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Continuing with yesterday's theme

I guess I can't leave my readers hanging. Yesterday I talked about the nonsense that happens in gyms with trainers. They actually did a piece on this in the news this morning! I guess they were reading my blog? They were talking about poor trainers and the problems with finding a good trainer. It is a shame that the industry gets a bad rap because of those that fail to do their homework. Anyway, I also spoke a little about program design and set up. Since some of my readers are not trainers or working in this field in some capacity. I decided I would elaborate a little more so that you can take something useable away from this blog and have information that you can apply.

*Note- the information below about training is assuming that you are already a healthy individual. Sometimes I write a program or information on the internet and then I get emails from people saying that their shoulder hurts so bad they can't lift their arm; but, they would like to know if the program would still be good for them? Ah...no. Go get it checked out by a physical therapist or an orthopedic surgeon. Last time I checked, my degree did not cover those two services.

Okay, so where to begin?

As I stated yesterday, the basics work. There is no need to get creative and try and squat on a stability ball with your head tilted to 45 degrees, with one eye closed and your arm elbow deep in your a$$. Why not try squatting on the ground first? HEY! There is a novel idea! Something basic!! Do you ever see trainers do squats with their clients? Better yet, do you ever see trainers do squats with their clients properly? What I am getting at here, is that we don't need to be fancy. Lets base our initial training on basic movements and try and get really proficient with them, before moving onto more difficult things.

Breaking up the body

If we are looking at the body, we can break everything up into a "push" and a "pull". Instead of thinking body parts, I think of everything as push or pull. Why? Because your body is never in isolation. When you bench press, you still work your shoulders and triceps. When you row, your biceps are still working, and on and on. The body is an integrated kinetic chain, so I really think it is best to train it like that.

The template set up

For setting up a basic program, I always go with total body workouts and I stick with the A/B template. The A/B template just says that on day "A" we are going to do these exercises and on day "B" we are going to do these other exercises. It keeps things simple, but most importantly it allows us to develop some technical proficiency with those base level movements, so that we can progress on to more difficult things.

If we did it three days a week. It would look like this:

Week 1
day1- A
day2- B
day3- A

Week 2
day1- B
day2- A
day3- B

Chosing the exercises

Now that we know we are going to have an "A" and a "B" day, it is very easy to select exercises. I like to have a push and a pull in both the upper body and the lower body on each day.

For example,

Day A
Squat (push)
chin up (pull)
bench press or push up(push)
glute bridge (pull.....this isn't technically a pulling motion, but I group it as such since the main
focus is to activate the glutes. We can further progress this exericses to a stability
ball glute bridge with a leg curl, which then gives us the actual pulling movement.)

Day B
Romanian Deadlift (pull. I usually start people with DBs)
Db shoulder press (push)
seated row (pull)
split squat (push)

Pretty simple right? Most people are probably looking at that thinking that it isn't much. Trust me, if you work hard enough, it will be plenty. But, we are not done yet. One thing that I really focus on in the first phase of training (and even later phases) is work capacity. Most people aren't training to be the next great powerlifter and they aren't training to be Mr. Universe. They are training for general health, fat loss, some muscle gain....basically, they want to look good naked. A lot of people don't have a lot of time to spend in the gym, so they have to work efficiently (I am a big fan of the half hour sessions with my clients. Provided they come in 10 minutes early to do their proper dynamic warm up and they stay after to stretch a little. The actually lifting part doesn't take to long.). So, how do we get this efficiency? I like to do exercise pairings. I know a lot of coaches have adopted this (guys like Boyle, Cosgrove, Poliquin, and many others). It works great for athletes (and I will talk about how to make it work in when you get to more intense lifting) and it works great with our general population clients as well. What I do, is I pair up a push and a pull. So, if I push with the lower body. I pull with the upper, and vice versa.

Now our training template looks like this:

Day A
1a) Squat (push)
1b) chin up (pull)

2a) bench press or push up(push)
2b) glute bridge (pull)

Day B
1a) Romanian Deadlift (pull)
1b) Db shoulder press (push)

2a) seated row (pull)
2b) split squat (push)

Now we are getting somewhere. Typically, I have the person perform the exercises back to back (so 1a, followed by 1b) and then take a rest (rest 45sec) and then repeat for the desired number of sets before moving onto pairing number 2. If we move into more intense lifting (this is where I would start talking about athletes), I will place the rest inbetween the exercses to allow for greater recovery. So, 3-5 reps of 1a, rest 2min, 3-5 reps of 1b, rest and repeat for the desired sets. If I were training a powerlifter or olympic lifter, things would be different though, since we would focus on our specific exercise and would want to work on developing certain qualities in that movement. But, athletes in other sports are not training for powerlifting or olympic lifting. So, this works well and I have had good results with it, as have others. But, this entry is not about training athletes anyway, so back to the topic......

What about the CORE!?!?!?!?!

Okay, so what about the "core"? First, all those exericses above are really going to tax your core. But, I understand that we do need to have a certain level of conditioning in the "core" musculuatre. So, I add that to our pairing, creating a group of 3. As the person advances and gets stronger, we drop the core exercise from the group and proceed with rest inbetween exercises as explained above. We do the core at the begining of the workout towards the end of our dynamic warm up (reason being that if we leave it to the end, it never gets done). So now, our workout is going to look like this:

Day A
1a) Squat (push)
1b) chin up (pull)
1c) plank
rest- 45sec and repeat

2a) bench press or push up(push)
2b) glute bridge (pull)
2b) crunch
rest- 45sec and repeat

Day B
1a) Romanian Deadlift (pull)
1b) Db shoulder press (push)
1c) reverse crunch
rest- 45sec and repeat

2a) seated row (pull)
2b) split squat (push)
2c) bird dog
rest- 45sec and repeat

So, what started as a little workout of a few exercises, has really turned into something brutal!! Most people don't realize how hard it is to make it through one of those groupings. I recently started working with a guy who has been training for several years. He does half hour sessions with me and after the first session he said "damn! that was a lot harder than I thought it would be!" After a few weeks, as you can imagine, his work capacity is through the roof. He has developed a good base level of fitness (which he didn't have from his previous training because it wasn't efficient, he was always doing the same thing(s) and he didn't know how to progress himself) and we can progress to doing more intense lifting and increasing the complexity of the exericses.

Wrap up

So, that is just a little bit of the thought process I take when putting together someones program. There is still a lot more to it.....reps, sets, rest interval, rep tempo, phases of training, when to develop certain qualities etc....I hope that this info gave you something to think about when setting up your own program and I hope it wasn't to confusing.

Shout Outs

I have been writing on the internet for about the past 7 years on ironmagazine.com. I have contributed lots of information on training and nutrition and I often times get emails from people saying "do you know any trainer in my area that can help me out?"

So, here are some recomendations of guys that I think are really really good if you are in the market for a trainer and in these areas:

Akron/Cleveland OH area:

Sean O'Callaghan is a good trainer. He is an x-powerlifter that put up some impressive numbers at his body weight. He now is competitive in moutain biking. Sean trains people out of Kings gym in Bedford Heights part time. The other part of the time, you can catch him at The Edge Fitness Center in Medina OH, a facility which he owns. If you are in these areas, I highly recommend looking him up.


Manhattan is where I spent the last 5 years working as a trainer. If you are in the city and in need of a trainer, I suggest heading up to Equinox on 85th and 3rd ave., and meeting with either Dax Baker or Myles Astor. Both are very knowledgeable guys that can help you achieve your goals. Both are very good with sport specific training and coaching the olympic lifts.

In Long Island:

If you are in the Long Island area, I highly suggest checking out Professional Performance Center (professionalpt.com). Timothy Stump is an awesome physical therapist and strength coach. He has worked with athletes of all levels and is a very accomplished olympic lifter and powerlifter. You really can't go wrong at this place. It is an incredible sports training facility, complete with indoor sprint track, indoor turf field, olympic lifting platforms....it is awesome and all the guys there are really great trainers.

Another guy in Long Island that isn't taking clients right now (at least not that I am aware of) because he is working with high school football and track athletes is George Kasimatis. Most high school football coaches put their kids through an awful weight training program. However, George is really great at teaching the kids to be proficient with their lifting technique and really helping to develop their strength and power qualities. As far as strength training goes, he is one of the smartest guys I know.

In the souther NJ/Philly area:

Dave Mayo is pretty much as good as it gets. You can contact him through the website listed on my profile. Dave is your go to guy for things like speed and agility and really knows how to help athletes develop those qualities. You can't go wrong with Dave if you are in that area!

In the Phoenix area:

Ofcourse you can always come and see me. :-)

Well, that is it for tonight. More tomorrow.


Nicely laid out P!

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