Saturday, June 13, 2009

Components of a Good Training Program (In a Nutshell)

People often ask me to review their training programs or routines and they seem confused when I say that its tough to just give a quick 5 minute answer and I give just a few general bits of information. While most people just want a quick fix and a "do this" explanation, we know that REAL strength training is more in depth than that. However, I got to thinking - what if I had to just give a quick 5 to 10 minute run down of what makes up a good program? What would be my key points and what would I just leave for them to figure out on their own?

So here goes - the most basic elements of a good strength and conditioning program no matter what sport you play or what you're goals are...

1. Soft Tissue and Mobility Work (pre workout)

If you're not doing soft tissue work with a foam roller and lacrosse ball, then number 1, you're in for a whole new world of pain when start and 2, what the hell are you thinking? Guys like Eric Cressey (google him) have tons of information and self myofascial release techniques to get you healthy and feeling good with only 5 minutes of dedication per day. Read his stuff and just do it.

As far as mobility work, we're not Yoga instructors, so do a little research and start implementing the stuff that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. For starters, you're pecs, lats, hips, and ankles are probably tight as hell and are forcing you to compensate big time (and you probably don't even realize it).

2. GPP Warm Ups

You want to establish and maitain some sort of base, and in the words of Dan Gable, "if its important, do it everyday". Not literally EVERYDAY, but stuff like push ups, recline rows, band face pulls, pull aparts, bodyweight squats and lunges, goodmornings, sled dragging, etc is a great way to not only "warm up" but to increase and maintain your work capacity. Over time you can correct imbalances and get a little better at doing the things most people tend to overlook.

3. Strength Training

AH, the meat and potatoes - the good stuff. Basically watch what everyone else does in your gym and do the opposite. Since i'm trying to keep this short, here's a general list to help you keep track...

- Training Economy -
Squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls will always reign supreme. Um, try to get really strong on those movements. You only have so much time and energy to devote to training, so pick the stuff that will give you the best results in the quickest amount of time.

- More Pulls than Pushes
Do lots of rowing, mixed grip pull ups, deadlift variations, etc. For healthy shoulders and good posture, make sure you are doing a minimum of 2 pulls for every 1 push. The back can handle a ton volume, so get to pulling!

- Throw in some Closed Chain Pushing Movements
Some people think that push ups are over rated, but I just think that those people haven't explored all of their options. Push up variations with external resistence from bands, chains, plates or a weighted vest are one of the best upperbody and "core" strengtheners there is! Oh, and the fact that people are OUT OF SHAPE makes it easy to dismiss them and say that they are too easy. Push ups are good for you, so do them.

- Single Leg Work (at least 1x per week)
Besides HAMMERING your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and various stabilizers, single leg work also forces you to work your non dominant side to help correct imbalances. For healthy hips and a lowerback, you can't go wrong with various lunges, bulgarian split squats, step ups and single leg squats. For some reason, people think of single leg work as "sissy" stuff and that's because they've never had 225lb on their back doing reverse lunges off a platform. Get seriously strong on single leg work and watch your athletic performance go through the roof.

- Lots of posterior chain work
I know its cliche, but if you want to run faster, hit harder, gain muscle mass, and have chicks gawk at you, then you need to be doing a shitload of heavy posterior chain work (in addition to your squats and deadlifts). Goodmorning variations, romanian deadlifts, glute ham raises, heavy dumbbell or kettlebell swings, pull throughs and heavy sled dragging is a MUST in everybody's strength program.

- Lots of rear delt/upperback work
I'll say it again - you need to be doing WAY more pulling than pushing and by throwing in various rear delt and upperback movements such as blast strap scarecrows, face pulls with bands or blast straps, band pull aparts, dumbbell "cleans" and dumbbell rear delt raises, you will go a long way in not only beefing up your upperback, but maintaining strong, healthy shoulders.

- Variations in Training Intensity & Volume
There are lots of books and articles pertaining to periodization and such, but basically you want to learn how to vary your training intensity (in relation to your 1 rep max, not how "hard" you train) and your training volume (how much total work that you do). If you don't, then you are doomed to just running in circles and never making the kind of progress that you should be.

4. Energy System Work

Ok, we know that long boring cardio is out, but alot of people are still confused on when to implement conditioning or energy system work. Here's a really broad answer - it depends. Generally speaking however, throwing in a finisher at the end of your strength sessions or maybe reserving a seperate day or two for GPP work are your best options. Sled dragging, bodyweight circuits, band circuits, sledgehammer swinging, complexes using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and sandbags, medball circuits, and good old fashioned hill sprints are great choices. Just stay in shape year round and know when to make adjustments with this stuff.

5. Regeneration

If you're an athlete or just a regular dude, its important to never forget the other aspect of training - RECOVERY. The body doesn't differentiate between stresses whether its from training, your job, money, family, whatever the case may be. Doing daily soft tissue and mobility work is a step in the right direction as is stuff like contrast showers. Most important however, is nutrition, sleep, and general relaxation techniques/meditation/whatever you want to call it. Find your inner chi and try to take a short break from it all everyday.

So that's it in a nutshell, any questions? Really, i'm missing a whole of stuff and a lot of specifics, but this should give you a general idea of where your program should be headed and what you need to fix.


Max Shank said...

I like this article a lot. Good stuff.
I would recommend throwing a short finisher for a fighter rather than adding another session (these guys train enough as it is and don't need to add sessions if they can avoid it. Easier to recover.
Excellent article.

Dustin Lebel said...

Thanks for the props! I tend to agree with the short finisher vs adding another session. Most fighters are doing way too much as it is!

Grounded Personal Training and Sports Performance said...

Great post. Sad that you do not see more people in the gym doing these things. When I design programs that is the type of quality work I like o include.