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Strength Training Template

Nivaldo warming up. Ireland can be cold, especially to a Brazilian!

There’s a lot of talk in professional circles about Continuous Professional Development, or CPD. The idea is that the world is moving so quickly that you need to keep up or you will be left behind. But I want to talk about an older phenomenon known as TTBOWTB, which will never catch on. But it’s the notion of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Now I don’t really like this saying, mostly because people seem to say it when they’ve had something new introduced to them, don’t necessarily understand it or fear they won’t be able to do it, and decide they’ll play the long game and appear skeptical. But there is a grain of old folksy wisdom in there and it applies to many of the new training phenomena you see out there right now.

The idea for this blog arose out of a phone conversation yesterday. A manager who I might be working with had been at a talk about mobility run by some other coaches. He was suitably impressed and rightly so, good mobility is important. Then I told him what the next talk would be on that he went to, and what the one he was at 3 years ago was. (the future is increased aerobic training and the previous one was core training) The pendulum keeps swinging and it’s all about money, selling training manuals and DVDs and ensuring people need to keep buying your products to keep up.

So in my coaching career, off the top of my head I can think of the following swings: Posterior chain emphasis, the chucking out of all isolation work, core training and “drawing in”, mobility, single leg work only, and interval training for aerobic capacity.

All of these look fine, and they’re all good concepts in themselves. I can’t see a good reason not to write some of the above in every programme I write today (I’m writing about 3 or 4 I’d say, on Thursdays I update my online clients). However the trouble for me is that if you didn’t have a central training philosophy or system that you were including these on top of, you’d end up just writing in a mish mash of fad training where everyone was mobile, had a strong core, could balance on a swiss ball but couldn’t lift a thing. Plus, it would probably change every year. Not that change is bad, but the basics have been working for years and they won’t stop working any time soon. Anything new should be an assistance for the basics, not trying to reinvent the wheel.

So without further ado, here is my template for strength training. I always like to look at new material and I like to investigate new concepts, but the central theme remains the same. This is all dependent on who I’m programming for by the way. Some people get more or less of some of the exercises, and I do occasionally use a superset template for people who I think require volume. Also note when I say “fundamental exercise” I mean one of either Press, Deadlift, Squat, Pull Up or Heavy Row.

Strength Session

1. Mobility warm up, focusing on athlete’s particular weaknesses/tightnesses
2. Fundamental exercise- 5×5 template but can be variant eg 8×3
3. Assistance exercise for 2.
(3.1 Special assistance/corrective exercise if needed)
4. Core exercise- static (holds etc.)
5. Core exercise- dynamic (sometimes supersetted with 4.)
6. Assistance or vanity exercise 😀 (often not written in)

And that’s that. This is the way I first learned how to programme and this is what I’ve stuck to since save a couple of years working with Informed Performance. I want guys in and out of the weight room in 45minutes for strength work. I want them focusing on the priority exercise (number 2.) and if they only have 20 minutes to spare, I’ll have them just do that and then go home (that’s ideal for lunchtime clients). It doesn’t matter as long as we can catch up with the assistance over the full term of the cycle.

As you can see, it does contain some element of mobility work, some core work, I do a lot of single leg work and despite the fundamentalist functional folk saying it’s evil, I include a bit of isolation work. Partly for function, but partly for the feelgood factor too.

If you’re a coach do you have a template? If you train do you write your own workouts or follow a programme?


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