals! Think about exercises, movements, reps, sets, REST, workout set up, progressions and regressions that match your goals. All variables need to match your goals! If you are looking to develop maximal strength, you probably don’t want all your workouts in the 15-20 rep range. Maybe one. But you will definitely want to focus on the 1-5 rep range. Just like you wouldn’t use the same workout variables for a powerlifter that you would for a marathoner. Tailor the variables to meet YOUR NEEDS.
  • Give Yourself The Most Bang For Your Buck – Good workout programs don’t simply have long workouts. They use workouts that give you a lot of bang for your buck. Pick the BEST exercises for your goals. Manipulate those variables so that every workout is valuable. Good programs don’t waste your time in the gym…AKA if you just go to the gym with no plan, YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME and your program probably isn’t as good as you think it is. Good programs are preplanned so that you know what you are doing and get the most out of your time in the gym. I like to compare a bad workout to crunches. Yes, you did something, but you really didn’t get the most out of those five minutes you spent doing crunches. There are better exercises to work your abs that also burn more calories, make you less injury prone AND work more muscle groups all at once. Those exercises give you the most bang for your buck because they get the most done in the shortest amount of time!

Every good program follows these 5 basic rules. And all of these rules really boil down to one thing –


Every piece of the program is in some way moving you closer to your goal. You aren’t just doing something to make it harder or more fatigue.

Each piece of the puzzle has a focus.

So take a look at your program. Is it focused? Is everything driving you closer to your goal?

Posted on March 4, 2014, in Man Biceps, program development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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